Tag Archives: narrative

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:



  • Chadwick, H. (2011) Helen Chadwick : of mutability, [Rev. rep.] ed. Edited by James, N. P. London: Cv Publications, c2011, c1989
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Project 3.3 – Ex. 3.2: Before and After / Pulling a Narrative

I worked from my previous work for ‘Body as Canvas‘  , the stage-box, appropriating a TV set and Serra’s hand through my painterly performance. 

The question how to incorporate a narration into this work. But moreover the question, what narration could be, besides ‘telling  a story’ in an entertaining or didactic manner. In my parallel research I looked at the works of Amy Sillman, Jutta Koether, and Jacqueline Humphries. My original idea derived from Richard Serra’s short video Hand Catching Lead (1968). My motivation derived from my subject matter of my personal project: medical imaging and the self, or in a wider sense, digital imaging versus embodied sense of reality and identity. All in context of visual culture. My work is an appropriation of efforts, as the original idea was an exploration of the visual culture and technology at that time (mid/late 1960s) resulting in a reduced stage performance. Could Serra’s as well as my work be considered as a visual commentary on memory (see Jan Verwoert and Vincent Pecoil) with an outlook on future possibilities? 

What happened so far:

I could see my intital ‘Catch Paint Box‘ as a painterly enactment, in context of Rachel Russell’s appropriation of Guston’s The Studio.  I worked further and with an extended version ‘Paint – Catch- Move’ (video 1), with more linear and non-linear camera, body and object movements. I posted in an hangout at a further developed stage for peer review. could be seen as a kind of narrative, linear in its temporal deployment, and with some phases or acts. 

Video 1: Catch-Paint-Move (2:34min):

A narrative in moving images, painting in a painted stage, a multiple before and after


I could see how my enactment within the painted situation turned itself into a painterly gesture: My painted hand reached in and out, for meaning – quite literally. The surrounding context (painted TV set, painted laptop, physical environment of my studio) could work as layers of reality, depicted reality, illusion In summary, this would be already a before and after narrative as requested for this exercise. But somehow I was not satisfied with the result – not yet (although the video as work was perceived quite well by peers).

One key aspect was the reaching-out an through to break the ‘fourth wall’. Compared to the rather static scene of Russell’s The Studio, my ‘hand’ searched and extended. The hand as the tactile and gestural ‘tool’, quite in a sense of Douglas Gordon‘s The Divided Self. And it the aspect of a felt dissociation of my hand from my ‘outside’ body that makes Gordon’s work quite relevant. And in a wider sense I do wonder how much there is even a cultural sensibility of the vulnerable masculine body involved (with some notion of the vulnerability expressed John Coplans series of Self-Portraits (1985-87). 

Hand and arms are performative subjects, also in still images, as I did notice in the ‘still’ portrait photography of Shirin Neshat, e.g. Stripped (1995). How could I develop this further? Be more ambiguous? Maybe, driven by my desire to re-make the physical enactment part of a flat painting. Similar to Paulo Rego installed various sceneries in her studio, just to make observational paintings? And to transform painted moving images back into still images. What could be gained by that?

Ideas for development:

I do wonder how my approach to narrative could inform further my parallel project. I looked at some other artists (Sara Naim, Alexa Wright and Jacqueline Humphries – see sep blog post): glitches, distortions, dislocations, fragmentations, and the mirror as body image.

From my various playing around with shapes, stencils, collages, paintings the following aspects seem to be intriguing:

  • figure-ground relationship
  • performative enactment inside the painting
  • painting as backdrop for performance (as Clare Price’s IG performative diary)
  • painting as disruptive element in images
  • crossing boundaries between painting and digital reproduction
  • fragmented visual information to disrupt narratives
  • visual layering as aspects of memory and passage of time

My initial linear attempt (Fig. 1) – collaged reproduced paintings and still images, painted over:

Stefan513593 - P3Ex3 - sketchbook - narrative explorations

Fig. 1: Sketchbook – narrative exploration – first attempts in discerning a narrative – a linear split in space


=> The top line a time based narrative of ‘pulling the narrative’. Visually, I find the juxtaposition of dark, enclosed area and the bottom right white, open area attractive. Also the apparently receding impression of the three ‘TV-sets’ in middle row seem to add some visual narrative. The right hand seem visually to advance from the background (with ambiguous white/black patterns).

