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Reflection on a London visit

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

A visual-verbal collection of lasting moments

Art History

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

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

 

Text as visuals

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

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

 

Making of zine at RA – longdistancepress.com

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

A phrase that very much reminds me of V Flusser.

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

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

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

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

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

Phyllida Barlow untitled: shadowplatform (2018– 2019)

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Conclusion

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


Images:

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

Reference:

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Thinking Through Art

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

Questions to answer for ourselves:

The questions Emma asked us and my response to them

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

 

Stefan513593 - London 04May2019 - Research what and why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stefan513593 - London 04May2019 - writing out

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

 

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

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

 

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


Reference:

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

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

Drawing is research,

Drawing is thinking,

Drawing is seeking,

Drawing is exploring.

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

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

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

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

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

After Michelangelo / informed by Moore’s line approach i

Looked at: no. 1998,0214.6

Stefan513593 - British Museum - After 'unknown after Michelangelo'

 

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

After Deacon / informed by my MRI project

Looked at: no 2006,0930.9

Stefan513593 - British Museum - After Richard Deacon

After Dürer / gestural response

Looked at: no. SL,5218.29

Stefan513593 - British Museum - After Albrecht Dürer

 

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

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

Reflection

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

 

 


Reference:

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A trip to environment – a human perspective ?!

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

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

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

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

Impressions:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Video (0:59 min, with audio)

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

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

Learnings and take-always:

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

Reference:

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Regional Group study visit Switzerland

MuDA – Museum of Digital Art, Zurich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stefan513593 - ideas - visit Muda.co

Fig.1: ideas – visit Muda.co

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

Bildhalle (picture hall) Gallery, Zurich

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

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

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

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

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

 – Albarrán Cabrera, Barcelona 2017

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

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

Stefan513593 - vertigo - testing

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

 

Mai36 Gallery, Zurich – Robert Mapplethorpe

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

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

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

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

 


Learnings and Take Aways – ideas:

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

Reference:

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

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

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

Key learnings

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

Take aways:

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

 

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

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


Background on the two artists: 

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

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

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

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

 


Reference:

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Study Visit: Mark Dion, Whitechapel – April 15th

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

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

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

 

The Library for the Birds of London, 2018:

The Library for the Birds of London, 2018

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

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

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

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London Group Study Day – April 14th

  • London Group Study Day – April 14th
  • London Group Study Day – April 14th
  • London Group Study Day – April 14th

This Study Day was one of the main reasons why I decided to fly from Switzerland to London to immerse myself into art and to meet finally really fellow students. I was so excited my exhibition visit to Tate Britain ‘All Too Human’ the day before was just a beginning of what would become a stunning and excellent weekend for me in London. A visit that will most certainly be not the last one. I was really looking forward to this day.

We’ve met at: The Tabernacle, Notting Hill W11 , a group of 11 fellow students at different pathways and different levels and Caroline Wright, tutor and program leader for OCA Fine Art degree pathway. The event was initiated an organised by Arlene Sharp with support from Joanne. A sketchbook study day that developed from bringing with us a small item fitting in our hand and some drawing media and sketchbooks or paper sheets towards an iterative interrogation of visual thinking and creative development of ideas that I found very beneficial to take on in my further practice. The Study Day was split into two parts:

  1. One hour introduction by Caroline on four of her projects 
  2. Around five hours sketchbook and creative ideation session

Fig. 1 – 3: Study Day impressions. Image credit: Caroline Wright, 2018

 


 

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