Contextualising and analysing my practice threw up some new and interesting territories. Throughout the Mapping module my practice from March 2016 - December 2016 I effectively concentrated on two areas:
Expanding my practice through experimenting with new methods and materials. I investigated how following processes may or may not inform and/or expand my practice:
Mixed Media and Painting
Arc and Mig Welding
Site Specific Response
Contextualising the relationships between my work and the external factors that inform my practice were heavily intertwined between the process driven artist practices and artists' whose works probes similar arenas. I considered the edges of my practice to explore:
The Gaze or Silent Gaze
Present but Absent
Subject - Object
Conversations beyond the frame
Social Observation - have I become a flâneuse? *
Site Specific Response
Works in Series
Portraiture and the relationship of my current practic
With two site specific projects I was able to explore different processes during the response rationale. The main project was the Interim show In the Shadows of a Subterranean River, to be held in The Crypt Gallery, St Pancras. My main concerns were the damp, dark and death and I wanted to find a language that would address these aspects. For these specifics I chose to use UV reactive paint on aluminium panels that would be hung and installed in such a way as to infer death.
The other site-specific was a Open Square Garden event that Cara Jean Flynn had invited a number of us to participate in. Unfortunately the event got cancelled for the artists. For this particular project I knew that because it was outdoors I had to produce something weather resistant. I chose to do bronze, for its durability and the subject matter was to do with communication as mobile phones seem to be a huge part of everyday lives that do not seem to have anywhere other than some very extreme circumstances where they cannot be taken and used. It had been a part of my interest field from an observational aspect, more so in the first module of the course, but I was starting to move away from this.
The context in which an art piece interacts with its environment is key to its success or failure. I feel that James Turrell is definitely an artist who has an amazing ability to use his practice to empathise, contrast and compliment the site in which it fills. I have seen his work at Yorkshire Sculpture Park on a number of occasions and always felt that it belonged and was at one with the environment present as an artwork but absent discreet and unobtrusive in many other ways.
Since this was a site specific project and I was looking at how I may use my current thoughts on the modern world I was searching for a way of expressing this through bronze.
I had not really given other artists much thought in terms of how I may place this work in context. Retrospectively perhaps Jeff Koons may be relevant purely from the point of non sensical sculpture using cultural and banal objects but also Ai Weiwei with his marble surveillance camera. Most relevant to my Interim show work was James Turrell
Details from 'Imaging the Inevitable', UV paint on aluminium, 1600 x 2100 x 92 cm
Detail from cast bronze Blackberry
I really wanted to see how all my work produced in such an experimental part of the course could work together. It felt like there were theatrical elements to certain aspects and so I looked beyond the formal ways of hanging paintings to create a dialogue between the works I had made. I needed to see what if any connections I could see and how things may or may not work together. Having been so specific in looking and taking surruptitious photographs on my journeys and wherever I happened to be to actually taking time to be within the same environment became another type of site specificity.
In order to consider, interrogate and attempt to love a place I have been studying construction sites which are transient places constantly evolving. I have discovered rebar. In my head I have found a parallel between rebar and people both of which fascinate me. The rebar glues the buildings together and the people glue the environment. The two co-exist feeding one another, yet in reality they are very present yet often very absent, remote yet connected. They come in a variety of sizes and physical states. This all feels so familiar.
I also looked at Dioramas in context with Theatrical installations. I have also seen Joseph Cornell's retrospective at the Royal Academy with his miniature works.
Cornell hardly ventured beyond New York State, yet the notion of travel was central to his art. His imaginary voyages began as he searched Manhattan’s antique bookshops and dime stores, collecting a vast archive of paper ephemera and small objects to make his signature glass-fronted ‘shadow boxes’.
These miniature masterpieces transform everyday objects into spellbinding treasures. Together they reveal his fascination with subjects from astronomy and cinema to literature and ornithology and especially his love of European Culture.
Questioning the Edges of Portraiture
I have been interested in unconventional portraiture and it was suggested by Mark Fairnington that my work was 'on the edges of portraiture'. I knew that most of my work up to now would be looked upon as overtly narrative, that is to say pretty obvious what it was - what you see is what you see! I have been looking to address this whilst studying on the MFA but because I had been taking on so much externally and for the most part single-handedly, not always through choice, my practice was not really starting to develop as much as I had hoped.
In many ways I think the figure is still a big part of my practice and will resurface again at some stage in the future. People are what make a place for the most part and without people...
Looking at artists such as William Eggleston who has a sense of colour and catalogues people on his travels; David Hockney works in series, his use of colour and his relationship to his sitter. In both cases the question of subject - object could be discussed. Certainly with Hockney there is a question of the gaze. Tom Hunter, Martin Parr and Tony Ray Jones are also photographic artists who I have studied for their unique perception on the everyday and ordinary.