Overall, not so satisfying and convincing, struggling with the linear aspect, too much of telling a story (?) , looking more for a non-story based narrative, more disruptive (embracing the bottom right corner in Fig. 1). At least,  the top line could be cropped off (too illustrative).


A collection of ideas from the box, different backdrop (psychedelic?), crossing boundaries of staged reality and studio reality, pulling a narrative, collaged (Fig. 2).

Where is my hand?

 What is it doing? 

 not me   –   not there 

failure     –     fragmented


Stefan513593 - P3Ex3 - development

Fig. 2: sketchbook development

=> still having the bottom right corner separated visually.


a) Moving images expansion step 1:

Referring to my appropriation of Serra’s ‘Catching Hand’ , I was looking for how to include the falling objects besides being actual objects moving into the stage painting: perhaps a projection on a transparent layer, or the backdrop, making it impossible for my hand to catch – reflecting on the discrepancy between digital (projection) and analog (embodied performance) – and perhaps a different approach towards fragmented in-betweenness – Fig. 3: 

Stefan513593 - P3Ex3 - development - screen

Fig. 3: development -Sketchbook exploration of transparency and the multiple sides of reality – left collage painting without, right with painted plastic sheet (removable) – colors inspired by the projection artefacts (see video 2); quite opaque layer

and another one:

Stefan513593 - P3Ex3 - development - screen 2

Fig. 4: development -Sketchbook exploration of transparency and the multiple sides of reality – left: initial painting with collage frame, center: mylar layer ontop and back view (oil paint), right: monotprint (decalcomania) of mylar painting on sketchbook page


=> I intentionally took the photographs with the reflections of my studio light, as it seems only through them the reality of the transparent mylar sheet became visible (present). I liked the monotype print. On the one hand a rather practical approach to take off some of the paint from the mylar. Otherwise, it creates a remote painting (at least a point of departure ) with some sense of visual depth and intriguing edges. Comparing with the initial underlying painting, it resembles it  – with a more colorful gestural expression of movement.

Based on these ‘still’ sketchbook explorations, I went back to video recording my ‘painting enactment’ with an attempt in moving, performing images: staging, projection of playback recording, recording =>  concealing/revealing – is this a narrative? And still an open question of how sound/soundscape does work (or not)


Video 2: Hand – Catch – Screen (0:50 min) (password: visual) – edited from several videos taken:


=> I do consider this moving image as a further expansion on screen, projection, the digital and the analog. Video taken with my phone-camera. Experimenting with multiple realities (recording the  projection of a video onto the box), screen (plastic foil in-front of the box), and artefact creation (hue shift, patterns)

I noticed several (digital, technology) artefacts:

  • shifting screen pattern from manually tilting the projector downwards
  • color hue shifts (glitches) moving downwards from the double recording (video-projection-video) at 0:44-0:50 min
  • artefact from turning on the projector at 0:08- 0:09 min
  • reflective glare from the projector – index and evidence of projection, of one reality; absent when foil is absent 

I like the artefacts things – appears only during double projection-recording. I can related this to the projection doing a ‘painterly performance’ – either to keep it like that or to transform into informed paintings.

Some performing artefacts in a painterly sense do remind me of the monotype print I did before (see Fig. 4 – right).


Stefan513593 - P3Ex3 - development - artefacts

Fig. 5: development – artefacts – a collaged mix of still images


….and some intriguing still images from video 2:

Stefan513593 - P3Ex3 - development . contactsheet of still images HCS

Fig. 6: development  – still images HCS (Hand Catch Screen, video 2)


b) Moving images expansion step 2:

adding my hand – a performative enactment in space-in-between.


Video 3: Hand – Catch – Screen – Performance (2:32 min) – edited from several videos taken:


=> The projector casting a shadow of my hand and creating the artefact of color shifts (as observed in step 1) I zoomed in and out (as in my initial Catch-Paint-Box video) – breaking the fourth wall and adding context intentionally. The blackness brings me to the reference of movie theater experiences. The sequences kind of disruptive narrative? The falling objects seem so real, but are merely a recording of a projection. At 0:43 min there is a switch in the sequence: from dark to light stage. I like the click-sound (un-intentionally happening, the result of turning on the light). At 0:46 min another switch is happening: from light back to dark with a zoomed-out view alongside a switch of backdrop (colored to monochrome mural painting). At 1:24 my hand is appearing, kind of new act (in zoom-out view, with the artefact of light when turning on the projection). At 1:53 min, the backdrop changes back to the starting colored version.

