Tag Archives: research

Fine Art – practice, research or what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


Amendment

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

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

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


Image:

  • SJSchaffeld, painting from part3

Reference:

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

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

Questions to answer for ourselves:

The questions Emma asked us and my response to them

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

 

Stefan513593 - London 04May2019 - Research what and why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stefan513593 - London 04May2019 - writing out

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

 

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

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

 

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


Reference:

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