Assignment 1

A review of previous work

Overview of my work with the OCA before starting this course:

I started studying with the OCA in 2015. My only art qualification was ‘O’ level Art from night school in 1972. I had a started ‘A’ Level Art around 2002 but been unable to finish because of work and family commitments, and similarly I had started an OCA Level 1 Painting course around 2008 but not been able to complete it.

When my son went to University in 2015 I tried again.

Over the years I’d dabbled selling paintings of local views and always enjoyed viewing art, but had had no professional training and hadn’t been on any courses.

Level 1 with the OCA was mainly based around practical skills, though there was an introduction to contextual work. Towards the end of Level 1 I started going to life drawing classes (every week for 18 months before Covid-19 shut it down) and banned photographs from my work.

My first Level 2 course, Studio Practice, was a huge step up both academically and practically and introduced me to new ideas and materials.

Not to be too dramatic but Studio Practice felt like the death of the old me (that started the course in 2015) and my birth as an art student, and budding artist.

When I started Studio Practice I was walled in with prejudices based on a minimal interaction with art, and no academic understanding. My firmly held views were not a good map of the art world, but I believed in them. So, I had to put my opinions aside and throw myself into both the practical and contextual activities in the belief that they were worthwhile and would move me forward.

The effect of fully committing to the course was miraculous. The Projects I had resisted most because I couldn’t see the point of them led to the most exciting discoveries and insights. In parallel to this my tutor nudged me into an academic frame of mind, challenged my ideas, constantly interrogated my ideas and posed new questions.

By the end of Studio Practice it felt like my prejudices had been washed away and I’d been released into to a bright new world of excitement and possibilities.

My Personal Practice within Studio Practice had freed up my painting and I had taken my first steps to developing a voice.

So, as I started Exploring media I had a clear view of what I wanted to do with it and where I wanted to go. I wanted to continue to have new experiences (both intellectual and practical), to build up my tentative new map of art and where I was within it, and take some bold steps with my Personal practice so my voice became clearer.

An Overview of Option 1: Parts 1 and 2:

Option 1: Part 1

Research:

This involved looking at appropriation.

Firstly with a camera considering Sherie Levine’s work and then with paint looking at Sandra Gomarra.

Generally using snippets of other people’s work to create a voice is acceptable in the West, different cultures vary in how they view appropriation.

It seems like there are two basic positions when you copy somebody else’s work completely:

  1. Passing off somebody else’s work as your own for status or cash is stealing and not okay.

  2. Using another artist’s work to make a social or political point is okay if you’re the artist (and profit by it financially or academically) or support conceptual art, but is not okay legally because if you don’t pay for somebody’s work/get permission you’re stealing it.

We all appropriate to some extent as we all swim in a cultural sea of images that we draw on in order to create our art. But that is very different from copying somebody’s work in it’s entirety.

Personally, just because another artists copyright is inconvenient (and in their eyes of the appropriating artist would beneficial for society – and their career) it doesn’t justify them using somebody else’s work without permission.

Practical Exercise 1: Textural and multiple surfaces:

I enjoyed looking at the magazines as this opened up a new awareness of the printed image. My main observations were:

  1. There were many more images than I realised.

  2. Magazine images of people are constructed, not real.

  3. Each type of shot has its own visual language such as food close ups and sportsmen frozen in mid air.

  4. How images are framed/or frame words is a language in itself.

  5. The poor technical of quality of print images… washed out colours etc.

  6. How photographs of paintings stand out and grab the attention much more than photographs.

In my painting, I discovered that you can manipulate oil paint very well to give the illusion of texture. I hadn’t considered painting texture/surface as a separate property before and that awareness of surface alters the way you paint as it becomes another property along with colour and saturation for example… for instance what is the texture of a flame?

I started with a realistic portrayal of surface and then abstracted it. This wasn’t intentional (though it’s what I did), it just happened… and matches where I’m going with my Personal practice.

Option 1: Part 2:

Assemblage and physical texture:

This involved both research and practical work.

The research was interesting as the assemblage seemed to fall neatly into two categories.

Firstly, assemblage that was skillfully crafted, communicated meaning without explanation, and was pleasurable. Into this box I’d put Urs Fischer’s work. His ‘Thing’ is a visually stunning work of art, well made, captivating, gives pleasure and has meaning. David Bowie would also go into this box as he often used Cut Up (a form of assemblage) to produce wonderfully crafted songs that gave pleasure and meaning without explanation.