The closing and opening of my hand reminded me of a pumping action, in sync or partly with the zoom. 

Stefan513593 - P3Ex3 - development - sketchbook - contactsheet of still images HCSP

Fig. 7: development . sketchbook; contactsheet of still images HCSP (Hand Catch Screen Performance, video 3) overpainted with gestural stripes responding to artefacts and glitches

=> I find that the overall picture as an assemblage does have a different appeal versus the individual images. Perhaps another way of narrative? As contact sheets do convey sot of documentary and evidence (if numbered) appeal from a photography practice.

I can discern a few aspects that I find intriguing and will develop further through painting:

  • layering – opaque transparency (like J Humphries stencil paintings)
  • artefacts (digital, analog glitches and the in-between  – the invisible) and its colorful index
  • dissociative hand – dislocation – manual interaction
  • fragmentation
  • disruptive picture plane (see also Fig. 1)
  • painting to perform, my hand in absence – the paint in presence – embracing serendipity

Current stage:

  • A video as performing painting (‘Paint Catch Move‘, video 1)
  • A series of still images as impression of a process and interaction  (Fig. 7, derived from video 3)

Steps to do:

  1. A narrative of ‘pulling a narrative’ (Fig. 1, Fig. 8/9, and video 4)
  2. Ideas for installation (see below ‘Further development ideas’)


Presentation format:


PULL: Pulling a Narrative


I was fascinated by the pulling approach through my hand, the hand as a handle like the handle of a jar in the narrative of Georg Simmel ‘Der Henkel (The Handle)’ (see my post  Handle and the Box) that kept me inspired during part 2. May there be something to build around the hand, the handle, the pull, and the reaching out and in?

The ‘pull’ might be a one way of participatory action (with some reference to past victorian toys), a smaller format compared to the ‘walk’ as in Jutta Koether’s installations. And a pull could be seen bifold: pulling towards me or being pulled into.

Building a narrative:

Basically, to take still images from my various painting performance recordings and to arrange them in a different, visually appealing way. I noticed that at the end all kind of sequences might work, eventually settled with one (Fig 8):

Stefan513593 - P3Ex3 - Pull - building a narrative

Fig. 8: Pull – building a narrative (top row: selected sequence)

=> still not that coherent – perhaps to move on in the format of either a flip book or a one long sheet with interacting shapes and forms (a bit light Fig.1 – a landscape?)

Another idea for viewing as moving images (appropriating victorian toys): rotating cylinder, black with a peep hole to look through. I also have seen the idea of peeping recently at Helmhaus, Zurich – exhibition of contemporary Swiss artists: Doris Stauffer Patriarchalisches Panoptikum, 1975 – and resonating with the fairy series of Kate Aston, OCA photography student. Peeping as a feminist subvertive response, but what would take me away from my approach to in-between-ness of technology, imaging technique, and glitches.

Two forms of presenting my encounter with Serra and the screen surface (sketchbook epxlorations). Pulling the narrative – painted performance recorded and re-projected

Stefan513593 - P3Ex3 - Pull - building a narrative - presentation formats

Fig. 9: Pull – building a narrative – presentation formats (sketchbook explorations), left: pulling role, to pull and unfold downwards – right: small booklet in the center behind a black frame, to pull to the left and flip  formats for distribution?


..and the pulling aka unfolding of the narrative (booklet – right in Fig.9):

Video 4: Pull #02 (0:28 min)

(see at top of post – featured video)


My other idea possibly more responding to the ‘still’-moments of a moving image. Initially, I was intrigued by Richard Serra’s (non-)catching hand. Through his repetitive action and due to his partly failure rising a desire to continue. One becomes over time more sensible to the small moments and deviations, like one becomes more sensible to the impact of the environment either in Robert Rauschenberg’s ‘White Paintings’ or in Jacqueline Humphries ‘Black Light Paintings’. Only through the double projection/recording of my process based approach, I became aware of the artefacts and glitches. 

TIME: Sensibility to Time

Eventually, I decided that the efforts and deepness I will work further on this project will exceed the scope of this ‘exercise’. There, I will build and develop the work through painting further in my assignment work.