Reading texts from authors such as Baudelaire, Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle, and looking at compilation books such as The Painting of Modern Life and Painting People Today, have given me a good understanding how other artists approach the question of how contemporary life is and how people interact on a daily basis.
Looking at the past and placing this within a modern context is important but it is also interesting to see how artists respond to artists from other centuries. Two artists I have looked at quite extensively are Manet and Courbet for their relationships, interactions and interpretations of Modern Life. The subject- object debate could be brought into playas with the question of the gaze and in some cases the silent gaze as well as present but absent when there is no subject to viewer eye contact through the artists rendering of the Gaze.
Other artists I have looked at quite extensively are Mark Wallinger, Dan Witz and Gerhard Richter for their interpretations of Modern Life as well Ida Apelbrog and Eric Fischel. Again the subject- object debate could be brought into play as with the question of the gaze and in some cases the silent gaze as well as present but absent when there is no subject to viewer eye contact through the artists rendering of the Gaze. Narrative and observation plays a large part with most of these artists. These artists look at the transient, ordinary moment.
Tony Ray Jones
I feel that my second assessment was not necessarily where I wanted to be with my practice. However, it was a huge learning curve and prompted me to really start throwing some anomalies into the pot. I started to play with theatrical scenarios building on scenes with more sculptural languages and mixed media. I felt that this was the last time to really experiment and take some risks before taking on the final leg of the MFA.
There were elements of the painting that were far more resolved but from this the reality became clear that as much as it was thought that by the way I had painted the background I must really know how to love a place. Actually it is the polar opposite and from this my new developments have started to manifest...I don't know how to love a place
Using found materials is understanding how and why I have chosen to include theses rather than spend time painting the details. Anselm Keifer felt like the obvious parallel for his large scale paintings which incorporate unusual materials and create a 3D work from a 2D surface. I have seen Anslem Keifer's works at the Royal Academy and at White Cube, Bermondsey.
Keiffer's choice of subject - object, painting technique, and use of materials. It is as if he still breathes the dust he breathed in as a newborn; still lives among the rubble he creates in his painting/sculptures; still looks for the diverse, as if bomb-strewn, materials for the surfaces of his constructions. There is a correspondence, an analogy, an equivalence between his original circumstances and his continued practice and vision in his work. A way of reconstructing memory, making it tangible; of keeping alive an event by reproducing its aftermath, expanding it in time. So in other words he is looking at an ordinary, transient moment and with his own observational stance, creates a narrative and relates that to his practice.
I felt that as much as I really enjoyed experimenting with new materials and processes in order to really embrace this language I would need more time within the course than I actually had. So I had to look upon the welding experience and the more theatrical, set driven language not necessarily as an end point but a pause for the time being.
I had drawn from this work the rebar as a metaphoric language and was starting to wonder how this could be pushed further.
Having visited both Ai Weiwei's show at the RA and Mona Hatoum's show at Tate Britain I was aware of different approaches with artists incorporating rebar into an installation. For Weiwei it was about the destruction of a place by natural forces and the government hiding the truth about how many students perished. Therefore there was a narrative and a theatrical grand scale approach.
For Hatoum there is a more ordered physicality. Mild steel rebar cages that contain blown red glass forms that are trapped yet still look as if they are emerging from their cages. The simplicity of form, use of grid lines and colour explore minimalism, the physical approach to making and that jarring of materials that explore texture.
I felt that in Canary Wharf, on the residency, I drew some parallels between rebar and people. Significant, necessary, widespread, present but absent. Rebar glues constructions together but without rebar and people there would be no glue and a very different environment.
Self -Initiated Projects
I was determined to make headway in to become a more sustainable artist. Embracing the ethos of the MFA was really key for me. To this end I have managed to self-initiate, project lead and participate working almost exclusively autonomously, not always through choice but by circumstance. In the first instance of setting up a residency I did do a lot of research and was supported hugely by Antony Dixon.
For the Lewisham Arthouse I did have to do a lot of the work initially by myself because of the tight nature of deadlines for prerequisites from the Arthouse. I was very open to help from other members of the group once I had hand-picked the invited artists. Unfortunately I received very little help but this is always the nature and learning curves of working with new artists.
I feel that I have learnt a great deal from both these experiences. Perhaps once the MFA is over some peers will be more inclined to be professional in approaching external opportunities when handed on a plate to them.
Bank St Residency
Self - initiated residency
Self-Initiated Group Show
Mapping my practice was a really useful and insightful way of taking a measure of where my practice sat but totally changed a number of aspects of my practice. Most significantly the question of figures being present within my practice was challenged. I definitely used this module to experiment the most both in making and context. I believe that this really helped going forward for the final module to give me the scope to really hone down on specific and most importantly the pertinent areas of my practice. With this I could really identify which areas I wanted to really interogate going forwards and those I may revisit post MFA.