The second group are poorly crafted objects with no skill which are given meaning by an explanation. It may be going too far to say that the art is illustrative of the written word but without the explanatory text (or an art gallery context) much of the work could be easily passed off as junk art.

Of course, there are many positions in between these two extremes.

My assemblage and paintings:

I was interested by the discussion on cultural framework which said we live in a very rich cultural framework. However, I think an argument could easily be made that we are less culturally rich now than we have ever been. We have lost much of the complex cultural frameworks that supported communities and families and bound us to ‘real’ networks. Many people now inhabit impoverished cultural frameworks based on the democratisation of the individual, which has in some respects become the new ‘totalitarian’ state.

There are more images, and these images come from anywhere on the planet. So semiotically our world is more complex. But this cultural framework of images, where for many people the image becomes reality, as a rich cultural framework… it is a simulacrum.

The articles in the coursebook also talk as if ingesting images from abroad (at home) was the same as being nomadic. I don’t think it is at all the same. Nomads carry their identity with them and make real and complex cultural connections with the societies they visit whereas in consuming mediated images from around the world we do not make those living connections. Also, we are still culturally tied to where we live (and our cultural bubble), and mediate the already mediated images through our national identity. We are not travelling… it is more akin to watching a movie.

I enjoyed making my Christmas assemblage and painting it gold. I lack any model making skills and the assemblage looked very thrown together, but it was for my own use so that doesn’t matter.

Firstly I tried converting my assemblage to a 2D image, so looked for design elements and painted those. This seemed a better approach than painting a realistic painting ‘of’ the assemblage. It was partially successful but artistically thin.

Next I tried painting the spirit and fun of Christmas (so a figurative abstract in that it had a real life starting point). This was much more successful but ended up being attractive but shallow. So I guess it captured Christmas quite well.

My studio progress on this course:

I have discovered an array of new techniques such as glazing with drying medium and linseed oil, painting with new tools like palette knives and wire, and glimpsed the different physical properties of new materials such as marble dust and silver powder.

This is both exciting and daunting because it means that I need to learn how to use and combine all these new materials and techniques. A brush is perfect for traditional oil painting but only one among many tools that I can use going forward.

But perhaps more importantly I have discovered what I like in painting, I have found my freedom… and my voice.

Over these 45 hours I have loved painting pure abstracts. These are not abstracts based on any psychological, emotional or visual reality; so not painting happiness, an life event, my subconscious, a concept or a semi abstract landscape, but purely concerning with the picture plane.

Painting by making a mark on a canvas, looking at it, then making another mark… and so on until something happens and the painting is finished is totally freeing. I am not thinking words as I paint, not translating anything such as an idea or a shape onto the canvas… I’m allowing the colours, shapes, forms and texture to evolve until the painting is complete.

The flip side of this is that I have endless possibilities and no starting point.

Do I start with assembling my materials? Do I start with a technique? How can I polish a skill when I’ve no idea what that skill is?

I think a good starting point would be to find and research artist’s who have/have had a similar way of working and see if I can find any insights.

Next I think I need to consider getting to know my materials, tools and techniques, so need to plan some technical exercises.

And finally… I need to make some paintings where I ‘just do it’.

Initial course plan :

  1. Research: 10 hours

As my starting point I’m going to look at the work of Gillian Ayres. I found a cutting about her in an old R.A. magazine…

Antony and Cleopatra, 1982

… and she worked in a similar way to me and produced similar work.

I will then try and find another four artists that work in a similar way.

2. Technical/material experimentation: 10 hours

This will involve researching new materials and how artists use them, and working out what materials I want to use and how.

3. Three paintings of my own: 25 hours

I won’t know yet what or how I’m going to approach these paintings, especially as I’m not going to be painting anything in reality or conjured by my conscious brain, nor is this an action painting as itb is deeply considered.

I have read a little about psychoanalytical art in (Foster, H. et al. (2011) Art Since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism. (s.l.): Thames & Hudson.) and would like my painting to give pleasure by resolving a subconscious ‘dilemma’. The book identifies three types of psychoanalytic art.

Art that interrogates the artist’s personal psychology, which it deems too personal; art which addresses the generality of psychological processes, which it categorises as too general; and art which Goldilocks like addresses the semiotics of the subconscious (in my case shapes and colours) and is just right. The text says such art gives pleasure by resolving a displaced psychological anxiety by making it exterior and resolving it in art… I’m not sure how shapes and colours can do that so need to read more.

Maybe that’s something for my Creative Review at the end of the course?

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