Claiming my practice, the final module, has been a really useful and insightful way of honing my practice down. Really scrutinising, analysing, theorising, contextualising and gaining a deeper understanding of what underpins my work has been at the heart of the last six months. I feel as though I have resolved work. I have identified key elements in my painterly language and my academic language and that the two now converge.
Spatial & Visual Awareness
Doreen Massey manages to describe a certain way of perceiving movement in space which I have been - and still am - working with on different levels in my work: i.e. the idea that space is not something static and neutral, a frozen entity, but is something intertwined with time and thus ever changing . Doreen's descriptions of her journey through England, for example, are clear and precise accounts of this idea, and she very sharply characterises the attempts not to recognise this idea as utopian and nostalgic.
Doreen Massey makes an impassioned argument for revitalising our imagination of space. She takes on some well-established assumptions from philosophy, and some familiar ways of characterising the 21st century world, and shows how they restrain our understanding of both the challenge and the potential of space.
The way we think about space matters. It inflects our understandings of the world, our attitudes to others, our politics. It affects, for instance, the way we understand globalisation, the way we approach cities, the way we develop, and practice, a sense of place. If time is the dimension of change then space is the dimension of the social: the contemporaneous co-existence of others. That is its challenge, and one that has been persistently evaded. For Space pursues its argument through philosophical and theoretical engagement, and through telling personal and political reflection. Doreen Massey asks questions such as how best to characterise these so-called spatial times, how it is that implicit spatial assumptions inflect our politics, and how we might develop a responsibility for place beyond place.
This book is 'for space' it argues for a reinvigoration of the spatiality of our implicit cosmologies. For Space is compulsive reading for anyone interested in space and the spatial turn in the social sciences and humanities. Serious, and sometimes irreverent, it is a compelling manifesto: for re-imagining spaces for these times and facing up to their challenge.
For Space (Text)
Small Unstable Horizon
Bourriaud considered the relational form of artwork as social "," a place to learn to inhabit the world in a better way, where art "tightens the space of relations" between spectators so that art becomes a glue of social relations. This has become the foundation of my way of thinking in tackling my practice while interrogating the materials and structures of a construction site.
Bourriaud’s argument, highlights his theory and practice of ‘relational aesthetics.’ Although the ‘relational aesthetics’ movement constitutes a relatively recent development in contemporary art, Bourriaud has reflected effectively on a leading group of artists from the past decade and beyond producing a interconnected aesthetic structure to interpret these developments. This may have acted as a guide to contemporary art today, with Bourriaud describing carefully the way in which ‘relational aesthetics’ both rejects and incorporates the important themes modernity exercised upon art. Bourriard suggested “It is not modernity that is dead, but its idealistic and teleological version.” By this Bourriard meant that the modern hopes for rational certainty or political utopias that fuelled the artistic enterprise during the twentieth century have completely exhausted themselves. Art no longer draws its inspiration from optimistic visions and has turned its efforts to less grandiose projects. “Art was intended to prepare and announce a future world: today it is modeling possible universes,” microcosmic universes of authentic human sociability. 'Relational aesthetics’ is much less a consequence of the ideological or philosophical dilemmas of modernity than merely a reaction to the practical concerns of human interaction in our present world.
I have always struggled to understand how to love a place. To me a house is only a home when there are people you love in it. Do Ho Suh states that "When you think about the home, it’s permanent, always there." Despite the ubiquitous nature of homes, buildings and man made structures there is a strange fascination for me for this meagreness, the mediocrity, ordinary, tangible and transient nature of recognition of an artificial structure, space or environment. I float around wondering if there is anywhere I can call home. I question what place draws my attention and why. Is it a sense of familiarity, voyuerism or is it the displacement I have felt all my life.
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. For me the rendering of my work has been honest and now starts to read as dystopian, ambiguous with vivid fluorescent marks denoting repetition.
Psychogeography describes the effect of geographical location on the emotions and behaviour of individuals. How do different places make us feel and behave? It was suggested that my work in the previous module was beginning to address Psychogeography, Non-Place and Interstice. These were areas I was unfamiliar with and it took a lot of research and experimentation to try and adopt a new way of artistically reflecting this within my work. After a great deal of reflection I decided to embrace a different approach by completely rethinking how I could respond with a cohesive body of work.
