Option 4: Project 2: Gaps and Spaces: Research Task

Aim: gain experience of working with different source material, gain confidence of working with e-journals. Also to learn how artists ‘know’ their subject and how they use that knowledge.

Feedback on the first essay:


The writing has no connection to the images for a viewer unless they have read about the artist, her subject and her work. As a general (but not naive) viewer I can see no connection between what is said and the featured images.

Text: (example)… The paintings recognise the allure of these individuals and the extent to which they have stimulated Donachie to illuminate their specific histories, posing questions such as what is it to be present, to be active, to have a voice, and to assume ultimately, some measure of control over creative and emotional labour. The narratives within the paintings the paintings are given structure by the visceral sensation of light, outline and intensity of the surfaces that evoke images surrounding the various subjects of her investigatiuon.

A sample image from Kaye Donachie’s visual essay:

Any artist can paint whatever they want… to have a voice is to say what you want to say.

The question is whether art is for personal use, as therapy or as a kind of visual diary, or does the artist want an audience. If they want an audience is that to promulgate their ideas, to give pleasure, to press political change, as a market, or as any combination of these.

We all like to be appreciated and have our ideas listened to, so I suspect that is a powerful motive… just as earning a living from art or using it as a political tool are equally valid motives.

For me the image above (there are some images in the visual essay which are obviously of a face or hands) is abstract and doesn’t illustrate or support the text. Nor does it look like a commercial image.

The generalised statements about artistic creativity in the essay are so banal as to be meaningless. Especially when the there’s no connection between the images and the text.

There is nothing here for an independent viewer/reader.

Below is a much denser and more challenging read – extract a few quotations to connect to the first essay.


I wouldn’t say this is a denser or more challenging read… in many ways it is much easier because there is position to debate, and points you can challenge or agree with. Having a fully developed argument open for discussion is a much, much more satisfactory position than saying nothing (as if it’s fact).

The problem is that this text is opaque because of poor (complicated) sentence structure and unnecessary use of academic jargon. Having read an increasing number of ‘academic’ essays I would argue that they don’t have to be unclear. Making academic articles unreadable (for the non academic) doesn’t enhance the article, it speaks either to elitism or poor writing.

Looking at the first paragraph this is a very interesting article that develops a coherent approach to a specific painterly problem, the treatment of figure and ground. If I spent the three or four hours I’d need to unpick it I would expect to find some lucid observations (and arguments) that would question my practice and the nature of painting today.

As an example of its opaqueness: ‘Figure/ground assignment depends on the mind’s ability to establish, process and stabilise clear contrasts or dualisms within the visual fields, which then become the basis for all cognitive binaries.’

Much of what this sentence says is tautological or implicit… so you could say: Figure/ground depends on establishing dualisms in the visual field. If you establish something you have to have the ability to do it… establishing dualisms implies processing information and stabilising contrasts… obviously its a painting so all this is done within what you see (or… ‘the visual field’)… and a cognitive binary is a dualism.

I would expect (if I spent three hours decoding this) it would be a very interesting essay. But in my cost benefit analysis this doesn’t warrant the cost. I read the recommended books for an hour a day so extra reading has to pay a good dividend, or be mandated in the course… and as the instructions say. ‘read as much as you feel useful‘ and I have done that I am not going to read any more.

0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Crit Group

A very quick post… we’re several months in to our monthly crit group of Level 5 Exploring Media students… five of us in the group. I just wanted to mark that the sessions have evolved and are now much