Tag Archives: Sophia Starling

Art practitioners // bodies, vulnerability, materiality // transformation

Suggestions on art practitioners that could inform my working practice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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




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



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

Project 2.5: Still life and the Combine – Robert Rauschenberg and more

Stefan513593 -Ex. 2.4 - Combine Two - feat2

Robert Rauschenberg

Looking at Robert Rauschenberg (1925 – 2008) seem to be a expansive endeavour. Thus, I looked first how others did see him and noted down some quotes from statements of various artists ( Tate shots video on Rauschenberg:

“He is one of the first people to explode the surface of the painting into the world of the viewer”, “our tendency is to seek a narrative, he presents possibilities of that, and then undercuts it”, “everything is part of our visual world, thus everything can be drawn into a piece of an art” – Sir Alan Parker

“do require a bit of work from the viewer, comfort zone disruptive quite visceral” – Cornelia Parker

The following two quotes from the same video resonates very truthfully how I envision, experience my surrounding world, me and the way I want to make sense as an artist:

“ability to making images, is in us – the complexity of how we assemble a picture of the world” – Philippe Parreno

and last not least Rauschenberg’s own words

“Painting relates to both art and life. Neither can be made. (I try to act in that gap between the two.)” – Robert Rauschenberg, 1959

With relation to my object-box made out of all kind of nonsense, dysfunctional objects, not really of use in daily life as such, another thought crosses my mind of how we do make sense and build relationship with objects, objects we know, possibly experience more unconsciously, and how possibly my work can address that mental and emotional process of connectivity and relationship. What draws our attention, our empathy? What makes it that we keep that attention over time and space? And what makes it fail, that we get rid of it? Unattended, lost, without even mourning ? In this context, Rauschenberg’s series ‘Cardboards’ (1971-72) seem to be a possible perspective for my unfolding box, all those works from his series are wall pieces (installations?) of unfolded found card boxes with traces of their origin and usage.  Based on these found objects, he made some ceramic casts, e.g. Tampa Clay Piece 3, 1972-73,  added tape and silkscreened details, confusion and challenging the viewer of their verisimilitude (Katz, 2017). I encountered the idea of casting first in House, 1993 of Rachel Whiteread and later Bruce Nauman’s A Cast of the Space Under my Chair, 1965-66 – both revealing the surface of an object otherwise concealed, or unnoticed. Whereas, Rauschenberg’s work addresses the question of object as ready-made versus artwork representing a ‘real’ object.

Stefan513593 - Project 2.5 - Sketchbook unfolded Cardboard

Fig. 1: Stefan513593 – Project 2.5 – Sketchbook unfolded Cardboard

I would love to see a major retrospective of Rauschenberg’s work, at least to see some of his objectified objects in reality. So far, I have to be satisfied with printed and online reproductions.

Rauschenberg was facing misinterpretations and was criticised for an appropriation of past strategies to critique contemporary art practices e.g, the gestural affirmation by Abstract Expressionists. Together with his close friend Jasper Johns (b. 1930), he is often classified by critique as Neo-Dada, because of their collage and multi-pictorial works relating to some works by Kurt Schwitters (1887 – 1948) and e.g. his Merz Pictures as a collage of found imagery (the name Merz derives from the rather oldish German word Kommerz=commerce, or perhaps better to say: mass consumption). However, according to Craft (2013) the Neo-Dada notion would have been better been associated with the public outcry against his Combines or his earlier works Elemental Sculptures, e.g. Music Box, 1955, reminiscent to Marcel Duchamp’s With Hidden Noise, 1916. Rauschenberg’s earlier works ‘Scatole Personali (Personal Boxes)‘ , 1952/53 and ‘Feticci Personali (Personal Fetishes), 1953 that he made during his stay in Italy, resonate very much with my current ‘obsession’ with my peronal object-box though the objects I placed inside are not really personal (perhaps they just became it). But perhaps, each object in itself is of less importance?

Found object, ‘objets trouves’, collecting them and in incorporating them into new artefacts were one area of Surrealist artist, e.g. Man Ray (Cadeau, 1921/1970), Alberto Giacometti (Table, 1933/1969), Joan Miro (Peinture-objet, 1931 – see at: http://www.alaintruong.com/archives/2008/11/02/11205036.html or http://successiomiro.com/catalogue/7) or Max Ernst (The Sea (Marine), 1928). Miro and Ernst more in the tradition of painting. These Surrealists used found objects as artefacts in a juxtaposition for dysfunctional and rather symbolic assemblages. The called the relief or sculptural works ‘objects’ in order to distinguish the from the aesthetic connotation of sculptures. At times those object-assemblages became a mystic, surreal or fetishist dimension. Quite different from Duchamp’s ready-made that defer our perception of objects onto a meta-level of reflection (Zentrum Paul Klee, 2016:306-325).