The term Psychogeography was invented by Guy Debord in 1955 in order to explore this psychology. Debord was linked to the Situationist International. Debord was inspired by Baudeliare's concept of the flâneur - an urban wanderer - Debord suggested inventive and playful ways of navigating this environment with the objective of examining its architecture and spaces. Debord's objective was to find a revolutionary approach to this architecture which was less functional.
Some of the artists that I have looked at in relation to this terminology and practice include:
Non Place & Relational Aesthetics
The term relational aesthetics was created by curator Nicholas Bourriaud in the 1990s to describe the tendency he noticed in fine art practice to make art based on, or inspired by, human relations and their social context. My work fits within these parameters.
The French curator Nicholas Bourriaud published a book called Relational Aesthetics in 1998 in which he defined the term as:
'A set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space'
He saw artists as facilitators rather than makers and regarded art as information exchanged between the artist and the viewers. The artist, in this sense, gives audiences access to power and the means to change the world.
I feel that the didactic from my work falls into the relational aesthetic hemisphere although the interactions I have to public spaces are personal and private thoughts.
Art of Interaction: A Theoretical Examination of Carsten Höller’s Test Site.
This is a paper which looks at the interactivity of Carsten Höller’s Test Site 2006, using Alfred Gell’s Art and Agency (1998) and Nicolas Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics (1998).
Flaneuse, The Urban Wanderer/ Hi-Vis Low-Vis
Baudelaire’s writings coincided with the infamous Salon des in installment form in Figaro. The publication of the article coincided with the infamous Salon des Réfusés and the debut of Édouard Manet as an artist of scandal. Suddenly, what had been an indefinable concern, about content and technique in art making, became critical and current. Manet had presented a courtesan as a modern “Venus,” a prostitute as a modern “Nude,” and had quoted Renaissance artists, Raphael and Titian to do so. In addition, the painter had shunned “good” drawing and approved “finish” for a causal and notational manner of recording. The Painter of Modern Life made sense of what Manet had done to art—made painting “modern.”
There is a real question as to whether or not the “painter” of whom Baudelaire wrote was less important than the essay itself. Constantin Guys was crucial to the main point of the essay. Guys working methods were traditional in that he looked, he saw, he scribbled and then, using his memory, completed his thought later in a sketch-like record.
Baudelaire saw Guys as a bohemian hero, an outsider, the “observer, philosopher, flâneur” and as “the painter of the passing moment and of all the suggestions of eternity it contains.” Like Baudelaire, he, a “man of the crowd,” was a journalist who was trained to watch and look carefully, especially at the details. Baudelaire made the point, over and over, that the flâneur was someone who is traveling “incognito” or, in other words, the flâneur fades into the crowd, unnoticed.
I feel that this penultimate point of fading into a crowd is how I perceive my practice presently as I do not look to be noticeable.
The significant value of The Painter of Modern Life is what and whom Guys, the grown man, found interesting. “Modern Life,” for Baudelaire, appeared to be located among la bohème, which, in itself, was a creation of the modern world.
Baudelaire has created a strong impact on me and has clearly had similar impressions on a large number of artists over the years. So much so that new movements, theories and ideals sprung up.
Under Construction here denotes a 'double entendre' referencing my studies of a construction site and the development of my practice.
As reflected in my Artist's Statement my work questions my inability to love a place, and my obsession with transience. It is driven by my sense of rootlessness from my family history and lead by a desire to understand the physical and psychological implications: the psychogeography. Being in a state of constant flux, crossing or the inability to cross boundaries, constantly moving between emotional states.
The work I have produced started as an observation from the Bank St Residency 2016. The interrogation, interpretation, reinterpretation, editing, re-editing of one image, reflecting Minimalism. This process became repetitive, illustrating the cyclical nature of construction and the patterns created by the architecture of the surrounding area. I allowed each painting to evolve in its own unique way and I have revised and refined some features and created new elements. I generated my own set of rules to impose on each piece. The filled space was as important as the unfilled space: the interstice. The paintings become more complex and the structures produced would be impossible to fabricate out of rebar. However, each piece is linked. Like a building everything needs to be connected or the structure will fail, as Bouriard suggested.
The imagery becomes dystopian with fluorescent accents to imply the Hi-Vis safety protection worn by construction site workers and the manmade marks that are visible. These fluorescent marks also reference post World War II and plastic Modernity and Abstract Expressionism; it is an artificial pigment it suggests the fabricated nature of a construction site.
