Category : Research & Reflection

Assessment score

Now, it is there, the result, how I did at assessment. I couldn’t quite believe what I saw: an A – 75%.

I am flattered, and outmostly proud of myself. Did life took the right turn for me and rewarded back what I was starting as a small kid before starting to talk? To be creative and to make visual marks. 

My ‘demonstration of creativity’ scored highest with 84%. Above that is the sky.

And I am massively grateful, to those who followed my journey till today who believed in me, who didn`t gave up, and who also suffered for the way I am living and acting – with massive up and downs. Thanks!

My tutor supported me strongly in what I did. And the assessment team gave me feedback that totally resonated with what I felt, not always able to communicate or to speak(write out.

Overall Comments and Feed Forward

An impressive body of work demonstrating a deep commitment and reflective learning. You have presented an engaging, energetic and exhaustive project. Your work is well-organised and thoroughly documented. You evidence excellent personal and analytical reflection throughout and are consistently creative, challenging your own methods and ideas.
The main strength of this project is the commitment to exhaust avenues of enquiry. This has generated a rich body of work with multiple outcomes that presents you with a richness of avenues to take forward.

There is a personal language emerging in the work, evolving into a clear practice.

What to work on next and to improve ?

  • to be clearer and more assertive in getting my ‘voice’ across in writing, being more confident 
  • to work on ‘quality of outcome’: it scored lowest from all four areas, considering that it moves from 20% at level 2 up top 40% at level 3, definitely a focus point. 
  •  editing, cutting down: my audio-video piece (parallel project) and to see how I would install my sculptural pieces in series, in space
  • The assessment team picked up one sentence from my conclusion (critical review): ‘You identified a fascinating idea, in “the gaze as co-author.” Can you explore this further?’ Most certainly, I will.

Meanwhile, I continued my work with my sculptural stretched pieces’ and had an exhibition begin Dec (see references for more information). I cut and edited down my writing by half. evaporated the nonsense and came up with more coherent information. I revisited the stretching and reduced even the inner space of things (see featured image, right) I guess I am on my journey walking step-by-step forward. 

Overall, it was an amazing journey on an amazing course. Perhaps not all would agree with that, but it gave me the start, the energy, and the space to find myself, as an artist. And yes, as assessment stated, I acted and made a lot of works, the cleaning up afterwards took some time….

And I am thrilled that as a Fine Art student we will continue getting closer as a cohort through the start of an annual virtual program led by Caroline Wright along with three tutors (Cheryl H., Dan R. , Helen R. ) Exciting times coming up.

 

This was my last post on this blog. I already moved on to my next course ‘Understanding Visual Culture 2’. Once again, I am a pioneer (as the last two ones) on it. 

to my readers, followers, and supporters:

Please, follow my new blog, if you wish. I would be delighted to hear your comments, ideas, thoughts

at: https://uvc.stefanvisualart.com

 

Please, follow my new learning blog UVC2

Follow Learning Blog UVC2 on WordPress.com


Reference:

 

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Last entry

This is my penultimate entry in my learning diary of this blog. It will be updated begin/mid December after getting my assessment results

My submission for assessment arrived today on time for the deadline to meet at Barnsley. My critical review was received on time by assessment team for plagiarism check. So far, so good. I made it, unbelievable. With rigid deadlines facing me I actually can deliver more than I expected. And it is good – overall I am pleased what I submitted. My tutor did a fab job by supporting me on my fast run to finish. Time to wait and time to move on.

I already enrolled on the last day of July to my second and last level 2 course (just wanted to protect the fees before they went up in this academic year). And I am glad I did do so, other options are still not out there.

My next – or better to say current – course unit is: UVC2 – Understanding Visual Culture (brand new , and I am – once again – the pioneer on that course, the first one). I am looking forward to a fresh and focused new start 

Please, come and join my ongoing journey over there at: https://uvc.stefanvisualart.com

 

 

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Medical imagery – an ethical question?

On Ethics

Medical-ethical issues are media-ethical concerns – (van Dijck, 2005:14)

Alongside writing my critical review and working on my parallel project informed by my own MRI scan in 2018 and the obtained medical imagery footage. I was concerned about ethical questions and the purpose us those medical images. Images of media culture and evidence as trophy? Would I not put myself into those habits of collecting images as iconic sign?

How do and for what purpose do I want to use medical imagery? It raises ethical and morale questions, questions of ethical permissibility and educational value as explored by van Dijck (van Dijck, 2005). Aesthetically appealing images do attract the public and e overrule a ‘pure’ medical meaning and concerns

What about using my own imagery from the MRI scans? And to make them public through ‘works of art’? Would this change of how it is perceived versus using imagery from others? Foucault asks questions of morale considering a dislocation and removal of the direct gaze.

Instrumental mediation outside the body authorises a withdrawal that measures the morale distance involved the prohibition of physical contact makes it possible to fix the virtual image of what is occult well below the visible area…What one cannot see is shown in the distance from what one must not see – (Foucault, 1994:164)

The moral question relates to the dominant sign of the visible leading to difficult choices and dilemmas. ‘Seeing is intervening’ – as Ian Hacking explained the biased dynamic of how it impacts our conceptualisation and representation of the body (van Dijck, 2005:7-8). Examples as Bodyworlds (Institut für Plastination e.K, 2019) or the Visual Human Project® (National Library of Medicine, 2019) challenge us to reconsider status and nature of the body, and challenging epistemological categories guiding us in making ethical distinctions (van Dijck, 2005:62).

The way of seeing is not restricted to medical imagery, it extends all imagery in media culture where what is seen and what is perceived is subject to the viewer’s interpretation. Attached informative texts may play a guiding role, nevertheless, the dominant role of the visual has its own dynamic:

The significant role of images and imagination in the construction of corporeality is one of the prime motivations for cultural critics to analyze and theorise medical imaging. – (van Dijck, 2005:12-13)

The human body would turn away from being an object of surveillance under the medical gaze towards a posthuman cultural ‘fashion accessories’, not any longer ‘of being’ but rather ‘of having’, as Katherine Hayles describes the shift in perception (Hayles, 1999:5). The image by Juan Valverde de Amusco, 1566 does remind us of that as a pre-modern reflection on anatomy practice as this time (The University of Cambridge, 1566).

In summary, I tend to use my own MRI footages with care. My practice is a visual reflection on what the imagery are doing with me and how I response to that visual ‘evidence’. The process of remembering my experience inside the machine as well as my reflection in the aftermath are opening up new explorations of materiality and transformation.

 


Image:

  • featured image: Schaffeld, SJ (2019) digital composite of painting and screenshot of spectrum from music created by Vicki Downey

Reference:

  • Foucault, M. (1994) The Birth of the Clinic : An Archaeology of Medical Perception, Routledge classics, Reprinted ed. New York: VIntage Books, A division of Random House, Inc.
  • Hayles, N. K. (1999) How we became posthuman : Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago; London: The University of Chicago Pres.
  • Institut für Plastination e.K (2019) Bodyworlds – Körperwelten,  At: https://bodyworlds.com/  (Accessed  10 Jul 2019). Heidelberg:
  • National Library of Medicine (2019) The Visible Human Project®,  At: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/research/visible/visible_human.html  (Accessed  02 May 2019).
  • The University of Cambridge (1566) ‘Juan Valverde de Amusco (ca. 1525–ca. 1588), Vivae imagines partium corporis humani aereis formis expressae. Book 2, plate 1’, in Juan Valverde de Amusco (ca. 1525–ca. 1588), V. i. p. c. h. a. f. e. B., plate 1, ed., Antwerp: Christopher Plantin, print.
  • van Dijck, J. (2005) Transparent Body : A Cultural Analysis of Medical Imaging. Seattle, WA; London: University of Washington Press.
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A5 – Pre-Reflective thoughts

Text as subject and vehicle

Titles: for me a reflection of the making, or my emotional or cognitive response in the aftermath. I am never intrigued by either naming it what one can see (visual language is equal to verbal language), nor to name them ‘untitled (what goes into brackets?)’ what some are doing (see my reflection on ‘locating titles‘)

Examples from the different parts of this course:

Part 1:  Assignment 1 Submission  with A1 – One Attempt of Failure and A1 – Another attempt of Failure  => in reference to my performative interaction with materials, relating my body to context, the performative process as failure –  ‘Folding as process, Folding as thinking, Unfolding as knowledge’ and

  • The Puzzle of Gesture  // What is Left Behind // Memories //  Washboard (Laundry) 
  • Dog Shit Performance (audio-video of installation)

=> Titles as reflection on what is happening and what is left

 

Part 2A2 – The Object Box and A2 – The Spatial Box  => in reference to my interaction with objects, objects relating to fetishes.

  • Object Box – Paint4OCA  (a box to open and to interact with, with accompanied inventory list=
  • Fabric Wall Box  // Action Wall Box // Preservation Box // The Two-Side Box

=> Titles as reflection on what is visible there.

 

Part 3: A3 – Submission  => in reference to my embodied interaction with screen-based imagery, based on enactment, the ‘hand’ as sign for touch. Exploring the blurring boundaries between the physical and the digital, both material matters and ‘The Expanded Dissociative Gesture’

  • Breaking Through // Reaching // Getting Involved // Touching a Wall // Discovery // Human

=> Titles as reflection how it could relate to a wider context

 

Part 4: A4 – Submission   => in reference to the wider scope of my parallel project (medical imaging as embodied encounter) related to the transformative, vulnerable and transparent matter of skin. My material encounter and physical interaction with alternative materials.  of ‘Vibrant Matter of Skin‘ and ‘Painting Through the Skin

  • Gaze at Me //  Stretch my Skin //  Caught in the Net

=> Titles as reflection on how it felt and how materiality can respond to it. The work as a visual the title as verbal reflection on it.

Part 5: => expanding on part 4, reference to the wider scope of my parallel project (medical imaging as embodied encounter) text and words as reflection and instruction and actions to do

  • pulling // stretching // layering

=> Titles as reflection on how it felt and how materiality can respond to it. The work as a visual the title as verbal reflection on it.

 

Overall, an interesting development through titles ! From a more surface and visual oriented through an object oriented to move into more contextual and reflective titles. 

 


Impact on practice: to talk and to write about it

Two pieces of work tremendously supported me in my practice (parallel project as well as further explorations on skin): artist statement and critical review. Both took quite some time, going through various phases and draft versions. Writing was more to reflect – and to reflect was practice – and practice was to reflect to allow to write upon. My practice, my statements, and my review are entangled. One would not be there without the other

Last not least, to maintain a learning blog and to write my notes after the tutorials with my tutor. To take ownership about what and how I am doing.

Space: To be in my studio space, to travel around, to work in the train or the plane or on the boat.

Time: the flow and continuation of ideas, sketches, thoughts, layers of work.


Titles: making and understanding in relationship

As mentioned above, and especially since part 4, I do see my practice more in context. To verbalise what something could be means also to enable a next step in exploring materiality. Overall, for me it became a visual and verbal interaction. Entangled and layered as some of my works blur boundaries and transform materials, crossing borders between the physical and the digital, between the visible and the invisible. It appears now, that most of all, it is the notion of an expanded space where titles, words, including spoken ones through speech, do inform my layered practice.

In relationship to the viewer, I can see it as more open, inviting to engage, raising question, less didactic or illustrative. My earlier struggle (part 3) on narratives as ‘telling a story’ disappeared and replaced by a more verbalised and visualised response.

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Making in series – a calendar approach

I was asked by my local art community to participate for next year’s calendar, for each month one artist would provide an original piece of work. I choose the month august.  The idea would be to make 91 calendars.

Pondering what I could do, whether to make one piece a day, or one painting and copies of it added with some twists etc. 

I structured my approach in three phases what really helped me to stay on track and meet the deadline:

  1. ideation: experimenting with three ideas (linocut, building on past work, considering my coursework)
  2. making: making the paintings
  3. shipping: cutting, signing, photographing, making labels, stick them on the backside, put sticky dots on the backside to enable putting it on a calendar page, handing over to local art community 

From the three ideas, I eventually decided to comment and explore on my own work I did some time ago for  ‘Geologic Sensibility’ – see at: https://www.stefanschaffeld.com/, a painting made from shellac solution, acrylic paint, ink, and pigments. Also I decided for a structuralist approach to make 

Painting large scale , three series – cutting up in individual pieces / 14 columns and three rows

 
cutting up into single => 126 pieces of summer landscapes ( 14 columns x 3 rows x 3 series of painting)

Calendar : August 2020 

Geological Sensibility

25 x 10 cm (ink, shellac, acrylic on paper)
from Series 2 of a series of 3X3X14
#instaartactive #art2020august

 

©2019, StefanJSchaffeld – Visual Artist. All Rights Reserved / Urheberrechtlich geschützt. 
E-Mail:
Web:           https://www.stefanschaffeld.com
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/stefan.schaffeld.artist //
Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/stefanschaffeldart/

 

Learnings:

  • After I found the way forward, it was an intense time consuming activity. 
  • I structured my approach in three phases what really helped me to stay on track and meet the deadline (all was done within 4 days)
  • I was impressed how focused I worked, it seemed when I really do artworks from my bottom of the heart it just moves
  • I found the cutting up of larger paintings into single pieces not only time effective, but it also places the pieces into a network. The new owners would be part of a larger work, not separated. An idea of ‘social’ interaction I really like.
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Project 5.3: Locating Titles

The title of a work might act as a portal. Going to a museum or gallery, visitors tend to look at the name tag (often accompanied with listening to the audio guide at their ears). What always irritates me, first a surprise, then annoying, is how artists name works ‘untitled’ just to add another title in brackets:

 

‘Untitled (this is my title)’, 2019

 

What does this tell me? According to Danto (2006) , the title differentiates art from ‘mere things’. Mere things as a chair is just an object, a chair. Naming it like ‘Chair’, 2019 can place it into the realm of art. Naming a work is an artist’s gesture, reminding me of baptism, an un-named work not existing?

To name it ‘Untitled‘ can make the difference. Finally, I can write something on the name tag on the wall. It is one of my own experiences with recent local exhibitions, to provide a title and a price tag. As if these two are acknowledging as the final proof that it is really a piece of art.

The feature image above, a sketch I made during UVC1,  has no title (!?- is this already a title ??). The title is the work, or it is within the work, a statement, an intention?  If I consider giving a title to name it, perhaps it is just that- empty blackness filled with text.

It resonates how On Kawara (1932 – 2014) integrated the title as work. His painting series Today, 1966 – a repetitive series of painting the words of the day of making the painting for nearly five decades.  What normally would appear on the back of a painting, year or date of making, became the work as such. On Kawara applied a rigid working sequence in making these paintings. Interestingly, he also made for each painting, varying in size, a cardboard box, often lined with newspaper clippings. He considered the context of making by being informed by the country he stayed at that time. Overall, a massive archive created, a calendar materialised through painting. I could imagine that these minimalistic paintings turned into icons, as backdrop as decoration. The temporality of a day imprinted for ever in a painting.

It reminds me, although completely different and not made over that period of time, of Bruce Naumann soundscape installation Days, 2009. Multiple loudspeakers installed as a corridor, the viewer passes through, and can listen to the overlapping speeches from each loudspeaker, with someone saying the one day of the week. Those works are archives, lists, announcement of time in space. The title – the work – speech. I am intrigued by considering language not as written but as spoken words. 

 

An Oak Tree – Michael Craig-Martin, 1973

What is the title and what is the work? It is a three part piece of work: the title, the photographic image of ‘assorted objects’ and the text in the form of an interview. 

A sculpture, an installation?  With a longer text joining it, perhaps the text is the work and the sculpture is an illustration of the text? One tends to see text always as name text, guiding information as in leaflets written by a curator. The title is the gesture of the artist (always?). Artist writing tend to be either essays or something else. Joining visual and text. Since DADA a habit, expressed through self-made publication, quite similar to what we are doing as a group of students with edge-zine.

Can text be art? Writers, authors do it all the time. Are visual artist’s less prone to consider text as art? 

Craig-Martin made this work 1973, at the height of conceptual art. It resonates with conceptions of ‘Art as Idea’ as explored by Joseph Kosuth who quoted Donald Judd’s expression “if someone calls it art, it’s art” (2003). The idea is the gesture that turns anything into a piece of art. 

How serious does one takes it? In context of conceptual art Oak Tree might be just an institutional critique against commodification of art. Does art need to be easily understandable? This work might also reflect a viewpoint that one can’t argue with artist’s intentions. It is not science, it is not objective. One large portion of art is to ask questions (my view), what Oak Tree certainly does. 

To write the text in the form of an interview (Q and A) – apparently both sides written by the artist (!) – could mean to engage more and to be less obvious, didactic. 

Overall, what can one argue with? It reminds my of schizophrenia, a parallel reality that is true from a subjective point of view. 


Image:

  • featured image. Schaffeld, S.J. (2017) collage of screenshot found online

Reference:

  • Craig-Martin, M. (2019) ‘Michael Craig-Martin’ At: www.michaelcraigmartin.co.uk/work-index#/early-work/ (Accessed  29 July 2019).Danto, A. C. (2006) ‘Works of Art and More Real Things’, in: The Transfiguration of the Commonplace: A Philosophy of Art, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,,pp. 1 – 32.
  • Guggenheim (2019) ‘Paintings: Today Series/Date Paintings’ At: https://www.guggenheim.org/arts-curriculum/topic/paintings-today-seriesdate-paintings  (Accessed  25 July 2019). 
  • Kosuth, J. (2003) ‘Art After Philosophy (1969)’, in: Harrison, C. and Wood, P. (eds.) Art in Theory, 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, Malden, MA; Oxford, UK; Victoria, AUS: Blackwell Publishing,pp. 852-861. VIIA – 11.
  • Manchester , E. (2002) Michael Craig-Martin – An Oak Tree, 1973, At: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/craig-martin-an-oak-tree-l02262 , London: Tate.(Accessed  25 July 2019). 
  • MoMA (2019) ‘Bruce Nauman: Days – MoMAJune 2–August 23, 2010’ At: https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/1057 (Accessed  25 July 2019).
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Art practitioners // bodies, vulnerability, materiality // transformation

Suggestions on art practitioners that could inform my working practice

Alexis Harding (b. 1973) – at: https://profdocfineartuel.weebly.com/-alexis-harding.html
=> Harding is an abstract painter, exploring paint materiality and physical properties by combining oil paint and alkyd resin. He explores the incompatibility between both, resulting in some dynamic compositions. His method consists of:  ‘pouring gloss paint through a perforated trough across a wet oil surface, to create a grid, which is then left to dry. The paint over a period of months is pushed, pulled, squeezed and peeled away, to reveal dramatic scarred and puckered surfaces that when hung on the wall continue to change, and take on their own form, as they slip from the support.’ 

Kiki Smith (b.  1954)  – at: http://www.artnet.com/artists/kiki-smith/  and https://www.moma.org/artists/5486 and https://raffaellacortese.com/artists/kiki-smith/artworks.html and https://www.dmagazine.com/arts-entertainment/2017/10/in-mortal-artist-kiki-smith-makes-confusion-plain/ and  http://www.barbaragross.de/exhibitions/?show=Past&year=2018&eid=76
=> Smith uses materials in transformative ways relating to the body,. Her work explores the condition of being human, notions of vulnerability, often related to female sensibilities. Her subject matters are  mortality, abjection, and sexuality through figurative art. The abject as the hidden aspects from life. Mostly paper based works, but also sculptures and textile works, she connects her work strongly with a spiritual dimension. She also known or her printmaking works, as process going through multiple versions of proofs, reminding me of how Rembrandt approached printmaking. Overall, I am clear how her work could inform my practice at all. But as often, some connections might come up much later

Heidi Bucher (1926 – 1993), a Swiss artist interested in body relationship to space, works with latex and foam – hanging installations – at https://heidibucher.com/  a
=> ‘Bodyshells’ at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVsk75w3V6Q (large foam based human scale ‘costumes’ reminding me of Dubuffet’s ‘CouCou Bazar’ and a notion of post-human exploration – immediately thrilled when seeing her intriguing set of work, not heard of her before, more to look at. She used often textile, foam, latex, mother-of-pearl pigments  for her costume works, used by her in performance as well. The materials do have some connotation with preciousness, beauty and vulnerability, e.g. Dragonfly Costume, 1976

Christine Borland  (b. 1965), a Scottish and YBA – at: https://www.northumbria.ac.uk/about-us/our-staff/b/christine-borland/ and https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/christine-borland-2702 and https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/artists/christine-borland  
=> Part of her works remind me of Helen Chadwick, especially ‘Answering Anatomy‘ , life and death masks. Her body of work seems quite practice and research oriented, exploring visually history of hospitals and nursing, e.g. ‘The Power of Twelve – Mount Stuart’, 2018 – looking at the war times in Flanders with a bombed hospital. She made also a controlled explosion of a teapot related to that hospital , reminding me of Cornelia Parker’s  ‘Blown Shed’.. Borland relates aspects from the past with a contemporary sensibility when e.g. she refers to the hospital’s conservatory and the nurturing aspect and combining it with found botanist images (fruiting body of a seed from splachnum moss) to make a large sculpture from pink fabric suspended from the ceiling in that same place of the conservatory.
She works together with medical staff and explores the space between medical objects, body parts as teaching material and the story behind it, the story of the person’s body it derived from, e.g. Twin, hand-made, child-birth demonstration model, 1997. Her interest relates also to family trees, and how decease relate to that. A quite different, collaborative work with Brody Condon is Daughters of Decayed Tradesmen, 2013. A work built on oral history related back to the 18th century. Using punched cards, similar to the ones used for Jacquard loom, inscribed with the encoded oral histories. The cards were suspended from a renovated ceiling of the burnt out Watchtower of the New Calton Burial Ground. An intriguing aspect in appropriation process techniques in a revisited narrative to trigger memories and new narratives.
Overall, I find her practice as artist fascinating, reflecting more the way an attitude of an artist approaching cultural subject matters. A key aspect that comes across in her work is the relevance of making-connections.

Sophia Starling  (b. ) – continuous painting => an artist I looked at since part 2, perhaps time to revisit it from another perspective at: http://www.sophiastarling.co.uk/ – found her recent work Lap Mutant (Graphite, Green), 2019 exciting. Starling works quite intensively with basic geometric shapes in juxtaposition with fabrics. Kind of exploring the dialogue between both. Especially this dialogue and contrasting aspect intrigues me.

Louise Brierley (GL Brierley) at: http://www.glbrierley.com/ 
=> manipulation of paint/references to distorted bodies. Some of her works remind me kind of mix between Hieronynmous Bosch and Giuseppe Arcimboldo in some of her works.  I am not suren whether this can inform my own work, doesn’t resonate so much.

Richard Tuttle (b. 1941) – at: https://www.pacegallery.com/artists/474/richard-tuttle
=> Fabric hangings/wire sculptures. I always found his material interrogations and sculptural installations of paintings intriguing. really a bodily encounter of work. I need more to time to look into his body of fabric, textile work. Found about his exhibition and book ‘I don’t know : The Weave of Textile Language’  from 2014 at Whitechapel and Tate. A tree-part exhibition: collected textiles from the world, body of work, and a large scale textile commission at the Turbine Hall (Tuttle ed al, 2014). Intriguing as apparently, not-knowing it before, some of his works strongly resonate with some of my own works, e.g. The Place in the Window #2, 2013, very close with my small scale work (Fig. 1 & 2):

Fig. 1: SJSchaffeld - P2SP - A4 - latex-sculpture

Fig. 1: SJSchaffeld – P2SP – A4 – latex-sculpture // resonating with Richard Tuttle The Place in the Window #2, 2013 (Tuttle ed al, 2014:149-51)

 

Fig. 2: SJSchaffeld - P2SP - A4 - latex-sculpture

Fig. 2: SJSchaffeld – P2SP – A4 – latex-sculpture (not a good photo) // resonating with Richard Tuttle The Place in the Window #2, 2013 (Tuttle ed al, 2014:149-51) 

 
 

Considering my tutor’s comment on my use of obvious canvas stretcher and being too dominant, I found it interesting to find Tuttle’s work How it Goes Around the Corner, 1996, a series of eight small scale works (around A4+) the title apparently emphasing  the over-dominant space of the stretcher, much wider than the inside picture space taken up by piece of cloth. This resonates with my own work in preparation of assignment 4: 

Fig. 3: SJSchaffeld - P4P2 - preparation A4 - latex stretch

Fig. 3: SJSchaffeld – P4P2 – preparation A4 – latex stretch // resonating with Richard Tuttle How it Goes Around the Corner, 1996 (Tuttle ed al, 2014:105-7)

 

 

Conclusion:

  • I find Christine Borland’s art practice interesting as she approaches history and memories through a practice-led research approach, combining various elements and aspects into a visual appealing work. Most of her works are site-specific and location history is informing the final work.
  • Heidi Bucher’s fabric hanging works kept my attention. Not sure, if it is because she is Swiss, or because it relates to sense of place and architecture. Being suspended, gives a sense of fragility and lightness, quite ephemeral. Overall, I do find the site aspect in work fascinating, but have no idea how this could inform my work at the end of this course. Definitely, beyond that as part of my practice.
  • Sophia Starling’s work is worth to revisit. At the beginning of this course it informed my folding of paper towards larger scale fabric work. Now, it seems that the spatial arrangements might actually inform my ‘latex skin’ works in a different way (and I need to consider latex alternatives as well). However, I find her shapes be too distinctive, to clean, missing crossing boundaries. And playing with a contrasting dialogue between materials, shapes, and color.
  • Kiki Smith is an artist I have the most issues with, as I can not sense how her work might inform my work (too symbolic in its figuration?). This might come at a later stage, but for now, I leave it as it is and move on.
  • I do feel some complicity with some works of Richard Tuttle, especially his small scale works with wire and cotton pulp and his explorations of shape and fabric in a freed space 

 


Reference:

  • Tuttle, R., Petersens, M. and Borchardt-Hume, A. (2014) Richard Tuttle – I don’t know : The Weave of Textile Language. London: Whitechapel, Tate.
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Project 5.1: Working with text

Words, text, literature do have a long history as time-based, linear narrative against visual arts as spatial art, the latter considered as unable to convey a narrative.  This dilemma was explored by Lessing in his book ‘Laocoon’, 1766; or  ‘on the Limits of Painting and Poetry’), an old time fight between both art forms. Time to mix and merge.

Cut-up as technique

Consciousness is a cut-up; Life is a cut up – William S Burroughs (Kahler, 2014:12)

Ken Hollings described how cut-up has been applied (Hollings, 2015) as a DADA technique since the 1920s with Tristin Tzara (Ragged Lion Press, 2016):  cut out words from a text and randomly re-arranged into a new poem.  The same technique can be applied with all king of media, e.g. sounds and video. Quite hip-hop and fragmented. Disruption and disturbance as a key aspect of the work.  Hollings explains that this initial experimental technique became a main stream part of popular culture and daily lives.

Text – Words – Speech – Sound – Motion – Chance

Home tape recorder became a trendy device with William S. Burroughs (William S. Burroughs – Topic, 2017), as an opposition against ‘bourgeois literature’: to record, to playback and stop randomly, and add a new sequence – resulting in a new juxtaposition, a start for a new writing. Burroughs also questioned how random is randomly. Nowadays, this technique is widely applied by DJs,  called scratching or scrubbing of a turntable (DJ decks work that way even with digital files). In music, sampling relates to this, allocating pitches to various sampled sounds, that can be played with a keyboard normally.

Bottomline, mix, cut and re-assemble any ‘raw material’ in order to layer, to disrupt orders, to break narratives, and to seek new ways of experiencing similar things a-fresh. The human brain is wired to make meaning out of chaos, a question of survival. This doesn’t mean that those re-assembled things can make one dizzy and uncomfortable.

Example of this dizziness or even  non-sense of stretching the words in its plasticity can be seen/read in Kurt Schwitters’ poem as (Morley, 2003:60)

lanke tr gl
pe pe pe pe pe
ooka ooka ooka ooka
lanke tr gl
pii pii pii pii ..

Words become visual, and logically cut-up as technique for collage was used by Cubist artists, e.g Pablo Picasso or Georges Braque. Fragmented text giving the impression of scale with a flattening effect.

Cut.up, collage, tape recorders and today online tools are democratic devices for everyone, like the idea of zines, simple, low-end, creative.  David Bowie mentioned that he used a computer program doing the cut-up work for him, and taken the results to work from there (BBC News, 2016). One example of online randomizer: https://onlinerandomtools.com/shuffle-words

To use other materials, words, text could be considered the same way as using other’s images; collage, pastiche. appropriation; raising questions of copyright and ownership that nowadays became a blurred idea of difference. 

The above quote from Burroughs can be related to today’s social media life, with a short attention span, swallowing huge amount of information (written, mostly visual, as who can read texts if not visually?). Today, cut-up techniques are called twitter etc.

Chop the painting

Cut-up as chopping and dicing brings me to the idea of chopping, dicing my own discarded paintings. The physical action of cutting, also reminds me of cutting through the skin. Scalpel as the scissor, paper as skin, pictures as words. Why to use words as pictures are similarly signs with deferred meaning?

The film director Gus Van Sant, described by Kahler as ‘a gay director of films’, is a creator of ‘surreal or dream imagery’ with a ‘painter’s aesthetic’(Kahler, 2014:1) and he appropriated Burroughs cut-up method for his films. Another reference for him was Eisenstein’s montage method, to juxtapose two unrelated scenes to create new meaning. Van Sant’s multiple cut-ups from other narrative do ‘move the linear narrative forward’. One of his visual cues are ‘time-lapse and shape shifting clouds as metaphors for change and the fleeting nature of life’ (ibid:6). An interesting a for me new Western film technique, informed by the Western normalised way of reading – left to right,  is described by Kahler at the example of van Sant’s film ‘Promised Land’ (2012) where entering a screen from the left symbolises the good, the protagonist side, and entering the screen from the right symbolises the villain, a visual narrative of showing conflict. Van Sant applies this in controversy order, creating a twist in narrative. In the work ‘One Step Big Shot’, Van Sant applied cut-up technique to create new images from snippets of portrait photographs to create ‘new beings .. from elements of others’ (ibid:12)

Text and Visuals

I want to name our pains, I want to keep our names, … Words and images drink the same wine. There is no purity to protect. – Marlene Dumas (Morley, 2003:9)

Morley (2003) described in his book four kind of interactions between text and visuals:

  1. trans-media, e.g., surveys and art critics
  2. multi-media with coexist closely in same space, e.g shop signs, comic books, Fra Angelico ‘Annunciation’,1432-3 or Marlene Dumas ‘Sold against one’s will’, 1990-91
  3. mixed-media with less ‘intrinsic coherence’, e.g. Raymond Pettibon ‘no title (just what was), 2001
  4. inter-media as a hybrid form of visual-text, writing as visual language, e.g signature of Albrecht Duerer, the Book of Kells

Especially, the fourth kind resonates with text that one cannot read when not learned the language, e.g. Cyrillic or Arabic script. The portraits photographs of Shirin Neshat an example, text written over the printed photograph, a poem, a secret language with quite decorative appeal for those not able to read. A rhythm and aesthetic of visual text in itself. I learned to speak and write Ukrainian and Russian language while I stayed for roughly three years in Ukraine, the west and the East, Ukrainian to speak in the West, Russian to speak in the East. Language as mean for communication, to touch the people living there, to be present.

Vincent van Gogh did appropriate foreign text as visual compositional device, e.g. The Bridge in the Rain (after Hiroshige), 1887, informed by Japanese wood cuts.  Drawing and painting of letters or signs a question of coherence (ibid:26-27).


Art Practitioners

Sarah Impey (Impey, 2019), a textile artist, makes quilts, that could be considered somehow between mixed-media and inter-media.  In some of her works, words are following a visual order, e.g. Iris Recognition. In other works, the words are dominantly laid over a backdrop, more independent and separate from it, e.g. Meeting Point. The work Interconnections, seem to take the linear syntax of text into the spatial realm of images, phrases as interconnection of words turning into chain-links interconnected visually.

There are wide and varied examples of artworks that use text, each has a particular intention behind it in terms of what the artist wants to communicate to, or elicit, in the viewer.

Annie Vought cuts away the negative space from enlarged handwriting text from found or written letters on paper, making the words a fragile experience. She said about her work ‘intricately dissecting the negative spaces with an Exact-o knife. The handwriting and the lines support the structure of the cut paper, keeping it very strong, despite its apparent fragility. The sculptural quality of the letter allows the viewer to examine the care it took to render each piece in relationship to what is actually being said…. I believe that I am just beginning to understand paper as a medium – its strength and fragility.’ (ArtistADay). Her cut-paper work series ‘Ideas are Objects’, informed by the book Metaphors we live by from Lakoff and Johnson, sounds like a critic against Kosuth’s ‘art as idea’ statement. Metaphors as communication of invisible images of the world.

At an earlier exhibition visit to Martha Roesler and Hito SteyerlWar Games’ , the first room was filled with suspended from the ceiling transparent banners with text imprinted from Hannah Arendt. The viewer is invited to walk through a text. However, I feel that this technique already became a trope, suspended text or words in the middle of a room (one just has to image search it). In a more recent exhibition at Serpentine Gallery, Hito Steyerl filled the rooms with vibrating and pulsing light, images and text in various outer turning the entire place into 4D book. And through a phone app, she applied AR layer of images and text onto a an external reality.

Joseph Kosuth His work Titled (Art as Idea as Idea (Idea)), 1967 can be seen similarly as Weiner’s work in context of conceptual art and as the visual counterpart to his writing ‘Art after Philosophy (1969)  (Kosuth, 2003). An upscaled white on black copy from a dictionary, term ‘idea’.  Another example for such conceptual use of ‘art as idea’ is the work Secret Painting (Ghost), 1968 that forces the viewer to look at a content that is not there. The artist’s words as proclamation and statement that can’t be rejected (Morley, 2003:146)

Lawrence Weiner: ‘Every artist’s work has a title. Titles are my work’ (Morley, 2003:143). His work Earth to Earth Ashes to Ashes Dust to Dust, 1970 embodies exactly this: the title is the work, written in capital letters on a gallery wall. That’s it. The title in itself is the idea to contemplate on. Interesting to read Weiner’s notion that his work exists even without the inscription on the wall, as if the title is the artist’s immaterial gesture.

This reminds me how more and more exhibitions are nowadays juxtaposed with writing on the wall, either artist quotes, titles, reference – anything goes. 

Jenny Holzer used text as statement, as utterances, as expression of feelings on urban bill boards. Neon light texts with the aesthetic of advertisement to make people stop and ponder about deeper meaning. Words as more punchy that images, a disruption of imagery. Her short phrases built on semiotics and syntax, the linguistic structure of expression. At times the phrases seem content-wise paradox, e.g. IF THE PROCESS STARTS I WILL KILL THIS BABY A GOOD WAY.. Her works reminds me of the neon work Tracey Emin installed last year at St Pankreas train station in London: ‘I WANT MY TIME WITH YOU’ , a more personal and intimate expression relevant to the site of traveling and train station, arriving and welcoming, sharing between two people what matters.

Fiona Banner: I was fascinated to read about her work ‘Full Stops’, enlarged full stop letters from various type fonts that also gave each one its title. Virginia Button (1998) described this work of the full stop as representing ‘an ending but also signifies a beginning, an in between or a gap. Like the polystyrene, which is used as a packing material or ‘space-filler’, the full stop is transient. The names of the fonts are displayed on accompanying packing boxes, providing a possible titling system for the sculptures. The boxes also reinforce the idea that the full stops are transportable and multilingual.’ Building on the notion of a letter as metaphor. It is the syntax, less the semantics of text that can give another meaning. 

Jaqueline Humphries: Perhaps not the artist who applied written words in her paintings, but she appropriates emoijs, kind of contemporary verbal-visual language. For those, where social media is part of our life, and how to text without emoijs? She uses laser-cut stencils to rub the paint through those opening, leaving the emojis traces onto the surface. She also transformed ASCII codes of her earlier paintings, printed onto a support to laser-cut and do the same thing. Own or cultural memories embedded into new work , creating new meaning  kind of digital cut-up meeting painting (Schaffeld, 2019).

Christian Bonnefoi (2019) explored through cut-up collage as a dispositif, the disruption of temporal and at times paradoxical ideas. He uses mylar as in-between layer to partly conceal underlying text and images. Signs from the background became compositional elements of above layers. I find the layered approach and interplay of opaque and transparent intriguing, e.g Babel I, De la sphère 90°, 1978 or Babel 24 R, 2016-2017 or Janapa I, 1978 (Campoli Presti, 2018). The rather abstract cut-up shapes are placed in order to create a new work.

During my visit at the Drawing Room, London ‘From the Inside Out.’  I found other examples of how text, words, letter could be embedded into the fabric of a work.  The title reminded me of Elisabeth Grosz association of the Moebius strip with the self and the body. Athena Papadopoulos. In her work Even Deader than Dead Grapevine she embedded words, letter interwoven with materials traditionally connotated with ‘female’ activities.

William Kentridge, knowns for his animated drawings, installed as large scale performances through screening alongside installed sculptures, used words in various ways. I find the exhibition books NO IT IS ! (Kentridge 2016) an good examples of a book design and layout with merged texts, words, and images, as a fluid interrogation of his work. I felt intrigued by his work series Breathe, Dissolve, Return (2008) for its fluidity of visual and text and the aspect of time, fragmentation, and dissolving boundaries. All three are short films of around 4-5 minutes, initially intended to be projected on the fire curtain in the opera house in Venice; at the time when the orchestra is tuning the instruments and the audience is coming in. All three works are about disintegration, of material structures. Dissolve is visual only, Return includes the title as visual word, and Breathe consists of collaged texts with the title written on a piece of paper stuck to the background wall and a dominant ‘da capo’ placed as words at the bottom of the work. 

William Kentridge - NO IT IS ! (2016) Dissolve -Return - Breathe

William Kentridge – NO IT IS ! (2016) Dissolve -Return – Breathe // process as work

 


Conclusion

  • Words: statements, feeling, visual matter, physical matter, in-between spaces, paradox juxtapositions, appropriating other medium specific appearance: as sculpture, as advertisement, as fabric, as collage, as wall writing etc.
  • I was surprised that I applied apparently many of cut-up technique ideas already in my parallel project, Through my collaboration with music student Vicki, I not only applied a mixed cut-up of sound and images. But also the sequence, often disruptive, with apparent no connection to each other, could be considered as cut-up. 
  • During my collaboration, i was already intrigued by speech, something I learned now can be done as cut-up as well (Hollings, 2015). Who says that words need to be visual? I like to push conventional ideas (since Gutenberg ed al) that words are speech, quite resonating with ‘in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (John 1:1) No surprise that Morley referred to this back to a time when the spoken word was conceived with the ‘highest status'(Morley, 2003:14).
  • I would like to explore more the in-between space of text, words, speech and visuals. The work ‘full stop’ of Fiona Banner might be one direction of space and absence.
  • Words can disrupt in a more punchy visual imagery, especially when overwhelming like in urban centers as Jenny Holzer’s works show. Another image would have had less impact.
  • Overall, I am less impressed to use words as text as statements, I am more intrigued by appropriating text-words-conventions, e.g. deferred meaning, paradox, spaces in-between. And I do wonder whether words and text in that sense can not be expanded to notations, to music scores. Reading as way to create work and meaning, like a score as iconic imprint of music created in a different space.
  • I felt inspired by Kentridge’s process based animated images with one words dissolving and merging with the overall composition.