The Combines: a collage response to a visual world

Rauschenberg’s Combines, created mainly between 1955 and 1961, do show a progression. His earlier works forming a critique of Abstract Expressionism as gestural emotional self expression by using a mix of personal and non-personal items, multi media, multi pictorial and sculptural, e.g. Untitled, 1954 – at times called by him as ‘Plymouth Rock’ as a ‘point of arrival in an unknown land’ (Craft, 2015:48). His later Combines could be seen more as reflection and journalistic strolling along a urban life and its environment, e.g. Rebus, 1955 or First Landing Jump, 1961.  And as the pulsing, ads, multiple pictures flooding towards the eyes, the attention to details is lost, blurred. Often one can’t remember at the end of the day what the eye received in visual information. Images pass by, and this might be the case with ‘Combines’ as well, so many visual information  in different places, seen from a distant, one tends to move along. But in a space like a gallery, one tends to look deeper, seeking meaning, trying to make sense out of it. As if the surrounding space supports as a protective space against further intrusion. It takes time to look at, through, outside and inside, and to digest or to make sense, if possible at all. Curiosity as a main driver. I feel as if this flood of visual information through objects and pictures is getting more and more a dominant presence in art spaces, e.g. Mark Dion’s exhibition at Whitechapel. Time to stroll or contemplate is over, though a deeper interrogation with one object or an assemblage might still be seen as ‘contemplative’ . Return of Modern Art in at a meta-level? Are we dumb and un-receptive for all kinds of visual information outside and more receptive in art spaces?

Steinberg (1972) stated in his essay that ‘the painted surface is no longer the analogue of a visual experience of nature but a operational process’. With this he describes a paradigm shift from a vertical posture towards a working on a horizontal surface like the flatbed printing press or studio floor or tabletops. A verticality that prevailed since the Renaissance one point view of perspective. Main force is gravity, as John Cage also argued (2003,) the vertical representing sight, the horizontal tactility and placement of objects as a ‘receptor surface on which objects are scattered’ (as those would obviously fall down on a vertical surface). Bottomline, how we relate to the world around (vision, operation) us dictates how we perceive a work, a painting, a map, an installation. What brings me once again to my previous reflection on perspective and imagery in a contemporary context related to today’s practice of top down views related to Google and satellite derived maps. A distancing view as an observer, even as an voyeur, looking down, to overview, for possible arrangements – quite like I experienced the previous exercise work with cut outs collage, a map.

Another aspect I find quite relevant in the perception of ‘Combines’, and later sculptural painting works, is the sense of assemblage, the sense that the whole is not any longer just the combine of all parts, but that the whole need to be seen rather independent of its parts. Looking at each part separately will only give some information, looking at the whole as an assemblage will provide a different insight. A notion that Sophia Starling described as the ‘integral whole’ (See below).

Rauschenberg’s famous ‘Combine’ is Monogram, 1955-59. He worked for four years on it till he found apparently the right assembly of the goat, the tyre and the support. There exist many different interpretations, related to critique of Abstract Expressionism to sexual statement. Possibly, this variety of interpretations, of sense-making, is one key aspect of ‘Combines’: the viewer as integral part of the work and the artist having merely a mediator role, a choreographer, as the viewer need to walk around or at times crouch down (as with the work Untitled, 1954). I find one aspect interesting in Monogram considering my object-box project : the hinge, normally intended to close or to fold, now a dysfunctional object, an artefact, a memory. 

read more

Exhibition: Sam Gilliam ‘The Music of Color’, Basel

  • Exhibition: Sam Gilliam ‘The Music of Color’, Basel
  • Exhibition: Sam Gilliam ‘The Music of Color’, Basel
  • Exhibition: Sam Gilliam ‘The Music of Color’, Basel
  • Exhibition: Sam Gilliam ‘The Music of Color’, Basel
  • Exhibition: Sam Gilliam ‘The Music of Color’, Basel
  • Exhibition: Sam Gilliam ‘The Music of Color’, Basel

The Music of Color

Sam Gilliam (b. 1933 ) ‘The Music of Color – 1967 -1973‘ (9 June  30 Sep 2018) Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland

I was really looking forward to this exhibition, seeking for some further context for my current coursework, and looking for new inspiration. The scope of the exhibition was the early period ot the artist in context of post-war American Abstract Painting (1967-1973). A period that is characterized by his moving away from constraints of a stretched canvas with right angles and creation of drapes, capes, cowls, clovers and beveled-edge paintings.

“If you study art, our teacher can be very fixed. Your paper has to be up that way. …your can’t come up the top, you always have to use that baseline so that your figure stand up this way. If you bowl it up, you have different edges, it becomes sulptural, or if you fold it, and has stripes and move across, that’s me-”  – Sam Gilliam (Kunstmuseum Basel, 2018b)

and he continued with stating that what may become important:

“The objection to somehow”

Sketches during my visit – studying spatial relationship:

Gilliam’s beginnings were beveled-edge paintings that overcome the right angle of a stretched canvas to either give more attention to the sides of the canvas (with edges moving away from the canvas) as object or to make it flowing over the wall (with edges towards the center) – Fig 3:

Sam Gilliam 'Beveled Edge Paintings' 1967-70 - installation view; photo: StefanJSchaffeld

Fig 3: Sam Gilliam ‘Beveled Edge Paintings’ 1967-70 – installation view; photo: StefanJSchaffeld

What becomes visible are traces of folding, the canvas unstretched, painted, folded, unfolded, stretched. 

What occurs to me when entering the exhibition was how relevant Sam Gilliam did become to me. The folding and unfolding reminded me directly of my recent assignment 1 work (Fig. 4) and I could even put some experimental work I did earlier (Fig. 5)  – not knowing where this could lead me towards.

There is some relationship with the process painting of Jessica Warboys Sea Paintings.with folding, unfolding and letting the paint being shaped through folds and creases by chance, less control. I could see here great relationship with my work during part 1 on ‘removing gestures‘. What a great find was this exhihibition to become!

read more
Follow Me

Follow my Learning Blog