Further development ideas – Invitation for Participation

I do consider my work more as a visual ideation than as finished work Although, I was encouraged by peer feedback on my video Catch-Paint-Move as a work in itself, already ambigous enough, perhaps to be further developed with some ‘unexpected’. I developed it further towards – once again – more interactive, participatory sketches (Fig. 9 and to illustrate it through the video Pull #02)

However, I have a feeling that related to installation there could or need to be more. A combination of moving images (performative video) and still images (ass seen with Amy Sillman or Jutta Koether) in the same space for exhibition seems relevant for me.

Possibly, the ‘real’ narrative is happening in the space between, the space the viewer enters when going physically through an exhibition, engaging and interacting with works on display. This will trigger ideas, embrace individual experience of the viewer resulting in a new narrative, making sense process. I do embrace Jutta Koether’s approach in her series Seasons and Sacraments, as if a certain relationship with know past moments, stories, are one important aspect of the body of work. An invitation for participation.  

I will consider this through my deeper painting approach in my assignment work as well as to see how it can inform my parallel project.



  • Working in series became the result of performative actions and a constant exploration of new ways of looking at things. My setup with a staged box and my hand as the protagonist in a virtual untold story informed my selection of images. The recordings informed my still images – and vice versa 
  • As my narrative is built more around disruptive visual cues and not on ‘telling a story’ in a linear fashion, my working process evolved in a similar way. At times rather chaotic, back and forth, between performative action in/on a painted stage and exploring images in a painterly approach.
  • The question what a painting is became more open-ended by my approach: a layering of multiple realities: Serra’s video work, my painted hand and appropriation of Serra’s video, my unpainted hand, inside and outside a staged TV-box, the autonomous performance of my hand, the artefacts of digital and analog technology as means of virtual imagery. The latter possibly as technology performing for me.
  • I was not so convinced by ‘telling a story’ through a series of paintings. It has a touch of didactic approach, more narrowing down than opening up. Therefore, I decided to move along a non-story, non-linear approach in creating a visual narrative. Embracing materiality and visual artefacts as a reflection on contemporary life conditions in a digital and multi-imagery based world.
  • Moving images versus still images aka paintings: still an open question, the latter perhaps more open in the situation of an installation with the viewer as narrator walking around and to build a narrative in that very moment. Hard to test in distant learning environment in my studio. 
  • I am aware that the colored painted background in yellow, blue may not be the best and conscious choice of colors. However, I found that the brighter colors (informed by the blueish black of the used gouache paint) with yellow as a ‘light emitting’ hue alongside the rather psychedelic curved stripes do work in this context of a backdrop.
  • I consciously focused my approach in this exercise on the ‘TV-set’ part, excluding the painted laptop from it. I felt the disruptive narrative through the double projection and interaction of figurative (hand) and abstract shapes (backdrop, artefacts) would be more successful and less complex. I felt that the first works better in the format of a performative video and less as a series of still images.
  • Overall, this exercise took much longer than initially thought. Therefore, I decided to continue further working on this in my assignment work (color creation through technological artefacts, in-between realities and the flat screen as a vehicle similar to a flat painting, close up views, more performative aspects of painting).


  • Derrien, M., Ihler-Meyer, S., Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean and Musée Régional d’Art Contemporain Occitanie/Pyrénées-Méditerranée (2018) Flatland/Abstractions narratives. Status.
  • Romdane, S. B. (2018) ‘Syrian Artist Sara Naim Doesn’t Believe in Borders – The 30-year-old uses abstract photography to question life’, in: Mille. [online].  At: http://www.milleworld.com/syrian-artist-sara-naim/  (Accessed on 20 Dec 2018).
  • The Third Line (2019) SARA NAIM – Building Blocks (January 16 – February 27, 2019), [online], At: https://madmimi.com/p/40ed6d  (Accessed  20 Dec 2018). Dubai: The Third Line, .
  • Verwoert, J. (2007) ‘Living with Ghosts: From Appropriation to Invocation in Contemporary Art.’, in: Art & Research. [online]. 1, At: http://www.artandresearch.org.uk/v1n2/verwoert.html;(Accessed on 20 Oct 2018).
  • Wright, A. (2017) Alter Ego,  [online video], At: https://vimeo.com/212579581  (Accessed on 16 Dec 2018).


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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.


  • 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.



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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


  • 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


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)


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




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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?


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.


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


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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


  • 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)

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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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