 

 


Reference:

 

 

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//Visual // Thinking //

Stefan513593 - making connections - sketchbook 1

Stefan513593 - making connections - sketchbook 2

 

// Making – Connections // 

=> a visual encounter and  drawing line to connect, my previous work (see microscopic color circles at: Project 4.5: Colour) and ideas of sculptural paintings

  • How scale matters (estimated 1:300 – my paint circles versus large scale street installation)
  • How found objects, ‘canvas’ like, could be considered as urban installations. The bin or the pillar as context ‘stretching’ and containing meaning and perception.
  • How the embodied experience of site and objects are informing space perception, scaffolding as kinesfield experience (as the expanded field around the human body in interaction with objects is described by Gretchen Schiller)
  • How fake is faked through imagery

 

 


Reference:

  • Schiller, G. (2008) ‘From the Kinesphere to the Kinesfield: Three Choreographic Interactive Artworks’, in: Leonardo. [online]. 41(5),  pp. 431-437,  At: https://doi.org/10.1162/leon.2008.41.5.431  (Accessed on 10 Dec 2017).
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Writing on the Wall – a review

‘Writing on the Wall’, an exhibition at at Waddington Custot, London

Before going to the exhibition, I was wondering what to expect: graffiti, scribbling at the wall, ancient signs. Considering contemporary art and my coursework for part 5 on words, I had mixed feelings about it: would it inform my work? Would be distant me?

The website and the joining text is comprehensive and complete. Nearly all works (from Brassaï, Vlassis Caniaris, Jean Dubuffet, Manolo Millares, Antoni Tàpies and Cy Twombly) are visible on the galleries site, what I found not only helpful for me and for sharing, but also a good practice that makes it obsolete to take photographs on site, what I find sometime rather distracting. Additionally, the exhibition book is online accessible through issuu

The joining text had a quote of Henri Lefebvre The Urban Revolution, 1970:

The urban space of the street is a place for talk … A place where speech becomes writing. A place where speech can become “savage” and, by escaping rules and institutions, inscribe itself on walls. – Henri Lefebvre

I was thinking of those marks left by humans on walls, but also on other public spaces and objects, becoming personalised, inscribed as collective memory.

To inscribe

This word is more than writing text on a support, using tools or hand and fingers, using ink, paint, or just inscription. Inscription is incision, reminding me of human skin and people inscribing not their flesh, tattoo, bruises, scars carving, pinging, cutting. From making a mark as a picture to making a mark to get relieve or to feel oneself. Self-harming or harming or just part of identity?

Wall

Walls are protective layers, with the reading of Flusser, are not only a facade against the outside but also an enabler for meaning of the inside, a metaphor for a double dilemma (Flusser, 1993:27-32): to protect and to encapsulate, to look out and to look inside of oneself. The wall as a surface, a skin for projections and illusions.

Are public walls the skin of a society? -> To raise attention to? To leave marks?

Are human skins becoming a public wall? -> we expose ourselves more and more today, selfies, selfies in our inside rooms, surveillance, we make ourselves vulberable, we turn into public property.

I do feel a strong resonance between walls and skin, especially in context of my parallel project, medical imaging. My assignment 4 work was more about the skin as a material with plasticity and resistance. I don’t know whether it would make sense to expand to walls, perhaps the wall as a backdrop? Too flat. Skin closing a hole in a wall? too literal. Paint as skin as wall – vulnerable. It brings back to me my work done as personal project for PoP1: the decay of residential building, the breaking apart of bricks leaving a hole that allows to gaze inside. Another metaphor for medical imaging.

Considering my coursework, speech inscribed as text, could not also speech be uttered without text? Painting is visual speech, words added to it would possibly add another ‘speech’ to it, or just enforces a speech? Often the way it is done in propaganda, ads, or other affirmative visual statements.

What could be more subtle for doing it? And by subtle? Are bold messages less arty than ambiguous ones? It seems as if the wall to write onto, to inscribe into is a balancing surface between arty, propaganda and protest.

The works in the exhibition are either informed by found wall visual (e.g Brassaï, Dubuffet) or they are appropriating the mediums and materiality of the wall (e.g Tàpies, Twombly or Caniaris). Somehow, I feel uncomfortable of some works and perhaps attitudes, to appropriate works outside the art space made by people with in quite different conditions, to consider those as a new ‘raw’ and direct expression just to be applied and transformed into an art work as art-object. I always feel this sense when reading about ‘art brut’ and outsider art. At times, I am wondering whether those works are documentary or effect. Twombly considered scribbling and inscription as a performative act by deconstruction written language in its gestural aspects. Perhaps, this is closer to how I would like to approach the act of visually mark-making and text.

—-

Comment on gallery space: I felt the space, the rooms joined together, calming and relaxing. As mostly in galleries, the space is not crowded, me mostly the only visitor, at times one or two others. Passing by, not impacting space perception much. The entrance wall was covered with the work Duat (1994) of Antoni Tàpies, a large frieze size 250x600cm.


Image

  • featured image: collage from screenshot (Waddington Custot)  and photograph taken on site

Reference:

  • Flusser, V. (1993) Dinge und Undinge – Phänomenologische Skizzen, Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag
  • Waddington Custot (2019) Writing on he Wall – Exhibition (17 May – 08 Aug 2019), At: https://www.waddingtoncustot.com/exhibitions/133/ (Accessed 21 July 2019) :
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Fine Art – practice, research or what?

What is Art? What is Fine Art? What is Fine Art education?

This question is certainly a question with will no final answer. And to embrace this uncertainty is fine to me. At the London study day in May, Emma Drye asked us to reflect on the question what research means to us and  what we want from an art degree. 

At that time, I thought of ‘art as research’ as a search in iteration, a quest, getting background and context, opening up to new and/or different viewpoints, extending my own viewing field, discerning my position in a critical manner. And making art as enabler for communication, of ideas and explorations by opening and raising questions.

Perhaps, as a coincidence I read in the current issue of Turps Banana, a splendid painting journal issued twice a year, an article about that topic. Simon Bill argued against a position made by André Hunt, an educated painter and now professor of Fine Art and Curating in Manchester School of Art (Schwabsky, 2018). Hunt referred to a statement of Teresa Gleadowe, teacher for curating at RCA. She told Hunt that for her all ‘art is research’, resonating well with the topic of above mentioned study day, a common art college understanding? Hunt declared it this a ‘valid point’, considering the context of the UK system of REF, the Research Excellence Framework, that challenges higher education system in proficiency in research – and as art is mostly learned in academics is part of it.

Bill argues strongly against this position in a rather polemic manner that this would be a mere result of ‘conservative education policy and market oriented educational reform’ (Bill, 2019:32) that it is ‘enthusiastically implemented by (mainly) left wing staff’ (p. 30). He quotes  another Professor, Fiona Candlin of Birkbeck, that art colleges ‘rather than challenging the status quo it now upholds it’ (ibid:35).

I reminds me of the endless debate, even in public and my own local art community, of seeing art as fine art as academic art merely as a science-derivative occupation, versus a ‘pure’ art, an art based on merits.  Bill argued that fine art teachers are claiming themselves as artists without being ‘art practitioners’ . And he listed items, merits, that according to him would define somehow who ‘makes a living as an artist’ (ibid:32-33)

  1. Had an exhibition at a commercial gallery.
  2. Associated with that, they will have been represented by a gallery or galleries.
  3. They will have had an exhibition at a publicly funded gallery or museum.
  4. Sold their work.
  5. Had their work sold at auction.
  6. Had their work featured in an art magazine.
  7. Had their work shown abroad, in both commercial venues and museums.
  8. Had their work featured in art fairs like FRIEZE and Basel.
  9. They are also quite likely, as their career progresses, to have been involved in curating.
  10. They are quite likely to have dealt first-hand with collectors, and with socalled ‘art advisors.
  11. There will be catalogues, and even monographs about them.

 

These are certainly aspects of being an exhibiting artist in a cultural expected way of being. Making art as object, to present, to be represented, to sell commodities, and to make a career and a living from the revenues. I find the argumentation made by Bill refreshing as it challenges notions of what it is about. However, the binary opposites established by him, seems to be rather enforcing an established Modernist notion of the artist being a sales provider and maker of cultural collectibles. 

Is this my to-do list ? I am not planning to become an art teacher,  it even to spend future time at academics,  but to be an art practitioner, applying art as attitudes across areas of interest, and to continue to be curious of things that evolve, develop, materialize, and appear. To exhibit and to sell artworks is not only exciting but also a necessity when one wants to make a living from it.

Nevertheless, I continue to believe in art as attitude, art practices being more than selling and being represented by big-shots galleries. It is also an approach of awareness and finding new perspectives. I do relate this especially in my field of art therapy. Art practice as process, as an constant interrogation and exploration of material, images, responses, and an awareness of one own’s actions. In that sense, Fine Art is for me much more than  one of two sides stated by Bell. And the ‘art brut’ would still be seen as outsider art in Bell’s argumentation.

It is perhaps not a coincidence that on the discuss forum Heather Lloyd Payne asked students  to tell their stories #OCAstories, and this is what I posted :

“As a kid, I couldn’t speak until I went to primary school, though I could communicate with my parents and older sisters quite well, non-verbally. Painting and playing where my main means for expression and communication. At primary school I was recognized and invited to attend art school. My parents couldn’t afford the fees and life went on with painting and art displaced on a backburner. However, my first prizes won as a kid were for paintings. And I bought a guitar with the prize money at the age of twelve. After spending ‘successful’ but not quite satisfactory decades of life as an expat in corporations, life pulled a break – for me to revisit meaning in my life. I wanted to connect with what really mattered to me, but  living a ‘flying dutchman’ life it didn’t allow me to follow art education at a brick&mortar collage. With OCA I was able to re-connect to my passion and happily I embarked with high motivation on my journey as an emerging artist.” – SJSchaffeld

Perhaps, this is more to the bottom of why I am doing what I am doing with and in art.


Amendment

With some further cross-reading I found an interesting article by Karthrin Busch (2007) who wrote about the various aspects of art and research. From research and science as subject matter in art to a rather different conception based on M. Foucault’s ideas that art is a different form of knowledge and its role is to disturb ‘established knowledge structures, so as to reveal their innate power structures and restriction’ (p.41).  To compare way of knowing inherited by power structures and conventional scientific approaches will not enable access to the diversity of knowledge in itself.

By quoting Derrida, Bush highlights that ‘art is committed to represent the ephemeral forces and manifestations that emerge spontaneously and involuntarily’ against a rather ‘performative, institutionalized knowledge’ that ‘belongs to “the order of possibilities that can be mastered”‘ (pp.43-44).

In that sense, art could be considered as a force of doubting and embracing the ‘unexpected’, or as we discussed in the London Study Day, to embrace wonder in each encounter a-new.  Compared to science as problem-solving activity, art is a trouble-shooter, and the work in itself could be seen as research, not the final result as in science.


Image:

  • SJSchaffeld, painting from part3

Reference:

  • Bill, S. (2019) ‘Fine Art Education and ’Research Culture’’, In: Turps Banana, (21) pp. 28 – 35.
  • Busch, K. (2007) ‘Artistic Research and the Poetics of Knowledge’, in: AS Mediatijdschrift. [online]. (179),  pp. 36 – 45,  At: https://www.academia.edu/8568175/Artistic_Research_and_the_Poetics_of_Knowledge  (Accessed on 30 July 2019).
  • Schwabsky, B. and Hunt, A. (2018) ‘Critics speak: Barry Schwabsky interviews Andrew Hunt’, In: Turps Banana, (20) >pp. 18 – 25.
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mono-ha // encounter // ephemeral and transient

While being in London, searching for galleries open on Monday, and eventually went to Cardi Gallery, London for a mono-ha exhibition: ‘Tribute to MONO-HA’ (13 March – 26th July 2019).

I had some idea about mono-ha, in the Western World often related to ‘the School of Things’. 

Another view on this Japanese art post-war art movement is described by Toothpicker

‘their aim was not to ‘create’ but ‘rearrange’ ‘things’, drawing attention to the interdependent relationships between these ‘things’ and the space surrounding them.’ – Toothpicker

 

I was intrigued by a wall text by Nobuo Sekine 

‘What we are doing is finding ways to have encounters today’ – Nobuo Sekine

An encounter of space between   

things – matter – mind

 

Fig 1: mono-ha and Nobuo Sekine - encounter

Fig 1: mono-ha and Nobuo Sekine – encounter

 

I was really fascinated by a rather simple approach, an approach to an essence of encounters. Not in a Platonist way of essence of an idea as transcendent truth, more as an essence of what matters. 

I was relfecting after my visit for quite some time about these words and along some words from Lee Ufan who stated that their works were made for a show and to be destroyed afterwards. Firstly, I was thinking that they actually physically destroyed the material as such, but it was more about the destruction of the installments, or the work, e.g Lee Ufan’s Relatum III (a place within a certain situation), 1970 (Toothpicker). A work of ropes tied around a pillar and wooden blocks to hold them in place. Each new installation they responded to the respective site to

re-arrange

things a-new, a-fresh

An encounter in-between, on site, in a physical space and place. Perhaps, I was impressed as my visit followed our performance and viewing event two days before. I could experience a difference between materiality in space and screen based art. A truly embodied encounter.

And I felt some resonance with my recent assignment works, latex-paint-skin, stretching as encounter of forces

Fig. 2: SJSchaffeld, assignment 4 work , detail

Fig. 2: SJSchaffeld, assignment 4 work , detail

 

 


Images:

  • Featured image: Screenshot from https://cardigallery.com/exhibitions/ and https://cardigallery.com/exhibitions/ 
  • Fig. 1: Collages form photographs taken in the exhibition 
  • Fig. 2: SJSchaffeld – assignment 4 work

Reference:

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Underground Poetry #artontheunderground

tube2flight - #artontheunderground - underground poetry

tube2flight – #artontheunderground – underground poetry

a combined version (This is Oxterly, audio-video, 2:59 min) at: https://vimeo.com/350718770

 

Title of the work:

Underground poetry, take a pen, move on the paper from left to right back and force while moving, at station make circles till moving again, change the pen, each second station rotate the paper continue till your final destination

Words embedded: names of the underground stations (some time after Green Park till Heathrow Terminal, the Piccadilly line)

This work was inspired by my visit to Oscar Murillo at David Zwirner, London, and his ‘Poetics of Flight’ drawing made during his multiple flights. It is not a copying, as Murillo applied quite some different approaches and his embedded words do have a different connotations.

 

Learning

I found it absolutely fascinating how through travel motion, marks can be made in a constrained space through double physical movement: the underground (a linear trajectory) and my hand (small moves rotating the page)

I could envision this as a topology, or as mapping of time spent. A repetition in multiple underground rides, on bus? on train? 


thinking about communication

if this is site-specific work, would it not be good to share if site-specific? I.e. to share with London underground? Quick searching revealed that they actually have a social media presence for ‘Art on the Underground’

possible links to social media:

possible handles:

  • #ArtontheUnderground@aotulondon@transportforlondon
  • #stefanschaffeld@stefanschaffeldart#undergroundpoetry

 

 

An amended version that I submitted for edge-zine no.8 ‘Time’:

 

 

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Oscar Murillo ‘Manifestation’ at David Zwirner, London

Oscar Murillo (b. 1983) is shortlisted for this year Turner prize. He went through an amazing painting career with global single shows at major places and fairs. 

His large paintings were on show titled ‘Manifestation’ at David Zwirner Gallery, London (June 8—July 26, 2019).

Entering the gallery was a fab experience, as most works are made this year, the oil paint is still fresh:

His large scale painting contrasted with my visit to Frank Bowling at Tate Britain the day before. As Bowling’s work seemed to some extent more contrived, Murillo’s painting seemed to convey a more pulsing atmosphere. The colors are brighter, the texture of the surface more embedded in the picture plane, felt more coherent. But perhaps this was just my in the moment experience. But it definitely inspired me just to paint along.

One aspect that apparently went through most of his paintings, were a split compositional frame, at times left and right side, at times different sections. Similar to Bowling, Murillo used collaged figurative elements, embedded in the picture plane. Another aspect I find interesting, was stitching. Also seen in some of Bowling’s works, Murillo stitched some canvas pieces together (see Fig). I am wondering whether ‘stitching’ canvas is a trendy thing to do… In reminiscence to textile and fabrics was also the way of ‘curtain-hanging’  of another painting.

 ‘A lot of this mark-making is a release of anxiety and physical energy.’ – Oscar Murillo (interview with Peter Aspden, 2019)

Many of his paintings are an expression of physical energy released in the process of making. A notion that I feel resonates with my latest assignment work on latex-paint-skin, though the physical forces are certainly different depending on scale.

collage of photographs taken at exhibition - Oscar Murillo

collage of photographs taken at exhibition – Oscar Murillo

 

One part was keeping my attention, a projection on one gallery wall showing moving images in close up view of colored marks on paper. 

This piece is one of several works done in a similar way of his recent series Poetics of Flight. All of them are around around 57 x 40 cm. They are made during one of his flight travels, a visualisation of in-flight movement For these paper works, the gallery created a specific, time limited website (accessible through July 28th)

“Constant transnational movement has become an integral facet of my practice. Flight becomes not just a means of travel but a sacred ‘other’ space, the aeroplane seat itself becoming a unique ‘studio’ at a remove, a non-place which is both physically confined and freed from being in any real geographical location.” – Oscar Murillo, in conversation with the gallery

“The drawings made on board planes, in hotels, and in any space of transition have a similar function: they feed a sickness, a relentless laboring.” – Oscar Murillo (David Zwirner Gallery (2019b)

It really resonated with my own travelling and inspired me to work immediately afterwards on a piece Underground Poetry  on my way back from central London to Heathrow airport on the tube (considering my constraints 

 


Reference:

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Frank Bowling at Tate Britain

collage of photographs taken at exhibition -Frank Bowling

Frank Bowling (b. 1934 in Guayana) is an abstract painter still working today from his London studio at the age of 85. My tutor suggested to visit the currently major retrospective of his 60 years of work at Tate Britain (31 May – 26 Aug 2019)

At the beginning , I was not sure whether I would appreciate the work of this artist, perhaps too much of the same painting approaches from the 1960s / 1970s?  Anyhow, I entered the exhibition with open mind and eyes and was curious what I would encounter. Clearly, it was major retrospective, and the chronological order of the rooms seemed for me the right flow through a painterly movement since Modernism to Materiality, from Formalism to Serendipity. 

Whereas his earlier works of the 1960s seems to be made in a similar ‘style’ as his fellow students R.B.Kitaj and even Francis Bacon (e.g. Mirror, 1966) and/or take references from other artists, they are the starting point of Bowling’s interest in geometric abstraction and formalism. He was actually a good friend of Clement Greenberg (interesting to read one of the letters on display at Tate, Fig.1 ) 

 

collage of photographs taken at exhibition -Frank Bowling

Fig. 1: collage of photographs taken at Tate (https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/frank-bowling); left: letter from Clement Greenberg to Frank Bowling, 1971, Bowling’s studio spaces in London with his assistant Spencer A. Richards (right)

 

A few examples that stirred my flow and inspiration (Fig 2):

  • Vitacress, 1981: mark left by paint bucket on the canvas laying on the floor turning into visual language that Bowling incorporated also in later paintings
  • Benjamin Mess, 2013:  The layering of canvas pieces, different sizes, cut with a sewing scissor (patterned edges) 
  • Wintergreens, 1986: building up texture by using acrylic foam and thick acrylic gel, both materials he reduced in use in his later paintings. I didn’t find the embedded acrylic foam pieces that successful and convincing. They reminded me rather of my own experiment in part 2 of this course (e.g. Preservation box #1 and #2A2 – The Spatial Box)
  • Sam’Sentinal, 1999: he reflected on his mother’s activities and her job as dress and hat maker and intense use of sewing informed his ‘stitched’ canvas work. These layered and stitched smaller scale works are combined, from various paintings in progress works in parallel, as parts from one went into the other. It is like re-assembling different puzzles into new puzzles.  The painting is therefore the results of a process, of painting a canvas, and of placing it across. Reminded me of Sean Scully’s work Human 3, 2018 where he cut out a square from the center from one work and placed into an even cut out space in another work. 
  • Girls in the City, 1991: A combined work made from seven separate canvas, reflecting on the way ‘people structure themselves, in the way we are, we live in building and express life in opposition to minimalism, enclosure, and death’ (wall-note, quote from Frank Bowling)
  • From V2-RS1, 2005: Bowling started to make white paintings, and this one has embedded acupuncture needles (artist was treating his back-pain with acupuncture). These white paintings alongside its materiality made me think of how his works could inspire and inform my work. As I am still in a hotel in London, I wanted to make something, and milk and yoghurt came to my mind. The first liquid, the latter semi-solid, a transformation through a natural process of fermentation (and van Gogh used milk to fix his early charcoal/pencil drawings)

 

Fig. 2: collage of photographs from exhibition - Frank Bowling

Fig. 2: collage of photographs from exhibition – Frank Bowling; top left clockwise:  Vitacress, 1981- Benjamin Mess, 2013 – detail of Wintergreens, 1986 – Sam’Sentinal, 1999  – Girls in the City, 1991 – From V2-RS1, 2005.

 

His long time assistant Spence A. Richards stated once (from wall-note) about Bowling that

“[Bowling] would use whatever I did, even if it was a mistake, as a starting point for a painting.” – Spencer A Richards (Tate, 2019)

 

Conclusion:

I left impressed by the continuity and vitality of the experimental approaches in Bowling’s work. Considering that he worked constantly for 60 years with an open-mind, an attitude for wonder, and searching new approaches by embracing constraints or mistakes (as his assistant stated) as opportunities and including those partly in his painting as visual language, e.g the marks left by a paint bucket on the canvas laying on the floor in Vitacress, 1981. More impressive that he does this at his age of 85 with a decreasing mobility  pushing him to work mostly seated.

I do wonder whether all very large scale works do have to be that large. However, I like the way he considered his studio space and found creative ways of overcoming constraints (see Fig. 1).

Bowling started with formal and geometric explorations and this continued to be question throughout his later works. He explored deeply the materiality and physicality of his material. I was not so much impressed of his earlier experiments with adding all kind of material, especially acrylic foam, leaving a touch of failure of my own experiments with pouring paint over all sort of packaging material. His heavy use of acrylic gel had for me quite an ‘artificial’ aka deprived touch. It was fab to see how through his Thames paintings and making reference to the light in his home country Guyana turned the works into more articulated and refined works. I do relate strongly with Bowling’s attraction to the liquidity and fluidity of paint through spraying and letting it go/flow.

His stencil and screen printing techniques reminded me partly of Jacqueline Humphries. 

I take away from my visit that experimenting with materials is fine, but it need to put more attention onto aspects like surface structure and compositional elements in relationship to color to make the work pulsing and successful.

Overall, Bowling’s work do convey a contemporary abstract sense. Although, I am not sure whether this way of working alone would satisfy me for longer. I also left with a sense of ‘nostalgic modernism’ and missed some moments of excitement


Reference:

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Assignment 4 – Preparatory Thoughts

Reflecting on my recent works on materiality, I can discern the following main aspects and learnings.

Painting

What started out as a seemingly modernist critique of deconstructing the canvas and the stretcher turned surprisingly into a more insightful interrogation of materiality, especially of liquid versus solid paint. I found it beneficial to explore some linguistic signs, e.g. stretching and holding, to see beyond the obvious and to see possibly a wider cultural context.

However, I was – and perhaps still are – a bit concerned about the loading of material aspects in a cultural discourse, as it could lead eventually to see a sign or a signifier in all material used. Could one ever appreciate an oil painting without thinking about what ‘oil’ and ‘oil-painting’ could refer to?

From the beginning of this course, and also in discussion with fellow students, I do find the the question of what painting is and might begin like a quest, a search that never ends.  For me, I enjoyed, working with tactile materials, but also to see color beyond the physical medium. Like sound, color can be digital  – or an architectural space. Mostly, it is for me about space, negative space in between, and relationship.

Paint as sculptural medium

Till now, I was less concerned with distinction between painting and sculpture. Even less, as the the credit between Modernism and Minimal Art: flatness and inner relationship versus Gestalt and oute relationship. During this part, I found that one doesn’t need to use those 2D and 3D formula to find a way between painting and sculpture. I found it insightful to hear that Karla Black is considering her raw material works as sculptures. The tactility of materiality in its relationship with the surrounding space and how the viewer as the walker encounters it, seem fascination for me. I sense, that scale matters, as small scale works do not work in such an extent. Considering this means to consider my works rather a maquette, proposals for larger scale work that can go into gallery or other public space. To negotiate between small scale and larger, human embodied scale, would be a topic to look at more in depth in my future work.

Alternative materials

As I am quite experimental since the beginning of my art studies with OCA, I found all kind of materials intriguing. To bend, to stretch, to play, to interrogate materiality and to see how to paint ith them. What changed a bit during this part of the course, was that I do not paint that much with the alternative materials, but rather to paint through them. To see the material as partner, less as a medium serving a purpose. In that sense, I finally understood that notion of ‘being complicit with material’, as expressed by Petra Lange-Berndt in her introduction to ‘Materiality, Documents of Contemporary Art’ (2015).

I felt intrigued by what I could do with paper chips, and what latex could do more. The latter will be the medium for my assignment. I could see both either just as performative materials, or open up a discourse along its cultural use. But this could lead to a Pandora’s box, as interpretation could go in any direction  

 

Aim for my assignment 4

To explore latex as material, as paint, and as performative subject. To find a balance between material feature, physical characteristics, composition, and aesthetics.

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Project 4.5: Colour

Colours & Names

George Szirties  listed in one section of his ‘Bad Machine’ – ‘Colours’ all sort of poetic names for colors, often related to flowers, natural situations, feelings, or attitudes.  I feel reminded of Serra’ verb list as transitive verbs for acting on materials, to transform. However, Szirties’ list is more a description without intention, rather psychological than physical. 

Amy Sillman describes in ‘On Color’ (Graw, I. and Lajer-Burcharth, E., 2016:103-116) her experience in art college and how they worked with color and paint. At times, reminding me of addiction but also passion to learn, to dive into the material.  She describes, how she was able to distinguish, to differentiate, and to identify – by senses as touch and smell, more than just sight. What reminds me of my own experience with color and paint. I do like natural or anorganic pigments more than chemical ones, especially I prefer ultramarine instead of phtalo blues, the latter staining too much with the effect that my hand stay blueish longer (as I ‘have to’ put my hands, my skin into the material, certainly to be careful about..) And with time, I got  to know how to mix certain colors easily, or what and how to use some paint material in order to get an effect (e.g. peeling of effect with acrylic on plastic). 

Both describe an intimacy, a ‘complicity’ as Petra Lange-Berndt described it, with material perception. The more one digs into , the more one knows about it. True for all kind of areas. Overall, colors to have an impact on human beings and the way we perceive and relate to the world around us.

This intimacy could also be a danger, or a risk – to know too much could mean to rely too much on learned patterns. To unlearn continuously, to see the making each time afresh and with ‘wonder’ could open more creative ways to find out new knowledge. This is one thing that I took away from the study day on London on Thinking Through Art. To use new, uncommon materials could free up the mind, and to explore more curiously.

 


Image:

  • Featured image work from project 5, SJSchaffeld

Reference:

  • Graw, I. and Lajer-Burcharth, E. (2016) Painting beyond Itself  The Medium in the Post-Medium Condition. Edited by Graw, I., Birnbaum, D. and Institut fuer Kunstkritik Frankfurt am Main. Berlin: Sternberg Press.
  • Szirtes, G. (2013) Bad Machine, Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books, p.10., At: https://www.scribd.com/read/353203926/Bad-Machine (accessed 10 May 2019)

 

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Project 4.4: Painting without Paint

What does painting without paint mean? In previous parts I looked at painting without brush, painting without gesture and control, painting without a ‘stretching’ support.

Painting without paint could be looked at from multiple perspectives:

  • paint as a material not consisting out of pigment and binder, and with conventional purpose of being used as paint, to paint with, e.g. found materials, urine, blood, skin, soap (materials that have more or less a staining or spatial impact when applied)
  • painting with paint that is different to conventional conceptions of how painting works, i.e. applying color to surfaces, creating illusion of space, playing with space-color relationships (I do consider color as light phenomena getting to our retinal surface of the eye).
  • without relating the material used (paint) to the technique applied (painting). Here I am not sure how this could look like, but perhaps to apply paint in different fashion, or to make a painting with 

Overall, considering the suggested artists to look at, I do believe the focus here is on non-traditional painting materials, i.e. anything but oil, acrylic, watercolor etc paint. Materials that do stain or not, materials that do can create spaces and illusions of space. Materials that are either direct or indirect materials creating through the act of making a ‘picture’ (flat, spatial, temporal, microscopic, cosmic etc.)

Material use seems to be more complex in contemporary art. In the past, the technical challenges and mastery of paint as material and its application to a surface were of main concern (alongside color theory, color matching perspective, and observational accuracy). Today, used materials are less ‘innocent’ and its deferred connotation and relationship in a wider cultural and political context are taking over interpretation and reception of artworks. Materials are associated with power structures, gender identities, environmental impact and consumer culture. My previous works since part 1 could be seen in this context: dog poop bags, packaging materials, shellac solution, or latex. However, I do sense that at that time I didn’t consider the wider context in depth. A more considered focus on one material alongside the process as an artist’s gesture might be the better.

Body fluids as material 

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) Oxidation Painting, 1978. He coated canvases with wet copper paint and urinated on them. The following reaction of oxidation of urine oxidizes let the color change. His use of urine and the act of urination was considered as a reaction to one of Jackson Pollock’s attitude, and could be also seen as a male gestural act. 

Other often used body fluid is blood, the most symbolic material for life – as well for threat,  vulnerability. or as menstrual blood as a feminist position (Alvarez, 2015)

Soap as material

Rashid Johnson (b. 1977) and Anxious Men, 2015 (David Kordansky Gallery). He used black soap (a unique Western African cleansing soap) and shea butter (used in cosmetics as a moisturizer or lotion) for his black paintings. He is black and lives in the USA with the legacy of black heritage. I believe that this triple combination would always lead to a racial connotation and statement. Soap as a cleaning agent as a mean of failing to clean-off the black color. I never heard of black soap till I found out that it actually is a unique Western African soap with the color derived from plant ashes. 

Interesting to notice that he was inspired for his work at the show through his visit to the Freud Museum in London and especially the ‘day beds’. He related it to healing, as the material of soap and shea butter would relate to cleansing and made him to state that he ‘always wanted to make an object that you could potentially clean your body with.’ (BBC, 2012)

In another work he elevated the floor to the wall by using wooden floor tiles, burning them with a torch, and making in that was his own charcoal to draw with and into.

Any inanimate object would want to be an artwork – Rashid Johson 

Overall, he pulls from his autobiographic objects, e.g, read books or listened music album, to integrate them into his works. His works, though clearly having from a conceptual point of view a political statement, the visuals and paintings with various materials are conveying a uniform and independent visual language. 

For me the striking aspect is how cultural ordinary objects and materials can be used for painting. The connection between the pictorial and a cultural context is certainly more in the mind of the audience.

Dye as material (appropriated use)

Olafur Eliason (b. 1967) created a the land-art and site-specific project Green River Project (1998 – ) that was ‘installed’ and ‘performed’ across various locations. He put a a green dye used by biologists into various city streams and river to invite the audience to relate to this changing environment of their daily life. My first association when seeing the work was algae, a green surface growth indicating over-nutrition of urban or communal water areas. But as I got this impression only by looking at small images on my small screen devices. seeing the water in real life would certainly would be a different experience (as a dye is different to a material plant body)

He stated that

We tend to see cities and spaces as static images, but in fact they are changing all the time. Sometimes it takes a radical shift to make us aware of this fact.” – Olafur Eliason (The Art Story, 2019)

The coloring of water lasted a few hours, with different reactions from the audience. Eventually , and to overcome possible panic reactions (as by subjective connotations of ‘green colored river’), he moved this land-art experience including maquette of the surrounding nature into gallery spaces. 

Eliason’s project has two key aspects: Land-art and temporality. The focus lays on the encounter itself, the experience of a spatial and temporal phenomena through materiality. With respect to land-art or site-specificity and water I feel reminded of my personal project work for PoP1 related to decay of residential buildings. I was intrigued at that time also by the small canals around the neighborhood, canals originated from the peat cultivation culture for draining the land. Water that is often brownish (from peat) and in summer often green (from algae). A changing environment in colors – to think more about my local area perhaps.

Common materials (found materials)

Phyllida Barlow is using materials typically connected to DIY stores and to outside construction sites, e.g. untitled: shadowplatform, 2018– 2019).

The works of Karla Black (b. 1972) are similar to Eliason’s project site-specific ‘land-art’ explorations of materials and physical space are made from mundane materials and composed site-specific installations that response and reflect on the material characteristics, e.g throwing dry plaster powder across the space and not the floor, with the resulting sculptures having a sense of impromptu performativity. I can relate to her thought of a non-hierarchy between the different materials. In an interview, she mentioned two aspects that I find intriguing:

  • she considers her works as sculptures, pulling from other disciplines as painting, but not installing them at the wall
  • she feels a direct relationship with the material, nearly void of cultural connotations, responding to the intimate relationship with it (though, it would be myth to think that an artist can work ‘innocently’ void of context.

She considers her fragile works as a temporal encounter: 

The fact that the experience of making is allowed to be seen within the finished work of Land Art, its often temporary nature, its site specificity and its scale, as well as the materials themselves, are all things that stay in my mind. – Karla Black (National Galleries Scotland, 2019)

She stated that she wants ‚the work to be attractive, but also for the materials to remain as raw and unformed as possible‘ (ebid). In the video of her Venice Biennale 2011 works, her large scale sculptures seem to expand and fill the room in a similar way as Barlow´s sculptures did at RA, London. The suspended folded plastic sheets seem quite familiar to me, though large scale seem to make the difference as a physical encounter with materiality. There seemed to be some controlled randomness involved in the shown works, rather artefacts than finished works. They are working in the relationship with each other and the viewer. I am wondering how this kind body of work could be possibly shown to my tutor or assessment (similar works perhaps). I do have the impression, that what really matters is the negative space, the space around the objects, space to breathe, space to walk through without barriers. Something to think about deeper when it comes to pre-assessment.

Some of her large scale installations remind me – at much smaller scale though – of my work for A1: paper, crumpled, and placed (see A1 – One Attempt of Failure)

One my inspiring artist, Helen Chadwick (1953-1996) used and appropriated all sort of materials, rose pedals, lotion, chocolate, light, urine, hair etc. (Chadwick, 2004). Due to its temporality of the used materials, she mostly preserved the work through photography.that became the work in itself and was installed in different way: on glass or steel with backlight (e.g. Self Portrait, 1991 or the series ?Wreath to Pleasure, 1992-93), as plaster cast (Piss Flower, 1991-92)

 

Learnings

  • Any material can be of use by exploring its unique characteristics. Contextual notes would come afterwards (but certainly not to avoid during making as well – the idea of ‘innocent’ un-learning as we discussed at our study day Thinking Through Art  might be just a myth).
  • Context can lead to specific materials. Although, the making and my work could go of a tangent during the exploration and making, embracing intrinsic visual languages of the material used.
  • I very much like found objects, paper, tissue and plastic – from different origins
  • Overall, I do have a sense that some materials would better work when embedded into other materials (e.g.Johnson), some to expand the typical use at larger and public scale (e.g. Eliason), and other just as they are (e.g. Black)
  • Temporality of used materials can be either embraced through on-site installations (e.g. Eliason, Black), embedded with other materials (e.g. Johnson), or documented through photography that becomes the work in itself (e.g. Chadwick)
  • What would be my materials for painting? Are they easily available? Do they need to purchase? And how to interact with them? Should I just take one or two materials that cross my way? Or to think deeper how material relates to context, e.g. to my parallel project on medical imaging and the transparent body? Certainly, it will be a physical engagement with material in space.

Image:

  • Featured image: SJSchaffeld, 2019 – work from Project 2

Reference:

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Project 4.2: Paint as material

I’ve seen Frank Auerbach‘s (b. 1931) works some time ago in a museum during my Drawing 1 course. At that time being more interested in his bodily back and force approach to drawing – with the same sitter ‘E.O.W-‘ he made the drawing Head of E.O.W., 1959-60 (Schaffeld, 2015). The extremely thick painted portraits (e.g.  E.O.W. Sleeping, 1966) are so intense and deeply scratched into the painted mass. Any photographic reproductions doesn’t deliver on that experience. His approach in drawing and painted seemed to be quite similar, seeking for forms. Nevertheless, Auerbach did a portrait painting on board (canvas not strong enough to hold the weight of the paint). 

The step moving away from the canvas aka board constraints was partly done by Anj Smith (b. 1978) in her figurative and representational paintings, e.g. Chorus, 2012 (Hauser & Wirth Gallery).

Intermediate question to myself: Is latex a paint or a surface? And what about clay? (Fig. 1) 

Fig. 1: latex - clay

Fig. 1: SJSchaffeld, 2019 – left: tissue , latex, watercolor, marker pen- the tissue as support for latex, the latex to support the tissue’s structure, contour as line; right: clay – medium to build, to paint on, to paint with

 

A much bigger leap was done by Lynda Benglis (b. 1941) by eliminating the canvas and working with the material properties of paint. She builds underlying structures just to keep the paint somehow suspended in mid-air, otherwise she just pours paint in thick layers onto the ground, e.g. Night Sherbet A, 1968. In other works the supporting material as bunting or plaster seem to be more of a partner in dialogue with the paint, e.g Sparkle Knot IV, 1972

Her approach to bodily texture and materiality is certainly relevant to how I engage with paint. I found her approach to build first some structures out of chicken wire and polyethylene an interesting aspect for setting the scene of her subsequent layering of polyurethane foam (Walker Art Center, 2015). She refers to oil flow in a river, for me it resembled (at least viewing screen framed video) more of chocolate mass. I also can relate this to the slick, mud at the Northsea coast, the wadden sea. A thick material created by tides. I am wondering about the distinction between material as index (mud) or as symbol (Benglis use of adhesive as paint) for meaning, and how this informs perception.

Her later appropriation of those polyurethane forms as a more ephemeral structure resulted in bronze casts, eg Quartered Meteor (1969, casted 1975). Through this re-sculptural process she made the work permanent, and the solid cast reflects in an uneasy way the surface of the foam. This casting process reminds me of Rachel Whiteread‘s House (1993) with the solid cast reflecting a vulnerable outer surface / skin. Rachel Taylor adds an interesting argument by stating that Benglis concern was ‘of the artist as a force of Nature’ with similar power to ‘congeal or liquify matter’ as rocks. I feel reminded of Barnett Newman‘ essay ‘The First Man was an Artist’ (1947) that I looked at during my UVC course (Newman, 2003).