Canary Wharf Observations, an unabridged video. 12.29 mins This video was shot over a period of 3 months but its intention is to reflect one day.
My intention has been to create a series of works that reflect physical and psychological states, the psychogeography. As an image, used to denote a structure, the rebar becomes more and more complex yet is based on 4 linear delineations. The construction site becomes a non-place and the renditions of the rebar echoes the interstice.
A gentle Collapsing
These images (shown to the right) started to become memories of a places. The two monotone paintings are of former family homes. The bright red painting is of a ramshackle building close to where I currently live. The latter is on the border of a hugely political redevelopment area ex MOD land. Ultimately a body of work may manifest in time but I felt that this was not the correct direction for my work to head during the MFA.
Contextualising and analysing my practice threw up some new and interesting territories. This lead me recently to consider how my practice relates to areas such as Psychogeography, Non place and the Interstice.
I began looking at artists such as Alex Hartley whose recent works embroil thoughts of modernism and its legacy, as well as the ideas of ruins/relics. However, elements of narrative arise where the viewer arrives at a situation of ambiguous cause and uncertain outcome, this is what I have chosen to embrace. I have used vagueness as a starting point in order to reconsider how places I have passed through have a history of memories. I interrogated instances, initially recorded photographically, to consider how that may work visually through the painterly process. By moving away from using the figure as a focal point I invite the viewer to enter 'Somewhere only I know'. Ideas of privacy and voyeurism were originally the objective with contradictions of modernist aspiration this would give rise to the desire for boundaries of other kinds. I began to render this with dystopian accents.
My practice intentionally moved away from the overt narrative rendering 'the figure', where once I questioned whether my work sat on the peripheries of portraiture, now I am looking more at a portrait of a place and how I site myself emotionally within that arena.
Graham Crowley; Alex Hartley
Practice and Collaboration
A huge part of my practice over the course of the MFA has involved self- initiating and managing external projects such as staging and curating exhibitions as well as setting up and managing residencies.
During the last unit it became apparent that my peer Antony Dixon and I had a number of areas, interests and objectives in common and were already working collaboratively. Over summer 2016 we had room to discuss the future and possibilities. Together we have slowly been building up ideas both in terms of how our practices can progress working collaboratively and how we may, as practitioners, become sustainable.
I was setting up the Bank Street Residency, Canary Wharf, London, Antony and I realised that we were both looking at the future through a similar lens and have been in discussions over how we may proceed collaboratively.
I have worked collaboratively with Antony during Park 16.
While finalising the selection of artists for the Intersections show at the Kaleidoscope Gallery, Sevenoaks, Kent, Antony was involved.
We have attened an number of relevant seminars at UAL Holborn with the careers and employability division and have been to other various pertinent seminars and workshops in order to grow or knowledge and gain some new contacts.
I was responsible for a number of self initiated group shows as well as collaborating in a number of other shows and events.
Self- Initiated Artists Residencies, 2016 and 2017, London UK
In my head the rebar itself has become a metaphor for people as they are present, yet absent, they glue the environment yet are invisible. Without the strength and support of the rebar* there would be no environment. I have begun to paint portraits of sculptures and man-made places. They are both linear, to reflect architecture, revealing geometry. Elements are abstracted echoing the displacement during construction. This contrasts with figurative rebar components as certain aspects are necessary to be accurate. Precision, and therefore, accuracy become a misnomer as there are sections of imperfections and allowances made for movement and settlement during and after construction.
The body of work produced leading towards the MFA degree show was produced as a direct response from spending three months leading an Artist's Residency at Canary Wharf in summer 2016.
*Rebar (reinforcing bar), is a steel bar or mesh of steel wires used as a tension device in reinforced concrete structures to strengthen and hold the concrete in tension. Rebar's surface is often deformed, patterned or ridged to form a better bond with the concrete.)
(Shown above) The first piece I created was the foundation as to how I started to hone my practice. Using the 4 linear delineations of rebar and the fluorescent red construction site marking on the bottom right hand side I started to set rules to employ these elements in every work. These demarcations were repeated, edited, re-edited, reimagined and reinterpreted. Implications of accuracy arise with the intention that the angles of the rebar can not render at 90 or 180 degrees to the frame of the painting.
Based on the Canary Wharf Group PLC logo
Canary Wharf was developed by Paul Reichman, Jewish origin, the symbol denotes a survey point where trianglation becomes entrenched. Fluorescent yellow markings are sprayed to mark survey station points.