Tag Archives: exhibition

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?


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.


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


  • 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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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 



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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)



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


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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


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. 


  • 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


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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.


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Being out there – Where is my place?


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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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


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Study Visit: Mark Dion, Whitechapel – April 15th

  • Study Visit: Mark Dion, Whitechapel – April 15th

On my second day in London I joined my tutor Clare Wilson with some other fellow students for a study visit of Mark Dion (b. 1961) – Theatre of the Natural World  I went there with some ambivalent sensations as I’ve heard and read before from others that this would be quite a different exhibition. Anyway, I was curious to experience it myself. 

According to the Whitechapel site, Mark Dion’s ‘drawings, sculptures and installations draw on the techniques of scientific enquiry and museum display; and on the telling of natural histories.’ (Whitechapel, 2018)


The Library for the Birds of London, 2018:

The Library for the Birds of London, 2018

Fig. 1: The Library for the Birds of London, 2018

To have a library for birds seem silly, but could be considered to two ways: Either as a reflection on human desire to explain and understand everything around, or as an anthropocentric viewpoint to feel superior over birds who nonetheless ‘remain indifferent to these human artefacts’ , as the exhibition booklet describes. Whether the really remain indifferent is an assumption, somehow juxtaposed by a sensibility for animal welfare (wall image  ‘Commonly Asked Questions about the Birds’ ) and the instruction that not more than four people are allowed to be inside the cave the same time. 

The tree inside the cave is bolted visibly together showing itself as an object of an artificial habitat.

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Exhibition: All Too Human – Tate Britain

  • Exhibition: All Too Human – Tate Britain
  • Exhibition: All Too Human – Tate Britain
  • Exhibition: All Too Human – Tate Britain

I started my exciting London weekend with a visit to Tate Britain and the exhibition of ‘All Too Human‘, a retrospective of British figure painting, mainly focusing on post-war painters.

My first impression after entering the building was ‘What an art temple’ – a majestic building, flooded with visitors and guards, with spacious architecture. A place that illustrated to me the conception of art space as a sanctuary for contemplation of art, alienated from the surrounding social and cultural situation.

One has to know the way to move, as various exhibitions and spaces are located in the building. Not to talk about the human ‘needs’ for food (several restaurants) and acquiring (stores).

The paintings on display were quite a show of the British painting stars: Walter Sickert, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerback, R.B. Kitaj etc. The exhibition was structured chronologically, starting with Sickert from beginning of the 20th century and finishing with the female painters: Paula Rego, Jenny Saville, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. The last made me aware how male driven human figure painting was. Are the three women showing a shift in appreciation and a new reality? Or was this a conscious intention of the curator, kind of ‘making a statement’? 

Sketchbook pages

Fig. 1: Sketchbook pages

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Exhibition: Abraham Cruzvillegas ‘Autorreconstrucción: Social Tissue’, Zurich

I went to the exhibition of Abraham Cruzvillegas (b. 1968), an Mexican artist, at the Kunsthaus in Zurich (16 February – 25 March 2018) not knowing what I would expect and see there . It was the second last day of the exhibition and from my experience museum exhibitions have a certain life-cyle change, as most visitors seem to come either at the very beginning or at the very end. 

The exhibition text mentioned that the artist ‘investigates architecture as the expression of social conditions’. Relating to his origin in a rural area south of Mexico city, as ‘a centre of makeshift, self-built housing constructed from materials found nearby, without foundations or construction plans. The entire community of family members and neighbours was involved in building them.’

“sculptural form a process of transformation, action and solidarity… a constant becoming.” – Kunsthaus Zurich text

The scope or purpose of the exhibition was to use the opened museum space as a workshop for a continuous and dynamic process of creation of objects in interaction with or response to the artist, his assistant and some co-workers from the museum staff and in a wider context of sequences of events (film screenings, workshops, concerts, discussions, and skateboarding days as well as kids’ club). Thus, to use the space as a space for interaction as well as for education and dialogue. Overall, showing progress as a laboratory or workshop of actions.

I went to the exhibition outside of the event program, kind of experiencing the snapshot moment of in-between, a stasis in time, as well as the image of the final days. 


Sketchbook on site - exploring space

Fig. 1: Sketchbook on site – exploring space – observing other visitor’s movements and interactions. Exhibition space as social space? What is my role?

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