Form and texture create the mood and the magic of a work – Lynda Benglis

I enjoyed hearing about her motivation for creating painterly spatial forms without : as a reaction to Minimal Art and informed by PopArt. Interesting to hear that she relates Minimal Art with ‘a final closing, …a closed deductive reaction’, and her wish to create more ‘excessive art’. A key difference for me between her and Minimal Art is more about difference in quality (surface, non-geometric) resulting in a different emotional response due to material quality’. Both seem to place the viewer into a relationship with the work and the surrounding space. More inspiring for me was her description of (Tate Shots, 2012):

‘Edges create kind of reading the way we read into clouds or landscape forms’ –  Lynda Benglis 

 


Reference:

 

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Reflection on a London visit

With some time to digest my recent week or art in London. It has been a full packed week of study days and gallery, museum visits, meeting good friends and working on my parallel project in a different location. While thinking how to capture best the essence of it (see reference list with links to separate reflection on study days), I decided eventually just to put down the moments that kept my mind busy for longer

A visual-verbal collection of lasting moments

Art History

A painting: figurative or abstract? The uncertainty of the floor area (Zanobi Strozzi, Anunciation, 1440-50) – wondering about the paint blots, contrasting so much with the detailed rendering of the rest.

Fig.1: Zanobi Strozzi, Anunciation, 1440-50 – photographed in National Gallery, London

 

Text as visuals

Seen at British Museum Drawing Room (art collective) after my study day in the Drawing Study Room – an exhibition on artist cards, smaller formats of visual stimuli, often to be shared, at times just as a piece of art. Inspiration for part 5 of my coursework.

Fig. 2: photographed in the Drawing Exhibition Room at British Museum, London

 

Making of zine at RA – longdistancepress.com

A collaborative project between artists, Adam Shield and Thomas Whittle, and public participatory exposure, at RA London. Seeing the result of the current trendy Riso technique famous in the group of zine-makers. But, the machine had a breakdown, a drawback with technology. Copy-machine as alternative. I liked the handing display , freed from the contained stapled/folded zine format

Inspiration for my involvement of as editing and curating team member for edge-zine, a collaborative continuing approach of 4 OCA students. Difference between print, handprinted, and online zines. Limitations and opportunities.

Fig. 3: photographed at Royal Academy, London – Image Drum

 

Sean Scully at National Gallery ‘Sea Star’ (13 April – 11 August 2019)

Oil paint on aluminium. Why aluminium? A smooth, shiny metallic surface, covered completely with oil paint, geometric abstract art. A series of paintings, Human 3 (2018), with cut out squares and inserted in another one, after all have been painted in the first place. Re-combining and embracing the concept of window. 

A window is a promise, like a doorway. A facade is not totally relentless because of the window and the door. That’s what humanises the wall’ – Sean Scully

A phrase that very much reminds me of V Flusser.

At times like checkerboards, at times color applied in abstract manner on canvas informed by art history, e.g. Vincent van Gogh’s paintings of Arles. And an appropriation of Turner’s The Evening Star (1830), juxtaposed in the exhibition both works, a modern abstract connection. I loved the smell of fresh paint in the room an index of new works, a similar experience I had while visiting Jaqueline Humphries show in East London last year.

Phyllida Barlow at Royal Academy (23 February — 23 June 2019)

Found objects, materials, at XXL magnitude, installed in dense spaces, though regular exhibition space. The sculptures, or sculptural paintings, seem to reach beyond the extensions of the room. Reaching out and beyond, overwhelming the viewer with large-scale, looking down on them. One work looked like solid, massive concrete construction, e.g. untitled: crease; 2018. Unfortunately, this exhibition was one like others in traditional museums: ‘don’t touch’ (wondering that RA also adheres to same modernist notions). Trying to overcome possible illusions of sight, I touched that work just to discover that it was very non-solid, rather light  PU construction, quite opposite to the visual illusion it conveys. The guard approached me to tell this is not allowed. I am thinking of how sight became so dominant in how we perceptive and receive knowledge of art nowadays, overriding other senses. Something for me to reflect more for my parallel project, as my embodied experience is key.

The exhibition booklet states that she used ‘inexpensive materials, including timber, plywood, plaster and polystyrene’ what certainly makes me wonder as I would not consider those materials like polystyrene as cheap, especially considering the massive amount of material she used. Kind of contradiction for me against ‘arte povera’ as she apparently ‘gravitated’ towards that movement. 

I really like the work untitled: shadowplatform; 2018– 2019, what reminded me of sliding mud-land, perhaps in the mountains after a very strong thunderstorm, leaving a desert with cut trees behind. A work that triggered my imagination further. The incisions made in the solid steel construction could contrast with my idea of skin, human skin that becomes porous and transparent through contemporary medical imaging techniques. A bold contrast might actually work better than finding a material that matches an intended connotation.

Phyllida Barlow untitled: shadowplatform (2018– 2019)

Fig. 4: Phyllida Barlow untitled: shadowplatform (2018– 2019)- installation view, photographed at Royal Academy, London

 

Overall, I am wondering about the titles: ‘untitled‘ – but still adding a description to it? To confuse or to make an intention explicit? More to reflect on in part 5.

Edvard Munch at British Museum ‘love and angst’ (11 April – 21 July 2019)

One of my long time favourite artist, mostly for his approach to psychological landscapes and his approach to series and repetition of themes across formats: painting and printmaking, color and B&W. Positive moment, this exhibition was more a side show compared with the parallel ongoing exhibitions in other places. Also the most famous works were not on display, e.g. the painting Scream, what I felt as a relief, as those famous pieces not only drive the fees up but also attracts massive crowds resulting in not being able to look and see all works more in depth.

I was very happy to have finally met with my fellow student Catherine. And  I do feel some resonating aspects as she also works in the medical area. I think we were talking about many other things than the exhibition itself But very worth it. An inspirational and motivating encounter.

Vincent van Gogh (27 March – 11 August 2019) and Don McCullin (5 February – 6 May 2019) at Tate Britain

Block buster shows! with massive crowds moving in and around. I was more interested in finding out more about Van Gogh’s time in Britain. But was disapppointed that the curators brought in all kind of later paintings (1889-90) and even the famous sunflower paintings, what possibly was the main attraction for visitors and selfie-makers. The last room showing works by other artist depicting van Gogh as subject matter. At times, I felt I had to step aside and even to apologize (what nonsense thought) when one person move with the camera from one piece to the other and approached my ‘zone of seeing’. 

However, being in London, I found out that one the boarding houses Van Gogh stayed, still exists (87 Hackford Road in Stockwell) – the picture of the facade was installed at the entrance to the show. Now under the guidance of Chinese owner to use it for artist exchange program with Chinese students. I find this a good idea.

I felt exhausted and left soon, going to Don McCullin and found that the combination of both exhibitions side by side actually made sense. The subject matter in both body of works is emotion empathy and mental or physical  distress (also resonating with Munch at British Museum). The context (personal encounters of the world around the artist versus war times and encounters with suffering and dying people) and format (paintings and drawings versus b&w photographic reproductions) were quite different, the artistic approach in trying to find visual expression of what one sees and feels and thinks were quite similar.

There was one phrase on the exhibition booklet that kept me wondering. It relates to McCullin’s fame as a war photographer and how he saw the impact his images made and that photography is about feeling.

‘If you can’t feel what you’re looking at’ he says, ‘then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures’. – Don McCullin quoted in Tate, 2019

A harsh statement as an artist statement. Is this true? What about people who have have difficulties in discerning human emotions (eg autistic spectrum)? Are those not also cultural constructions? And what about the idea that meaning and interpretation is in the mind of the beholder? This statement is quite didactic, and I was wondering about the curator’s motivation to stage such an amount of works in one show.

Bill Viola ‘Intimate Works’ (2 April – 4 May 2019) and Joan Snyder ‘Rosebuds & Rivers’ (4 April – 11 May 2019) at Blain Southern, London

Bill Viola is a video artist whom I started to appreciate since my UVC studies. Joan Snyder an artist I never heard about before. Viola is well known for his very-slow motion videos, often appropriating works from art history. The exhibition consisted of installed video only, either on one screen or multiple screen panels, no projection.

A new series of videos intrigued me most: Small Saints, 2008 (Fig 5). It reminded me of my work for part 3 with the flat screen and the performative aspects of painting through moving images. In this series, Viola captured the movement of six persons, each on one screen panel , moving forward through a curtain of water (kind of waterfall) and afterwards moving backwards. Behind the water the persons are depicted in b&w and in low resolution, in front of the curtain they are turning into 4K and color presentations. I find it fascinating, how Viola captured the sense of flat screen imagery with the perceived image not behind and not in front of the screen, not tangible. Through the water curtain he simulated the screen perception as bodily encounter (people in the video actually got wet) . Amazing piece of work.

Fig. 5: Bill Viola Small Saints (2008), looped video on six OLED flat panels mounted on shelf – installation view, photographed at Blain Southern, London

 

In the other room of the gallery, was the exhibition of Joan Snyder, an American painter having now her first solo show in UK. She looks at the anatomy of a painting, with gestural strokes and with found objects mostly organic matters, embedded in the picture plane creating a new narrative. Her works become a symbolist meaning that places here close to that movement. However, she doesn’t approach it from a figurative and imaginative view point but from a material view point. Quite in context of my coursework. As Viola in his shown work Dolorosa, 2000  – a bifold freestanding panel installation similar to middle age sacral paintings, she appropriates triptych setups reminding of sacral art as well. A staging to be looked at.

Joan Snyder - Summer Fugue, 2010 and Samll Rose Alter, 2014

Fig. 6: Joan Snyder – Summer Fugue, 2010 and Samll Rose Alter, 2014 – installation view, photographed at Blain Southern, London

Conclusion

Although, it was a very packed and dense week in London, I did appreciate the view from a different angle. Extracting more rather than collecting. A few visual stimuli and – alongside research in BL especially on Helen Chadwick and Mona Hatoum – I found it helpful to connect aspects in a different sense, e.g. screen, materiality, and curating impressions. 


Images:

  • all images reproduced in this blog post are photographic reproductions (by SJSchaffeld) of original works shown during exhibition hours at the respective galleries and museums. Copyright of the original work belongs either to the artists mentioned or to the gallery or other owners not know at this time. This blog is for educational and research purposes only.
  • Featured image at top: Photograph SJSchaffeld, 2019

Reference:

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Project 4.1: Reimagining the canvas

Art practitioners did re-visit the canvas as a stretched and framed picture since Modernism, e.g Barnett Newman, and especially in the evolvement of Minimal Art with Donald Judd or Richard Serra. The canvas as a surface dictated by it’s relationship to the stretcher was perceived as contrived, also at a wider visual cultural discourse. A key question could be what we would expect a painting to be located, and how we encounter it physically and embodied b moving towards, and around.

I looked at some aspects during my earlier coursework, e.g. Walk through Painting and my object-box (#Paint4OCA) – besides those earlier works that I made ‘on a side’ as reflected on in my current coursework.

Some time ago, I discovered during my visit to the Bern Kunsthalle (2018) the work Untitled Chair, 2015 of Nicole Wermers (b. 1971). Interestingly, that the work reproduced on the Art Basel webpage shows ‘just’ a chair with a fur coat. The Bern installation expanded this single viewpoint into a dialogue with a heater from the building, turning the latter into a piece of art work as well. In my visit reflection, I described my physical encounter as ‘my embodied perspective: distant, looking at it, looking down at it, sitting down and look in the direction’ (Schaffeld, 2018).  All together, installation of work can raise questions but also engage the viewer to look ‘beyond’ and to move into a physical dialogue.

Wermer’s work is not a painting, as apparently no paint was used, but it relates to the work Mundanza (green), 2015 or Mudanza (green), 2016 of Angela de la Cruz (b. 1965). The gallery’s artist description highlights how she embraces ‘deconstructing and reconstructing paintings into recyclable “Commodity Paintings” in a wider art historical discourse (Wetterling Gallery, 2016).  Here, she takes the canvas completely away from the stretcher;  compared to her earlier work Vacant, 2013, a canvas too small to fit the stretcher frame. The canvas as a glossy, shiny surface, emphasised with paint to make it a sculptural work, and even more, an installation.

I start to get a sense of how a sculpture could be seen differently from a sculptural painting. It seems, as the latter need to be installed. A sculpture as well, but the painting invites more for a relationship engagement, a sculpture possibly more for a face-to-face engagement. Possibly, that sculptural paintings like the ones of Angela de la Cruz do embrace much more a Minimal Art, a Gestalt approach as would be seen just at a first glance (or by looking at online screen based images alone). In this context one could see Frank Stella’s painting of shapes and lines with its own life, eliminating the support, letting the shapes and lines be the support in an open space. Similarly,  works by Richard Tuttle – or others.

I feel that Sarah Crowner‘s (b. 1974) paintings (as seen at Simon Lee Gallery) do relate strongly to an art historical moment of geometric abstraction, with large shapes painted with a limited palette but with high saturation that do extend the limits of the top surface and extend around the edges. I can certainly see some reference to Barnett Newman or Piet Mondrian and others. 

However, I am fascinated by her work ‘Garden Blue’ (2018) for the American Ballet Theater, New York (Morris, 2018). She made the customs and the props for the performance, reminding me of Robert Rauschenberg’s engagement (his series of ealier ‘Combines’ with Merce Cunningham’s Dance Theater (Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, 2019) or of Jean Dubuffet’s Coucou Bazar (1973, Foundation Jean Dubuffet). Both, painterly, sculptural and relational compositions to be engaged with (the actors) in a performative act.

Differently to de la Cruz, Dianna Molzan (b. 1972) engages at an intimate level with the stretcher. The stretcher functions beyond keeping a canvas tight and flat, e.g. untitled, 2014 (empty stretcher with suspended ‘cans’ inside the ‘picture plane’, or other works with suspended ‘pictures’ that build on art history and language to seek meaning from it. But not all works are embracing the stretcher frame, others look like side tables at the wall, with objects as pictures on the small shelf, e.g. untitled, 2015. I feel reminded of Nicole Wermers’ Moodboard #5, 2016 – as seen at the same Bern exhibition mentioned above (Schaffeld,2018). As stated on another site, Wermers  creates:

sculptures, collages and installations, whose humor and deep psychological resonance derive from their diverse subversions. They sabotage their objects’ original function, radically rethink unusual combinations of materials, and destabilize expected spatial and social hierarchies. – about Nicole Wermers (Art Viewer, 2017)

And her later work the conscientious objector, 2018 reminds me of Jutta Koether’s installation series ‘Seasons and Sacraments’ but also of Barnet Newman’s The Wild, 1950.

Fig. 1: SJSchaffeld - Presence and Absence, 2017

Fig. 1: SJSchaffeld – Presence and Absence, 2017 – an early approach to artefacts and releasing the frame. Re-staged as folded fabric on the stretcher (apparently new ones)

 

I can see other artists who work at the liminal space between painting and sculpture. With Sarah Crowner an example on the rather painting side and Nicole Wermers rather on the sculpture side. Somehow, all are in between, trying to get a physical demanding piece of work installed where the viewer can not relate merely on a dead-pan gaze of a flat surface, but need to put her/himself into a physical but also cultural and art historical relationship:

  • Alex Roberts (b. 1975) uses silk as a translucent supporting material, letting the stretcher shine through (Midpoint II, 2019) alongside an intriguing installation with fragmented painted parts on steel bars. Examples: Reds to blues, 2015 (Acrylic on wood, 23.5 x 17.5cm) as part of the installation The Room is the Resonator together with  Paul Abbott & Alex Roberts in an Old Police Station in Deptford, London (2016). The colored tiles resonating with the monochrome painting, questioning not only a White-Cube ideal but also the agency of a painting. 
  • Simon Callery (b. 1960) who embraces the textile materiality of the canvas to make sculptural paintings, e.g Undercut Yellow Wallspine, 2017.. Installed to advance from the wall into the open space. They remind me of large pocket filter units used in industrial air filter environments. These works seem to be a re-interpretation of the stretcher and the canvas as visible in Symmetrical Aluminium Wallspine, 2017. Fascinating to see how he even re-interprets the thread. In other works, e.g. Blue Horizontal Wall Pit Painting, 2014 the stretcher becomes a different shape and the viewer feels reminded of other cultural artefacts, e.g a toilette cover. An interesting approach can be seen in his work Flat Painting Bodfari 14/15 Ferrous, 2014 – 2015, painted on canvas with distemper and use of  thread, wood, and aluminium. (Distemper an interesting cheap material made from hide glue and wetted whitening chalk, with added colored pigments  – see here). Callery interrogates the material of the canvas as a fabric in all it spots and flaws, though installed as a flat wall based work.
  • Alexis Harding (b. ) looks at surface phenomena of paint on a canvas, e.g. Substance and Accident, 2012. The paint rather as a skin, peeling off the surface and extending the edges. Materiality of paint from a rheological perspective.
  • Sarah Sze (b ) is looking more at fragments of pictures in space through fragmented materiality of supports, turning the entire room into a colorful and painterly installation. She extends the dimension of painting <-> sculpture with the element of photography. Her installation are full immersive spaces of images leaving possibly the viewer uncertain whether to be an observer or an integrative part of the work.
  • Ally McGinn (b. ) defines herself on her webpage as a ‘conceptually representational painter and installation artist, working within a narrative that questions perceptions of art and the conditions of painting’. For her, paintings are paintings because of the materiality of it, not because they are painted. A very interesting shift in perspective on what is painting. The materiality of objects, used for work, are re-presented in a painterly manner. Perception of what material objects tell us. Her recent works after her MA (2017-2018) shows how the stretcher becomes embedded as an material object inside the picture plane of a painting.

Learnings:

  • The stretcher and the canvas, deconstructed in its structural elements (wooden frame, fabric, threads) are becoming materials for new interpretations and appropriations. Often applied, to raise questions in a wider cultural discourse – of rejected objects or commodities.
  • Materiality as such are combined with the visual energy of color. Paint as a mediator for new meaning.
  • It seems that a reduction on material  properties alongside linguistic signs (e.g. through shapes or cultural use) do open up new perspectives not only of meaning but mostly of creating, an exploration of material behavior.
  • Installation of such ‘sculptural paintings’  do question perception and can raise narratives beyond representational functions.
  • Re-staging painting as material performance, as Ally McGinn addresses a shifting perspective of what painting can be, as a very perceptual encounter.

Reference:

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Project 4.1: Pre-Reflections

Background and reflection

This part of the course explores the surface of painting, the canvas as considered traditionally the support for painting, especially oil painting. Today, I do see ‘canvas’ bifold: as material and metaphorically as a conventional flat base giving space for perceptual pictures.

I thought it would be good to look back and see if some of my previous works would suit this context. I discovered that some could be even be revisited in this part of the course (Fig. 1). At that times, both works were rather a side product, a leftover of my subject matters, and a result of serendipity. Both are painterly artefacts. Now the question: how to build on that? if at all…

Fig. 1 – Fig. 4: Artefacts of performative painting (click on an image to see in lightbox view and captions)

 

Also during part 1, I made a performative painting Washboard (laundry), and wondering how this could be considered as a canvas-stretcher relationship. The support (the ‘canvas’): a paper. The tool: not a brush, but a plastic foil. The paint:  a mix of shellac and gum solution.

The final work possibly a reverse: the tool became the canvas (Fig. 3)

What I do take away from my previous works:

  • stretcher gives context (Fig. 1)
  • stretcher does contain, but can also trigger deferred to narratives in a wider context (agency of viewer)
  • canvas as medium, rather than just support (Fig. 2)
  • installation: looking back I am more concerned now with way of installation and how the viewer is placed into relationship with the work. In that sense, Fig. 2 and Fig. 3 less successful due to a not so well considered background
  • deconstructing further might lead to new outcomes (Fig. 4)

 

 

stretch, stitch, fold, crease, wrap

 

These words brings me back to my museum visits of the works of Sam Gilliam, but also the large scale suspended and spray painted canvas of Katharina Grosse. The canvas released from its containment, and being free to play its own spatial role. At times, I am wondering when the canvas turns into a textile. Either from material point of view, or from a metaphorical point of view as well. And while looking deeper at Angela de la Cruz work in this context, I can see some relationship of above work (Fig. 1, left) with e.g  her work Vacant, 2013 (Wetterling Gallery, 2016) – that has quite a formal appeal for me.

Structural quality of the surface

Alongside my research on artists practising a deconstructing of the canvas and its stretcher, I did feel inspired to develop further some of my previous works in relationship to: 

folding, transparent, fragmentation, vulnerability, disruption

However, I think the question of canvas and stretcher a bit Modernistic, or as critique of Modernism by embracing the wider social context. I am wondering whether I could not find a more personal meaningful way…. With more ideas coming from previous works on relationship ‘canvas’ and ‘stretcher’ (Fig. 4) – with quite a few artists using a ‘stretcher bar’ as pole for canvas: Phyillda Barlow untitled : canvasracks, 2018-19, as seen at RA, or Robert Rauschenberg’s Pilot (Jammer), 1975

Fig. 4: revisiting ideas from part 2 - project 3

Fig. 4: revisiting ideas from part 2 – project 3, exploring canvas-stretcher relationships and meaning of stretching / folded paper as medium, as tool on paper/ installed fragments on transparent layers / timber  as dysfunctional stretcher – as poles to suspend from.

 

Perhaps one way to brainstorm on some ideas around canvas and stretcher (Fig. 5):

Fig. 5: sketchbook - ideation

Fig. 5: sketchbook – ideation / with some mockup artefacts from previous works (plastic ‘canvas’)

 

I got a sense that the ‘stretcher’ in any form or material acts as a holder, ‘container’ for the ‘canvas’, whatever this could be. The opposite would be a ‘canvas’ turning into a container, the holder for the stretcher, like wrapping paper or a table of objects (see combines and Georges Perec’s notes on the work-table), an approach I looked at with my object fragments in part 2. Certainly, one could always consider the canvas as a container, as what appears on the surface is often a perceptual illusion of an image. It seemed, I already ‘made’ some re-imagined canvases. However, those works can be seen only as sketches for something that need deeper investigation.
 
Reference:

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Thinking Through Art

We’ve met at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill, London with all being present. Emma Drye led us through what research in art and what research through art could be, what critical engagement and what research& information skills requirements are there. As research in and through art in academic setting, Emma highlighted that reading texts need to consider the source as trustworthy or not. Text written in academics, being peer reviewed is an important facts. However, it doesn’t mean to restrict one’s research either to academic writing neither to be encapsulated in academics: ‘To get the juice out of it’ (Emma). Key is certainly a critical stance to sources, regardless who has written the text.

Questions to answer for ourselves:

The questions Emma asked us and my response to them

  • What does research mean to me? (The means of the word? The function of research?)
    => Re-search, a search in iteration, a quest, getting background and context, opening up to new and/or different viewpoints, extending my own viewing field, discerning my position in a critical manner
  • Why did I sign up to a degree?
    What did I want when I started?
    => To learn what art is, my skills, and my direction. To get a degree as additional support for my art therapy practice, possibly to leverage both into one direction
    What do I want now?
    => To build a stronger competence as an artist in expressing through materials and mediums by succeeding with quality a degree, what will be the evidence of achievement. To be able to communicate ideas and sensible explorations compellingly by opening up and raising questions through visual interrogations

 

Stefan513593 - London 04May2019 - Research what and why?

Fig. 1: Research: What and Why? //  My emotional response of getting out of the ‘ivory tower’ – turning the tower into a lighthouse, to shine on and to give guidance 

We were split in four groups, each one getting to read and to discuss a text on research from various perspective, a practical exercise of collaborative research and reflection. The chosen texts were (the first one the text I looked at together with Mike and Alison):

  • Rachel Jones ‘On the Value of not knowing’ (Fortnum, 2013:16-31)
  • Phylida Barlow ‘Unidentified Foreign Objects’  (Fortnum, 2013:98-109)
  • Nicolas Davey ‘Art and Theoria’ (Macleod, Davey, 2009:20-39)
  • Siùn Hanrahan ‘Poesis’ (Macleod, Davey, 2009:143-155)

I was quite happy to notice that one of my coursebook reading text (Fortnum) were selected by Emma (Schaffeld 2018)

From Rachel Jones’ text that I got the chance to read deeply, I take the following aspects out:

‘Wonder is the ‘first of all passions’. In order for it to affect us, it is necessary and sufficient for it to surprise, to be new, not yet assimilated or disassimilated as known.’ – Rachel Jones (Fortnum, 2013:19)

  • Wonder as ‘the first passion’, a ‘vital openness’ through ‘floating, dancing, mocking’ (p.18). According to the author this might even inherit an ethical element through an openness to others without assimilating them (with a political dimension as well).
  • In the not-knowing a sense of becoming (e.g. material becoming) that reminds me strongly of Deleuze. Relating the not-knowing, the uncertainty to the conception of the sublime, as something deeply human and not to be grasped
  • According to Hannah Arendt dialogue between ‘promising’ (creating in continuity, as ‘isolated islands of certainty in an ocean of uncertainty’, p.25) and forgiveness’ (to allow oneself to make it again) 
  • Heterotopias: discursive spaces where something is occurring in an abnormal place, alongside disturbing but also transforming felt sense. Example from text:  Saraah Cole’s photograph Birthplace Heterotopia (the cover image on Fortnum’s book). The term was coined by Michel Foucault (1984) and I will have a closer look at his text as I find it compelling.
  • An open question for me of how much assimilation of skills could be a barrier, e.g technical skills, mastery, political message

From the other group who looked at Davey’s text, I took away as a key message:

  • Me as artist can only look at one part of a whole. But I also only need to look at one part of it. As a sharing responsibility. be part and to invite others to add their part. A mutual approach to questions through visual and material based art.

Emma  invited us to write for 15 min in one steady flow about our project (my parallel project). This turned up to be a fascinating exercise as my intial thought that I would write kind of introduction to my project in a reflective and research guided way, was transformed in me talking out to myself of why this project is relevant to me and my struggle with it and my personal resonance. It felt a bit like writing out a draft idea for an artist statement (that had to be cut down to less words of course). Afterwards, Emma invited us to mark words that could be associated with either visual, material, process or idea. The visual image (Fig 2) showed in my case a rather uniform distribution. I would like to repeat this somehow, or at least to discern in a more critical way what aspects to stand out more for, as it could inform my preferred approach to work: performative, painterly, sculptural etc. Overall, an excellent approach as it allowed me to do two things:

  • to be restrictive in time (not time to procrastinate)
  • to not-overthink (by just following the line of writing) 

Last not least, it made me aware of how close writing is with drawing, though syntactically more one directional versus my ‘visual thinking’ maps are more multi-dimensional in space. 

Stefan513593 - London 04May2019 - writing out

Fig. 2: Writing out- writing about project // a 15 min constant flow of ink, pouring myself out onto paper // discerning 4 aspects: visual, material, process, idea

 

The second part of the day we went around and each talked about their project and got some hints from fellow students and Emma. For my project, Emma mentioned Guattari and his relation to psychiatry. 

I found this day inspirational and do thank Emma for guiding and supporting us and Arlene for getting once again the venue and day organized.

 

(Comments re venue: the second part of the day became quite noisy due to a party downstairs (?). Also our ordered lunch didn’t turn up in the break time, so we went back to the room without meal.)


Reference:

  • Foucault, M. (1984) ‘Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias ((“Des Espace Autres,” March 1967)’, in: Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité. [online].  At: http://web.mit.edu/allanmc/www/foucault1.pdf (Accessed on 06 May 2019).
  • Fortnum, R. (2013) ‘Creative Accounting; Not Knowing in Talking and Making’, in: Fortnum, R. and Fisher, E. (eds.) On Not Knowing: How Artists think, London: Black Dog Publshing,  pp. 70 – 96.
  • Macleod, K. and Davey, N. (2009) Thinking through Art : Reflections on Art as Research, Innovations in Art and Design, Reprint ed. Edited by Beardon, C. London; New York: Routledge.
  • Schaffeld, S.J. (2018) ‘Project 1.3: Visual Reflection’ [Blog post] At: https://ocasp.stefanvisualart.com/?p=829 
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Drawing from the past – British Museum

How it feels when one gets into the sanctuary  the British Museum, the drawing and print room on the 4th floor, behind doors, accessible only by appointment, with a collection of around 2.5 Mio items.

Drawing is research,

Drawing is thinking,

Drawing is seeking,

Drawing is exploring.

We were guided by the British Museum Project Officer for the Bridget Riley Art Foundation Sarah Jaffray. She mentioned how Bridget Riley found the collection during her time at Goldsmith tremendously helpful in material experiemtation. She selected a few drawings and prints from a wide range of period incl a limited of 10 book of loose sheets of etchings by Henry Moore (some of his later works) that showed how Moore was discovering and responding to an elephant skull through drawing, with a variety of line markings.

I used the hairline fineness of line to suggest space and mystery – Henry Moore

She also showed drawings from Michelangelo himself and from an unknown artist ‘after Michelangelo’, copying his ‘style’. Interesting to hear about the term ‚pentiment‘ (from Italian pentimento, or english ‘to repent / to regret’): the visible trace of the artist‘s search through drawing, an evidence, an index. Absent when someone is copying a work (as the line would be more intentional, conscious, less searching). I  guess that what at assessment would be rather looked at.

At the early times of paper, paper was precious, making artist to use both sides of a sheet (recto and verso). Also to use any sheet to the very limits, making e.g. Michelangelo to add (to collage) another piece of paper to a pre-drawn one that was not large enough, the drawing extends and crosses the edges of paper in that case (see 1860,0616.2.3)

The second part of the visit was drawing and be inspired by the selected works. Here, my drawings that were informed by more than the maker of the drawing. Why am I reluctant ‘just’ to copy things? Always want to have my own twist on it. Not sure, if this supports or restricts my learning.

After Michelangelo / informed by Moore’s line approach i

Looked at: no. 1998,0214.6

Stefan513593 - British Museum - After 'unknown after Michelangelo'

 

=> trying to apply the drawing ‚technique‘ of Henry Moore from his limited etching book. 

After Deacon / informed by my MRI project

Looked at: no 2006,0930.9

Stefan513593 - British Museum - After Richard Deacon

After Dürer / gestural response

Looked at: no. SL,5218.29

Stefan513593 - British Museum - After Albrecht Dürer

 

Thanks to Joanne and the rest of the group for getting together, and also to spend some time afterwards to reflect and talk.

I went back in the afternoon to look at the current exhibition “Rembrandt – thinking on paper” ( a marvellous title) and “The World Exists To Be Put On A Postcard artists’ postcards from 1960 to now“. The first one showing Rembrandt quite experimental approach to etching with a back and force approach  by adding and amending the plates (see featured image), the second showing the way smaller pieces can act as artwork, as a series, a collection, or an archive. Reminding me also of the small ‘paper slides’ we used at the SLBI for microscoping plant species. And also the use of text is more pronounced in artist cards that e.g. in paintings.

Reflection

  • Overall, it was a short but excellent time and place to be, to connect to, and to response. The fact that one sees physical works made by the maker in its final and tactile stage is certainly impacting how I approach things. I don’t feel so inspired to draw for a longer time after a screen image. Compared to online to book viewing it adds a certain aura that made me to slow down, to focus more, and to be more present.
  • It was fun just to draw and to respond, to take the time to play with different 
  • The versatility and diversity of drawn ideas and things through pencil, chalk, etching, engraving, collaging is quite impressive, and it opens up more focused, close up explorations of material its that often doesn’t requires lot of space.
  • I find it a good to have study visits to study rooms as this one. As mentioned in my study weekend, it is the set of conditions that can propel creativity and visual research. 
  • Compared to the afternoon visit to the exhibition, I liked the intimacy and proximity in the study room.

 

 


Reference:

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A trip to environment – a human perspective ?!

Having booked me onto the ‘Art & Environment’ weekend April 28th/29th with Melissa and Dan, I was not really sure what to expel or what to get out if it. I guess one thought was to get after my digital-material-screen paintings a fresh and different perspective on things. We do have have a larger size garden where we live, that actually inspired me for the first exercise with OCA / drawing 1 / temporary drawings: to draw with dry fallen tree leaves.

Anyhow, first day was quite South of London, at Charles Darwin, and I felt after a rail trip of 3 hours quite impressed for being in such a historical place. I do think it has to do with how I relate to things, more phenomenological and kinesthetically. With a felt sense of place where I can ‘organically absorb’ it alongside my mental images of a deceased person who made a big impact on humanities, and the way we relate to ‘nature’ (put the word in brackets as humans beings are nature as well, despite some conceptions of not). I liked the idea that Darwin set out at the age of 21 on the Beagle by suggestion and to company the captain, certainly not to find and discover new theories (not-knowing but being curious).

The second day closer to London at the South London Botanical Institute (SLBI). Another marvellous historical site, building with character. And with an impressive Herbarium collection (47511 species in 175 strong metal archive boxes). Another felt sense, and a sense of belonging as a group in a place of creative conditions as research place: a kitchen, a library, a study room, a garden. We talked about space and place, and that setting good conditions can be inspirational and open up. In that sense, I liked Darwin’s ‘sand walk’ or ‘thinking walk’: a path at the periphery of the property, protected from the outside, to walk, every day, to think, five days a week, an iteration that is important in art practice as an iterative cycle of inspiration, making, and reflection (as also shared by Matt White by his research cycle during our last RG Europe virtual talk).

The venue was excellent to have an entire house at our disposal (Sundays the institute is closed) feels very luxurious. Nevertheless, to move and discover, to sit down and talk and reflect (or to have lunch together), and to repeat all of this.

Impressions:

Dan and Melissa provided us not only with a doc package that one could do in any place of the world and in one’s close environment. They also gave us short 5min exercises (see also Instagram @startercultureuk) to respond in any way that resonates. 

  1. Find and use an alternative tool
  2. Observe growth
  3. Observe and record edges
  4. From a plant’s point of view— What does the plant see, feel, think?
  5. Find a way to attune yourself to that which wants to reveal itself (in what you’ve done)

Some of my outcome of these exercises and further exploration, some useful for my project (guess that one is a tuned to a personal meaningful project all things gravitate towards this and are seen in that context)

=> Found plants, colors, patches, mud for edges, small varities (we were encouraged and allowed to pick small specimens from the garden). To think of using the colors, Melissa mentioned chromotography to extract the colorant.

.. and interaction with a plant from the herbarium – a daisy from 1835. A verbal response

 

 ‘To attune myself to that which wants to reveal itself’ – a slow motion recorded performance with soil (thanks to Dan for being the camera-man):

Video (0:59 min, with audio)

Last not least we had time to look deeper at what interested us. To  look at the collected small specimens through the microscope, and to record this viewing with my phone cam:

=> shape reminds of the human eye, close view and still a remote sense of space. At times a sense of cosmic scale, planets. A juxtaposition of both extremes. I feel it could inform my parallel project on MRI and the medical gaze. A different device, but the same gaze. The microscope images of nature do have an aesthetic appeal, same as MRI images?

Learnings and take-always:

  • Walking as practice, a routine as iteration
  • Setting of ‘good’ conditions for creativity and as art practice: to fertilize, to plant a seed, to let it grow
  • Cross semination of ideas, one doesn’t know what might trigger work
  • Short time exercises help to avoid overthinking and just make, reflection afterwards
  • Color from plants, a source of inspiration
  • Microscope : another view in medical gaze informing my parallel project
  • Text: a verbal response, a title? embedded in a painting?
  • Edge and color, fragments and dislocation, not only in nature but also quite relevant for my coursework
  • Feeling inspired and re-energised to move on

Reference:

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Vilem Flusser – Objects, Bottles and painting – ‘Aufgehoben’

After assignment submission, I do feel reliefed with new energy to discover new things and reading some of my short listed items. In this case Flusser’s exploration, at times spiced up with humor, and description of mundane objects in our life (Flusser, 1993:7-32). It resonates strongly with my ongoing interest in objects as fetishes (Schaffeld, 2018), the object-subject relationship, and how we make sense out of and relate to objects or things around us.

First, he puts objects into three categories (‘apparate‘ / machines, ‘dummes zeug‘ / nonsense, and ‘werte‘ / values). Only to acknowledge a bit later that a taxonomy of things is not going to work, either some objects do not fit or fit into multiple categories.

He also distinguishes between nature and culture, with humankind as culture in itself. One might argue with that distinction, as all humans are part of nature and born through nature (even if supported by fertilisation techniques). For me, not to dig so much into that dichotomy but more to look what Flusser says about the human conditions of life.

With the example of bottles, specifically sparkling wine bottles, Flusser develops a philosophical enquiry that makes one wonder whether the wine or the bottle is more important. He discusses the difference between form and content, and develops an evolutionary or perhaps more an anthropological line of thought that the bottle as cultural object can be either kept in culture or put back to nature, both ways a failure. He compares it with metabolic processes and the entropic structure of nature:

‘ Culture is a process that cumulatively transforms nature into waste, basically a negative entropic epicycle on a process of entropy.’ (P. 22)

As mentioned above, I do feel Flusser is thinking too much in binary opposites, as also nature, e.g. cells, are negative entropic structures re-building themselves as organised systems. Nevertheless, he argues that there would be just three positions to the question of the bottle as form (empty bottle):

  • a ‘platonic’ one: ‘aufgehoben‘ in a sense of ‘to elevate’ , the form (empty bottle) as transcendent, non-human object to collect, to display (what resembles very much a fetish, and artworks in a gallery as well; Flusser also refers to smaller maquette bottles as collectibles), a future orientation
  • a ‘modern’ one: ‘aufgehoben‘ in a sense of ‘to suspend’, and being transformed into something else, e.g modified, metabolised as an ‘ashtray’
  • a ‘critical’ one: ‘aufgehoben‘, in a sense of ‘to abolish’, discarded as waste, as broken glass, unused, with no value, piled up as memory of the human past

Interestingly, under consideration and knowledge of the last position, often the predominant destiny of bottles, Flusser concludes that the first contemplative position would be hard to maintain, a moral case of conscience? Flusser finishes his bottle-talk with a sense that the content (sparkling wine) might end up to be the important thing overall, to drink it. What reminds me of the topic that overthinking is not helping at all. Where to draw the line?

Fig. 1: Sketchbook – Bottles ‘aufgehoben’: to transcend, to suspend/transform, to abolish/discard – nature and culture

Walls (pp. 27-32) are another condition, a metaphor, for a double dilemma: to protect and to encapsulate, to look out and to look inside of oneself. The wall as surface for projections and illusions.

From my visit to Sean Cully’s current exhibition at the National Gallery I found the following quote by Cully (talking about his four piece work Human 3, 2018) very appropriate in this context, though with a different viewpoint than Flusser:

A window is a promise, like a doorway. A facade is not totally relentless because of the window and the door. That’s what humanises the wall’ – Sean Scully

I noticed how Flusser looks and uses language, the German language, similar to how French post-structuralists as Derrida or Lyotard deconstructed the French language. Example: ‘ding‘ / thing and ‘bedingen‘ / be condition for. Semantics hard to translate, as above ‘aufgehoben’,

What has this to do with my work and my past and future explorations?

To recognise that simple things and mundane objects can be much more than value or trash. It reflects the human conditions of existence and behaviour. I could take one object, like the screen or the human brain, both material objects with a loaded meaning often far beyond the material nature itself. And considering paintings, there I can see clearly the three positions describe by Flusser. But besides the material nature it also has a transcendent aspect, a deferred meaning with it. It seems that applying paint is more than paint, color or illusion. And what, if the material nature of paint is gone? Is it nature or culture? And what if the painting is released from its material constraints, i.e. the stretchers, the frame? Like the wall that might feel constrained but also acts as a surface for vision.

This is a good start into part 4 of this course, addressing and dissolving, ‘aufheben‘ of conventional constraints (considering the German multiplicity of meaning of this word, it might even end up with keeping constraints in order to subvert). And my open question form part 3: can a painting be a painting without paint? Or, what material conditions are minimum required ? And what need to be there in order to consider a painting still as such?


Reference:

  • Flusser, V. (1993) Dinge und Undinge – Phänomenologische Skizzen, Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag
  • Schaffeld, S.J. (2018) ‘Objects and Fetishism – The Handle and the Box’ [blog post] at: https://ocasp.stefanvisualart.com/?p=3006
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Gesture and hands – Louise Bourgeois

While playing and painting with gestures and masking stencils alongside striations, I also post some images on Instagram and yesterday it happened that one work (see featured image of this post) triggered a response by fellow student Sarah who felt reminded of Louise Bourgeois. This didn’t crossed my mind at all. I looked up works by her related to gesture and hands and was quite surprised to find a strong resonance with some of my works (The Museum of Modern Art). Bourgeois’ starting point was a different one than mine, her series of 10 repetitive prints from 2007 (at the age of 96!) was informed by the daily visit of her assistant Jerry Gorovoy, and her bpth hands were traced on music stave paper. The works consists of 10 installation sets, each made from the same compositions with hand additions, each set consisting of 20-40 sheets.

The combination of music staves and gestures reminds me of my current music collaborative work with Vicky.. Music staves and painting does remind me of notation and scores, of graphic scores (some examples here

My sketchbook pages:

 

Stefan513593- sketchbook - Louise Bourgeois -gesture

Fig. 1: Louise Bourgeois – sketchbook pages (source: https://www.moma.org/

I felt inspired, and possibly obliged to Bourgeois, to respond non-verbally/visually in the way I explored my dissociated gesture

My response to Louise Bourgeois:

 

Stefan513593 - Gesture and dissociation - acrylic paint on paper and ,mylar

Fig. 2: Gesture,  dissociation and ‘reading beyond’ – acrylic paint on paper and ,mylar (approx. 35.5 x 51 cm)

 

(This one goes to IG as well – here)

 


Reference:

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Spin off play: Narrating a Gesture

Another spif-off idea from working on my assignment, playing with paper, paint, and stencils. Animation as narrative – painting as performance

A short animation video in nine still images (0:05 min)

 

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Spin-off Idea: Gesture as Narrative

Narrative gesture painting

While working and developing my assignment work experimenting in my sketchbook with various paper support textures, and creating a series of stencil approaches, I became aware of how a series made from ‘hands’ as gesture does strongly inform a narrative. Especially, as my work-in-progress was a time-based process evolving through pages and pages, turning pages , waiting for one page to dry, continuing etc. 

My thought: What if this would be indeed a book format? An artist book, a narrative of exploring surfaces with gesture? Or as the depicted de-contextualised gesture, a reflection of my gestural making, and a mirror-image of the viewer turning pages? What reminded my of Helen Chadwick and her thinking related to her work ‘Oval Court’ as a mirror-image of the viewer (Chadwick, 2011)

Consequently, I placed the pre-marked papers in a row to paint across with striations of color (oil paint) in reference to my screening experience of projected artefacts. Last not least, this sequence reflected also my time-based hand movement from left to right while painting that series. Why not to make a time-based moving images out of it before separating the individual pages into a book, a flipping gesture? 

Stefan513593 - A3 - time based gesture - a series of materiality (step 2)

Fig 4: time based gesture – a series of materiality (step 2). different supports (from left to right: paper 1, mylar, paper 2, reflective found surface, paper 3) with acrylic and oil paint (each paper 29 x 19 cm)

.. with with a resulting moving image:

Video #2: Time Gesture (0:11 min)

 

Here, I became more aware that this moving image would benefit from a sound. Sound of turning pages, of human gestures in talking? of MRI informing my parallel project? Or more of a sound that matches the rhythm of the movement?

A book format:

 


Reference:

  • Chadwick, H. (2011) Helen Chadwick : of mutability, [Rev. rep.] ed. Edited by James, N. P. London: Cv Publications, c2011, c1989
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Spin-off Idea: Screen installation as Gesture

  • Spin-off Idea: Screen installation as Gesture
  • Spin-off Idea: Screen installation as Gesture
  • Spin-off Idea: Screen installation as Gesture

After part 2 of my assignment development work I sketched down some further ideas of gesture and ambiguity  – informed by one of my previous works (Fig. 1). 

 

Stefan513593 A3 - gesture & ambiguity - sketchbook Fig. 1: Sketchbook – gesture and ambiguity. Can this be done on two surfaces? Both hands to be in-front as well as behind one surface? 

 

.. this led to an installation of two Rhenalon plates, crossing each other (Fig. 2)

Stefan513593 A3 - gesture & ambiguity - installation view / double screen Fig. 2: gesture & ambiguity – installation view / double screen. Different placements of cut-outs (painted hand). Background: painted ‘mural’ on paper, and yellow oil paint on surface

 

 … and eventually, I placed the transparent cross (Fig 2) in-front of my dark laptop screen, making several still images at different lights and merging them into a performative moving image:

Video: Ambiguous Screen Gesture (0:03 min)

 

This seemed a spin-off idea informing my parallel project on MRI and self. I modulated time- sequence and added a MRI machine sound: Ambiguous Screen Gesture MRI #3

With being intrigued by installation of transparent surfaces I had to try out one more projection.

Using a human scale perspex plate (180x50cm) and projecting my recorded light performance Hand-Catch-Screen-Performance, through it, at the right wall the images are displayed. My hand as an additional ‘life’ performance act distorting, interrupting the projection, adding more layers of reality and meaning to it.

Stefan513593 A3 - gesture & ambiguity - installation of projection - performance Fig 3: gesture & ambiguity – installation of projection – performance. Left: photograph of projected and performative imagery, right: sketch of installation set up (using a perspex plate, human scale)

=> With these two set-ups, I am wondering about scale, human size, got reminded once again about Jutta Koether’s body of work, and how the viewer, the audience can be involved, engaged in the narrative, the work itself.

 

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Mona Hatoum: Dislocation, Materiality and the Uncanny

Stefan513593 - A3 - Representation and Interpretation no5 - developing A3

Mona Hatoum (b. 1952) works often in the realm of psychological encounters of the familiar, with common objects for daily use from home, with the experience of architectural structures. All that in order to instabilise experiences with reference to Surrealism and Freud‘s conception of the un-canny and the un-homely (White, 2017:19-25). 

She works with opposing materiality characteristics (e.g. Silence, 1994) or with opposing markings (e.g Frottage (Wee House 23 April 17) 4, 2017)

‘Mona Hatoum’s art is, therefore, difficult to bear and yet terribly lucid’ – Said, 2011

One aspect in her body of work fascinates me: the rather simple and reductive way she visually expresses her ideas, e.g. You are still here, 2013, a wall mirror with the title written on it, or the mentioned Frottage. Works that play somehow with the visual and it linguistic, one idea , one material, one surface, and the meaning in the space in-between, only there because of the viewer‘s thinking, reflecting and de-coding facilities. These works could be considered as artistic gestures, or as White described them as ‚anxiety-producing gestures‘ (p. 23). The engagement with her materialised gestures of uncertainty might then open up wider spaces of political and social conditions of uncertainty and homelessness.

There are two further aspects in her work that apparently informed her approach as well the audience response to her work. On the one hand, her biography as being grown up in a Palestinian family with a emigration to the UK after the outbreak of the Lebanon war in 1975. Alongside, the traumatic experience of dislocation. On the other hand, the conception of ‚Terra Infirma‘ (the title of her exhibition 2018 and the book) an analogy to the term ‚Terra firma‘ used at the time of Columbus for unknown, undiscovered solids landmass. But more in a sense of the post-modern description by visual culture critic Irit Rogoff when ‚we no longer believe in ..assumptions of authority‘ , loss of traditional navigational principles of mapping, and a sense of ‚unbelonging‘ that can open space for new meaning (in: White, 2017:28). I find the visuality of maps related to land, and the reversal of it that what was once known, or supposed to be known, becomes unstable and falls apart. Hatoum expressed this in her earlier works rather literally, eg. by using objects from the war region. Her later works became more reductive and possibly more linguistic, less didactic. Also with a broader sense of possible interpretations. The interpretation of a Palestinian displacement turns into ‚diverse conditions of placelessness.‘ (p.31).

Personally, I find those approaches that could open up wider spaces and different readings by the viewer more intriguing. Perhaps, because I went myself through various cycles of migration, loss, instability, and uncertainty. And a more psychological encounter with art works seems more fascinating (my art therapy practice coming across). It has also something to do with the way we as a viewer engages and read an art work, an object, an Installation: with the extreme ends of to easy to decipher or not to  be able to read at all (see my previous research on narrative ). And this certainly depends on viewer, the cultural setting, and mostly the prevailing social epistems as Foucault described the way we obtain and perceive knowledge (at times all works could be read from a Modernist high art, a post-structuralist, a racial, a feminist, or any other prevailing perspective).

‘Real art has the capacity to make us nervous.‘ – Susan Sonntag (1966) Against Interpretations and Other Essays, pp.7-8

I can see a relationship between e.g. Hatoum‘s Keffieh, 1993-94 (p.30)  and Angela de la Cruz Deflated (Green), 2010 or Self, 1997. A cotton fabric with hair installed on a chair on the one side, painted canvas displaced from a frame or context installed in space. Both do work with conventional connotations and deferred linguistic meanings. Both do use surface in its materiality. What is left aside is a quick read of content, even void of content in some way.

White described the approach to Hatoum‘s quite compelling as ‚physical sensations that rise the viewers‘ bodies as uncomfortable conduits for the formation of meaning. It is a visceral process that complicates distinctions between ‚us‘ and ‚them‘.‘ (pp.31-32).

It is this physicality and mental encounter with works that fascinates me and that I would like to embed in my own work. One question certainly how this could be achieved when most of the work I am doing in OCA coursework are screenbased, viewed online, virtually, as a digital reproduction? Would love to get some ideas and feedback on that.

‘For me, the embodiment of an artwork is within the physical realm; the body is the axis of our perceptions, so how can art afford not to take that as the starting point?‘ – Mona Hatoum, 2016

In that sense, I find her Corps étranger, 1994 (pp.34-35) very fascinating. It is an installation of a chamber to enter with an endoscopic video projection (through the artist’s orifices and inside the digestive tract) onto the floor where the viewer stands. A very visceral encounter with medical imaging technique, something to keep in my mind for my parallel project. Other works that embrace medical imaging technique and a relation to surveillance in reference to Foucault’s metaphorical use of the panopticon are: Don’t smile, you are on camera (1980) and Cells (2014) – (pp. 156-161). The first, combing with life feed video images of the audience mixed with x-ray and naked images leaving the viewer uncertain what is reality and what is visible. The latter a more metaphorical reference to the smallest  living units of human beings, in crimson red to connect with blood as the fluid of life, and placed in metal cages installed in the open gallery space, placing the viewer into a surveiller position. It is this playing with associations and connotations that give rise to unsettling sensations of displacement. 

If find these visceral encounters with material and its conventions very compelling, e.g. her work made of barb wire Impenetrable, 2009 (pp. 100-102) suspended from the ceiling but not touching the floor like a curtain inviting to go through with the awareness that it will hurt. I do sense that they are based in research of what is out there, and with ideas what could be different. A combination rather than a juxtaposition, a merging together rather than illustrating. 

I enjoyed listening to the insight of her practice (Tate, 2016) and how she engages and collects materials, objects when being either on art residences or when travelling to some places. Also an interesting aspect to hear that she replaced sketchbooks with notebooks, as she found sketchbooks ‘too heavy to carry around, too serious’. She carries now a smaller one, spiral bound in her purse.  Something, that I do, small and larger sketchbooks in my ‘mobile suitcase studio’. I am wondering how she differentiates between sketchbooks and notebooks, by size, by thickness of paper? And what if I would replace paper books with a digital tablet? By that decades of works that would fill my shelves could fit into one thing, with a constant weight. I am not sure that I am ready for it, certainly would miss the visceral experience of paper sketching (drawing, painting, note-taking). A nostalgia or the core of my practice?

Take away learnings

  • Combine conventions of materiality with new sensibilities and meaning.
  • Art as a visceral encounter opening up new mental images
  • Reductive versus literal approach in handling material
  • Collecting material as research 

Image

  • Featured image: My painting in developing assignment 3, Representation and Interpretation no5

Reference:

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Process of Art & Making – a strategy?

More in context of my other work as art therapist and finding out how to communicate artistic approaches to the public, I got hold of a book called ‘Complementary artistic Strategies’ from a series called ‘Transformation’ published by the MSH Medical School Hamburg (Freygarten, Strunk, 2017).

The interesting aspects brought forward by the authors are related to verbs of action. Something I very much do related to Richard Serra’s ‘Verb List’ from 1967-68. Serra created a list of transitive verbs that could be applied on material. The authors are using verbs to analyse and subdivide art creative processes of making, verbs they call ‘strategies‘:

Sammeln  Setzen  Variieren  Experimentieren  Improvisieren  Chaotisieren Fragmentieren  Reflektieren  Verwerfen  Kopieren  Strukturieren  Auflösen Irritieren  Verbinden  Zweifeln  Stabilisieren  Nuancieren  Verdichten Reduzieren  Kontrastieren  Konstruieren  Dynamisieren  Integrieren  Präzisieren

english translation by me:

Collecting   Setting   Varying  Experimenting  Improvising  Confusing Fragmenting   Reflecting  Discarding  Copying  Structuring  Resolving  Irritating   Connecting  Doubting  Stabilising  Nuancing  Condensing  Reducing  Contrasting  Constructing  Dynamising  Integrating  Specifying

 

Can a process of not-knowing, exploring, engaging with material matters, ideas, moments of epiphany be classified through these categories? 

It is certainly an interesting approach in using verbs or actions useful in art to transform and transmit in other areas outside of art, e.g. corporations, team work. Example: what do I discard in the development and making, to discern the more and the less successful attempts, and to discard the latter. What could be discarded in non-art projects? 

The authors describe the value of art practices as a change management strategy build upon not-knowing, improvising, and creative explorations. Not shaping from the past but from potentialities in material and form. This reminds me strongly of some ideas expressed by Deleuze related to becoming and difference.  

Personally, this is also how I approach with my clients in art therapy, solution focused, using material as a mean to recognise patterns in life, to reflect on, to paraphrase and to transfer new experiences and insights ‘back’ into one own’s life. Some call it also de-centering, step aside from a disturbing problem area, be creative and engaged, and to come back afterwards for integration.

I was always seeking ways of integrating myself as a person, my past, my work, my art, my approaches, my attitude. 

The book ended with a kind of summary reflecting once more on the process and phases of making. The author Peter Sinapius relates strategies and attitudes in three phases: treiben und sammeln (floating and collecting) // tasten und reflektieren (feeling and reflecting) // erspüren und integrieren (sensing and integrating). 

 

What do I take from it? 

I feel reminded of last year’s London Study Day where Caroline guided us through a iterative process of doing – reflecting – doing – etc. I feel that there is some structure around creation, and personally it might be useful for me to stay better on track re time-management. And it might be beneficial when organising a workshop ourselves in scope of our regional group activities. Certainly, something useful for me when approached future projects – with my belief that art practices do can add value to non-art areas.

On the other hand, I would have some concerns with trying to put the making into a method. Perhaps, the key idea is more about the attitude towards ‘problems’ and how to find new perspectives through verbalising. As Serra established a list to act on material. Nevertheless, an interesting transfer of art practices as a change management strategy.

 


Image credit: scan from Freygarten, Strunk, 2017:24-25

Reference:

  • Freygarten, S. and Strunk, M. (2017) Komplementäre Künstlerische Strategien: Ein Handbuch für Künstlerinnen, Berater und Multiplikatoren in Veränderungs- und Bildungsprozessen, Transformation. Edited by Jahn, H. Berlin; Hamburg: HPB University Press.
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Helen Chadwick: Mutability and Multiplicity

Stefan513593-A3-sketchbook - visual mapping

Helen Chadwick (1953 – 1996) is a fascinating artist and the more I dig deeper into her work the more I could relevance. After my first exploration of her work (Schaffeld, 2018) I wanted to understand more of her approach. Many of her works can be seen on ArtNet.

The advantage is that many of her works and her way of working are captured in her archived notebooks at the Henry Moore foundation (The Henry Moore Foundation, 2019) – though I find it difficult to read the flipbook online format. What makes it more intriguing to explore her thinking and making process. In her quite short life ended by a sudden heart failure (apparently due to viral infection – Wikipedia) her body of work is as diverse as it possibly could be.

Her early undergraduate and graduate works from the 1970s were informed by context of institutional critique and power relations expressed through architectural structures of the environment, e.g Menstrual Toilet, 1975-76, Train of Thought, 1978-79, or Model Institution, 1981-84 (Walker, 2013). But her sensibility to gender representations and the female self became already articulated in that early work. Afterwards, her body of work is often seen as complex and possibly ‚out of her time‘, making it more energetic nowadays (Chadwick and Walker, 2013:x). Or as Walker stated (2015) that the ‚epistemological underpinnings of her thinking become increasingly complex and dynamic‘. Maybe it resonates as at times I feel that my thinking could be quite complex as well?

It resonates when Walker describes her life and work as

‚chasing one of her enduring preoccupations – the construction and maintenance or personal identity – Chadwick‘s work can offer insights into a number of major, enduring questions: the relationship between body, space, self and world; between art and science; between artifice and nature; between theory and practice, creative self and creative process.‘ (Walker, 2013:x-xi).

Listening to the audio book version on her exhibition ‚Of Mutability‘ (James, 2017) allowed me to envision her work beyond reading, intrigued by her projects from mid-late 1980s, embracing light as performing media in installations, e.g. Blood Hyphen, 1988 and installations appropriating rococo aesthetics, eg. The Oval Court, 1984-86.

Her work could be considered as postmodernist art, it appropriates, collages and interprets art historical concepts of aesthetics. Also as she was ‚actively seeking the points of collapse in those structures that constrained identity and experience’ (Walker, 2013:2). But it is also more than a mere conceptual reflection. Her works are very much a bodily reflection on forms and thoughts. At times, rather literally as in The Oval Court where she used a photocopier to make fragmented images of her own body, a presence of the artist collaged into new works and surface illusion. Interesting aspect, that work as a picture was installed as a flat table (reminding me of the flatbed approach in part two of this course). Finger tips turned into golden spheres, raising the flatness upwards to sculptural perception. She plays with space and surface, with illusion and newly created narratives. She places the viewer into a situation of uncertainty and considers the image as the mirror image of the viewer (Chadwick, 2011).

‘we are determined by what is around us rather than being autonomous’ – Helen Chadwick (2011)

Some examples of her work (Chadwick, 2011 and James, 2017):

  • Ego Geometria Sum (1983-84):  sculptures representing her body at a certain age, inspired by Bachelard’s The Poetic of Space, form and image as a representation of self
  • ‘Of Mutability’ – The Oval Court (1986): aspects of decay ad renewal, photocopies, ‘the tactile as an absolute’, gold associated with the eternal, a Rococo richness  –  inspired by Bavarian churches, pleasure, decorative, dynamic, moving, multiple viewpoints, not one power principle, flat surface, a reflection, a kind of self-portraiture
  • Into the Light (1986-88): image as light projection, light touching the surface, giving it a different value, moving away from the physical surface into the light. This reminds me remind of Katharina Grosse’s approach in overcoming architectural constraints through thin layers of paint. Thin layers versus thick opaque paint, color and illumination versus physical tactile materiality, perception versus touch? 
  • Blood Hyphen (1988): laser beam, space (vault of a chapel) experienced as body chamber
  • Viral Landscapes (1988-89) – image of simultaneous penetration, fragments of inner self, made with computer technologies to control fusion, chromaline proofs

I can detect a movement in Chadwick’s work away from the physical and sculptural towards a more penetrated, introjected view into and beyond the things, the images. Using macro and microscopic technologies to look beyond an apparent Invisibility. A major concern in her work is form related to image. A key question relates to boundaries, of forms, of the body. Chadwick was seeking a deeper understanding and overcoming of ‘Canon of the Western Tradition’ (Walker, 2015:92). Her interest in  ‘Composite Images’ were less of a manipulation of images and rather an approach to look into ‘an image’s modality’ (Walker, 2013:202). Reduction as an opportunity ‘for a fuller perception and understanding’ (Walker, 2015:92). And last, not least, the process of viewing and its limitations in gaining understanding. A remark she made in her notebook (1984-92) (Henry Moore Foundation, HMI 2003.19/E/7 ): 

‘Self as event not matter [..] Dissolution of boundaries of self’ – Helen Chadwick 

 

Take away learnings:

My take aways from Chadwick’s work are her bodily interrogation of how we perceive and interact with the world around us, how we come to an understanding of seeing, and how materiality, forms, and surfaces can be seen as a reflection on the self, the identity. And similar to Jutta Koether,  art history informed Chadwick’s work – from a conceptual and an aesthetic point but also from an epistemological point. 

Another point relates to her practice of using notebooks as a visual mean to explore ideas and thoughts and to use them for future project realization. I realised through a deeper exploration of her body of work how forward moving research through practice can be and how works could evolve as solidification of fluid ideas.

In sum

  • Research as practice
  • (Visual) thinking through notebooks
  • Body as performing tool for visualization
  • ‘The mirror-image of the viewer’

Image:

  • Featured image: some of my sketchbook pages visual mapping, part of assignment 3 development, 2019

Reference:

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Learnings from a venue hunt – regional group Europe

One of our aims as a newly founded regional group is to get together at least once a year in a physical location for 1-2 days (visits, workshop, making, connecting, socialising)

I took over the role to find possible venues in Switzerland, the country where our core team resides and travelling across Switzerland, I learned quite a lot, not only in getting information, but also in talking with people explaining our reasons for and how to present us as a group. And for me as an artist in facing the public side of an art world.

Couple of bullet points I find interesting to note down, at times rather questions than answers:

  • Complexity: I screened all sorts of venues, simple rooms (why not at home of a member?) and more complex programs like Creavia/Paul Klee museum in Bern.
  • Group: Do we want to make a team effort? A facilitated team workshop? Eventually, I came up with four options: a) study visit without a room, b) a rented room, c) team workshop with professional facilitation, d) all inclusive ‘vacation’ study package
  • Expenses: I was aware that Switzerland is a more expensive country (but possibly similar to UK), and expenses between room rent and more inclusive programs challenged me in keeping all wide open and to ask later the group what would be more attractive. A question between content and cost.
  • Identity and presentation: People asking who we are: How to present us as group? Why do we want to rent a venue? Do we have an identity? Besides naming OCA / UCA. What is our mission? At times I handed over my personal artist card as some where asking for tactile information – or sharing the OCA address
  • Connection: I really made good connection, talked with established artists whether they would be available for a talk, with gallery owners, with museum staff. All gave me personally more insight in the art world – and understanding that there is much more to connect with, especially with fewer and at a deeper level. I still have some contact points open to talk with (colleges, community centers). Exiting to see how it all will evolve. I even made more contact for my own art projects and possible options for future projects.
  • Exhibition: Although not in the short term plan for our group and more out of my personal interest I contacted some venues that we more used for exhibitions, eg. a pop-up gallery in an empty store. At times, I was astonished what people ask artists to pay just to show their work. Fix costs without even being there. A commercial approach for making money (for those who earn). Key learnings: to get into more established galleries as a group one need to plan 2-3 years in advance. Therefore, it would be good to think and prepare internally for the future (like OCA TVG did for their gallery show ‘Time’)

Overall, a time and energy demanding activity done within one week (with subsequent email and telephone conversations) but quite worth the experience. I need more input and focused clarity what we want as a group to move forward. The above mentioned options to be voted on. How much OCASA is willing to fund need to be discussed separately.

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Regional Group CH-EUR: a founding member perspective

Since Dec 2018, a small group of four fellow students incl me based in Switzerland, are busy with setting up and organising a new OCA regional group Europe. Currently we are 23 students across Europe, beyond UK. 

Quite some efforts it has taken so far, time that I didn’t spend on coursework, resulting in delay by two months now.  Yesterday (Feb 4th) , we had our first group wide open virtual meeting in the format of Show&Tell (a Pecha Kucha format of presenting several images in short time). With 11 participants incl our core team of four we had a great time and new ideas popped up and crossing the boundaries of distant student’s lonely places. 

Learnings:

  • Setting up and organising takes time and efforts, at the beginning quite admin stuff, not to underestimate. But it is also a lot of fun and excitement.
  • With motivation and commitment, one can truly build some network and engaging interactions.
  • For me are physical meetings as the recent study day in Zurich,  a truly enriching aspect of being part of a group. To know each other better, and to build trust and deeper interaction. As if that f2f interaction would allow deeper engagement in virtual space (I also met some a few other peers from this event before). I hope that we can work on collaborative projects soon. 
  • One major project will be to organise a 2 days workshop.
  • I am eager to get back on track with coursework and my parallel project now.

Reflection on Virt meeting with RG Europe on Feb 4th:

What worked well:

  • The format Show & Tell (Pecha Kucha) is quite fascinating as it allows to share works or current explorations more in depth with others. I was positively surprised how well it worked and several fellow students shared.
  • As group aim is to ‘to create a network where we can gain a deeper knowledge of other students’ works
    and aspirations’ and ‘to provide a local forum for the exchange of ideas’ – on both this format of vmeet certainly contributed to (at least for the very first meeting) – regular repeats will support more.
  • Some inspirations from peers (Show&Tell event):
    – photographs of the river Rhine (Peter H.), rotated 90 degree, with close up view on light, abstract fragmentation, striations => I like the rotating idea
    – layered photography works (digital flat composite of various viewpoints) of view from a train (Jane W.) => I like the multiple viewpoint in one image idea 
    – drawing from maquette (outdoor sculpture) and incorporating changes to it for making drawings (Sibylle H.) => I like the process and dialogue approach

How did it support my creative development? 

I got some inspirations that possibly could inform my further work, in order to sketch it down, I made from the abstract river reflections a few quick color sketches – and feeling some relation with an earlier sketch inspired by shredded paper:

Stefan513593 - idea sketches - reflection , abstract striations

Fig . 2 : idea sketches – reflection (from Peter’s photegraph), abstract striations (right: earlier idea from shredded paper, see also featured image)

My Pecha Kucha pre (from a powerpoint pres with each slide 10 sec duration)  – the making of it was already a good reflective exercise on what and how I want to communicate. I included images from inspiring artists, where I believe I can learn from their approaches (not the final work as such):

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1wh0gya3KlyH8_cJJ_PfqPs9gcdnPh0VZ

What didn’t work so well

Some tech issues with one member (mic), that didn’t allow her to participate fully. Not sure how this could be resolved, other than inviting participants to join the meeting 10 min early just for check ups. And to share how important mic, camera, and internet speed can be. On backup option for speed is to turn off video. However, students in rural areas could face a continuing issue re speed.

What could be done differently?

As group aim is ‘to have a safe place in which to discuss work in progress and receive critical feedback, designed to help move the work forward’. Here, I am not sure how this support forward movement (for the first meeting it was also not the scope). For future vmeet it would be good to have some pre-work (images and text available and/or questions from the presenter to know how the group can contribute effectively.

One aspect comes to engagement and moderation, how to know that each one can contribute the best way. Google meet has some limitations that Zoom not has, e.g. breakout rooms where a subgroup of 2-3 can talk more directly and to regroup with some key outcomes. This can be done within 90 min. Also a response from all participants to the group after the vmeet, e.g 1-2 weeks later, could support deeper interaction

An open question for me, perhaps more future looking, how to collaborate on work and projects. Perhaps, somethin to brainstorm (aka opening a brainstorm doc for all members to contribute). 

 

 

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Project 3.4: Reflective surfaces and framed views – a stage on which to perform

Stefan513593 - P3Ex4 - staging reflections #2

Black Mirror

Arcade Fire
I walk down to the ocean
After waking from a nightmare
No moon, no pale reflection

Black mirror, black mirror
Shot by a security camera
You can’t watch your own image
And also look yourself in the eye

Black mirror, black mirror, black mirror
I know a time is coming
All words will lose their meaning
Please show me something that isn’t mine
But mine is the only kind that I relate to

Le mirroir casse
The mirror casts mon reflet partout

Disrupting the picture plane

I like the idea of disrupting planes that Katharina Grosse describes in the interview for her MOCA Cleveland (remark: exciting for me as I do relate to Cleveland as one of my home places where I lived in the past) work Third Man Begins Digging Through Her Pockets (Grosse, 2013). It is a more embodied encounter that one need to experience. It reminds me of my own ‘Walking through Painting’, in a constraint space though, but opening various always new insight and outside perspectives. The viewer becomes part of the object, the work as object becomes a performing subject. Mirrors, windows do add even an element of serendipity , an element non-knowing, an intrusion of outside shapes and forms (reality). It is the performing aspect driven by curiosity (participatory, as in the large convex mirrors of Anish Kapoor) that I can relate to and that resonate with my previous works, e.g ‘Object-Box‘ or the rather experimental sculptural paintings embracing ambiguity of perspective (Schaffeld, 2018b).

Grosse makes a difference between materialized space of architectural structures and imaginary spaces created by painting, regardless of structural constraints. I find this a massive insight opens up new ways of experiencing space. One could consider both parts as having a dialogue with each other, as Grosse’s paintings nonetheless depends also on physician structure, but they expand it and embraces a deeper psychological encounter with space.

However, I also can see Grosse’s work of spatial painting also form an architectural viewpoint, e.g. going up the staircase is a physical act that is combined with the psychological interaction with painted surfaces. It reminds me of my former approach for PoP1 to expand interior architectural structures through painting (Schaffeld, 2016)

In PoP1 I looked at films of Hitchcock and Tarkovsky (Schaffeld, 2017) and how both embrace in a different way the architectural elements, the sense of home and un-homely as a psychological encounter for the viewer. Grosse invites the viewer to be the performing subject inside the architectural structures. In a way as I walked through my painting, in the making as well as afterwards, responding to my close environment, an awareness of immediacy and directness.


The mirror and the reflected image

Rexer explores in his essay to use of mirror in art history. In Modern Art, Édouard Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1882 is one of the traditional examples, besides Jan van Eyck’s ‘Arnolfini marriage’, 1434 and Diego Velàzquez Las Menias, 1656-57. It shows the effect and influence of a mirror in the reception of flat representational painting. The mirror, more or less small across the picture plane, either disrupts a linear perspective view or challenges the subject-object relationship between a gazing viewer and the subjects in the scene. Kind of illusionary breaking the 4th wall. Outside and inside at the same time. Apparently, Manet made another ‘Bar’ painting with a more concise viewpoint, placing the beholder of the painting more into an observer role. Through some compositional disruptions and displacements, the mirror images seems not be real, the reflection of the back of the woman not believable. However, through a rather formal flat and parallel composition of bar, mirror, and visitor gallery, the painting conveys more of the social construct of the scenery at Manet’s time. The mirror performs, a device for critique.

Jeff Wall’s Picture for Woman, 1979 is trying to subvert the gaze and the presence, including the camera, the viewer, and the subject in the same picture plane. However, those works can overcome the fact that all paintings or photographs are flat illusions trying to convey a sense of reality and truth, with a more or less strong challenge and ‘reflecting back’ the process of seeing itself to the viewer.  

Michel Foucault stated in reference to the Panopticon, the tower centered prison derived from Jeremy Bentham, that due to its architecture the prisoner could never be certain whether being under surveillance or not, and thus ‘becomes the principle of his own subjection’. A notion that one could relate to the back-gaze of a mirror-image, as Lacan expressed the psychological state of ‘mirror-stage’ in infant development. Geoffrey Batchen named this a ‘self-same simulacra’ , the desire to be both subject and object of its own gaze (Mirzoeff, 2002: 237-242).
 

Rene Magritte (1928) 'False Mirror' Fig. 1: René Magritte (1928) ‘False Mirror’ 

 
What these works and especially the post-modern critique of them has in common is the focus on the gaze and the image looking back, as if a person would look back. The process of viewing, or gazing, is becoming a conscious process. One feels trapped by the object-surveillance. And as the example of the Panopticon shows, one could even feel that sense of being observed, gazed at, without the presence of a subject looking back. As if the act of being observed is enough for an unsettling ‘Lacan’-moment. Interestingly, that power is being transformed to a painting, kind of dangerous object, that brings it quite closely to an fetish, as I explored the relationship of human beings with objects in part two (Schaffeld, 2018a).  Rène Magritte illustrated the nearly paradox between window and mirror and the gaze in his painting False Mirror (1928 , Fig. 1) as an ‘optical metaphor for all sign systems’ (Holly, 1996:87) that turns the viewer into ‘a representation’. 

I find Holly’s concluding sentence in the chapter ‘Looking into the past’ remarkable: ‘the person who does the looking is a person with power… but so too is the ability to make someone look’ (p.90) referring to Titian’s Venus of Urbino (1538) and in this context all following appropriations. A question of seeing and viewing, to be seen and to be viewed. 

Contemporary artist’s do take the mirror image as a reflected image certainly beyond the social constructed gaze. Roy Lichtenstein (1923 – 1997) painted mirrors in his bold graphic style with Benday dots, void of reflection and reflected representations, merely as an object, but as an object that can be identified as an mirror. Gerhard Richter (b. 1932) looked at the mirror differently, e.g Spiegel, grau (Grey Mirror) (1980-1990)r, a grey reflective painting that places the viewer inside of it, but with a grey reflection. Anish Kapoor (b. 1954) with the work Mirror (Black) (2014), a concave deep black reflective circular sculpture displays “the skin, the outermost covering” that is, Kapoor explains, “for me the place of action. It is the moment of contact between the thing and the world.” (Batten, 2016). I find it interesting that he relates the reflective surface of a mirror (black or not) to skin, that relates to the border and liminal sensation of inside and outside, like a box. His sculpture seek attention, draw the viewer inside, physically towards it, metaphorically beyond the surface and open new virtual spaces beyond the physical space (MASS MoCA, 2019). A virtual space that painting can embrace like in Grosse’s works. His ‘mirrors’ could be seen in context of his rather matte, deeply folded with dense colors reminding me of Baroque sensibility that swallow nearly the viewer inside . Both are engaging the viewer through attraction ‘these voids and protrusions summon up deep-felt metaphysical polarities of presence and absence, concealment and revelation’  (Lisson Gallery, 2018)

Robert Smithson (1936 – 1973) is an artist who also uses mirrors to explore space, either outside (e.g.Yucatan Mirror Displacements (1-9), 1969) or inside (e.g Corner Mirror with Coral, 1969) , mirrors that not only reflect surrounding space on a flat surface but actually can create new virtual spaces . 

In a similar way is Untitled, 1965/71 of Robert Morris (1931 – 2018), minimal sculptures in cube shape with overall mirrors outside in a gallery space. a reflection and generation of space.  The viewer is invited to engage and to place himself in relationship with the objects and the physical and virtual space. Similarly, Refractions, 1976-77  do embrace the viewer’s interaction and placement inside the virtual space. Refractions do have some relationship with shopping windows, like in Lee Friedlander New Orleans, Louisiana, 1978 (in: Rexer, 2010). Whereas,  Strike, 2012, as a suspended, fragmented reflective sculpture has more some elements of spatial discruption as can be seen in Grosse’s works. Morris’s  Glass Labyrinth in Henry Moore Sculpture Garden is building around architectural structures and the disorientation one perceives when all walls are glass and the surface skin is neither solid opaque nor reflective but transparent. A mirror with no reflection. 

Another artist is Dan Graham (b. 1942) explores through performative interactions the psychological dimension of reflection and original, of visual and audio. In ‘Performer / Audience / Mirror‘, 1975 his oral reflection (sound, 39:05min at Ubu Web) on his movements visible in the mirror act as a verbal reflection.  I find his works intriguing as the create a space for engagement along the borders, the surface, the skin. Similar to Kapoor’s mirrors, his works are placing the viewer like a user in the middle of the work. It reminds me of my recent works with being inside and outside the box, with the screen (mirror-like) placing me constantly in different spaces. Perhaps, there is also a different aspect in his works that could be seen as autobiographical works reflecting on his troubled childhood with anti-psychotic drugs for a borderline-schizophrenic diagnosis (Louisiana Channel, 2018). He works also with the two-way mirror glass, a surface that acts as a window and a mirror, a tool for surveillance, that Graham considers as an intersubjective space. An other aspect in his work is the mirror-object as standing-for-person, e.g. Two Adjacent Pavilions, 1978–82, that he describes as ‘two egos looking at one another’ (Enright and Walsh, 2009). In his pavilions as urban archictectural structures, Graham seems to be interested in the temporality of reflections alongside, somehow close to Morris Glass Labyrinth. 

 Coming back to Bruce Nauman, who also used mirror in one or the other way, often mirror more in the form or screens. In his work John Coltrane Piece, 1968 he made a large square flat aluminum slab with a mirror face, that face was touching the floor, completely concealed ‘the mirror reflecting and yet not being able to reflect the floor’ (in : Sharp, W. Nauman Interview 1970, MIT Press, P.129)

Variety of Mirrors

Some of Smithson’s outdoor works with mirrors do have a relationship to maps. A concept that Gombrich explored in his book  (2002:172-214). The mirror and the map are visual devices for representation, both different from an embodied way of seeing. Changing viewpoint positions when looking at an object makes this difference remarkably obvious. Interestingly in this context, Leonardo da Vinci ‘urged the painter to use a mirror as his standard of accuracy’ (ebid:193). Mirrors used by painters are eg. the Claude glass (pocked size slight convex black mirror) and the flat black mirror. Black because this acts as tool for abstraction, extracts hues from tone.

Other mirrors I can tell are: vanity mirror (flat, concave); rear view mirror; safety mirror (convex); surveillance mirror; mirror labyrinths ; mirror for communication (MRI) ; mirror as metaphor (Plato); mirror as psychological device (Lacan)

Mirror - Reflection

Fig 2: detail from my fetish board – black mirror – at: https://ocasp.stefanvisualart.com/?p=3070 

 

Brief summary of the performative mirror (as above artists used in one or the other way):

  • Mirror: framed view – seeing – reflection – representation, space creation; miss-en-scene (metapictures)
  • Reflections:  bouncing back, pulling into, crossing boundaries, surface – skin
  • Mirror as glass:  dislocation, distortion, fragmentation

I do come back to two artist’s who do not work specifically with mirrors, but where I can the sense of reflective spaces being part of some of their works:

  • Mona Hatoum You Are Still Here, 2013 => a reassuring confirmation through bouncing back the image and words to the viewer, an affirmation of presence in a space of uncertainty (at times in a disorienting space of Hatoum’s installations)
  • Sara Naim => interferences and glitch, technical devices that interfere with representations and known frameworks of the viewer, and crossing borders of identity 

 

Learnings and Take Aways

  • Mirror as creating virtual space
  • Mirror as surface, border, skin like
  • Mirror as ego reflection or as gaze reversal – the ‘object looks back at you’
  • Mirror as opening space and interaction, inviting audience to interact
  • Overall, mirrors seem to be an attractive object. ‘Naturally’ seeking attention, the viewer look at and into it. One can observe this regularly when seeing people passing a window, or high reflective surface to look at, mostly to look at oneself and one’s image of oneself.
  • The mirror as a metaphor for representational frameworks, disrupting those surfaces could mean to disrupt those frameworks and senses of identity

Images

Reference: 

 

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Regional Group study visit Switzerland

MuDA – Museum of Digital Art, Zurich

In context of our newly founded Swiss based regional group, three of us (Emma, Jane, and me) got together rather informally in Zurich to meet f2f for the very first time, to visit some shows and to have a nice lunch together. 

We visited the very first Swiss digital gallery, founded two years ago as a kickstarter project, at muda.co (13 Oct 2018 – 02 Feb 2019). On show were digital online works of Vincent Morisset (b. 1976) – https://muda.co/vincentmorisset/  and a larger team behind the creation (especially with Caroline Robert (b. 1983) and Édouard Lanctôt-Benoit (b. 1989). Most of Morisset’s works are available through his website at: http://aatoaa.com/

Quite a few works were created for internet and online presence relating to works (interactive music videos) developed for the Canadian Indie-rock band Arcade Fire. As the first work on display Neon-Bible, 2007 title from the album of Arcade Fire, and with a dedicated interactive online presence at: http://www.beonlineb.com/  This as well the other sites are flash based, thus not working on iphone and one need to see it on a computer, best with headphones on. Another interactive music video was Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) from the album The Suburbs, 2010 and justareflektor (album Reflektor, 2013) The first one inviting the viewer to dance and ‘to control’ to some extent the speed of the movements of the performers in the video.

The question arised how these works were developed, and the gallery assistance mentioned that they were re-created especially for viewing in the gallery space. Although, the digital work as such stayed the same, the gallery installation as transformation was done afterwards, with the unique addition of a suspended fresh apple centered above three tablet pillars.  I find this transformation quite fascinating, as purely digital online works ‘had to’ transformed ‘back’ into physical works (‘back’ if one could consider digital as post-material reality, what in this case might be just the other way round). I am wondering how much of my own work, especially coursework is at the threshold of digital and physical, as most of what I am doing is seen on screens, only those works I submit for assessment or a few assignment works for my tutor are actually looked at physically.  Unfortunately, the music as a key element of the initial music album was hard to hear.

Other works used motion detectors to either detect or monitor body or facial movements of the viewer aka sitter, or were build around interactive controls through touch, e.g Neon-Bible, 2007 or buttons, e.g. Way to Go, 2013 (at: http://a-way-to-go.com/) The latter one an interactive game like projected video, that invited the viewer top control a simple drawn avatar to jump, to run, to fly, and to look/to do things. A seven minutes interaction that we played and discovered with great fun.  

The two works with a mirror image aka avator reflecting, but not fully, more with a glitch, the sitter’s movements reminded me strongly of Alexa Wright’s earlier work Alter Ego, 2005. 

I was asking the staff before about digital painting and was positively surprised to see a large interactive projected work in the last room: Côte à Côte, 2017 – A proposal and commissioned work for a skate park in Montreal. Motion detectors control body movement as convergent and divergent forces in a colorful movement of abstract shapes in a flow. The visual flow reminded me of thickly poured paint flowing across a surface, or lava. Reminding me also of the puddle paintings of Ian Davenport .

This ‘painterly’ interactive work, a process work, stood out for me at this exhibition. Besides one other work BlaBla, 2011 (at:  http://blabla.nfb.ca/#/blabla ) . What was shown in the gallery was chapter 5 ‘Together’ on a touch wall (through projection), through touch one could add a new character and let those together interact, talk to , and singing a song after rain started to come. The characters embodying some social human features, e.g. being nice or nasty. As this work filled an entire room wall, the interaction was a quite physical one, as it was for the engagement with Côte à Côte, 2017 .

Stefan513593 - ideas - visit Muda.co

Fig.1: ideas – visit Muda.co

Overall, it was an interesting experience to see how online screen based works (typically looked at on a computer screen) can be transformed into physical viewing and engaging installations. For me the difference is really about installation, art in a gallery always need to be installed. The walking in and through viewer expects more than just looking at one computer screen.

Bildhalle (picture hall) Gallery, Zurich

Afterwards, we went to Bildhalle.ch with photographic reproduction of the Swiss mountaineer and photographer Robert Boesch (b. 1954) Some large pigment inkjet prints, framed with no glass, fascinated me through a certain sharpness of shapes and edges. The deep blackness on larger areas had quite a tactile, vellum like appeal. A closer viewer turned the massive snow-covered mountains into rather abstract shapes that reminded me of some of my own drawings. When I compare those tactile prints with e.g. C-prints as seen recently at the Andreas Gursky exhibition at Kunstmuseum Basel, I can relate more to pigment prints. To notemark just in case I want to print some of my works as works (as Helen Chadwick or Boo Ritson are doing as non-photographer artists) 

We discussed how one could prevent such non-protected prints from dust and scratches. Although the surface itself seems to be rather robust against smooth wiping, the decisions whether not to add a glass protection might depend on the hanging place. 

Not on the walls, but on a nearby podest where some works by the Spanish artist duo Angel Albarrán and Anna Cabrera (both born 1969, based in Barcelona) , named Albarrán Cabrera. Photographic tonal works, that reminded my partly of the black drawings on yellow paper of Georges Seurat (1850 – 1891) alongside a surreal juxtaposition of various objects and forms. For the duo the handcrafted touch is of importance. They apply classical methods as platinum and silver halide. They also use new experimental methods as pigment prints on gold leaves. Through this process approach the works become unique and original.

«We are our memories. They define what and who we are and help us to understand our reality. … 

We visualize the future: imagining what will happen and how we’ll react. When we think about the future, we do the same mental work as when we remember. .. The two activities, remembering the past and remembering the future, are deeply connected and never stop.»

 – Albarrán Cabrera, Barcelona 2017

I find this quote from them intriguing, the past and the future as gap compositions, that we fill with our imagination. In visual art, these gaps might be filled by the viewer.

Interesting parallelism occured today when I posted one of my digital-narrative-paintings on Instagram and Sarah-Jane responded to that with sharing the reference of Albarrán Cabrera – a mere coincidence? 

Stefan513593 - vertigo - testing

Fig. 2: vertigo – testing; still from my series of enacted paintings – posted on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bs2-ffrD5na/ 

 

Mai36 Gallery, Zurich – Robert Mapplethorpe

Last step for the day was a visit to Mai36 gallery and a retrospective (18 Jan – 02 Mar 2019) view on Robert Mapplethorpe‘s (1946- 1989) intimate nude and still life pictures, made and printed mostly in the standard square format of his Hasselblad camera. 

I looked at some his works in context of my UVC studies, tended at that time more to photographic works of John Coplans (showing masculine vulnerability) as Mapplethorpe’s works are looking more closely at an aesthetic appeal through close up views of nudes, various awkward body poses, and a conscious comparison with gendered and erotic connotated still lives. The works seem to me in a quite 1950s/1960s fashion style approach, reduced not only through black&white prints, but also through a stark formal composition of shapes. The nude becomes an abstract shape, and by that an object void of context. The white frames alongside the white walls of the gallery emphasises this impression. But I have to admit that my idea of the artist was influenced by secondary sources, often criticising him. 

There was one work that kept my attention immediately: Ken Moody, 1983 (50.6×40.6cm), a portrait of a black nude from half back view against a marbled backdrop. The body shape resembled a cut-out layered above another image of an abstract backdrop, a quite painterly backdrop. Emma explained how this could have been achieved technically – by placing the model at a distance to the wall with seperate lightening of the wall and the body. No shadows or reflected lights in the shadow are helped to discern a spatial organisation. Fascinating, that I could immediately related to painting (in layers). I was happy that this work was reproduced in the gallery flyer at large. 

Mapplethorpe’s black nudes was one key point of critique already at his time, considering that gay and blackness were at the bottom of the cultural acceptance scale and at the top of objectification scale. Mapplethorpe worked also with white male as well as with female models. The direct exposure of the male sex was quite offensive as his time. I can relate his gendered still-lives with works more known by female artists, eg. Georgia O’Keeffe. Overall, the diversity of the works made me think of how I would see the artist and I left with a feeling that I need to do a deeper research in his life and motivation if I want to take his works as a future reference for my own works. 

 


Learnings and Take Aways – ideas:

  • Transformation of digital art into physical engaging objects that invite the audience to interact
  • Technical issues with perhaps the more sophisticated technology, e.g. motion detectors, heavy hardware-software load , did and could always sacrify or even completely stop a viewing experience. 
  • How much to digital art build on mere effects versus a deeper role of questioning learned cultural and social patterns? I felt that some works were commissioned works, either for the music band to deliver a different experience while listening to music and as a rather entertaining approach like Côte à Côte, 2017 for a skate park.
  • Installation as key aspect when considering screen based, digital art in a gallery space.
  • Intersubjective parallelism – when we as distant learner are coming up with similar ideas, thoughts or references.
  • Body in artwork; between nude and formal abstraction through closer up view. A view that conceals, but at the same time reveals by triggering thoughts and association in the viewer’s mind. Something to look at in my coursework, especially when relating this to the fold painting of Alison Watt.
  • Bottomline, I need to explore further my approach with painting at the liminal edge to digital and online presence. Either I ignore the fact that my physical works are viewed on screens (and consider it merely as a practical reproduction tool) or I embrace that same fact by making work that needs both ‘worlds’ to exist (if that makes sense at all). The third and more jumping-out approach would be to go the way of Alexis Harding (paint forming a skin almost falling off the surface), Angela de La Cruz or Simon Callery (dismantled paintings) => embracing the materiality of paint but with a exploration of flatness (as in screen) in space. I do have concerns that more ‘screen-focus’ isn’t going to help at all.

Reference:

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Jacqueline Humphries: Layers – a painterly narrative

I do feel as if Jacqueline Humphries is becoming one of my influential artists, from whom I could learn at a deeper level how to approach art and painting. Jutta Koether is another artist whose approach I find fascinating, not necessarily the final visual outcome, more the approach and attitude towards painting.

After my visit to Modern Art Gallery, Vyner Street, East End London (see blog post Oct 2018) with her recent large scale paintings on display, I was hooked by her works. Humphries expressed her approach as creating a ‘pictorial distortion and disruption’ (Brown, 2009) and ‘painting as an event’ in the sense of ‘performing painting as opposed to crafting it per se’. She doesn’t work with preliminary drawings, everything is happening in the act of painting. She considers intentionality as a bifold area, having an idea to follow through painting in a more openendedness, and as becoming a predictable barrier.

For Humphries, the artist places herself at the center of a ‘role-playing’ and the viewer becoming a character, both ‘inhabiting and observing the space’ (Ryan, 2018). Painting as a space for anyone. In the interview with fellow painter artist Cecily Brown (2009) both discussed how to seek attention through painting, as ‘viewers want to feel that they’re part of the space of the painting’ (C Brown).

With respect to Humphries’ abstract painting Brown sees ‘a generosity to the space, an almost baroque feeling.’  What brings me back to my recent explorations of Baroque intensities.

“I never think of painting as a cathartic thing, but I definitely think it’s a way of processing things.- Cecily Brown

Humphries explored the expanded spectrum of visibility, not into the direction of invisible spaces, but in the direction of pushing the wavelength boundaries of what is visible and perceptible to the naked eye: use of light sensitive media and viewing under UV lights (‘Black Light Paintings’). For her, it is often about activation. Either as UV activation or just as paintings activating the surrounding environment. The latter, reminding me of how artists approached Minimal Art, as an object in space activating that space, with some notions to Gestalt psychology. 

  • ‘Silver Paintings’: Paintings with shimmering metallic surfaces nearly impossible to capture in photographs. The unstable situation of viewing, when light and position of the viewer depends on each other. Moving around results in changing perception of the painting. Light as ‘painting’ tool is one aspect I often face when taken a photograph from reflective surfaces (e.g. Fig 1 – perhaps something to embrace more as Humphries does?) What reminds me of the White Paintings (1951) of Robert Rauschenberg, where he considered that with a closer view the environment is impacting and modulating what we see in a monochrome, white painting. Micro structures become visible, and eventually leading towards a surface vibration. And through that temporal experience a sense of instability is occurring. Humphries described this her intention of painting, to provide a ‘new kind of viewing, to establish a site for “content” or experience. In a way, the paintings resist meaning.’ (Brown, 2009). 

 

Fig. 1: light as ‘painting’ tool – performative – painting in watercolor, observing reflections and projected images -> light as source for painting? a ‘painting’ tool?

 

  • Black Light Paintings : Paintings with light sensitive paint exposed to ultraviolet light. A phenomena one knows from dance floors, or as seen in the show of Mark Dion at Whitechapel. Humphries also has a sense for ‘making things entertaining’ (Brown, 2009). At times I am wondering whether use of specific ‘effect’  tools and paints are not rather a working on clichés, and even with a tendency towards kitsch as by the focus on effect. Interesting to read abut Humphries’s notion that it is the painter’s ‘primary job [is] to get people to stop and look’. (ebid.). 
    I find the ‘spectrum’ approach interesting, as I can related this at an even wider view to my parallel project on MRI, medical imaging, and the embodied sensation of sound. The first at the higher frequency rate beyond UV, the latter at the very low frequency end – in between the visual frequency range of colors. Perhaps, there might be an idea sitting to transform ‘non-visual’ data into visual data by frequency – bookmarked. And it also brings to me the idea discussed on the OCA forum of image distortion through audio processing systems, the latter as  the audio side of visual imagery (Amir, 2016)

 

  • Stencil paintings‘: Humphries applies a multilayering and superimposing approach in her paintings. She refers to screen based images (digital images) with the abundant presence, compressed in window frames, but with no ‘definitive image’ (Ryan, 2018). Humphries explores ways how to apply compression through painting as a physical objects. She is aware that painting relates to a different set of expectations. I am wondering how the technique of screen-printing could act as a metaphor for that digital world around us. Something, I will put off for later, as I am not familiar with that technique. However, regarding Humphries’ use of laser-cut stencils through which she pushes opaque thick paint through onto the canvas, I can sense a resonance. Partly, because of my recent ‘stencils’ sketches in part 2 (Fig. 2 – though still more as shape, less as layer), partly because of the idea to use stencils as a mean to transfer digital information gesturally onto a painting, becoming one of many layers. There seems to be a relationship with how Julie Mehretu approaches her latest works: layering, mix of digital images, transfer and print techniques and gestural markings. 
Stefan513593 - stencil technique - various sketchbooks pages

Fig. 2: stencil technique – various sketchbooks pages from part 2 and part 3 -> rather shapes than layers, what to learn from Humphries? micro versus macro view 

 

At times Humphries large scale paintings do remind me of the series paintings of Anne Martin, playing with the difference in perception between distant and near view (macro and micro viewpoints). As if it resides somewhere in between. One could even consider this on a social level as reality in between binary poles. 

I find the Journal of Contemporary Painting a very useful source for inspiration. Often artists are writing about artists, or artists interviewing artists, as Ryan and Brown did interview Humphries. The articles are mostly looking deeper and to include some philosophical aspects of the works, especially with references to Deleuze, Guattari or Derrida. I find the visual journal of Humphries as response on the interview with Ryan in the same journal (Humphries, 2018) fascinating, resonates quite well as I often tend to explore visually and less verbally new ideas or try to make sense of complex ideas. Humphries herself considers that kind of visual response as to be ‘.. meant to reflect and illustrate some of the ideas expressed in the interview’.

Take aways for my own work

  • Performing painting: an event – a making – a material approach as process, embodied experience and creating space
  • Layering: reflection on the abundance of images present in daily life, embedding digital in analog
  • Stencils: transfer of information onto a panting, a gesture of embedding, deferral of meaning, 
  • Spectrum of visibility: color as electro-magnetic waves, going beyond the border (UV -> MRI , IR -> sound), space creation through compression
  • Transposing and transforming information: embedding, layering, digital and analog data, compression; image transformation techniques

 


Images:

  • Fig. 1: Schaffeld, SJ (2019) Watercolor painting
  • Fig. 2: Schaffeld, SJ (2018) Sketchbook explorations and 
  • Featured image: Schaffeld, SJ (2019) digital composite of painted surfaces 

Reference:

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Project 3.3: Narratives – Visual Inspirations / Dislocation – Fragmentation

Ideas from visual inspirations:

I do wonder how my approach for project 3.3. (the Narrative) could inform further my parallel project. More by coincidence, I discovered the work of the Syrian artist Sara Naim, consisting of photographic sculptures as abstract objects. For her current series Building Blocks , on show in Dubai at The Third Line gallery, Naim used scientific technology,  Scanning Electron Microscopy, to capture the cellular structure of mundane objects (jasmine, soil and Aleppo soap) and through magnifying the images, revealing a sense of visual complexity. The large scale works are mounted on wood or plexiglass. She embraces glitches and distortion, fragmentation and interferences due to the use of digital technology, elements that I do feel relevant in my current direction, reminding me also of the most recent works of Jacqueline Humphries. The press release relates her work to ‘the imperfection of memory and thus of human nature.’  (The Third Line, 2019) and in her own words:

‘A glitch distances the viewer through its abstraction, but also unearths the inherent structure of a digital file’s expectation and miscommunication.’ – Sara Naim (Romdane, 2018)

It comes back to glitches and distortions as I was playing with some ideas since part 2: encoded visual information, void of context, fragmented, and with a sense of technological glitch (bar codes, video, QR codes, medical imaging etc.). One is never really in control of full information, of getting close to what is concealed. And a narrative that can evolve from the space between signifiers and visual sensations? Memory that can trigger narratives in the viewer’s mind?  Disruptive narratives. I do not see my work to be developed further in a sequential manner like a storyboard or telling a story (as my video above). I am more interested in searching ways of visual information that builds on various elements, signifiers, fragmented collages etc. A complexity and ambiguity that would invite the viewer to bring subjective narratives to the work – and the space in between. And that plays with the structures, the shapes around in a kind of dialogue. 

Another direction I can relate to is the performative work ‘Alter Ego‘ by Alexa Wright, brought to my attention during the recent peer review hangout. Wright studied Fine Arts and is now more interested in photography, video and sound installations. Her performative and participatory work explores the sense of being outside of oneself alongside a loss of control on one’s own identity, like the hand outside of my body, inside or outside the stage box. Through digital capture-technology a mirror image of a sitter of being overlayed with a 3D face structure, but contrasting to a flat mirror where the reflection is the same image of the sitter’s body actions, in ‘Alter Ego’ the mirror image is taken over a ‘life’ by its own. Quite a dissociative aspect, where what one might think is part of the body, turns out to be something different, with a strong uncanny sensation. There seems to occur a dialogue between the digital imagery and the sitter? What reminds me of the human-like robots – to overcome the ‘uncanny valley’ (Masahiro Mori, 1970). In my case it is not about a mirror image and a sitter, but my dissociative hand and my ‘outside-the-box-body’. 

Overall, I like to notions of layering, ambiguity, and dislocated forms, as I explored in my sketchbook (Fig 1):

 

Stefan513593 - sketchbook - dislocation and fragmentation

Fig 1: Sketchbook – dislocation and fragmentation

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Project 3.3: Constructing Narratives – Beyond past stories

Narratives in visual art

‘It is the ‘visual’ that functions as the purest form of sequential art,’ – Jason Lutes (Eisner, 2008a:136)

I find myself struggling with narratives and visual art, especially painting.  Narratives and stories. Maybe, because I am not a good story teller, and prefer visuals, images that can speak, but can a painting truly speak for itself without any external reference? For PoP1 I was looking at how to tell something through my painting (see Keti Koti and research on narratives in painting) With thanks to Helen Tennant, I concluded that narratives could be constructed in monoscenic,  multiscenic or sequential ways, by creating visual drama, using materials that trigger associations, embracing learned experiences and previous images, and through the way of installation (Schaffeld, 2017):

Recently, I explored deeper the exhibition ‘Flatland – Abstractions narratives‘ at MUDAM, Luxembourg (MUDAM Luxembourg, 2018), and discovered that abstract art can construct narratives, overcoming a seemingly paradox narrative-abstraction. I am really intrigued by looking at visual and verbal language not as binaries of copy and original (considering that reception of a narrative is referred to verbal language) but as Klaus Speidel (Derrien ed all, 2018) described a dependance of narration on: Recipient (motivation, skills , knowledge), Context (venue or seeing mode), Presentation (and used medium), and Content represented (nature and degree of explication). He further stated that ‘what matters is the way in which a particular work of art interacts with its references – the manner, for example, in which it rewrites the script on which it draws. What also counts is that there is a rich relationship between its material manifestation and the object of reference’ (ebid). He used the term ‘self-entanglement’ considering the bond between the viewer and the narrative. 

‘A story is the narration of a sequence of events deliberately arranged for telling.’ – Will Eisner (2008b:3)

This resonates with the essay ‘Narrative in Visual Art’ of James Elkins (n.D.) where Elkins considers the purpose of visual art nowadays to avoid any narrative and looking at the past. For him characteristic for photography in capturing a past moment in time. He relates narratives directly with telling stories. If I would consider the above quote from Will Eisner than there is a difference between both: a story is told when events are intentionally narrated in a sequence. Would this not mean that events narrated randomly would not result in telling a story?

Elkins refers to Nelson Goodman and established an extended three tiers of order in narration/story:

  1. order of occurence: past events,  the ‘fabula’, the reason for a story to exist
  2. order of telling: what is distinctive between literature as sequential or temporal narration versus visual art as spatial narration with all elements present at the same moment (different in comic as sequential art). 
  3. order of reading: the way the reader, viewer engages with the work

This could be related back to Saussure’s semiotics and the way he considered temporal and spatial signs. Elkins argues against semiotics in context of visual art, eventually arguing that any interpretation of visual art is trying to find meaning through signifiers without there existence in the first place. What certainly can be argued against. He rather employs examples from Renaissance Fresco cycles, organised in strong symmetries, to show how the order of telling could be so tangled that one cannot ‘read it’.  In that logic, Elkins concludes with an interesting argument by stating that visual art engages around a field of ‘feeling or meaning’:  the field between the viewer getting too close to the artist’s intention of ‘reading’ it (what would let to ‘pure legibility and empty meaningless’ ) and not being able to discern any meaning (what would turn the painting into a mere sign). 

Breaking narratives

Elkins also refers to other sources when playing with the sense of ambiguity in that field, leaving enough space for the viewer to add into. Elements of ‘instants’ as a turning point in the narrative, pivotal moments, or ‘snapshots’ are ‘attempts to break the narrative’ (p.36). Elkins named other ‘breaking’ elements that avoid a of chronological order: anatomy as an outline, epitome as a summary, encyclopedia as a series of short narratives

Visual art plays with certain ‘tools’ (e.g. juxtaposing, superimposing, displacing, transforming) to bring the viewer not to a past but to a possible future, an anticipative view. Or as Vincent Pecoil (Derrin ed al, 2018) described abstract art’s act to ‘transcribe vision as an imaginary space’ and transforming the artist into a ‘visionary whose gaze is turned towards the future’.

For me, the main take aways are:

  1. Visual art narration or non-narration is embracing imaginary spaces of meaning.
  2. Narrative is not story telling, through a co-creation between artist and viewer new meaning can develop. In that sense appropriation is a ‘visual commentary’ (Jan Verwoert) of past events for a future 
  3. Order to telling and order of reading might be quite ambiguous in visual arts versus temporal arts (incl. traditional comics)

Fig 1 and Fig 3 are showing two of my sketchbook explorations that one could consider as narrative, but with some disruptive elements:

Stefan513593 - P3Ex3 'Fragmenting and Recomposing' - sketchbook explorations

Fig. 1: SJSchaffeld – ‘Fragmenting and Recomposing’ – sketchbook explorations


Amy Sillman (b. 1955)

I am excited to see how Amy Sillman and Jutta Koether are going to address those narration questions through crossing borders between figurative and abstraction, through internal and external references. How do they construct narratives with the viewer as co-creator? Amy Sillman’s  approach one of ‘wrestling with the picture, ..with its many changes, ..with the question of whether or not a painting is done.’ and that ‘her paintings have always felt personal and emotional’ (Nickas, 2009:224-227)   

‘The experience of abstract painting is about having a body’ – Amy Sillman 

The animation Draft of a Voice-Over for Split-Screen Video Loop (Exact Change, 2014) is a collaboration between Amy Sillman and Lisa Robertson. Sillman paints digitally with an iPad.  2000 animated drawings aka paintings (what is the difference here?) she responded to the words of Robertson’s poem from 2009 – a 6 min duration dialogue, visually on a split screen, but perceptual on multiple channels.

Hoberman describes Sillman’s digital animation as a ‘mix of abstract and representational imagery … luscious candy-colored palette …. illustrates the complexities of expressing (or denying) femininity when language itself is a gendered construct.’ (Hoberman, 2012)

The work builds on the aspect of concealing, an important aspect of Sillman’s process (ebid.) Initial images are completely covered with new layers obscuring them in the finished painting. The digital animation embraces this process of additive and reductive evolution resulting in animation. One could consider this as a dialogue between abstraction and figurative, a search for meaning out of masses of color and shapes. In a sense playing with pareidolia in images and words, the illusion of a mental narrative. I can very much relate to this process of concealing and revealing as I explored myself during part 2 animated sequence as narratives (e.g Still-Life).

I’ve never heard about Robertson and found out that she relates in her feminist poetry to philosophers as Derrida. Derrida is also a source of reference for Sillman and Koether (see below). The poem explores language, words, as gendered expressions, and adding as a paradox new phrases to subvert the notion of an ‘innocent’ language. Sillman’s digital and performative sketches create a visual response, a unique visual language, a visual dialogue on two screens, or better a split screen. As if the verbal language, a reading of Robertson poem, is not the original that craves for illustration, but as a source of inspiration for an in-the moment gestural and emotional reaction. Sillman’s iPad sketches embrace color, fluidity, flat colored areas, along line markings, layered and constantly changing in transition, within one split screen and between both split screens. There is fast and breathless moving dynamic involved, at times too fast to discern specific static moments, change is the theme – and repetition. Some animated patterns, e.g. the color flooding the figure like shape, are returning, as if to catch up with memories before adding another variation to it. In that sense one could even consider the 6min audio-visual animation as a piece of music, a fugue in tradition of Bach, with up and downs and points of culmination. It is also about combining jokes and abstraction, embracing her interest in writing and cartoons. (Bradley and Sillman, 2014)

Sillman is at ease with combining material painting with digital painting, even to hang the same subject in both media side by side, e.g #841, 2012. A digital print from still from animated drawing alongside a similarly size painting, derived from the digital print from animated drawing’ (Saunders, 2014). Before she made pure digital painting animation she also made stop motion animation, taken with her phone camera from ink drawings, e.g, Triscuits, 2011–12. Her exhibitions do combine both media, with digital sketches as prints (reference to the photography and art as object legacy ?) As if Sillman tries to overcome that notion of commodification some prints from her digital animation work were for sale with the artist remark on the back of each print ‘This image was originally drawn on an iPad (with my finger) & was printed by the artist Nathan Baker on archival newsprint paper. It cost 30 euros to print, and is being sold for that cost. Please don’t resell it. If you don’t want to keep it, please give it to someone as a gift. Thank you.’ (Hoberman, 2012) I am wondering whether the display of printed stills from her animations are a ‘Jungian narrative, cartoon strips of the psyche‘ (Stern, 2014) or a claim of space of what otherwise would be contained within an framed screen. The materialised static moments of a still image, a storyboard side by side, cartoon or graphic novel like, inviting the viewer to pause and repeat the motion at one own’s pace? For me the key question how to display paintings in the liminal experience of physical and virtual matter. But this kind of expanded display of still images that are contained as an animation, do crave for space. And viewing them also means to move physically, to turn, and to be conscious of the time it takes to look through the visual narration. An aspect I find intriguing: the unfolding of time into space

In a more recent exhibition for Portikus, Frankfurt (Germany) Sillman created frieze and panorama like works, with no gaps in between, that are actually prints of drawings with additional layer of painterly interventions. This series plays with the logic of animation, repetition and looping, an iteration process. Through the combination of print and painting it is hard to tell what is what, what is physical or digital, what have been physical painted and what have been mechanically reproduced (Portikus, 2016).

She also makes her own zines, being distributed at the shows. A reference that our current OCA student-led zine initiative is relating to from its origin.

Jutta Koether (b. 1958)

Koether appropriates works of past artists in a free manner, e.g. in Aenderungen aller Art I, 2006 with using a canvas printed with a photographic reproduction of Cezanne’s painting on the canvas as an ‘almost readymade’ (ebid. 308), inviting her for free gestural responses. Quite in context of Verwoert’s viewpoint that appropriations of paintings is a visual commentary, similar to  For me fascinating that she considers the ‘engagement with painting .. invested with bodily nature and form’ (ebid) when announcing an exhibition of her works verbally with the term ‘inkarnat’ , a German term for flesh-colored paint. Koether looks at past artist in a way of ‘investigating the breaking point of the icon, or the point where painting entered abstraction’ (ebid)

She describes her work  Seasons and Sacraments , 2012-2013 (Dundee Contemporary Arts, 2013) as a painted ‘performance that only painting can do’. She appropriates the Four Seasons  and the Seven Sacraments of Nicolas Poussin (1594 – 1665) as an installation and a parcours to walk through and along with her ‘seven propositions’ of what a painting could be. She loosely translates key ideas from the original  and deconstructs traditional conceptions of painting through shifting of perspectives, e.g. using primary colors to mirror Poussin’s central use of them, inviting the viewer to find a way into the work. An interesting comment was made by Sherman Sam (2013) that Koether relates to philosophical questions in art with her reference to Poussin as the “philosopher painter,” and with giving her London exhibition the title ‘The Double Session’, referring to Derrida’s essay (1970) with the same name. In the latter one, Derrida explored and deconstructed the question of the original and the copy and the performative quality of mimesis. This is been reflected in the work she installed for Poussin’s Eucharist,  a projection of his paintings on a suspended screen. This is also a topic in her double painted work Marriage, 2012-13 with the same subject painted on two canvas. Other works, e.g. for Ordination, as series of red painted planks horizontally installed on the wall. she relates the height of the raised hand of Christ with Corbussier’s notion of the ideal place for the height of a door. And another time she extracts Poussin’s preference of using primary colors in his work Confirmation, painted on glass and with falling strips of paint.

I was glad to get hold of a copy of the exhibition book (Koether ed al, 2013) as it allowed me to look at the various works more in depth. Besides Confirmation, the spatial installation of Fifth Season Act, Apotheosically, 2012, made from acrylic, liquid glass, on canvas with concrete and glass display. Both painting sculptures resonate strongly, reminding me of my experiments of ‘two side box‘ for part 2 (Fig 2), although my experiments too dense, and certainly not concerned with art history, more with social history of packaging trash. Nevertheless, I do get some ideas of how transparent installations could work. And an interesting thought to symbolize water with transparent acrylic. Koether extracts elements from Poussin’s painting, illustrations of the Sacraments from the Holy Bible, and to use them as formal elements in composing the space.

Two Side Box - Sculptural Painting

Fig. 2:  SJSchaffeld – Two Side Box – Sculptural Painting – collage on acrylic – double sided

The gallery floor itself was flooded with gravel during the time of exhibition. This works resonated well as it reminded my of my previous works for part 2, my interest for translucent multi-viewpoints installation of paintings with The Preservation Box and especially the Two Side Box, with collaged items on two side of perspex. Perspex is also part of Koether’s work Penance, 2013, shaped or flat juxtaposed with found objects embedded in transparent layers. I never heard about liquid glass before and found that it is a quite expensive medium. Wondering whether acrylic adhesive, the medium I used in my works, would not be equally fine.

Koether’s series Seasons do remind me at times of Julie Mehretu, with her superimposed lines and planes, a narrative of process of making a painting. What the viewer sees are palimpsests of multiple layers, with the final image presenting something else, rather an abstraction. An interesting perspective is adding David Joselit (2009) to the work of Koether when referring to questions of ‘How does painting signify?’ and ‘How can the status of painting as matter be made explicit?’. For Joselit, Koether’s installed paintings demonstrate a sense of transitivity and a behavior of ‘belonging to a network’ . I can relate this to Klaus Speidel’s description that ‘what matters is the way in which a particular work of art interacts with its references’.

For Joselit, painting goes beyond being an object for a spectator’s gaze, but the painting as holding the capacity to hold and re-enact ‘behavior of objects within a (social) network’. I do read this as paintings that perform in relationship and context, a staged enactment. I have the feeling as here is something that resonates, especially with my recent appropriations and the passage of time (reflected in various cultural artifacts, and subsequently becoming something new.  

Koether concludes the talk at Dundee with the sensation of frustration that one could get when walking around due to its ‘being never complete’, finding things not finished , and eventually that finding into the work through a comparative approach one could get ‘a result’ (Koether).

Overall, both artists opens a different perspective to narratives, beyond story telling and material narratives as I found out from ‘Flatland – Abstract Narratives’. It seems as if the interplay between abstract shapes, geometric forms, and figurative suggestions do engage the viewer in creating narratives when seeing works not in isolation but as an installation or an animation.


Learnings:

  • Visual art narration or non-narration is embracing imaginary spaces of meaning.
  • Narrative is not (but could be) through telling a story, through a co-creation between artist and viewer new meaning can develop. In that sense appropriation is a ‘visual commentary’ (Jan Verwoert) of past events for a future.  Dialogue between abstraction and figurative as co-creator for narratives in the viewer’s mind.
  • How painting as performance can in itself be a narrative. the challenge is that it is hidden, concealed, embedded as a memory in the final work, invisible for the viewer. Do I want to show that or to invite the viewer to reveal whatever makes sense to them? My indexical presence just an ephemeral nostalgia. 
  • Presentation of digital and physical paintings in various formats. A disruption of narrative through disruption of space?
  • Verbal language as partner for visuals in creating narratives, is this a story? I am not sure that adding text is something I really want to work on. Possibly, sound yes, language less.
  • Split screen, projected screens, animated screens
  • Prints of still images from an animation installed on the wall (grid or cluster) a more embodied and visual art oriented approach? All images are present in space at the same moment, whereas in animation, films, literature and other sequential art forms the viewer is led through it, instead of let into it completely. A notion that I find interesting to follow further in my work.
Stefan513593 - P3Ex3 'Pull the Narrative' - sketchbook explorations

Fig 3: SJSchaffeld –  ‘Pull the Narrative’ – sketchbook explorations

remark: the featured image is another version of Fig 3, but with reflected light onto a sheet of  mylar underneath, resulting in an interesting additional layer – light as part of the work? To transform into painted patterns of serendipity?

Next steps

Aspects that I feel are relevant for my work:

  • Disruption of space, and time, and frame
  • contrast and juxtaposition of various elements, e.g. b&w / color, analog/digital, static/dynamic elements
  • Embracing paint in a sense of painting-out, to merge (e.g physical/digital) or to distinguish
  • Presentation: e.g animation / prints (A. Sillman) or series or painted, body, photographic, consciousness of time, an unfolding of time into space.
  • Fragmentation: to split (like split screens) or to dissect into single elements (J. Koether)
  • To embrace my ‘engagement with painting .. invested with bodily nature and form’ (J. Koether)
  • Considering dialogue of time and space, expansion of time into space, making time an embodied experience.

Reference:

 

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Peer review : Paint – Catch – Move (after Serra)

Paint – Catch – Move – An intermedia Box

 

asking for peer feedback on the following animation – an embodied painterly approach (at forum wide hangout)

 

Some ideas received:

(after the hangout and through other channels)

The overall feedback was that this was a powerful work with great potential through its “juxtaposition of the real and the digital, the organic and the constructed, colour and b&w, and the way these contrasts shifted and rearranged in a way that was uncanny, surreal and slightly unsettling” (Julia) . 

  • Struggle: ‘…. showing a constant struggle of catching that “good idea” to “make it work” ‘ (Marija) and idea of “my trying to catch onto an illusive idea he has in his head but it keeps slipping through his fingers. Then he catches one of these ideas but it is not what he he is looking for so he rejects it, only to retrieve it and try again to catch it” (Nuala)?
  • Failure: alongside frustration of my ” constant effort for little reward as it continuously slips through ..fingers” (Julia)
  • Reality: what if the withdrawing painted hand becomes unpainted? Surreal, breaking the fourth wall, and uncanny 
  • Contrast: black & white versus color –  context surrounding it, difference of ideas in my head?
  • Removal: moment of withdrawing my hand (B&w -> color, inside -> outside, acting -> getting on with things)
  • Elements of monotone, illusiveness
  • Painting: painted arm connotation of labor (e.g. coal or oil-smeared arm of a miner or other industrial worker), a nod to digital while retaining the painted and performance
  • Disruption: other memories of childhood experience of TV and puppet shows, the hand as dissociated, independent of me (outside the box), “behaving badly, uncontrollable” (Emma)
  • Context: Psychological element of mirroring, looking behind the scenes online, computers and devices what, connotation of ‘throwing’ pieces as Facebook ‘throw at us’ (Emma). It does remind me of ‘thing’ in the Addams Family
  • Recalibration, new moments, e.g. letting the hand inside – and remove myself; reminding me of the later Bruce Naumann videos in his studio
  • Technology: low-fi approach
  • References: Alexa Wright, e.g. Alter Ego?  Buster Keaton? Steve McQuinn?  – old silent movies from begin 20th century, drama of sound, music, and intermediate texts

Questions:

  • How to incorporate further new, uncanny moments, unexpected, once the viewer got the idea? How to  build drama into the narrative? Is drama temporal or can it also be spatial, like intrinsic in a ‘static’ painting?
  • How to push painting and materiality alongside the virtual and digital further?
  • Improvements:  smoother transitions between takes

Interestingly, there were different opinions whether this work is to be considered as WIP for further elaboration, or already good as it is.

I do thank all for taking the time to look at my ‘moving’ images work and to respond with a wide variety of connotations

Conclusion:

I do understand that this work plays very much with memories of the past of visual culture. relating to analog TV, puppet shows, performing puppeteers, childhood memories. The use of black&white has a strong connotation with analog films, and even silent movies. I think this might be an observation especially from photography students who do discern deeply when to use B&W photography due to its nostalgia appeal. 

I am glad that the difference and contrast between the inside (b&w, painted) and the outside (color, my body, my actions) came across strongly and as being a key aspect in the work. Also the clarity of digital versus physical reality. In that sense, I am pleased with the engagement.

More to think about, and relating to my actual moment of performance: the dissociative, independent aspect of what is acting/performing and what is behind, aside, in the ‘now’ reality. The physical, embodied aspect, versus the virtual, displaced, disembodied one. 

Next steps it to see how to bundle all of this, or just one aspect of it, into a narration. Thinking about visual only, or sound or music. And how embedded text (visual or verbal) could be considered, reflecting on the way silent movies developed drama. 

I find the works of Alexa Wright very fascinating and bookmarked for further reference.


Side note:

It happened that Peter posted on discuss forum his assignment work for the course ‘Moving Images’ that he developed through the entire course from idea, through screenplay towards filming. His subject matter was a conflict between mother and daughter, and I could learn a lot from how moving images as in film are developed for drama and  through temporal, visual cues. In my above video I worked a bit with zooming in and out, wondering how much film knowledge I need to have as a Fine Arts student for my practice (what is still not very clear how this looks like)


Background: 

The body as part of the image – the embodied image – the narrative . An appropriation of Richard Serra

One previous work (audio-video – 3:23 min)

and a still image:

Stefan513593 - P3Ex2 Catch_Paint_Box - composite

 

 


Reference: 

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Being out there – Where is my place?

Stefan513593_reflection_exhibits

Already seven weeks passed since my contribution to SHOWCASE with OCA (Fig. 2). Today, I had my second exhibition opening (vernissage – Fig. 3). This time a local show with local artists from the area (German, Dutch, partly Russian), most of them making art for leisure and pleasure without a degree. What did I learn and where am I now?

Both shows took time and efforts in preparation and in participation. I started making my first artist business cards (first with a draft one I took with me to London, afterwards adjusted), created my artist website, communicated on social channels (Fig. 1). On the website, I got very valuable feedback through the discuss forum. Bottomline, I actually achieved to have two exhibitions, a major change reflecting on my previous self-conscious thinking how to get this step done and pushed myself somehow – perhaps less consciously – into new areas of what art would mean to me. And not to forget, that I pushed myself to make some public art interventions and was acknowledged by OCA as a featured artist on their website and social channels.

SJSchaffeld - artist website / card Fig 1: Artist Website and Artist business card

Additionally, we set up this week the start for a regional Swiss group with one of our aims to organize a group show in Switzerland next year.

The future is bright  – response of one of my clients from a coaching session

SHOWCASE with OCA @oxotowerwharf,  London

I had great time at and along SHOWCASE in London Despite some minor aspects, like: why the walls were kept white, why the names of the students whose work were on display were not attached to the work itself, and how difficult it was to find a good place for my ‘Object-Box’ in the gallery space. Nevertheless, it was great to have been part of a group of fellow students to show some works, works that brought together a wider sense of community, and feeling proud that my works were sitting together with other works. And to see my name on the window is just awesome!

I’ve met for the first time people I only know through a screen, or just through social media or discuss forum discussions. A very full body experience that propelled my motivation and inspiration. Just wish that these would become a regular part of OCA/UCA student recognition – and to be able to get out there. To be in London for this event felt so exciting, and friends of mine were truly fascinated by that fact as well. And the first time I handed over my card to a gallery owner, who asked for my Instagram profile.

SJSchaffeld_exhibition_SHOWCASE, Oct2018 Fig. 2: SHOWCASE exhibition, Oct 2018, London, UK

 

One main objective for me was to interact with the audience and my ‘Object-Box’: engagement, participation and elements of interactivity. My idea was that the audience could engage with the box through either the reading of QR codes (with links to instructions, and background information) by using their smartphones and/or through unfolding the box itself. Intestingly, some people (adults) were interested and intrigued by the box and its concept. But I felt ti was the kids who actually had fun in interacting with the box and discovering thus clumpy items inside. This reminded my strongly of my site experience at the exhibition of Abraham Cruzvillegas where actually the construction of new objects from found objects was the main work, and again the kids and younger people had much more fun and no concerns to jump onto the objects. Are adults too self-conscious when entering an art space to engage physically wth the work, even if invited? I had some good discussions before the show in the discuss forum re interaction and participation. Overall, I found that my works and concept need more thorough preparation and installation alongside some guidance for the audience. Based on one comment received I wrote quickly handwritten note re to use smartphone to get information from the QR codes – are they really that secretly concealed? Also , I think that such approaches would require a holistic approach, i.e. to place that in relationship to the other works on display, otherwise it would feel a but awkward and isolated as I perceived my ‘Object-Box’ at Showcase.

Annual group exhibition @Rhauderfehn, Germany

Nevertheless, now with my other quite different exhibition I have mixed feelings. Perhaps a return to the ground and ‘reality’? The rural area where we currently live is not London, not even having a contemporary art scene at all. The community is an established traditional group that was founded in 1980s – and with the key players being the same. Although, I noticed that a new generation of people within this community is trying to bring new perspectives – and with more social sensibility (and still afraid of ‘political art’ as the people in the city either don’t like it or are ‘not ready yet’ for this kind of art) I was facing the question what art is, how people see it, how the audience impacts my discernment of what to show, and where the line between art and kitsch would reside. The latter question reminding me of my research for UVC on Kitsch and Greenberg‘s notion that kitsch builds on effects and being easily ‘understood’ by the population, pleasing works. Some works that are now on display alongside my own works seem to fit into that ‘definition’. Am I just too critical and unfair? What is my position and place?

SJSchaffeld_exhibition_Rauderfehn, Dec 2018 Fig. 3: Annual exhibition, Dec 2018, Rhauderfehn, Germany

 

However, I had good talks today with some of the community, a few are planning for next summer an installation in the community’s own gallery space referring to the observation in town that grass is growing through the asphalt, people not taken care enough. I will be the first time they are trying to do something different – against a strong traditional opposition who don’t want to discuss art at all. Is this typical for rural areas off-side from a pulsing urban art scene? This area it not an area where people pay for art, the buy to place in their rooms. The population is getting elderly, what was ‘young and fresh’ in the 1980s are the same who dominant the current scene, saturated, not buying new works.

I put some works of project series  ‘Absence & Presence’ from 2017 into the exhibition now, a reference to observed  decay and memory in this area – a subtle critique or just a an interesting technical approach? One comment from one visitor today was that the work should be better hanged with a passepartout (see Fig. 4). My motivation for framing was to protect as the venue (town hall- three floors – with daily movement in the corridors). The installation is not what I expected to be. Reflecting now on this, a better way would have been to put them unframed with a certain distance to the wall – and all in a row. When I arrived Friday to install the individual pieces were all over the place, just where it fitted somehow (just a few people from the group installed all 68 pieces on display within three hours) – and eventually made me to take what was there and install it myself.  Another learning for me.

Installation view 'Absence & Presence', 2017 (c)StefanJSchaffeld Fig. 4: Installation view ‘Absence & Presence’, 2017 (c)StefanJSchaffeld

Key learnings

  • Getting out is a major and important leap, good to make before on reaches level 3 (on BA pathway)
  • Preparation takes time and efforts and required funding (e.g. for framing).
  • Showing work is also a question of quality and presentation oneself
  • Participating in an established set of traditional structures (m current group exhibition) requires a more humble approach of what I would like to achieve and what actually can be achieved-
  • Networking and making contacts is possibly the main objective for me at this stage  – in hope that it will some time be realized through art gallery space recognition (single show?)
  • Public interventions need not only courage but also a sense of clarity what it is that I want to do – and how
  • Installation and venue:  Who installs? What guideline are there? What is in my control?
  • Audience: Who is the audience? And does it actually matter? Risk avoidance or taken risks?
  • Overall, to do it and to think less about how to do it, is a refreshing experience.
  • Courseworks suffers, unfortunately, due to less time for making works (even if I adjust coursework to all what I do). Nevertheless, very worth to do.
  • Re interactive works: need more consideration, preparation and holistic approach to get value out of it and to invite the audience fully into that experience.

Images: all photographs taken by myself, 2018 – reproduction of flyer (Fig. 3) image credit: Kunsttkreis Rhauderfehn, 2018

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Visibility – on OCA sites

Today, I received an email from OCA office saying that one of my works (from a sketchbook that was in display at Showcase at oxotowerwharf (24-28 Oct 2018) has been chosen as featured images for the OCA website (main title) and their social channels. It made me very proud and I felt honoured . What made me aware that exposure is a big part of being an artist – and to be perceived as one .

After my public art intervention two days ago , I feel – and just hope – that this is one way forward to more exposure. Certainly a question to myself how, how much time and efforts, and what I want to move forward with. Also perhaps time to map out what I am doing as part of coursework meets gallery standards, and how much I want to continue with experimenting around but not at all being something to show. The selected work by OCA made me also aware that some of my sketchbooks works are actually of better ‘quality’ than larger scale drawings or paintings. 

Screenshots of OCA website and social channels:

 

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Public art – an intervention

Train stations can be quite fascinating – strolling along with eyes open even more. What started today with looking at things on a construction wall on platform 16 of Zürich’s main station, followed by sharing it on the FB group ‘Found Paintings and Sculptures’ went eventually into a gestural public art event (drawing a frame and adding a signature) that I shared later on my IG account (with my own hashtag #paint4OCA):  https://www.instagram.com/p/BqI7BlrDoxv/

Starting with being quite nervous about leaving my marks in public, it went overall into an intriguing experience that I found more and more exiting the more I looked at it. It evolved with making it, coming back a few times for short interventions, each time adding a new layer, marks ( frame -> signature -> inviting a friend -> adding hashtag). Beween each step communicating on social platforms).

Learnings:

  • Making the first step is the hardest challenge, anxious what other might say.
  • Being assertive and clear in my gesture and intention made it easier.
  • The work was not only a process of making but also a process of raising confidence. To have met a good friend and inviting her to take a photograph supported me in my adventure.
  • It matured and I can see now that this might actually evolve into a series – or just a different sensibility to putting me out there.
  • Once more, after the Showcase experience, questions of how to invite and engage with an audience appeared. Or just to leave my indexical trace alone ?
  • Open Questions of what might be allowed in public spaces? When to ask permission? Whom to ask? What if I make some interventions without asking (subversive)?
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Visit: Ferdinand Hodler // Parallelism – Kunstmuseum Bern

screenshot youtube video, copyright Kunstmuseum Bern

During my stay in Bern, now as a visitor and not any longer as a resident, I went to the current retrospective of the Bern born Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler (1853 – 1918). The best exhibition covered 10 rooms on two floors, and one focal point on the ground floor was ‘Parallelism’, the art theory relating to nature’s harmony, symmetry, and rhythm with a cosmic beauty. Through the compositional principles and parallels in cultural and nature that distinction would have become obsolete for Hodler.

For me an opportunity to study a Modernist painter and to see what to take away from this for my own work. Would it give me some new insights? Or a desire to paint figurative and in nature? Compared to my recent visit to Humphries the paintings did not smell any longer of oil paint, more a smell of museums archives. Some picture frames truly conveyed this sense of ‘old’.

‘I love clarity in a painting, and that is why I love parallelism. In many of my paintings I have chosen four or five figures to express a single feeling, because I know that repetition of a single thing deepens the impression. – Ferdinand Hodler, 1904

Hodler made the main large works of ‘Parallelism’ in the 1890s. Compositional formal aspects seeem to have guided the artist in painting human sensations in context of nature: symmetrical elements, lines, repetitive elements. Examples are: Les âmes déçues (The Disappointed Souls)’, 1892 or La Nuit (The Night)’, 1889-90. The number five seems to be quite a balanced number for Hodler, as quite a number of paintings incorporated five figures, two on the left and right side of a central more pronounced figure (besides La Nuit also in The Day, 1900)

I was somehow intrigued by the sharp appearance of the figures, at times with black outlines. I compared them with the reproductions in the exhibition book on site and was a bit disappointed for the ‘bad’ print. But it seemed to be an apt sensation I developed – in front of a painting with the title ‘The Disappointed Souls’ (Fig. 1)

Exhibition view - Hodler ‘Les âmes déçues’ - front reproduction, back painting; photograph: SJSchaffeld

Fig. 1: Exhibition view – Hodler ‘Les âmes déçues’ – front reproduction, back painting; photograph: SJSchaffeld

 

While posting this as another reproduction as a digital image in this post, I realize how difficult it becomes to express a difference visually through a similar technique, in this case reproduction of lens based captured images.

The more intriguing aspect of those works for me (besides the clarity of the figures) was the interplay between positive and negative space, the contrast between dark nearly black color and light, often skin tone color. I studied composition and tonal contrast more in detail on above mentioned two works (Fig 2)

Sketchbook - composition and tonal studies

Fig. 2: Sketchbook – composition and tonal studies

 

In another room I was fascinated by another powerful compositional tool: the diagonal.  And the juxtaposition of two paintings Woodcutter, 1910 and Portrait of Gertrud Mueller, 1911. The diagonal, filling the space of the framed painting, adding a sense of tension or balance to the whole picture. Both paintings are dynamic in their expression based on the conscious use of formal compositional elements. However, to a different end.

Exhibition view; photograph: SJSchaffeld

Fig: 3: Exhibition view; photograph: SJSchaffeld

The later work of the 20th Century are without depiction of human figuration, more capturing the essence of the Swiss landscape, a reduction towards essentials, e.g. Moench with Clouds, 1911 or The Niessen on a Rainy Day, 1910 Through their reduction to essentials the pictures turn nearly into symbols. Symbols for a landscape that became nearly a stereotype for Switzerland: mountains and lakes. Artists as J.M.W. Turner but also contemporary artists eg Emma Stibbon went to Switzerland in order to capture that essence. And I could truly relate some of Hodler’s paintings (e.g. Thunersee mit Niesen, 1910) as they reminded me of my own on-site sketchbook paintings of same scenery during my past PoP1 unit (Fig. 4)

'The Mountain Cries' , (c)SJSchaffeld, 2016

Fig. 4: ‘The Mountain Cries’ , (c)SJSchaffeld, 2016

 

In a smaller separate room were a collection of books, contemporaries of Holder, whose authors had a significant influence on his conceptions. Examples on display:  art theorist Charles Blanc,  zoologist Ernst Haeckel who emphasized symmetry as a constructive principle of nature,  Gustav Theodor Fechner and Ernst Mach who postulated the hypothesis of ‘psycho-physical parallelism’ as a correspondence between the physical and the psychical, body and soul. Especially the latter idea resonates with my approach in art therapy that mental disorders and physical diseases are not separate. 

Take aways:

  • Visual impact of compositional formal aspects
  • Feeling that art theories as Parallelism could lead eventually towards a dead end when seen as a paradigm
  • The difference it makes to me seeing and experiencing paintings versus reproductions in a wider sense.
  • The idea of capturing sensations or human emotions through repetition, as Hodler did do so with repetition of number of figures.
  • The power of simple but accurate execution of paintings

Featured image:

  • Screenshot from youtube video (Kunstmuseum Bern, 2018b), copyright Kunstmuseum Bern

Reference:

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Project 3.2: Appropriation

StefanJSchaffeld (2016) ?Keti Koti - Appropriating Olympia (detail) oil painting

This part of the course is not only, but also about working from images, appropriating images or others, to make new works, to add or to subtract something. Would this be a copyright infringement or the way art works? Some further insight reminded me of my previous exploration on Flatland and abstract narratives, where I do quote here some expression that I feel are getting more important for me.

Sherrie Levine applied in her ‘Statement’ from 1982 (Harrison and Wood , 2003:1038-39) a post-structuralist approach to photography by referring to painting as the model for appropriation. She rejected the notion of original as an author’s statement but considers any visual work as a trigger comprised of signs and deferred meanings that only in the viewer’s mind is being actualized.  This mirrors what Michael Ranta was stating: 

“narration always co-created with the viewer, kind of ‘script’ as a “generalized sets of expectations about what will happen in well-understood situations .”- Michael Ranta, 2011

Levine’s statement could be also seen as an anti-capitalist and anti-Modernist viewpoint in overcoming the notion to consider a piece or artwork merely by its exchange-value.

Glen Brown (Myers, 2011:167-168) sees appropriation in art as a visual commentary referring to verbal commentary on a work. By that he put visual works onto the same level as language, i.e. making a painting similar to a written essay. I am wondering how he would see somehow else appropriating his works? And if visual commentary is similar to verbal language, why don’t we just talk? I do believe that visual images have more to convey than just words. However, Brown’s viewpoint resonates with Gottfried Boehm question, that

“if the image is in truth reduced to being merely a monstrative repetition of what has already been said previously – a sort of detour taken by language – it has no sovereignty of right and can only remain confined to a copy-image, a second image.” – Gottfried Boehm, 2010

Jan Verwoert (2007) compares two stages of appropriation due to a difference in cultural sensibility in the immediate post-modernism and Cold War era (1960s) and the later stage post-Cold War era (since 1989). The first stage characterized by a freezing-in of time through art historical appropriation and still images, e.g. the staged stills from films as seen in the work of Cindy Sherman or Yasumasa Morimura, both embracing still images as an interrogation of historical and cultural conventions and prevailing conceptions.

The second stage as a return to temporal movement as it has been reflected in the growth of global communities and decline of stable, frozen markets (e.g. collapse of Soviet Union). The atemporal world was reflected in a timeless material culture and a notion of discontinuity of history. The later and contemporary stage characterized by a ‘multiplicity of spatialized realities’ reflecting on parallelities in a globally connected world.

Could this parallelism be a different view on the previous, modernist art movement of Parallelism as I’ve seen in the recent exhibition in Basel of Ferdinand Hodler and parallellism ? But instead drawing parallels between a binary nature-culture paradigm, now drawing parallels between multiplicity of cultures? 

‘Temporalities in commodity cultures like strata in the skin’ – Verwoert, 2007

Verwoert relates with this sentence to material culture, appropriation a question of property as a question of spacial allocation (where was it owned, where is it displaced to?). He considers current appropriation approaches as a temporal one where the object is not any longer a commodity fetish in space and in-time but as an object that lives ‘through time’, and where the discontinuity of history is reflected in an endless loop of a void of historical meaning. One of the concluding points is the hollowness of seeking historical meaning in appropriated images.

‘allegory as a rhetoric form to capture the experience of the present that the historical language of modernism is dead and in ruins….signifier in ruins that exposes the ruin of signification.’  – Owens , quoted by Verwoert

The author quotes Craig who considered modern appropriation as a modern fetish, a desire to pastiche past fetish objects together into new meaning, a meaning that apparently is void of historical meaning, leaving behind  a fetish desire. Fetish because one takes pleasure in the de-signification. And according to Jameson the intensity of the presence as an atemporal sensation and at the same of time multi-temporal nature resembles a schizophrenic experience due to loss of linear time experiences and an experience between ‘depression and ecstasy’. With these references to art critiques and referring to Gothic novels when expressing his view that modern appropriation is recalling dead ghosts from the past , the author concludes that it is language as a performative act or actor staging those sensations and renewed meanings. He places the author aka artist into a role of a considered stage director who directs the staging of a work and its effects. However, this seems to be a dangerous play as instead of possessing this work and effects it could possess one self (author citing Derrida). What brings me back to fetishism and the power we embed into objects of any kind. The main conclusion the author draws is that

‘Appropriation .. is about performing the unresolved by staging object, images or allegories that invoke the ghosts of unclosed histories in a way that allows them to appear as ghosts and reveal the nature of the ambiguous presence.’ -Verwoert, 2007

By referring to Derrida, the author considers modern appropriation as a ‘concern for justice’ and as a ‘question of practice’, and not as a quest to resolve the past.

Stefan513593 -Catch_Paint_Move - screenshot

Fig. 1: Appropriating Richard Serra – spatial expansion of the catching hand

In this context, I find the work of the Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum quite representative for the notion of dislocation, displacement, dysfunctional, and unsettling moments of non-resolving ambiguity and past tensions (Said, 2011) It is the staging of a broken past through dysfunctional domestic objects in the present space without resolving it or providing comfort that makes Hatoum’s work a contemporary work of appropriation of cultural artefacts that speaks to the Palestinian experience of displacement.

‘Narrative potential lies in everyday objects and materials, and their embedded cultural associations. Through extensive research, acts of appropriation, or performance, layers of meaning can be uncovered. Individual experience as a means of conveying stories.’ – Guggenheim Museum, 2016 

When it comes to my own practice and how I consider appropriation, copyright and the right to ‘visually comment’, I feel reminded of a previous issue of the OCA student led Edge-zine SHARE (no.5, 2017).  The scope was to expand on the word ‘share’ and especially in context of collaboration. Images or words that act as an input for another, And the entire work is such of a collaborative work, one not without the other. I contributed to that issue with  a project done with two fellow students. It also brings up to my mind a project done for painting 1: ‘Keti Koti’, remembering the abolition of slavery (1863) and the presence of modern slavery, especially targeting women through sex trafficking (Schaffeld, 2016). One painting I did was appropriating Édouard Manet’s Olympia, 1863 -> Appropriating Olympia (featured image) with some reverted roles. Reflecting on it a bit dense and raw, but for me a visual commentary on the observation that the background female slave was not really a scope of discourse, neither at Manet’s time nor now.

During my UVC studies, I explored aspects of appropriation as a cultural sensibility, kind of resurfacing past memories, or as Verwoert stated, the ghosts of the past. This can be seen in a way of making or perceiving differences in the same work but at a different time or different place, e.g. in some works of Michael Asher, Art&Language, or Fred WIlson (Schaffeld, 2017). Key take away for me were: Appropriation as a technique to challenge political, social and cultural beliefs and questioning art perception and meaning of art . Regarding ‘originals’, the question is whether one considers the idea, or the object is the original, When it comes to music or writing, that distinction get even more blurred, i.e. a book purchased is always a copy, a reproduction, but what is the original? the manuscript? the idea? In music similar: the idea of the composer? the handwritten notes? the first performance? What makes visual art different? And how is digital creation influencing that definition?

Conclusion

  • Appropriation as recalling past memories, under the condition of present prevailing knowledge, beliefs, assumptions, sensibilities. 
  • A sense of fairness: when concealing, and for an engaging viewer not discernible, the intention of the artist might be a critical moment: profit gain thus forgery, deceiving, or subversion?
  • Appropriation as something in-between: going beyond the object’s exchange value and having more of a cultural conceptual value. And this conceptual meaning resembles for me an abstract narrative, the artwork in itself just the trigger.
  • Interpretation is in the viewer’s mind (see Levine’ statement), once a work is out in the public it is out of control, even destroying the work would not destroy the way it has been received. It could even turn into an imprint in an artist’s person, e.g. Levine is quite often just connected with her appropriation works. 
  • The expression of Verwoert that material culture relates to ‘temporalities in commodity cultures like strata in the skin’ quite insightful and wondering how this could influence not only my own practice and project.
  • Objects, including physical artworks, as fetishes, resonating well with my previous exploration. Is appropriation one way to overcome this, or just to create another fetish?
  • Language as a performative act – with schizophrenic sensibility of multitemporal exposure – but with a ‘concern for justice’ (Derrida). Artworks as creating tension and ambiguity to hold past memories in the present moment.

 


Images:

  • Fig. 1: Schaffeld, SJ (2018) ‘Screenshot from performative painting Catch-Paint-Move’
  • Featured image: Schaffeld, S.J. (2016) Keti Koti – Appropriating Olympia (detail) [oil painting]

Reference:

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Symbolism of hands and/or feet

How does it look when searching for ‘hands’ and ‘feet’ in social media?

Pinterest: Hands and Feet

Instagram: 5 Mio hits on ‘hands‘ and 10 Mio hits on ‘feet

Google: 9 Bio hits on ‘hands‘ and 1 Bio hits on ‘feet‘, and the results become more interesting when combined with ‘gesture’ : ‘hands gesture‘ and ‘feet gesture

What it tells me, that hands and feet are so abundant and present in our cultures around the world, that they play an important part of how we interact socially with each other. More than just mere body parts, they are part of identity. Hands and feet telling a story of the person, how they behave, how they live.

Hands are more connected with openness, the clean aspect, the head with a sacred aspect, and feet with the dirty ground, the unclean, the filthy aspects, eg. in Thailand it is rude to show the sole of the feet, and in Arab countries it is rude to show the shoe. The feet, the bottom of the body is the lowest rank, what adds the meaning to washing one’ s feet signifies humility and servanthood, to be second to another person. Christ as the sacred king subordinating himself to others.

Hand gestures are constrained by cultural conventions. Gestures are pre-lingual, infant start to explore the world with gestures, hand gestures do point and sign, they give meaning to content, and often lingual words derive from gestures. Hand gestures become a cultural secret language as today emojicons, signs for conventions. What is fine in one culture can be rude in another. Cultural appropriation need to consider differences. From my own experience and life in various countries and cultures, I became more humble to non-verbal expressions. At times hard to distinguish, other times one way to engage with people. But always with an attitude of not knowing how it might be perceived.

Besides hands and feet, body gestures and facial expression do also play a social role. Overall, we as human beings do communicate through many verbal and non-verbal channels. At the end it seems so complex, that eventually the wholeness of a person becomes the Gestalt that one perceives. The Gestalt that actually made its turn in art through Minimal Art.

Comparing and Contrast

At my visit to the National Portrait Gallery, London I came across her work Malala, 2018 (NPG 7052),  a photographic work of Shirin Neshat (b. 1957), an Iranian visual artist living in the USA. Malala Yousafzai (b. 1997) is an activist and recent Nobel Prize Winner. Yousafzai fights for human rights and especially the right of education of girls. During an attack in 2012 she was shot in her head, and fortunately recovered.  In the NPG her portrait was a focus point of attention to the vast amount of visitors walking through.

Neshat manually inscribed on the photographic print, the area of the unveiled skin, a poem by the Pashto poet Rahmat Shah Sayel, 2011. Whereas, in a second photograph (NPG 7053), not on display at NPG, the inscription is in the background, leaving the skin ‘untouched’. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find translations of the poetry, leaving me with the graphic and rhythmic appeal of an additional visual layer. For Neshat, poetry is a cultural heritage of importance, of cultural identity, poetry as a philosophical and mystic dimension of life (Bates, 2013). Interestingly, compared to her ealier series ‘Women of Allah‘, 1993-97 where she inscripted poems of female writers during the Islamic Revolution talking about their role and ‘martyrdom’, she took for ‘Malala’ the poem of a male writer.

She addresses questions of gender and conflicts from her remote place considering the life of women in Iran. The veil for women was enforced in Iran in 1983 after the Islamic Revolution. Before women did walk through the streets as men, unveiled. Neshat places through her photograph portraits women in a position of power, empowered by poems, and with a direct gaze, at times rather deadpan faces, towards the camera aka the viewer of the images. The gaze in reference to the prevailing conception of the male gaze is returned back, challenging the objecthood of women.

According to Young, Neshat appropriated four symbols reflecting Western conceptions of the Islamic World: the veil, the gun, the text and the gaze. Her use of B&W images puts more focus on symbolic meanings and less on portrait emotions. Overall, one could consider her works as a dialogue with conflicts and paradox situations, questioning conceptions of the role of an Islamic woman (Young, 2015) 

Another interesting photograph with a visual pun is her work  My House is On Fire, from The Book of Kings series, 2012 , as if the hand’s force on the breast created those graphic words.


Compared to Neshat bold women portraits, Douglas Gordon (b. 1966) uses split video sets in his workThe Divided Self, 1996 (Juliá, 2012). The gap and dislocation of body parts and the tension in that space between, the invisible, the viewer can engage with the narrative of the person struggling with himself. Over time becoming clear that the artist himself is wrestling with himself, not two people. I can relate this to the earlier video work of Richard Serra Hands Tight, 1968, where two performers wrestling with hands tied together. 

Gordon visualizes in a the paradox installation of contained TV sets and the gap in between both, the conditions of human nature, the at times rather paradox mental states, the eventually could result in mental disorders of dissociative ego states, like the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, two separate persons.

Often, his duo-screen videos are installed at an angle, corner, e.g. 24 hour Psycho , 1993, what makes the viewing experience more inclusive, kind of embodied experience around one.


In the OCA discuss forum a current thread is about self – portrait in photography, the anxiety and the unease that comes along with making self-portraits photographs (considering self-portrait in the conventional sense of making a reproduction of one own’s head, face or body) Cindy Sherman (b. 1954) uses props, costumes etc. to step herself into staged personas, enacted self or cultural identities, challenging conceptions of identity and how we perceive others through a superficial appearance. She appropriates still image from movies, commercials, and even pornography. Sherman explores through the staged personas and identities question of constructive selfs and questions related to ‘aging in a youth- and status-obsessed society’ (Stigh and Doyle, 2012). How we perceive beauty and how we consider honesty through photographic imagery. At times with quite some unsettling sensations when seeing her works, e.g. Sex Pictures, 1989 – 1992.


Featured Image: 

  • Screenshot from Pinterest search ‘Hands – Art – gesture’

Reference:

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Project 3.2: Becoming an image

Stefan513593 - Body and Image - self portraits from POP1
Before looking deeper into some artists’ works and their writing, I do wonder how I perceive body and image as of today.
 
The body as a vulnerable physical matter protected through a skin. Skin as I explored in previous exercise, not as clothing surrounding us in a cultural environment, but as the human skin – when naked we expose ourselves to vulnerability, physical and conceptual –  or even metaphorical. My previous works do reflect somehow this sensibility through it translucent materiality. 
How does our body reflect what we are? Is the body a self, our identity? Some reflection – using the ‘Inspiration‘ app while travelling. I took some reference to a past exhibition visit in 2016 in Zurich on self-portraits ‘Me/Not Me‘ .
 
visual mapping of what I know - mapping on the go

Fig. 1: visual mapping of what I know – mapping ‘on the go’

 

The painterly human body

 
SKIN
 
to paint with = brush
   to paint on = canvas
   to paint of = object
   to paint through = performance
 
 
 
Being reminded of my ‘body as brush’ paintings during PoP1 as an expansion of self-portrait, made with gouache ‘ The Eyes of the Skin‘ (Schaffeld, 2016 – see featured image) – the title as reference to the book The Eyes of the Skin (2005) by Juhani Pallasmaa.
 
My thoughts wandering around the skin and identity, something that resonates well in the work of Boo Ritson. And body and skin reminds me strongly of touch, possibly the most intimate human sensation. Reminding me of my past exhibition visit in Basel Prière de toucher, 2016. From touching the skin to belief – reminiscence to ‘Emblemata’ and allegorical subject of the five senses in 16th and 17th century art – touching as a haptic process and experience for the blind, up to scratching the skin like a sculptural material, quite a violent act (reminding me of the symptoms of some borderline people). At the exposure of body and skin to pain and violent interventions brings me to Ana Mendieta, and even more to the performative works of Marina Abramovic and to a lesser extent to Carolee Schneeman. In found the book ‘The Body in Contemporary Art’ (O’Relly, 2009), now more fascinating for me than some time ago, with one example of Daniel Joseph Martinez Self Portrait #9  (p.182) putting his hand deep inside his stomach (manipulated photographs) – appropriating Gustave Moreau Prometheus ,1868 – what brings me possibly closer to my personal project of inside-out, the skin and the inner parts, the body and identity. 
 
It also reminds me of the video work ‘Pickelporno‘ by Pipilotta Rist, on that I wrote my final assignment essay for UVC, an intimate close-up view on skin and the human body at sexual intercourse transformed into psychedelic landscapes and eruption of colors. 
 
I found incidentally the works of the artist Yasumusa Morimura, quite close to works if Cindy Sherman or Gillian Wearing.  He stages himself in historical scenes, using appropriation through enactment as a tool to challenge
‘What is history? What is historical truth? – Yasumasa Morimura 
He started in 1985 with making self-portraits using prosthetics and cosmetics as sets assuming a role of figures that signify more than themselves (Hiji, 2018) And as a non-Western, asian man he subverts tropes and concepts of masculinity and femininity, e.g the concept of the “male gaze” .
 
Cindy Sherman uses her own body, make-up, prosthetics, costume and props to speak about issues around the depiction of women in society and culture. In the OCA discuss forum a current thread is about self – portrait in photography, the anxiety and the unease that comes along with making self-portraits photographs (considering self-portrait in the conventional sense of making a reproduction of one own’s head, face or body). Staging a self through a maskerade could be seen as just another selfie-persona, but could be also seen as a sensibility to draw attention to conventions we often take for granted.
 

The Make up Body

The artist Boo Ritson (b. 1969) merges conventional classifications of painting, sculpture, performance and photography, the final work as object though is a photograph of a sitter covered with thick paint and photographed when paint was still wet. Apparently, she had only 20min to take the photograph after painting before it dried (Davies, 2011). At first one might see these works just as body-paintings, as a make-up for a party or just for fun. I felt reminded of the video work Art Make Up, 1967 of Bruce Nauman (Tramontin, 2016) seen at the retrospective in Basel: a painterly exploration of the self, with the painted surface taken over a deferred meaning.

‘I’m not a photographer; I’m an artist who uses photography. In its raw state, my work can only be seen by me and the people I work with, so photography is essential. I can’t show my work without it.’ – Boo Ritson (Benedictus, 2007)

I am wondering whether she takes herself the photographs or does work with the photographer Andy Crawford ?(Davies, 2011) A question of copyright and ownership? Or the photographer as the assistant to execute, hired by RItson? So, not truly a collaboration? Topics, I discussed in April with Caroline Wright during London Study Day.

Her work is informed by or appropriating of American road movies.  Her series ‘Back Road Journey’s is considered by the artist as ‘unfinished’ pieces, models painted in white and halfway painted in color, reminiscence of the blank canvas (Aesthetica, 2009). The process she applied reminds me also of some works by Helen Chadwick, e.g. her ‘Wreath to pleasure’ series, photographs of living materials, decaying over time.

The paint could be considered as a skin, enclosing or concealing the layer, the body below (Saatchi Gallery). It reminds me of the plaster masks that we made at school, casted with tissues of plaster put onto the face with holes for eyes, mouth, and nose to breath, waiting till it is roughly dry and tearing if off: masks as the skin peeled off, masks to paint and to manipulate dislocated, displaced on a table, kind of externalization of what is part of oneself.  It is mentioned that she used household paint, I am pondering health topics (did she applied a protective layer underneath?). 

Raising questions what is art, what is the object of art (the final photograph? the process of painting the sitter? 

We do not see the sitter but the character they have become.- Source: davidrisleygallery.com 

The photographs do convey a creepy sense for me, reminding me of the ‘uncanny valley’, a term coined by Masahiro Mori in 1970 relating to the creation of robots with human appearance. The sensation one could have when it is not clear whether the figure in front of one is artificial or human, e.g a prosthetic hand (Schaffeld, 2017). And like the prosthetic hand Ritson’s photographed painted models seem to reside somehow between the painted skin and the human sitter. 

‘The ‘Cast’ are the people that the people I know could be, if they weren’t the people I know. They give the work its texture, like the characters in a film’. – Boo Ritson (Saatchi)

Besides the blur between disciplines, Ritson’s work also questions the relationship between the sitter, her as the painter and the paint. What does the sitter adds to the work? Does Ritson knows anything about them, and is this even relevant at all? The paint can be seen as an additional skin, a layer of closing, though it conveys more a sense of enclosure, encapsulation. Is the sitter free to escape? The ‘overpainted’ persons get a sense of fragility, like porcelain, I think due to the glossy shin of the wet paint. On the other hand, the persons are being portrait and archived forever through their masks, they will live further, even after the sitter’s death.

In other series, e.g. ‘D is for Donut‘, 2011, Ritson places the models in context, a landscape environment, adding more layers, making the painted models look more vivid, e.g Bear Creek, Alabama (Davies, 2011) or Prairie View, Texas

A slightly different approach takes Rachel Russell with her either painted models series (with context) or her performative painting (2012) as enactment of Philip Gustons’ painting, The Studio, 1969. I find it fascinating how well she translated Guston’s hues and composition into her space. Just an interesting aspect, that she didn’t appropriated Guston’s meta-picture, the painting inside the painting. In her performative painting she paints a different subject. It reminds of Levine’s work, appropriating a work in a different context, the image as such just a background ‘noise’.

Take-away and questions

  • Photography as documentation painting (resonates with some of my earlier approaches)
  • Making photographs of a work as a job of hiring a photographer, as an assistant? The reproduction bear Ritson’s name, or not? 
  • Portraiture: more about the artist or the sitter? Ritson’s work seems to sit in-between, void of personality of the sitter, and still with an uncanny sense of presence.
  • Paint as skin, as material to encapsulate, to conceal. But also to reveal new meaning, to add another deferred layer in a literal sense. The Body as skin, the skin as paint, the paint as concealing and dislocating – aspects that do intrigue me
  • Appropriation of past works, or of identities, or of context – a question to be considered and looked at deeper

 


Image:

  • Featured image: Paitings and photographs of me and my body imprints, done as part of daily parallel project during PoP1 (c)SJSchaffeld, 2016

Reference:

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Visits: Julie Mehretu – Helen Chadwick

Fragmentation - Assemblage - Sketchbook ideas

Julie Mehretu at White Cube Mason’s Yard (21 September 2018 – 3 November 2018): ‘Sextant

An Exhibition of more recent works from 2018 by Mehretu with a joined text by the curators stating`Featuring large-scale paintings and etchings, the exhibition highlights Mehretu’s use of gestural abstraction as a conduit for evocative and charged emotion and intellectual enquiry.’

She applied a multiple layered process in the large scale paintings in the basement that I found especially intriguing, perhaps as they combined color and gestural marks broader than possibly her previous works. Her starting are found images, manipulated in Photoshop, and airbrushed onto canvas. From this rather abstracted picture created she continued with layers of screen printing, ink and acrylic paint – applying broad strokes and marks, challenging conceptions of whether this is a drawing or a painting. A space in-between resonating with how I find my place at the moment. Following a Fine Arts degree, working currently on a painting course, I am wondering whether the work in itself should not be more important than a classification. Questions of wether the work engages the viewer and opens questions might be more relevant for me.

One could see her process works as layers of memories, materialized through paint or other media. Faded images as abstract reflections do allow a more holistic view on the work as such. The power of the applied colors in relationship with marks, edges and soft tones. The room as such seemed to be activated by the energy of her paintings.

Compared to the basement room, I found the upper room with more monochrome and mostly aquatint techniques quite dull. Not that thoses didnt’ have a certain appeal, but I found the energy to be quite different.

Fig. 1: Installation views – digital collage , photo: SJSchaffeld / Copyright: Mehretu, White Cube

Helen Chadwick (1953-1996) – a reading encounter at the British Library

I pre-registered abroad as a reader to the British Library, and was excited to reserve upfront some book to read in the reading room ‘Humanities’. I registered beforehand and now I am an official BL reader.

Chadwick’s subjects are often around a gender sensibility and to the material side of life. One of her main disruptive series is ‘Viral Landscapes’ (Walker, 2010) –  viral in relation to microbiological phenomena. She feels attracted by Roccoco, the decorative and moving element pulsing at the same time. Roccoco is quite close to the Baroque and the aspect of movement and concealing is an aspect I looked at since part one of my current course. 

I found her sketchbooks pages interesting as they allowed me to look inside the artist’s approach of working, how she uses various media and visual thinking in developing her works (Fig. 2). 

Helen Chadwick's sketchbook notes (book scan)

Fig. 2: Helen Chadwick’s sketchbook notes on developing ‘Wreath to Pleasure’ (book scan – taken in reading room of DrawingRoom)

Her sense of materiality is reflected in her earlier sculptures made of cloth, vinyl, rubber, latex, hair. She used photography to document the objects as they were worn by models or performed. I find this resonating as at times I am wondering how photography sits in my working approach.

Her idea development alongside her photography approach is reflected in her series Wreath to Pleasure, 1992-93. Formal composition, mandala like using various materials (flowers, creams, soap etc.) to convey senses of touch and pleasure sensations. the work as such are volatile sculptural compositions. The works on display are printed photographs (C-prints on aluminium faced MDF, framed in circular powder coated steel frames) of these compositions, executed to high quality. I very much like her approach to transmit sensations through materiality, although the final work is ‘material-less’, ie. a flat glossy reproduction. 

On the other hand she worked with performance to present work, as a display of things relating to the body. Kind of moving ‘tableaux vivant‘ with an emphasis on the body as subject in relation to the object (Chadwick, Walker, 2013)

Her work ‘of  mutability‘ are photocopies, using the photocopier as camera, everything has been placed onto the glass plate of the copier, and subsequently creating out of each image a composite, a mosaic of hundreds of pieces of photo copy. The machine as an object that performs and the artist’s gesture is the intervention through an assemblage approach. This approach to  In another work she reflects on spheres as representing fingertips that explode (Chadwick, 2011).

 

Take aways:

  • Materiality can be seen quite differently: medium as material, material as medium, material as model, material as reference (e.g. for sensations)
  • Layering: Both artists do work with layering. Mehretu through a process of layering incorporating photography as a point of depature, and Chadwick photography as a way of documentation.
  • Visual exploration of ideas (Fig. 2) resonates well with the way I want to work
  • I feel that both artist will play a deeper role in my own practice and will look at a few aspects deeper:
    – object-subject relationship related to image (original, machines)
    – question of reproduction in the process of making
    – objects as precious things, mediated through participation , agency of the viewer
    – Fragmentation and concealing, an aspect that I do relate also to Jacqueline Humphries work.

Reference:

 

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Visit: Drawing Room ‘From the Inside Out’

My visit to DrawingRoom, London was suggested by fellow students who will attend a study visit on Nov. 3rd. I was excited to go and see that place and how artist explore the theme of the current exhibition was ‘From the Inside Out‘ (20 Sep – 11 Nov 2018). From the curator’s point of view it would be considered as a female and feminine approach to topics of vulnerability that often seem to be rather a tabu. interesting to note that the curators don’t walk about ‘feminist’ position, what shows me an increasing contemporary sensibility of a difference between feminist and feminine. The latter possibly, and considering the personal approach taken by the artists in this show, a more intimate and less political positioning. A curators’ perspective – but also resonating with my sensation on site.

‘the exhibition explores the capacity of drawing to convey the complexity and diversity of female” experience’ – Exhibition text

I knew one artist, Emma Talbot, who wrote an insightful article about her journey and struggle with and through painting (Talbot, 2017). One other artist Athena Papadopoulos was suggested to me by Catherine. The other two were new to me: Nilbar Güreş and Marie Jacotey.

In preparation of this visit I was positively surprised to see how the gallery was publishing further resources on their website: Besides the Exhibition guide also  Reading lists (selective books or articles chosen by the exhibiting artists or curators)

The exhibition was located in one room and with 17 pieces on display, on four walls, one piece on the floor and two on a plinth, and one suspended from the ceiling. Through this variety the room was activated, but not too full. I very much appreciated the reduced number of works, allowing me to spend more time with the works. Attached to this room, was a reading room with a table and book shelfs around. One shelf held a selection of books from the reading lists (other books were linked to amazon items)

Sketching on site FIg. 2: Sketching on site

I was intrigued by the multiplicity of layers and materiality alongside the expansion in space of the work of Athena Papadopoulos, especially her work Even Deader than Dead Grapevine, 2018 . With a connotation of a drape and with a strong presence. Layers of text, letter and words, embedded in thr work, used materials e.g. antlers with deferred meaning. Altogether, a work that kept my attention and I studied it more in detail through sketching.

Fig. 1: Sketching on siteThe other work that kept my attention was Frozen Zebra, 2017 of Nilbar Güres. A mesmerizing alternative pattern of black and white stripes making me dizzy when looking too closely at it. She stated that her work is related to her home country Turkey and the connection to a queer community. Fragments of human shapes, concealing full disclosure, only partly visible – a reflection on how she experienced life. 

The works by Emma Talbot are in more ‘illustrative’ narrative, at times amended with symbolic meaning. In a more sketchy way, Marie Jacotey is expressing her feelings and sensation of her living a female life with menstruation, pain, and feeling of death ideas. Her works reminded me often of diary sketches. 

Looking across the common theme of female expressions that according to the curators are often hidden or not expressed openly, I can understand the intention of the exhibition of getting things out, or as a quote by Helen Cixous mentioned in the joined text:

‘Woman must write herself …must put herself into the text’ – Helen Cixous

In that sense, I got a feeling of familiarity, resonating partly with what I experience in my work as art therapist. Inner mental images and partly visualized archetypes relating to C.G. Jung gave the exhibition a sense of raw expression. For me good to see how artists, all four are MA graduates, do express themselves in a more direct and at times symbolic manner. I will bookmark them for reference, useful to talk about in my art therapy practice as well. 

Overall, I left with a mixed sensation – between my curiosity of exploring painting and drawing through materiality, and a concern of being overly symbolic and illustrative. Wondering how my fellow students do respond to the exhibition at the study visit.


Images:

  • Featured Image: Installation view with my reflection in the work Gloria in excelcis, 2018 of Marie Jacotey, photograph SJSchaffeld
  • Fig. 1: Sketchbook page, SJSchaffeld

Reference:

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Visits: Identity & Technology

Stefan514593 - Parallel Project - sketchbook

Wellcome Collection

After suggestions by my tutor and others I visited the Wellcome Trust Collection. The Wellcome Trust has the ambition to bring science, health and thriving life together through embracing new and creative ideas. 

For me there were two aspects to that visit:

  1. Seeing the collection and get possibly new viewpoints on medical imaging and arts that could inform my personal project
  2. Engaging with the people to see how I could benefit from an exchange of ideas. 

The second point kept still open as I have to undergo a written request (ongoing). On the first point I got a few ideas of creative transcriptions of medical imaging techniques.

Artist works:

  • Michael Hopkins (2004) Untitled: He applied white ink on slate to freely and more gestural with eraser and stiff bristle brushes to make suggestive abstract works , appropriating x-ray visuals of the human body (bones structure)
  • Annie Cattrell (2001-03) SenseShe uses functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)technique to visualize human five senses (touch, smell, taste, hearing and seeing). The generated scans of active brain zones were converted into three-dimensional  structures of amber resin using rapid-phototyping process. 
  • Chris Drury (2003) Landscape of the Heart: A layered and interwoven work consisting of ECG patterns and a mountain landscape, linking heart rate increase when one climbs the mountain. The artist stated ‘to make mind and visual connections’ between microcosm and macrocosm. 

I was surprised that I could find these works. For me perhaps too literal takes and visualization of the process. Not sure it is the way I want to move forward. Nevertheless, it made me aware of how sculptural elements, layering (Drury) and isolation (Cattrell) could be used to explore invisible things.

In context of medical imaging, I was excited to see OCA student Beverly Duckworth’s work ‘Capsula’ at SHOWCASE. Understanding that her work has been selected for the May 2018 conference ‘Becoming Image: Medicine and the Algorithmic Gaze.’ by Digital insides, supported by Wellcome and UCL, made it even more fascinating. Unfortunately, not having much time to talk with Bev, I am starting to see a wider picture of medical imaging in arts and some key artists, institutions etc.  What I saw from the various works was that nearly all of them are digital lens based or using primary medical imagery as such for the work. Wondering how painting could leverage or providing a different viewpoint on this. It might seem a stretch to move from medical techniques to painting or video, though both have in common the visualization effect and a deferred meaning. What the eye sees (paint or curves or images) is not what one stays at, it goes deeper, a process of reflection and encoding of signs is happening.

I find the idea of layering technical patterns with gestural patterns an interesting idea. Something that I can relate to the works of Jacqueline Humphries and Jillian Mayer.

Both encounters were rather a coincidence than a planned trip. Browsing the current  galleriesnow.net map I was intrigued by how both artist explore sense of identity technology, wondering whether I could get some further inspirations for my personal project. 

Sketching ideas for PP - inspired by exhibition visits and talks

Fig. 1: Sketching ideas for PP – inspired by exhibition visits and talks

 

 

Jacqueline Humphries 

At Modern Art Gallery Vyner Street (02 Oct – 10 Nov 2018)

All new large scale paintings from 2018. Entering the newly ‘White Cube’ (reconstructed one year ago) I could smell the oil paint, kept my attention and made me aware why I love oil paintings (versus rather sterile acrylic paint when finished and installed). 

Humphries (b. 1960) is an accomplished abstract painter and the new works on display is her process driven encounter with her older paintings seen through a layer of digital information technique. She converted the visual scanned information into ASCII strings, made from these strings larger sheets of laser cut stencils, and pushed through these holes thick paint manually onto the canvas surface. A process form analogue through digital towards analogue again. With subsequent erasing those paint partly and with added gestural strokes, she created mesmerizing works, decontextualized (nearly void) and with an emphasis on an aesthetic outcome. The joined text states that

‚the emotive content contains traces of memory and ghosts in the process of their translation‘ – Modern Art Gallery

I like the idea of memory and fascimiles, layers of time and space developing into something new. Her stencil approach resonates with some of my explorations with cut-outs and overpainting, exploring shapes and edges.

It is a very tactile approach to code, encoded information. Something that I like compared to some more literal translations of coded (medical) date as seen at Wellcome Collection (see above). A possible approach to my more embodied encounter with MRI imagery.

 

Jillian Mayer

At Annka Kultys Gallery (24 Oct – 24 Nov 2018)

Quite a shift to see Mayer’s work. All video art from the filmmaker who co-runs the company Borscht and openly publishes on YouTube. Fluent with media and exploring liminal experiences in a digital age impacting our sense of identity. Instructional videos how to disguise one’s face to move undetected in public spaces (considering the presence of facial detectors), how facial measure could tell more about oneself than in would expect, and a musical performance as a work between video, film, and musical. At times with a dystopian sense reminding me of the film ‘Matrix’. 

I looked up the artist website and found her painterly sculptures ‘Slumpies’, useable sculptures that either enforce or enable a posture typical for some cultural habits of interaction with smartphones, or making selfies. Fascinating for me to see the ‘rawness’ of the sculptures that I could related to the ‘rawness’ of the objects in my Object-Box. An appearance my tutor was questioning. Mayer sees the ‘lack of conscientious design as an ad hoc solution made from simple materials in direct contradiction to the sleek forms and designs, and the marketing culture, that defines our intimate dependence on technology.’ (Artist website at: https://www.jillianmayer.net/slumpies-1

I was thrilled to have an engaging talk with the gallery owner. The gallery was upstairs above a shop, one open room with a desk and three walls. She even asked for my IG profile -what by itself was a ‘shocking’ moment for me after the private view at SHOWCASE – totally unexpected. But after visiting another small gallery in the same neighborhood made me aware of the importance of social media interaction with newer galleries. Something more traditional galleries, e.g. Marlborough Gallery, would be less engaged with. For me, to think how and what I want to use which channel for.

Conclusion

Technology, eg medical imaging techniques, could be either translated literally through drawing and painting (eg Hopkins, Cattrell), or layered with paint as fragments and memory (eg Drury, Humphries) or just using primary imagery for new ways of seeing at things, alongside an aesthetic appeal of the resulting work (e.g Duckworth). Making the invisible visible relating to how it impacts our self image (Mayer) is showing through her layered video projects. 

I take away the idea of layering of coded information with gestural marks, technology created patterns as a layer in between. 

After my visit to London and some further visual encounters with various works and artists, I sense a better understanding on how things might move forward. I sketched a few ideas on one of my many tube rides and am exciting to play around with some of them when back in my studio. 

I will definitely reach out to more people (e.g Liz Orton from Digital Insides, or Wellcome) to see how this could evolve. But first to make some practical stuff – as I feel that I need to phrase somehow my scope before talking with people who could possibly support me.


Reference:

  • Duckworth, B. (2018) [Email sent to Stefan Schaffeld, 29 Oct 2018]

 

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Virtual Study Visit (VCrits): Lee Miller and Viviane Sassen

The first virtual study visit organized by OCA was managed as a VCrits by photography tutor Helen Warburton. The visit covered two exhibitions at the Hepworth Wakefield museum (22 June – 07 Oct 2018): ‘Lee Miller and Surrealism in Britain‘ and ‘Viviane Sassen – Hot Mirror‘.  I was not be able to visit in person, thus prepared myself with the marvellous resource package provided beforehand with good questions to reflect on and substantial numbers of online and offline references. The material perhaps too much to digest as a mere preparatory material, but definitely very helpful for future reference and deeper researches. I didn’t know the artists, and had some concerns about a totally photography focus, what really was not the case as it turned out. 

We were a group of 8 students from various pathways and levels plus Helen as tutor, two incl me were not from UK. Two students visited the exhibition in person what led to a good discussion around difference in virtual versus physical experiences (quite strong in Sassen’s video installation Totem)

Key learnings

  • Virtual study visits are different in quality versus physical study visits. Perhaps more contextual focused, whereas an physical visit seem to be more focused on the actual visual imageries. 
  • VCrits in the form of Google Meet do add a layer of reflection through various viewpoints, e.g. :
    – surrealism as a personal response to war traumatic experiences?
    – telling a story 
  • Considering the two shown artist’s works it became clear that both do act in a different time (around WWII and today), informing not only techniques used but also questions around identity and gendered roles and expectations
  • Role of the curator: Viviane Sassen were actively involved in making the exhibition, Lee Miller was ‘represented’ by curator’s voices, interpretations, and staging the show.

Take aways:

  • Before visiting an exhibition to compare what the gallery, curator and what press and/or the artist is saying about it. 
  • Considering the purpose of the exhibition (e.g. documentary, increase the visibility of an artist?)
  • Considering how images do reflect context of time and could be linked with different artists
  • Embracing artist’s talks and discern how online images versus physical encounters can change meaning and impact (also for my own work)
  • Viviane Sassen’s work Totem is really intriguing, a pity that I can’t see it in reality, as it adds a narrative through a rupture of the pictorial plane by the way mirrors and projection is installed. Very relevant to my current coursework.

 

Conclusion:
The kind of virtual study visits and VCrits was a pilot, new to all incl. to Helen. The package provided beforehand was outstanding (though it would have been good to add sizes of reproduced works) and close to a coursematerial. I believe it took quite some efforts from the authors to make it. A resource document valuable for future references as well. What opens the question of preparation for an exhibition or physical study visit that mostly do not include such comprehensive package. 

One comment from Helen to take further into account: to run such VCrits under students’s ownerships, perhaps with invitation of a tutor. Question of preparation as well.


Background on the two artists: 

Lee Miller (1907 – 1977): A pioneer of experimental and surreal photography from a female perspective. The exhibition text explained her role, at her time underestimated and mostly falling behind her male contemporaries as Man Ray, Henry Moore, and Roland Penrose (her later husband). She was a key person in the surrealist movement in Britain around the 1930s/1940s. As a fashion photographer working for Vogue she became during WWII a war photographer that made apparently a deep impact not in her time but also mentally on her health.

Viviane Sassen (b. 1972): A contemporary Dutch fashion photographer and artist living in Amsterdam with for me a strong painterly exploration of visual images through a more abstract approach. She explores the subconscious, the uncanny and the spiritual realm of dreams – quite in context of original surrealist thoughts as proaclaimed by André Breton in the ‘Surrealist Manifesto’ (1924). 

What I find interesting is her approach to photography crossing boundaries to other discoplines:

“I’m interested in material, texture and tactility. I’ve always been drawn to sculpture and painting, and photography – being a medium with such smooth surfaces –makes me particularly obsessed with texture!” – Viviane Sassen (Muraben, 2018)

 


Reference:

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Project 3.1: Working from props

Props, costumes, masks, models – disguise or make-up as absence of human body

After part two with my exploration of objects that do related to how we as human being relate to our non-human environment, more a mental exploration with giving objects a certain subject-hood instead seeing them only as objects, to function, to use, to collect, to trash.

But what about us? What are the objects closest to us, that we not only take us as I did with my object-box, but actually take on and off with a routine without even thinking of it: clothes, undershirts, shoes, glasses, hats, and perhaps jewellery.

Objects that represent us, and objects through which we present. Not always consciously. How to move from fetish-objects to clothing?

Clothes are performing objects

The artist Paula Rego uses models, masks, costume and props to construct complex and often unsettling visual narratives that are being represented through her paintings. Her paintings could be considered as  the reproductions of telling a story, a story the objects did in her studio in the first place. Objects charged with memory, and empathy.

What I like is when she said

“It is real, or I pretend it is real – what is the same thing” – Paula Rego

There is quite substance in it, a constructivist approach, and resonating well with my experience in art therapy and constellation work: what we perceive or see as a visual mentally transcribed image is the real thing that matters to the person – it guides them in life, it is part of their life.

Rego works quite traditionally with her figurative paintings of things, she doesn’t work with human life models, but with made life objects. She stages a scenery similar to a film or stage director with found and made objects, all with a human touch, either through a likeliness with human bodies or through a human memory related to these objects. By that the objects are charged with power, a process that very much resonates with my exploration of subject-object relationship and fetishism.  I am wondering what was the motivation for Rego to work that way.

Another thought that Rego’s works triggers in my mind is the distinction – or no distinction – between objects, made, painted and the representative and observational painting of it. During part 2 I was shifting my attention from observational paintings to painting with and onto objects in order to let them perform for their own sake.

During my reflection on ‘Flatland – Abstract Narratives’ I was wondering how objects by themselves can perform and convey a narrative. Rego’s work shows another, figurative and charged with human memory, approach towards narratives. Question which way to go?

Example: Rego’s found monkey puppet is her life model for a narrating painting. Can the puppet be in itself the support for a narrative that goes beyond the subjective memory or her? Can the puppet be transformed into something else through a co-creation of the viewer? And what is the difference or advantage or a flat representative painting of staged object scenery versus an installation of such a scenery as I did in my Walking Through Painting, though not quite anthropomorphic as Rego is doing it.

Another work that I can related to this performing clothes might be the work by Carolina Burandt‘s work ‘FLURMOMENTE – Garderobe (example procedure)’  She graduated this year with a BA in Fine arts from the Academie Minerva, Hanzehogeschool Groningen (the closest brick&mortar university for arts for me) who won this year the Klaas Dijkstra Academy Award.  The work is a participatory performance art, about transitional moments in-between and as a research project. The audience is invited to redress and take on some construction gowns before be asked to do some tasks (see video here) What strikes me here are the element of dressing up for a performance (the dress as an objects to give permission?), the contrast between bright color of the gown and the environment, and the conception of addressing the space in between artist and viewer, art and mundane objects/tasks, visible and mental images, inviting for a dialogue, art as a mediator for collaboration. and social exchange.

Question: How do clothes contribute to identity ?

Mockup Patient Gown - acting and performing, (c)SJSchaffeld, 2018

Fig. 1: Mockup Patient Gown – acting and performing, (c)SJSchaffeld, 2018

Clothes are Identity

Pawel Althamer’s installation of objects as representing his identity in ‘Self-Portrait as a Businessman, 2002/2004. It is this question of self-portrait and identity that let me start looking at my frequent travelling and living with and out of suitcase at the start of part two (see my blog post here).

Althamer’s earlier work Self-Portrait in a Suitcase, 1996 seems closer to my idea as it developed over time. Although, I find the presence of the artist as a puppet a bit redundant, restricting a co-creation of narrative in the viewer’s mind too much.

The interesting aspect with Self-Portrait as a Businessman is possibly less the final image, but the process as it developed, unfolded: the artist took on clothes and props that he thought or representative for a businessman (external conception) and undressed him completely in a public square, walking away naked. This performance not only attracts more people but also adds a narrative to the installation. What if the installation was done without performance? Would it be less strong? Less narrating? The final plays with absence of the person (either artist or a businessman), the dressing and undressing adds another layer of artist’s intervention and intentionality. It reminds me of my own corporate business past, and how at the end I consciously undressed after work to ‘get rid’ of a layer, a mask, an identity perceived. Clothes do impact how we perceive ourselves, and how we are perceived by others. Clothes do tell a lot of the person wearing them. After death they are intrinsically charged with presence of the deceased. Buying new or second hand also can add a different connotation:. Who was the person wearing them before?

 Lisa Milroy’s use of clothing is perhaps more of topology (e. the ‘Dress’ series), paintings resembling an apparel boutique. At times fragmented like sewing patterns pre-cut and ready to be stitched together, e.g. Coming Apart, 2012. At times they remind of paper doll clothes, paper cut-outs, e.g. For White, 2012. Ideas of archive, as the collection of shoes shows. At first glance neat and in order, with closer view more with disorder and hard to distinguish one pair from the others (though they are all in pairs), e.g. Recent Shoes, 2014. The vast repetitive amount reminds me the work in series of Allen McCollum (e.g. ‘Surrogates’). Somehow I find her installation paintings PARTY OF ONE, 2013 or Split Personality, 2013 or 70 dress-paintings more intriguing, they are sculptural, painterly and building with references of visual language and eventually leading towards spatial curiosities, e.g One-to-One, 2015 – and they are to be engaged with, the viewer can get close. Her work White Shadow, 2012 is a painting that wants to get out of the flat surface, building on her earlier ‘Dress’ series but not at the stage of an installation painting yet. I have the feeling that her later works are getting more abstract and possibly more interesting as they build on absence and patterns across objects, e.g. Bag, 2014. Overall, Milroy’s paintings and installation flow between performative objects and identity-giving objects.

Mockup Patient Gown - a second skin, (c)SJSchaffeld, 2018

Fig. 2: Mockup Patient Gown – a second skin, (c)SJSchaffeld, 2018

 

With regards to painting, installation and clothing the Japanese artist and queen of polka dots’ comes to my mind : Yayoi Kusama, e.g. Dots Obsession ,1997 or Infinity Rooms. Often the artist wearing clothes matching the patterns of the objects and the room, making her a living object of it. In the 1950s she even created a fashion series with the polka dots. 

Clothes becomes skin

This brings me to a work I’ve notice in ArtForum, Anvar Musrepov, IKEA Costume, 2017. It resonates with my work from part two  (packaging material, useful object) and to transform it into an outfit, even an identity? A dress is what one wears, and the IKEA bag (blue is the one one can buy and take home, the yellow one is for in-story use only) is often see for many different purposes, it is big, and one can put quite an amount of stuff inside. A dress, a fashion, a cultural identity. As it is IKEA one could connotate this with a lot of lifestyle and consumption habits as well.  His work relates to the work of Edson Chagas and his series ‘Back to Purgatory’, appropriation of African tribal masks and a consumption oriented world, the bag becomes a piece of our clothing, our outer shell, or as C.G. Jung described our social mask once, our ‘persona’.

It seems as if clothing gets close to our skin, our natural outer shell before culture invented clothing. In the work of Toyin Ojih Odutola this becomes visible through regular patterns on the skin, opening question whether it is skin or clothing, conveying an unsetting feeling.

Re clothes and Sam Gilliam I find one notion relevant during my past exhibition visit when Gilliam was asked to get more personal in his drapes and eventually he incorporated found objects from his direct environment into the canvas, traces of his identity, concealed or trapped inside the drape as reference for clothes one wears and one is recognized for (e.g. Jail Jungle I, II, III, 1969 or Composed (Formerly Dark As I Am), 1968-74). Reading the joining exhibition text I was wondering how personal expression in painting and cultural identities are related with each other, as according to the text ‘some African Americans working in figurative modes described Gilliam as making art in service to the white power structures’ – quite a statement. Re my own work and reflecting on my tutor’s comments on my Object-Box ‘as apparently less personal’ due to ‘rather crude objects’

Another approach to that could be seen in the role clothes play through replacing as second skin, eliminating faces, disguised faces. Ewa Juszkiewicz (Beers, 2015:138-39) paintings are conventionally painted portraits, appropriated from original older paintings, in three-forth profile, fully clothed in the dress of the profession (Cardinal, 2012) with disguised faces, folded, clothes or locks (Locks, 2012), the backside of the head. This disruption of an expected picture disrupts the narrative, through a high quality execution of the paintings, the unsettling effect seems to be stronger as if applied more abstract paintings, e.g. as in Dana Schutz‘s provocative painting Open Casket, 2016 appropriating a photograph of the lynched African American Till Emmett (see my blog post for UVC) that opened up questions of who had a right for cultural appropriation.

One artist who explores fabric and social heritage across cultures is Yinka Shonibarembe MBE. In his recent exhibition ‘Ruins Decorated’ classical ruined white marble sculptures are decorated with Dutch wax textiles. Dutch wax are considered as staple in African clothing. Double side printed cotton fabric in batik method, originally known for the technique developed in the Durch West Indies. One manufacturer of that traditional style is https://www.jansenholland.com/nl/. With the contrast of materiality (white marble, Batik textiles) he challenges color conceptions of cultural appropriation and colonial power structures of a Western White and an African colorful. The materiality and iconic perception of Dutch wax fabric informed his paintings (http://www.yinkashonibarembe.com/artwork/painting/) in a reduced abstraction moment with geometric shapes .

Without the content as such I  ponder choice of materiality alongside color, shapes and forms to be used in contrast or disruption of a narrative.

Below the Skin

Considering my tutors’s comment about my choice of bright red in my Fabric Wall #2 (too symbolic to connotate with blood? ), I was curious to see how other artists are handling bright red paint, e.g. Jane Lee‘s Solid Turn Liquid, 2015 (Melick and Morril, 2016:168-169), triggering ideas of blood dripping clothes, folded canvas that remind me of the multicolored canvas drapes of Sam Gilliam.  The paint on the floor alongside the painted canvas is conveying the spatial dimension of the material. At the end, it is all a painting. I find the comment in the book text interesting

“any symbolic violence is quickly undermined by the attention to material and form”

Another example is Turned Out, 2009, bright red painted canvas cut in thin strips and rolled like a firehose, certainly nothing to do with clothes any longer, but with materiality and surface. Both works emphasis the materiality of paint, the chosen color triggering ideas of blood might be just a reference to another reference, as blood could be seen as a paint as well (through its red color) Would the comment from the book mean that the chosen color and the chosen form are talking to the viewer through its materiality in a dialogue? Both bringing in different references, e.g. red=blood, form=fire hose?

Conclusion

What do I take away from this?

  • Clothes are a second skin.
  • Clothes are performing, are part of our identity, or part of our ‘persona’ (social mask)
  • Clothes do perform in absence of human beings.
  • Clothes are objects of desire, obsessive things to collect and to stage.
  • Skin:  human skin as clothes are the layer that surround us closely , in that sense clothes a second skin. Both protecting us, allowing us to interact with the environment, and give a sense of identity. Question what is behind or below? what is concealed? person, body  – blood, organs
  • Identity: Clothes to represent, they perform on us or for us.
  • Materiality : contrast alongside cultural connotations to disrupt narratives

Another object that is considered as identity given is the human brain, behind the skin, concealed by nature’s or culture’s clothing. An aspect that might bring me from a different angle to my personal project – to keep in mind, to explore.


Images:

  • All images are my own paintings as part of Ex3.1 (c)SJSchaffeld, 2018

Reference:

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Flatland and the Narrative

StefanJSchaffeld - Part 2 - Materiality - Fragments

Flatland – Abstraction Narratives

It is already some time ago since I went to Luxembourg and discovered the past exhibition at MUDAM Luxembourg (07 Oct 2017 – 02 Apr 2018) on ‘Flatland / Abstractions narratives #2‘, the second part of contemporary abstract art after a previous first exhibition at RAC Occitanie/Pyrénées-Méditerranée in Sérignan in 2016. It felt quite relevant to my coursework and especially with the recent works I did during part 2. I purchased the exhibition book (covering part one and two) with some good essays about context from the curators Marianne Derrien and Sarah Ihler-Meyer in the ‘Introduction’ and from Vincent Pecoil on ‘Flatland’ and a more art historical essay by Klaus Speidel on ‘The Problem of Narration in Abstract Art’.

The title of the exhibition derived form the book of Edwin A. Abbott ‘Flatland: A romance of many dimensions’ (1884), a story of two worlds: a two dimensional, flat world and the encounter of a square with a three-dimensional world. Flatness in painting is a paradigm since Modernism with the influencing writing oy Clement Greenberg and his view of medium-specificity, and to empty all external reference from painting embracing an ‘utterly flatness’ of the painting support.
One key aspect the curators and authors were addressing is how abstract art can convey narratives. Challenging another paradigm that G. Lessing explored in his book ‘The New Laocoon’ (1767) with the fight between spatial arts (e.g.painting, sculpture, photography) and temporal arts (e.g. poetry, literature, cinema). It was considered that only temporal arts with the key element of time can convey a narrative, telling a story. Still, spatial pictures would not be able to do so. A notion that I felt is still prevalent today when revisiting current comments from photography students on the OCA discuss forum, the challenge whether and how one photograph could have a narrative.
I found the differentiation of how we conceive narratives quite insightful:
  • by codification: signs, pictogramm, ideograms referring to meaning and concepts
  • by condensation: shapes and colors as strictly pictorial are hybrids referring to uses and practices (history and cross disciplinary)
  • by suggestion process: shapes and colors suggesting sensations and atmospheres inducing narratives via effects related to texture and material (eg Vera Kox)
And an open questions that very much followed my reflection on my works how to see fictional narratives versus the material reality. An example my interrogation of cut out shapes and a step-by step process of arranging various ‘events’ (Fig .1), leading into a time-based animation.

Stefan513593 -SP - part2- cut out collage - a step in between

Fig. 1: cut out collage – a step in between – a step in between – (c)StefanJSchaffeld, 2018

I do agree with the authors that still-images are ‘silent’ images waiting to be activated by the viewer’.

“Exhibition labels appear between paintings like intertitles in silent films” – V.Pecoil

What all these aspects of ‘narratives’ have in common is a reference to external parts, not being part of the work itself. The narrative shifts away from the work to its context (history, intention, connotation) as Vincent Pecoil explained it, what also resonates for me with Barthes conception of denotation and connotation. What leaves the question how abstract art can tell stories through the painting?
Pecoil compared this with the visual language of abstraction and how we speak through flowers – building on the underlying idea that verbal language can be substituted by language of flowers

“Our beliefs and knowledge influence our aesthetic experience. In that sense , the immediate experience of a work of art does not exist” – Vincent Pecoil

Words are always there, if not in written form then in our heads, letting abstract art evoking it’s own history. The narrative of traditional history paintings was included in the work, it subject. Abstract art with the subject eliminated has to ‘transcribe vision as an imaginary space’ and transforming the artist into a ‘visionary whose gaze is turned towards the future’ (Pecoil). The author is given the example of Malevich’s ‘Black Square’ with the icon structurally persisting in the viewer’s mind.

But is the picture only triggers a narrative that is already there, in the mind? Would this not make the work just second to language? Klaus Speidel quotes Gottfried Boehm here when asking that

“if the image is in truth reduced to being merely a monstrative repetition of what has already been said previously – a sort of detour taken by language – it has no sovereignty of right and can only remain confined to a copy-image, a second image.” – Gottfried Boehm, 2010

What altogether brings me back to my past work (Fig.1) asking whether the narrative derives from the fork-shape object with its cultural meaning or if there is more at stake?

The author describes that shapes can behave as actors, with a subject-hood I would add. A way of thinking that was studied at a deeper psychological level by Fritz Heider and Marianne Summer with their work ‘An experimental study of apparent behaviour’, a film that triggered all sort of different stories by the participants.

It resonates very much with my own experience with the ‘cut-out collages’ but also with my larger scale Walking through Painting that both eventually led to my Object-Box, when Speidel explained how narrativity is gradual, relating to aspects of dynamism, transaction, conflict and tension inside the work and between shapes or objects.

“narration always co-created with the viewer, kind of ‘script’ as a “generalized sets of expectations about what will happen in well-understood situations .”- Michael Ranta, 2011

Speidel concludes that this kind of narration depends on:

  • Recipient (motivation, skills , knowledge )
  • Context (venue or seeing mode)
  • Presentation (and used medium)
  • Content represented (nature and degree of explication)

Two questions remain unanswered, how the element of time adds to the narration, whether it is rather restrictive or open. And what would be difference between a narrative and an invention of a story? At the end it comes down to the two poles of artist’s intention as a criterion for capturing the narrative and the participation of the audience as a co-creator of meaning. I like the term ‘self-entanglement’ the author is using considering the bond between the viewer and the narrative.

The final conclusion seems to me very relevant, though I feel I didn’t grasp it completely, as the meaning of it feels as vulnerable as its content. The author state that not recognition of a narrative is the ground, often restricting further reflection, but

“what matters is the way in which a particular work of art interacts with its references – the manner, for example, in which it rewrites the script on which it draws. What also counts is that there is a rich relationship between its material manifestation and the object of reference – the fact that the reference does not merely provide a surplus of meaning to a pretty form. It is only when we begin to ask ourselves these kinds of questions that we can advance from being mere passive receivers who play the gratifying game of arty storytelling to becoming emancipated spectators who avoid the trappings of their own vanity.” – Klaus Speidel

I am wondering how my Walking Through Painting (Fig.2) does respond and deliver to these process of questioning and ‘rewriting of scripts’?  The latter referring in my case to my object box (Fig,3) and our relationship with mundane objects.

Stefan513593 - SP - Part 2 - Walking Through Painting

Fig. 2: Walking Through Painting – (c)StefanJSchaffeld, 2018

 

I was inspired by some artists and their works where I feel some resonance with what I did so far -and that I will take notes for future reference:

Artist – works – abstract narratives

Vera Kox (b. 1984)

She works with and explores materiality of polyurethane, bubble pack, and silica gel beads. The text tells that her sculptures in ‘artificial colours evoke future relics of an industrial present’. 

Her exposed work Temporary forms and permanent doubts,2013 (polyurethane foam and acoustic foam- one piece out of a series) is a chain suspended painted sculpture that reminds me strongly of my made-objects, especially those activators’ made from irregular shapes from packaging material and sprayed with bright colors. Her material choice is intriguing (something to test myself?). Her works plays with the relationship of organic and inorganic materials and forms, something I can relate back to Candice Lin. The growth tendency of PU foam is in itself a material that overcomes full control and adheres a certain subject-hood. Her objects seem to ‘live’ their own life, quite organic, and at the same time vulnerable – a element that I can related mostly only with my red made object from a towel in Walking Through Painting (Fig. 2 and 3). An aspect that I feel intriguing.

Sonia Kacem (b. 1985)

Her human scale installations are made with found materials and shapes derived from ordinary objects, and often made with fabric (striped and monochromatic blinds ) with connotations of memory of holidays at seaside. I can relate her works to folding, drapes as seen in the works of Sam Gilliam and Katharina Grosse, also bringing back my earlier explorations on folding-unfolding and the Baroque., an approach of concealing an revealing. 

Her exposed work Loulou, 2016-16 (owing its name to Félicité’s parrot in Flaubert’s ‘Un coeur simple’) is quite an geometric abstract work of pyramidal structures. Versus some of her other works that remind me at times of my studio table or floor space (see here). For me the fascinating aspect of using fabric to cover abstract forms, and to convey through colorful patterns and use of ordinary materiality of blinds a mystic sense as a narrative to engage with.

Laëtitia Badaut Haussmann (b. 1960)

The shown work L’Amour est plus froid que la mort, 2015 the artist expresses the strong emotional oppositions related to human conditions of desire and mourning. She relates this to two other works, poetry and filmic, one the novel of Jean Genet ‘Querelle de Brest’, 1947 and films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder who adpoted Genet’s novel for cinema. In this approach she takes external references as Candice Lin did in her work A Hard White Body, 2017 and triggers various narratives that the viewer can tap into or to stay at the work itself and to connect with the visual expression of shapes, color and spatial extension. For me, the contrast at play feels intriguing: metal shapes and soft pliable velvet tissue.

Tarik Kiswanson (b. 1986) 
The shown work Robe, 2015 felt quite harsh against above mentioned organic and pliable sculptures. I felt more intrigued by the multiplicity of reflection and disruption of reflection through cut slits and bended plates.  
The work evokes connotations to masks and knights’ armours. His sculpture Father Form, 2017 is composed of several dozen metal slats polished to become mirrors. The sheer endless and multiplicity of reflections can be also considered as a multiplication of our own image. A mix and match of objects and identities. 

Walking Through Painting (detail) - (c)StefanJSchaffeld, 2018

Fig. 3: Walking Through Painting (detail) – (c)StefanJSchaffeld, 2018

Learnings

  • Objects and materiality that convey a sense of grow and inner ‘life’ (e.g. Vera Kox Temporary forms and permanent doubts)
  • Contrast: playing with materiality characteristic to establish tension and dynamic that can trigger a narrative (e.g. Laëtitia Badaut Haussmann’s L’Amour est plus froid que la mort, 2015) 
  • Fabric as pliable material to use as a narrative medium through folding and concealing (e.g Sonia Kacem)
  • Dynamism, transaction, conflict and tension as internal elements that can establish an abstract narrative
  • Conception of narratives through: codification (signs), condensation (shapes and color referring to cultural practices), and suggestion process (shapes and colors suggesting atmosphere and sensations)

Reference:
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Part Three – Preliminary Thoughts

Stefan513593 - Ex 2.5 - Making - space

I feel that this part will take me from my previous explorations of objects as actors back to the human presence (or absence) the relationship of the human body in painting, either as a staged (body as canvas) subject-object or as a point of reference in an anthropomorphic sense. Considering my constellation works that inspired me it seems as if the interaction of the person in arranging things will come into play, Not as the ‘invisible’ guiding hand, but as the acting hand. Touch, movement, and positioning.  

So far, I walked through and around my works (e.g. Walking Through Painting), looked at them top down (e. g. ‘Cut-out collages’ on horizontal table) or through, was engaged with them at a unique object-relationship (see featured image). Now, the question, how to incorporate either my body, another human body or a proxy of human body inside the work. How can the human body be represented beyond traditionally figurative paintings?  Another more intriguing way would be to find new perspectives on how I do interact actually with my works – or how they perform on me, guiding me, a dialogue? How could the viewer actually be involved through participation? The latter was a key aspect in my last assignment work Object-Box.

Elements to explore further are: 

  • Performative aspects of objects – and how the viewer is engaged
  • Objects and images of objects acting as proxy bodies  an anthropomorphic dimension of human presence or absence
  • Body painting – the body as a tool (see part one) or the body as the support? or even as the performative support? Wondering wether the body can be the paint and the support….
  • Ideas, objects, images and processes: relationship between them through appropriation, enactment, transformation and memory.
  • Narratives: creating a narrative through a visual sequence (can a still image not already convey a narrative?) and how a visual disruption could create a nonlinear narrative – more to ponder
  • Mirror and reflection: How a reflective surface or a framed view can rupture the pictorial space 

One open question would be how narrative can play a deeper role in abstract art or whether the depticted subject as in history paintings is the point of reference. I think that during part two with my cut-out collage animations I added a temporal layer to the still images. Are still images enough to convey a narrative or does it need the element of time to express a narrative? It reminds me of the old battle between spatial (as painting or sculpture) and temporal arts (as poetry of cinema) as described by G. Lessing in ‘The New Laocoon’ (1767). I explored partly in the previous two parts filmic elements, more in the sense of moving images. Not so much, yet, with inclusion of sound. It brings me back to my last course unit UVC and my last assignment essay on video installations (see here), and the work of Bill Viola and his work The Greeting, 1995 that was inspired by Jacopo Pontormo’s painting (1528-29) and acts through its extreme slow motion (1:10) and transformation as a contemporary dynamic narrative, enforcing the psychological aspect of the encounter.

The starting point for me – as it is still available in my studio space – to get interacted with my Walking Through Painting, to capture my presence, and to see how this could be worked into another work. Also, how my body, similar to the objects arranged, can act and perform in the same staged scene. What would get really close to other structural constellation works with having people to represent absent people, things, abstract ideas. It is the human who gets into touch with a scene through a trans-verbal language. And a person is re-arranging till it fits all, the things and the representatives. How to embed this into a piece of (art)work? As a reference or as a process in itself? For me it is the ‘things in itself’ that perform at different levels. The viewer would be the visitor to engage with – question whether the viewer would be allowed to arrange, as I invited them with my Object-Box.

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Some further reflection

In the google groups one fellow student was asking for some advice and my feedback given were more as a message to myself on what supported me during this course so far. Here some bullet points:

    To experiment beyond what one might think are painting media, including physical and digital materials.
    To go and visit contemporary exhibitions as much as possible. It may not spark the moment I am visiting, but it may resonate with my work at a later stage. This really helped me to find a wider context of what I am doing.
    To establish a certain routine with learning diary and thoughts that may come through the day. I tend to record myself with a voice tracker now. I have to see whether this is sustainable or just one step of constant changes.
    To take the researches just as a springboard. It might sound easy but in keeping a freedom in how to interact with mentioned sources, looking aside and trying to connect things I learn. To read and to try to put as much as possible in context with my own work. That means to make work repetitively.
    A key question for me is time: how deep do I want to get into things? Is it because I want to do it for me or to deliver on deadlines? A struggle continues.
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Preparatory Ideas for A2: Perspectives – Installation – Multiple views of flat pictures

Stefan513593 - Three fold perspective - #2 - unfolded

I was looking how to make sense out of my work on the object-box and pondering the two sides aspects, e.g. revealing-concealing, folding-unfolding, I was looking at different ways to have the multiplicity of perspectives in one installation. The obvious one would be just to have multiple pictures side by side. Other ideas coming to my mind: table (Top and bottom view), mirror (and reflection), Moebius strip, one support with two images, rotating in the middle, and one installation with three pictures. 

I experimented with printed images of some of my sketches to see how these ideas behave

#1 Three fold perspective

This one is inspired by the fence of the Swiss Television Studio (SRF) in Zurich (seen some years ago, still there). Portrait pictures but three-fold. The point was that through installing parallel bars the one support with normally one picture is split into three pictures. Moving from left to right or vice versa one can see first a picture from one side, then the middle, at last looking backwards the picture on the other side of the bars. They are still there, can’t find the images online, but on google map street view

After a less successful attempt (Fig. 1 – unfolded) I made another maquette with smaller images (Fig. 2) and made sure that most of the image is inside the frame, otherwise it translates visually less successful. The used images are prints from sketchbook works: outside and inside.

Stefan513593 - Three fold perspective - #1 - unfolded

Fig. 1: Three fold perspective – #1 – unfolded

 

Stefan513593 - Three fold perspective - #2 - unfolded

Fig. 2: Three fold perspective – #2 – unfolded

The moving view of the folded maquette, looking from left (Fig. 3), top down (Fig. 4), and from right (Fig. 5) -click on the images to see in lightbox mode:

 

=> the used image might not be the best, as the last one is already visually confusing enough in itself. It seems this kind of spatial installation of perspectives requires simpler visual images. Or is this overall mess just the exciting thing? Does it add to a unique experience of two sides of something: obviously, yes – unique, doubt. Exciting enough? not sure, more a one time ‘aha’, effect based. Good for painting? yes.

I’ve seen an installation by Mika Tajima with a resembling installation piece for The Extras, 2009. Although, I don’t know whether he had a similar intent. His view on ‘sculptures double as “actors” ‘ seems an exciting aspect considering my object-fetish experience, as anthropomorphic objects (aka painted sculptures).  What I like in his piece, is that the middle section is void, leaving only left and right view visible. Perhaps to have cuts in the painted image, empty spaces, either as real empty space in between, or as unpainted empty space on a support, two sides of the void. What resonates well with Katharina’s Grosse perspective on painting as making the invisible visible through the space in between.

And what I also can connect with my side-ideas of the glitch, triggered by the inkjet print with blocked nozzles (Fig. 6, left) and what resulted in a barcode appropriation of the image glitch (Fig. 6, right). Visual information present or absent, visible or concealed.

Stefan513593 - Three fold perspective - glitch

Fig. 6: Three fold perspective – glitch

At the end I made a more sculptural installation with styrofoam and perspex, left and right side with two cut-out collage images. The background perspex for the void (Fig. 7-9) – click on the images to see in lightbox mode:

The perception of a ‘complete’ picture is informed by the thickness and the distance of the spacer-bars. To obtain a full picture one had to move slowly from one to the other side, otherwise part of the picture will be concealed. What in itself is an interesting phenomena, to have movement as an intrinsic aspect of visual perception.

#2 Moebius strip

Some sketches and mockups I made at the beginning (Fig. 10) while reflecting on my suitcase as mobile studio, my object-box as model for art or art in itself, and my two places of residences.. The idea of Moebius strip brought up to me by Kate who looked at this idea as part her photography studies. The image shows also the installation in a hotel room, a ‘companion’ for my object-box.

Stefan513593 - Moebius strip

Fig. 10: Moebius strip

=> I believe the moebius strip as a ‘mathematical problem‘ is much used, or overused? The smaller strip hanging at the bottom of the larger is created by not cutting halfway, but one third of width (see here). Does it add to a unique experience of two sides of something: obviously, yes – unique, doubt. Exciting enough? not sure, effect based. Good for painting? yes.

What I like is the idea of endless repetition, resonating with my previous assignment work. Here the circling around and repetition is successful, i.e. endless.  It is not a failure, subject to a physical destruction of material

#3 Rotating tableau

Stefan513593 - Rotating Tableau

Fig. 11: Rotating Tableau

and as moving images, partly fast and normal speed

 

The films are not great, more of a visual sketch or illustration of an idea. Did I expected the two images merge into one? I assume this need more stable frames and higher speed (see the reverse motion effect with carriage wheels in films). The films are looped and the fast motion can make one dizzy (feedback from my wife Anja). What is mere effect and what is a different way of knowing? 

Does it add to a unique experience of two sides of something: not so clear –  unique no. Exciting enough? not really. Good for painting? yes, I  believe so.

Question: Would a still hanging object trigger desire to engage with? Thus, not the effect in itself but the relationship with the viewer is one focus? It reminds me of the exhibition I went in Zurich of Abraham Cruzvillegas, with the objects there to play, to build, to construct. An interaction and active roles of the viewer. A difference that Cruzvillegas painted the object after construction and placed them as ‘finished’ objects in the museum space. Here, and in this course, I am the constructor and the painter of objects and placing them in relations. Still, what could or should I leave to the viewer? What is installed and what are things to work with. Clearly, also a question of touching ‘art objects’ or not. 

 

#4 Roto-Milk:

milk box, overpainted, with keeping some images from the pack.

Stefan513593 - Roto Milk

Fig. 12: Roto Milk

and as moving images, partly fast and normal speed

Does it add to a unique experience of two sides of something: more of multiple sides plus the unique ground and figure perception. Exciting enough? Perhaps, question to have autonomous or viewer’s controlled movement. Good for painting? yes.

The white paint and the white background could possible match, ie. dissolve into each other. A question of paint used (should be not a problem to use the same for wall or background and object) and illumination and shadow cast, what could be harder to control. But this moment to chance might be the exciting part, possibly leader viewers, as it was for me, to try to ‘dissolve’, to make differentiate or to uniform object- wall. What could open new possibilities in painting and a different ground-figure approach, subject to  viewer’s agency, bringing the ‘spectator into objecthood’ (O Eliasson).

 

#5: Mirror – Reflection

Mirror - Reflection

Fig. 13: Mirror – Reflection

A mirror can act as an image falling back on the viewer. In the form of perspex as a reflective but also transparent support (see museum glass) it could be an agent for interaction. What is around, and what is in the space between would be the informing factor.

Does it add to a unique experience of two sides of something: more conceptually, Exciting enough? no. Good for painting? not sure, certainly not the mirror, perhaps with reflective perspex.

Reflection:

My ideas of multiple views and perspectives are not complete, mostly appropriation of what I’ve seen or heard of. Nothing creatively new, a mean to communicate a message, a narrative? Or to contrived, to ‘over-used’ in the sense of ‘we all know that’ resulting in getting the viewer bored versus excited to experience it afresh. Or would this depend on what pictures are on the surface? Or whether there is a certain ‘twist’ of unknown things? Or do I overthink all of it instead of just following the visual path and see what my response would be at the very moment of making it real, i.e. to move from mock-ups and maquette to the real painted thing? Makes me wonder when to start with what – kind of hen and egg dilemma. Or another failure, something I experienced already before.

Perhaps, as painting is on surfaces with some sedimentation through material structures, the spatial perception is based on something else, Either on real physical 3D objects in space like a sculpture, or as a painted surface in relationship with other painted surfaces and the space in between is filling the third dimension? A space that is there but is only activated by an actively perceiving spectator.

What did I obtained through this ‘two sides’ experiments? Although the 3D sketches might not be the way I will continue, mock-ups and maquette, it gave me more insight and knowledge about how things, how moving or still can be perceived, that there is more than one perspective on looking at things, even if they have some obvious ‘effects’, and that there are various levels of engagement. Only through actually making these, interacting with, and reflecting on those opens up new ways of seeing and thinking.

Key aspects to consider for development and future works:

  • Objecthood: The sculptural painting as object or assemblage and for a subject to visually engage with (see #2)? Or as ground-figure question, dissolving things based on paint used and illumination (see #4)
  • Movement: Object rotates autonomously, by spectator’s agency directly (person moves the object) or indirectly (person moves) (see #3 and #4)
  • Reflection: Directly through reflective surfaces, e.g. mirror, or indirectly through awareness of engagement of process of looking (see #5)
  • Perspectives: Glitches, fragments, invisible visual information opening up questions how what a picture is and how we make sense out of visual information (see #1) Alongside a viewer’s active control of what, how and when something is perceived, the painted images might add to a unique experience, especially when juxtaposed with non-visible information aka void.
  • Installation: Is installation an arrangement of things or a body aka object as a whole? Installation of objects as ‘ready-to-consume’ for the spectator and just to make sense out of it, or installation as space to actively engage and interact? (see #3 and #4). 
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Inspiration & Ideas – Object & Fetish Installation

Just a view on how I installed some objects, self-made, readymade, collage pieces, writing, thinking, playing, – the object-box as reflection-wall – a board for further inspiration.

A board of not-knowing how to work from these, maybe an archive? A collection of fragments? Artefacts?

Stefan513593 - SP - Part 2 - inspiration objects and fetish - installation

 

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Peer feedback : Objects and Fetishism

During the life forum hangout 09 Sep 2018 (https://discuss.oca-student.com/t/forum-live-hangout-sun-sept-9th-6pm-sign-up-here/8024/31) I asked my peers for some feedback as it would allow me to be clearer on the ‘essence’ of what I was doing and making :

  • the works in itself
  • the works together as an assembly
  • any associations related to seeing them
  • possible ideas how this could be moved forward

I worked now since couple of months with and on my object box, an assemblage of dysfunctional things that became part of my life already. I had to put a break in my coursework for reasons of relocation and re-settling.

In March I posted a video of me performing an unfolding of my object-box and got various feedbacks that more or less consciously or subconsciously impacted my approach.

  • the thread of the March hangout: here
  • my initial reflection after the hangout: here

My initial performative interaction  could this be a work in itself, or part of work?

I continued with coursework and preparation of my assignment work along a more painterly approach, with some moving images that resemble animation films, and an expansion into space trying to put myself and my objects into a new perspective. I had to let go some of the box-objects – to move them into my new works.

Reflection on feedback received:

  • As I asked for feedback on the assembly of four works, most comments came back on the animation piece, as something intriguing, a narrative, and entertaining. With a sense of innocent charm. The references made to this were:
    a) BBC Children Series with Tony Hart: The series started with 1964 ‘Vision On‘, initially targeting children with hearing impairment, followed 1977 by its replacement series ‘Take Hart‘. All are visual presentations of cut-out, simple painted marks, and other visual plays as entertainment.
    b) Bento Boxes. I am not sure that food is the direction to go, I was aware that the fork as part of my object box would bring this up immediately. A reason why I skipped this object in the third animation (#1)
    c) ‘Manipulating’ – control through hands. How could this be moved further that the viewer has a sense of their hands? A different visual entry?
  • My object collage work #4-What is Below and Beyond  was related to Chef’s Table, in overcoming the constraints of serving food on a plate, expanding to the table and serving food directly onto and from the table, the table as worktable for performative presentation. at: Chef’s Table Season 2 Episode 1 Grant Achatz.  This is an interesting notion, as more for practical reasons I placed the work onto a small table/chair, kind of referring back to the origin of work-table. This work was also associated with the notion of inside-outside the box, a reversal, what I find an interesting aspect for further development.
  • We discussed my reference to fetishes, and the unboxing as a repetitive cycle of interacting with objects was associated with:
    – obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and
    ASMR unboxing on youtube, (ASMR = Autonomous sensory meridian response, a mean to relax through experiencing tingling sensations on the skin
    –  cognitive bias: what am I holding onto? what could/should change?
  • Other associations: Pandora Box, Black Box, Relicts, Mystery.
  • For me an interesting aspect was that compared with my initial performative unboxing video, the mystery and secret language hidden was lost in my later works. Do I want to capture the mystery, magic moment when the viewer sees my work, or do I want to move another road, more mundane, or a frontal encounter with dysfunctional objects (with or without title) to make the seeing and looking experience the content?
  • Another comment made was related to the shift of color from #1 to #4. A conscious decision or a de-saturation of visual impact. What colors could be more successful for my subject?
  • It became clearer to me that the term ‘fetish’ is somehow challenging, perhaps even provocative. The comment related to obsession is well made, there was certainly an aspect during this time for me. I feel there is a something between a more observer position of the viewer and being part of an experience. So far I am afraid that the seeing online supports a more consuming attitude, versus a larger scale work with the viewer invited to engage physically with could possibly overcome this.

Conclusion:

It was very helpful to get feedback from others and I do thank all for their valuable contributions.  Some aspects might need more time to digest and mature.

One thing that I am still not clear about for myself, is animation as painting, or painting as animation aka moving images. It allows certainly to communicate a process and development. Would it possibly better if the viewer is invited to engage with the process and work out some possibly scenarios?  What can I convey through moving images in painting that would be missing otherwise? A new insight? So far the animation worked by feedbacks received, though without a mystery. Too predictable? Too entertaining?

I will take further the idea of fetish, objects, obsession, inside-out, and agency of viewer into consideration. Possibly that the work need to be done at much larger scale, to bring in the ‘objecthood of the spectator’ (quoting Olafur Eliasson). One was would be to skip the box and move to object and relationships, between objects and between objects and spectator.

The question of color, bright versus muted, need more attention from my end, what serves what?

Resources mentioned:


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Painting on transparent support

Stefan513593 - painting on transparent support -feat

After having some good and some less good experience with painting with acrylic on glossy and transparent supports, especially on protective plastic sheets, I decided to see with fellow students on FB and to do some more formal painting testing.

The good thing with acrylic paint on plastic is that it can be easily removed as a skin and be transferred to another support (Fig 1 – paint removed from a glass plate). The bad thing is the same, it doesn’t stick. Moving forward with my sculptural painting, painting on packaging materials, and with possibly installations with a looking through effect (see my trials before), I found that better knowledge how paint behaves on what kind of surface would be worth the effort to put into this testing.

As suggested by Ros I purchased in a local DIY store a primer for plastic supports that is supposed to enforce the adhesion of paint to the surface without the risk of flaking off. Catherine informed be that oil paint could be used directly on perspex. 

Stefan513593 - acrylic skin

Fig. 1: acrylic skin

My set up (Fig. 2) to ensure that I covered translucent as well opaque paint (to look from the other side) and based on my main color spots on my worktable aka object-box (red and blue, I mixed the following in acrylic and oil paint. Cd Red is normally opaque, but interestingly Cd red imit. in acrylic is translucent, ultramarin is translucent, whereas cobalt blue is half-half, why I decided to mix it with opaque titane white and part opaque indigo.  

Stefan513593 - painting on transparent support #1

Fig. 2: acrylic and oil paint – transparent/opaque – red/blue

painted support in acrylic and oil: transparent and opaque each, red and blue

backside views:

Stefan513593 - ultramarine - oil - acrylic

Fig. 12: ultramarine – oil – acrylic

 

 

Conclusion:

  • I have to wait till oil paint is dry. Acrylic is dry and it became obvious that regular plastic in the form of protective plastic sheets (what I used in the past for transfer processes) is actually the worse in keeping paint on it. A similar effect on household plastic especially with acrylic washes. The use of primer help though.
  • Translucent washes is harder to do with acrylic, oil paint behaves smoother and more uniform. An experience I already encountered during PoP1.
  • Overall, I found that oil paint stays more saturated than acrylic paint, especially with translucent paints and very strongly to notice with ultramarine blue (Fig. 12)
  • Mylar is already translucent, the back-view shows a more milky, whitening effect
  • The use of primer reduce light transmission, making it translucent. What could be used possibly as an advantage by painting parts of transparent ground translucent, a transition effect.
  • Comparing the three transparent options: window color sheet, perspex and rhenalon (is used as a support for printmaking), I could discern that painting on window color sheets desaturates the color slightly, not sure why this could be.
  • Overall, I am pleased how easy it was to paint on all supports, but the protective plastic sheet. It seems that acrylic derived sheets do have enough tooth to keep the paint on it. 
  • How long it takes for oil to completely dry, I have to wait. The same for how stable all paints are over time. Thus I will amend this post, possibly after one month

 

 

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Objects and Fetishism – The Handle and the Box

The Handle of the Box - Mini Box Experience

During this part of the course I had the strange feeling that objects had their own life. Reflecting first on my drawing and painting tools that I took with me on travels – fitting into a nomad life. The tools suddenly changed into dysfunctional things laying around me in my close working environment. My real suitcase changed to a box, as movable and transportable. Even fitting into one suitcase. But now I took not only my real ‘worktable’, the drawings and painting tools, with me. I ‘had’ to take also the box with weird objects along with me. I had to, because I wanted to, to be inspired by the box and to work with and from the box.

What happened? The ‘object-box’ became so familiar to me, being nearly a companion hard to separate from. The longer break I took between making the box and the continuation with coursework actually enforced the sense of belonging. To use some of the objects into my paintings felt strange, to dis-assemble ‘my’ box as a whole, to separate parts from each other. At times I was not sure what the work would be: created paintings inspired by the box, or the box as an object of curiosity and desire. A dilemma.

Meanwhile, objects from the box moved into painted object-collages as new assemblages, with possibly a longer duration of ‘life’, till they get absorbed into new works, like the observational cut-outs – spares or debris.

StefanJSchaffeld - Part 2 - Materiality - Fragments

Spares and Debris

Did I, and still do I, experience fetishism, as Sue commented on my video of unfolding the box? I was hooked by the term, and read around it to make up my mind of what it is and how relevant it can be for next steps.

Fetishes, or also idolatry, are at times connoted with tribal and ‘primitive’ beliefs of objects or things charged with power and transcendental meaning. In that sense many cultural objects could be seen as fetishes, e.g. money. John R. Searle related those things in his book ‘The Construction of Social Reality’ (1996) as socially constructed facts, assigned with a power function by collective intention. Thus, how we perceive fetishes is cultural different, how we react to them seems similar.

Science was long time considered as fact based and objective, what changed somehow with the insights of quantum physics. An anecdote of Niels Bohr about why he had a horseshoe above the doorway and his comment apparently was, that even if we do not believe in transcendental power of things, they would still ‘work’.

‘Humans are not any longer between themselves’ – Bruno Latour

Nowadays, things seem to have more or less an independent ‘life’, at least they have independent power, e.g internet of things, drones (an focus e.g in Hito Steyerl’s work). We establish a relationship with them, we talk to them and we listen to them, e.g. Alexa or Siri. We consider things in an anthropomorphic way. Who can’t relate to this when e.g working on a computer and it doesn’t do what we want it to do?

And things do live further when we die. We charge things with memories, a phenomena that is reflected in e.g. how we relate to photographs of deceased people especially family members. Kind of overcoming death.

And is art per se not a fetish? Material charged with meaning and power?

The distinction between object and subject get blurred, an illusion. In that sense fetishism is an intrinsic part of modern as Hartmut Boehme argued (2012).

Things do have different aspects:

  • Function: a purpose or use, relating to Richard Serra’s list of transitive verbs ‘to xxx’, an aspect of operational, relating to Steinberg’s notion of shift in pictorial plane towards ‘operational process’. Reminds me also the project with  ‘End to End’ (Lean Management, with Enough Room for Space)
  • Meaning: social meaning and sense / things to increase self-esteem and status / as historical artefact
  • Aesthetic: related to object culture and how we embellish useful things (ref. design)

Things of consumerism could be blamed as the golden calf  (see Nicolas Poussin) or as a capitalist repression of the poor by the rich (Karl Marx). For me more a question of awareness of our relationship to things – as old as Stone Age (could my pebble act as a reference or reminder of that geological time lapse?). Things do act on us, as Boehme described the mechanism of fetish (translated from German by myself):

“Things have to take over the task to suggest us an independence from them that we don’t have, we loose it the very moment as things make us believe we gained freedom.’ – Hartmut Boehme 

Exploring things is like reflection on oneself. What is discovered inside falls back onto us.

Objects do act as a way of understanding the world. Our actions are embedded with the things we act with or on. Georg Simmel explored in the story ‘Der Henkel (The Handle)’ the double aspects of an object, a jar. Through the handle the world touches the object, and through the spout the object reaches out to the world. The object, the jar itself being rather independent through its more aesthetic form. And Roger-Pol Droit explored how mundane things do work, how they are and what they do with us, e.g a photocopier, a clip, a water-level.

My object-box and all dysfunctional things would be one way of experiencing myself, my self image mediated through objects. It that what fetish is about? To hold, means to be aware?

The image above (featured image) could also be seen as a box inside the next one – the endlessness of satisfying desire in our life.

The Box inside the Box - Mini Box Experience

The Box inside the Box – Mini Box Experience

The box as container, visible and invisible. Possible to act upon and throw it away? Gaining apparent freedom? Possible way of visualization to destruct the box and suspend over larger scale objects , kind of explosion but still present. Reminds of me Cornelia Parker’s ‘Blowing the Shed‘, a process of interaction and relationship just to make us more aware of what is there.


Reference:

  • Böhme, H. (2012) Fetischismus und Kultur : eine andere Theorie der Moderne,Rowohlts Enzyklopädie,  3rd ed. ed. Edited by König, B. Reinbek, Hamburg: Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag.
    review in english at: https://am.ubiquitypress.com/articles/89/)
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Project 2.6: Painting in the round – color, paint and objects

StefanJSchaffeld - Part 2 - Materiality - Fragments

Color, paint and objects – an exploration of space

What is color doing through paint? And who says that paint application is painting and working with objects is sculpture?

“painting is taken away the boundaries of an object” – Katharina Grosse (Art21, 2015)

Those questions seem to have a tradition in art history, earlier on more related to color, afterwards relating to painting versus drawing, and since Modernism the question whether painting is an object or not. With the rise of photography, painting was seeking a new identity beyond representing an external reality, what was not anyhow not really the case in e.g. medieval manuscript paintings.

And whether my observational sketch of the unfolded object-box is still figurative and objects as part focused or whether the paint applied is blurring the boundaries (Fig. 1) might be a question to the beholder.

StefanJSchaffeld - Object Box - painted unfolded

Fig. 1: StefanJSchaffeld – ‘Object Box’ – painted unfolded, 2018

At stake was the objecthood of art versus non-art, a continuous quest to understand art at large. We live in a world with things, as Bruno Latour once expressed it with  ‘Humans are not any longer between themselves’, challenging the distinction between subject and object. A painting or a sculpture as an object is described by Michael Fried through the expression of objecthood in his essay Art and Objecthood (1967) as a situation of a human experience of an artwork that places the spectator into the role of a subject.  Interesting for me now, after having read Fried’s essay during UVC in context of Modernism, to revisit his writing in context of paint and color. Recently, I encountered the term ‘objecthood’ again in the work of Olafur Eliasson when he expressed his intention to place the viewer into objecthood by stepping into the space and encounter the experience as the work.

Color and paint 

I looked earlier on at artists exploring materiality of paint, especially under the constraint of gravity and movement, e.g. Ian Davenport and his materialized puddle paintings or color waterfalls (see my reflection during POP1). Or the Swiss less known artist Elsbeth Böniger (see my post during POP1)  who changed the way she applied paint by moving the support, not the paint, and using the materiality of paint in her creations. Another approach to use gravity for paint application and the fluidity of water are Jessica Warboys with her ‘Sea paintings’ and Barbara Nicholls with her ‘Sedimentary Flow’ series of watercolor sedimenting in plenty of water. Both artists reflecting on natural processes.

One artist who is rather disconnected or independent from natural and even outside influences is Katharina Grosse, who makes large scale abstract, gestural spatial color works. Her more recent works are related to large installations of suspended fabric that she spray-painted after installation, e.g. The Horse Trotted Another Couple Of Metres, Then It Stopped, 2018. A work that I felt reminded of when visiting an show of Sam Gilliam and his attempts to overcome the stretched canvas limitations and moved partly into the viewer’s space. Now looking back at my work done for part one, it resonates so much with my assignment work in process (Fig. 2)

StefanJSchaffeld - Painting as folding - unfolding paper, 2018

Fig. 2: StefanJSchaffeld – Painting as folding – unfolding paper, 2018 – paper on plastic sheet

In her conversation with Jonathan Watkins (Myers, 2011: 161), Grosse describes her making as thinking and embracing the moves that come. She works and moves in spaces with spray paint and the required protective gear that makes her on the one hand disconnected with the intimacy of painting. On the other hand it makes her making more as ‘looking at pictures’. For her, color need to be thin in order to make impact. Versus her earlier approaches to work with thick paint and its materiality to achieve volume. Volume or substance derives for her from the architectural objects as supporting structure,  e.g. walls or corners.

There seems to be a distinction between paint and color.  Although, paint is often associated with color and vice versa. Godfrey described the work of Phyllida Barlow as a way how with ‘paint, color could become physical’.

However, Grosse could be seen perhaps more as a color artist or colorist rather than a paint artist, painter. Her material of choice is spray paint to create luminous spatial explorations and visualizations of ideas, as she expressed how

“painting is a way to make visible and understandable for the ideas and thoughts, it is thinking and acting the same time’ – Katharina Grosse (Art21, 2015)

One could say that her presence is expressed in the moment. And for her painting has the advantage versus reading of having a ‘synchronicity that is not linear’.

I am asking myself whether using a spray versus a brush is really more direct? Though the brush can be seen as a curse, more direct for me is still working with the body, fingers and touching the materiality and substance. But perhaps the ephemeral nature of light as well as color is ‘untouchable’ – our eyes and our mind are discerning as a process what and how we see. Also one could see Grosse’ way of painting supporting a Western ocularcentrism that Martin Jay explored I’ve and criticized in his book ‘Downcast Eyes’. But this might be just an appearance.

Color and light 

Looking at color without paint and unrestricted of painting as an object, is what we experience all day around us in daylight: the blue sky the green gras, the colorful flowers, the grey concrete buldings, or even at night with artificial lights:the traffic light, the neon advertisements, the headlights. I remember in the past when we crossed the border Netherlands – Belgium, the border as such not visible in the Benelux, but Belgian cars had strong yellow headlights, quite different to Dutch cars’ headlights. Light as source for color, powered by the sun. Or as Jessica Stockholder stated that color is ‘ephemeral and embodied’ (Chartwell Collection, 2014).

In art, color and light relate to  James Turelland his light installations, as well as some works of Olafur Eliasson. Both are working also in public spaces and use color and light as a spatial phenomena that brings the spectator into an active role of participation and experiencing. The sun plays an important role in Eliasson’s work, e.g ‘The Weather Project’ (2003) ,  and even created a mobile sun Little Sun (2012) as a project to support solar energy, quite a commodity object. And other artists worked with artificial light as color in the form of neon tubes, e.g Dan Flavin or Bruce Nauman

Experience of Color

Color is experience in the form of paint for interior walls to feel more comfortable at home, or as a symbol for meaning and emotions, e.g. in analytical art therapy practices, or in color therapy for healing purposes similar to wall paint. Bruce Nauman played with this color connotations in his neon work One Hundred Live and Die (1984) or White Anger, Red Danger, Yellow Peril, Black Death (1985). Katharina Groosse is using color a different way and without symbolic meaning. For her the use of bright colors is what she perceives underneath a surface and the the way she sees the world (Arken, 2009). What reminds me of the scratch pictures done in primary school made with wax crayons, overpainted with black, and scrapped through to make the color underneath visible. Other times she works  ‘over-explicit with raw color’, i.e. juxtaposing sprayed color with pigments on the ground.

This resonates well with how I not only work with color in my art therapy practice, but also how I consider colors in painting. A color in itself not charged with meaning, but being relevant in relationship with other colors, shapes and associated objects. Often language is getting into the way of color, biased by cultural conventions or subjective beliefs. All in all, that may be a reason why white as a color is considered as the multiplicity of colors. And after various experiences with ‘white’ paper, I sense that there is no ‘pure’ white (though photographers may say white is 255), all do have some hue or another. And human perception if white is delusive as well, e.g the ‘watercolor illusion’ test shows.

“painting is the ability to manifest your existence in moments in space and because of non materialized existence of thought” – Katharina Grosse (Arken, 2009)

To work with color is to make information visible, and to raise awareness of the invisible and the space between, those are Grosse’s conceptions of how she works, without making claims as in graffiti works (Arken, 2009). A conception that resonates and made me aware of how possibly I approached my work during London Study Day in April 2018, as an experience in space and as a visualisation of space  – the installation reflecting on the space in between (Fig. 3)

StefanJSchaffeld - Pebble and Gravity, 2018 - work at London Study Day - the visible and the invisible

Fig. 3: StefanJSchaffeld – Pebble and Gravity, 2018 – work at London Study Day – the visible and the invisible

Color and objects 

Objects are painted, color is applied to the surface, that’s how we experience objects around us. Throug  my learnings with painting so far, I find that color could be split into hue, saturation and tonal value (color theory), with the latter often the most discriminative  element, especially when identifying distant forms, e.g people, and / or at twilight. Color in the sense of hue has for me more a sense of depth and multiplicity. Following various discussions on the OCA forum by photography students, I do find it insightful how they look at color versus black&white, the latter having more of a nostalgic appeal, colored pictures as more contemporary and life-full, less graphical. As starting with drawing on my degree pathway started monochromic, looking at marks and texture. Painting is therefore truly not only about paint but also about color as a different dimension of experience and expression.

Michael Fried argues in his essay from a Modernist perspective aligned with Clément Greenberg when he defends painting against a ‘literalist’ (Fried’s term for Minimalist position of Donald Judd or Robert Morris placing an object in space as an object of experience by a subject and making the space in-between an integral part of work. Therefore, painting objects would be non-art, furniture in space. For Fried painting was about inner relationships of a parts of a whole,  it the whole in relationship to a subject.

The dilemma started with the paradigm of Modernist painting or sculpture as independent disciplines, and painting to be only converted with the flatness of the picture, but not as an object defined by a flat canvas.  Sculpture got the issue of that when painted it enforces the underlying structures as a part. What was opposed by Minimal Sculptures by Judd or Morris.

Fried quotes Greenberg who wrote 1961 (p.161)

“to render substance entirely optical, and form, whether pictorial, sculptural, or architectural, as an integral part of ambient space – this brings anti-illusionism full circle. Instead of illusion of things, we are now offered the illusion of modalities: namely, that matter is incorporeal, weightless, and exists only optically like a mirage.”

This was exemplified at that time by Anthony Caro and his uniform painted multiparts sculptures. In a sense that each part is important for the whole, but the whole is more than the combination of its parts. A notion that was further articulated by Deleuze and the conception of assemblages.I find Jessica Stockholder realized the ‘modalities’ in a different way (see below).

It seems, color through the medium of paint wanted to escape the flat constrains of a frame (literally and metaphorically). Color as constrained to surface, a surface that enforces the perception of the underlying thing as an object (aka objecthood). Early one Jules Olitski tried with Bunga 45, 1967 or Whip Out, 1968 to overcome object appearance through variations of painted surfaces. However, I felt that paint was applied to object, not to an assembly of objects and even space as can be seen in the work of Richard Tuttle or Jessica Stockholder.

Painted space 

Phyllida Barlow makes large scale sculptural works, that could are intentionally theatrical, as if she would challenge and offset Fried’s critique of ‘literalist’ objects.  In an interview given in the context of her installation for the British Pavillon at Venice Biennal, 2017 she ‘hoped for a theatrical encounter, with the audience as performers’. The installation of a balcony inside the work and space enforces the ‘play within a play’. Her works do question whether the objects, the sculpture do dominate space or vice versa. Also as if she would criticises Fried her objects are hollow and to be looked inside. An aspect Fried dismissed as ‘blatantly anthropomorphic ‘. Her work ‘Folly’ is interestingly painted in mute colors quite different to Grosse or Stockholder who prefer to paint with saturated and often primary colors. Although other works of Barlow are also painted brighter. I find in her works the paint is a supporting agent, scale and shape as the dominant force of the visual encounter.

Jessica Stockholder expands color into space, similar to Katharina Grosse, but mediated through objects, not through surfaces (although objects to have surfaces) . It seems as if Greenberg’s words of 1961 became substance in space now. Her dysfunctional object works, seemingly arbitrary arrangement of objects painted across boundaries (as Katharina Grosse stated it) intriguing. At times her works remind me as mix of Richard Tuttle, Betty Woodman and John Armleder.

In an interview (Chartwell Collection, 2014) she describes how she considers material qualities similar to qualities of color. Color as a material experience in space, or as she states

“color as a skin on a surface or as permeating the whole thing”  – Jessica Stockholder

SImilar to Grosse, one important aspect for her is the awareness of presence, and painting be a ‘ fresher way of being present’. For her one main reason to make art is to getting new thoughts not having before. Overcoming learned patterns, painting as thinking process of not-knowing before starting doing it. It resonates not only with Katharina Grosse’s approach but also with my raising awareness over the span of this course, that preconceived idea and concepts to be executed are a dead end. resulting in ‘nice’ pictures, but not to a new understanding how how I related to the action I am doing and the result I am creating. A process based activity with the artist being the arranger, to conductor of things happening.

Stockholder is intrigued by how we resemble each other at the appearance in sameness,  but are also different inside  – or speaking in painting terms: different materiality.

The color that is a true surface phenomena although physically also deeper layers do impacts reflected light. At a distance, the surface of an object reflects light into our eyes and we discern it as an object. We describe object by discontinuities, edges and mediated by learned patterns. Stockholder’s work is informed by that . The question she addresses is how to disconnect color and object perception, applying continuities of paint across various objects making the whole as a pictorial assemblage that exceeds the perception of its parts. In that sense a work of relationships and perception , quite in a Modernist tradition of embracing the flatness of painting, ie the surface adherence of paint and avoiding the objecthood of its parts.

Painting across and painting out – something I tried to work out during previous exercise (Fig. 4)

StefanJSchaffeld - Two Folds of Folly, 2018 - installation view

Fig. 4: StefanJSchaffeld – Two Folds of Folly, 2018 – installation view

Objects to paint out

By coincidence I came across the work of Sarah Sze  who expresses a desire of material intimacy in her installation work ‘How We See the World’ at the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, 2015

” We have so much illusion but we don’t have touch and we don’t have taste and we don’t have smell” – Sarah Sze (Art21, 2016)

More conceptually situated, she responds to today’s visual culture of image distribution ‘similar to debris’. What resonates for me is her material approach by ‘arranging paint skins, torn paper images, and other materials such as wood, thread, and rocks’.  For Sze an exploration of  ‘our fragmented relationship to illusionistic images by focusing our attention on each object’s materiality’  by creating  ‘images that can be anywhere at anytime’. Space coming together like a floating frame, not knowing where a work begins and where it ends. Sze describes the way we see the world, in fragments. Quite different to Katharina Grosse who perceives the world through underlying colors. I like her questions e.g. ‘how does paint behave in space? how does it feel, how does it dry , how does it hear?’ And how we can approach material as not representing something else. How can we obtain awareness of images, of visual information, through edges, materiality and spatial interaction? Something that is certainly missing in a virtual world of flatscreen imagery. Where the edges are not part of an image, but of the here-world screen, where images can’t be touched, but just to screen surface. All trials to link the  touch with certain noises (e,g. the click of smartphone camera) are just another kind of illusion and delusion. Looking at some fragmented images of her installation made me smile, as it looks exactly like the pile of cut-outs from my previous works (Fig. 5)

StefanJSchaffeld - Part 2 - Materiality - Fragments

Fig. 5: StefanJSchaffeld – Part 2 – Materiality – Fragments, 2018

Reflection

Paint – color – objects – and images

Time to reflect how I approached painting since I started with OCA. During POP1, I painted pictures on a flat support, learning and sharpening my observation and color mixing skills. The pictures were either representational (e.g. My Presence, 2016 ) or abstract,  concerned with an inner pictorial logic and with my mental images (e.g. InsideOut-De(I)llusion, 2016). I did consider my paintings as movable objects, to be able to ship to my tutor or for assessment. In this current course, I painted not for the sake of creating pictures, more to express body movements, or processes of action. Performative paintings that eventually resulted in pictorial images, at times the ephemeral moments were captured through lens based moving images of the action taking place (e.g. Folding and Unfolding, 2018 and Fig. 2), that brought me into contact with folds and questioning fabric and paper related partly to Sam Gilliam. Or through animated time-based images (e..g Still-life Arrangement I, 2018). What leads me to the question what  painting actually is and whether painting interior walls or arranging colored pieces is painting or craft or decoration. The funny thing with German language: ‘Maler’ ( painter) is the profession for interior wall painting, a painter in the sense of art need to be amended as ‘Kunst-Maler’ (art-painter).

During part two I worked with objects, more or less flat, and my relationship to them, arranging and organising, activating interactions and using painted surfaces as a mean to distinguish, to uniform, to activate. And to disguise or to enforce form perception leveraging the human conditions of making sense of whatever strikes the eyes (see Fig. 4).

Looking at Katharina Grosse, Jessica Stockholder, Phyllida Barlow, and Sarah Sze (coincidence that all are women?) made me aware of how painting in color on surface of objects can be more than the creation of an image, a representation of something. Paint is material, and color can be experienced as material as well. Color is space experience, and objects are spatial things we experience. Objects can be anything, a chair, a printed photograph, a picture, or a fragment of something. Objects are materialised in a real world (not considering idealist positions of objects as ideas). I experimented with materiality in my sketchbook as a way of thinking through visuals (Fig. 6)

StefanJSchaffeld - Part 2 - Materiality - Sketchbook

Fig. 6: StefanJSchaffeld – Part 2 – Materiality – Sketchbook, 2018

Sarah Sze informed me further about fragmentation as conceptual aspect of visual culture, an aspect I explored in part one (e.g. What is Left Behind, 2018 or ‘The Puzzle of Gesture‘, 2018). In that same exploration I revisited aspects of ground and figure, and how ground can be a figure, painted objects, though resulting as flat pictures, kind of flatland work with intermediated breathing of expanded space.

All in all I can relate to Katharina Grosse and Jessica Stockholder when they approach painting as an encounter with the visual, and at times also non-visual world. An aspect of tactility and proximity that is also reflected in Sarah Sze’s installations. And that I found a more intimate relationship while working on my second Object-Collage What is Below and Beyond (Fig. 7)

StefanJSchaffeld - What is Below and Beyond, 2018 -installation view

Fig. 7: StefanJSchaffeld – What is Below and Beyond, 2018 -installation view

What is left now?

A question whether painting need paint and whether painting need color. Or put in a different way, if I work across, around and through surfaces with colored things, readymade color e.g. tape as I’ve seen in some works of Barlow, is this a sculpture or a painting or an installation?

Or is it important that I take paint in my ‘hand’ to apply to? I feel a bit lost in transition.

But I am also excited to work more spatial, not to paint on objects but to paint with them and through them. Perhaps, it comes back to a fetishism and object ontology. But I still believe that there are always two layers working in parallel when looking at a work: the work in itself as a object or assemblage and the deferred sense that one subjectively makes and connote with the work in a given situation.


Images:

  • all works are made by me during the span of this course. (c)StefanJSchaffeld, 2017-18

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