3rd July 2017

Unit 2 – Reflection & Presentation

Critical Evaluation of Practice and Future Development

 

The most profound discovery about my projects and my investigations over the last 2 years is finding out my work was about me.  It was only in the last 4 months that I started to feel emotional and protective about the work that I was doing, in response to critique and questioning; it made me feel very vulnerable.  At the same time I was enjoying what I was making more than ever – I felt that although I was able to be more free and authentic about my creative output, I was opening myself up for more criticism and judgement.  I developed a sensitivity to being misunderstood.  However, I felt my instincts to work against judgements were being validated by drawing autobiographical parallels with other people and wider contexts.

 

One particular artist I feel has impacted upon me is Marlene Hartmann Rasmussen.  Beyond the visual, her work is conceptually about finding strength in her own narrative, and finding personal ways to express herself and her ways of thinking through installation.  There are several other artists who work in this way and that have subsequently influenced my practice, yet it wasn’t until engaging with Rasmussen’s work that I found the ability to trust in my own story and feelings.

 

The journey of my practice over the last 2 years has been difficult to summarise due to the complex and deep reflection that has taken place.  The decision to express my work as a curated exhibition of works, alongside a written guide (‘A Reflective Narrative’) not only tracks my reflective practice in the clearest way (to me), but also helped to underpin a visual method of reflecting too.  The following list however provides a concise timeline of reflective practice.

 

Main stages of my work:

  1. Psychological phenomena of ‘I like it but I don’t know why’ – the unexplainable, irrational response
  2. Focus on texture to encourage push-pull effect
  3. Explore forms (and functions) which give push-pull
  4. Explore relationships between objects which cause uncanny response
  5. Breakdown of developing habits, to dig deeper into what it is I want to make and why
  6. Want to make work that I enjoy
  7. Becoming defensive over criticism of my creative decisions; feeling personally scrutinised and dismissed
  8. Is how I am feeling something everyone feels? Have I always planned to make work that defies total understanding (enigmatic, tenuous…)?
  9. Choosing to represent myself
  10. What my are objects inspired by: visual language, personal feeling, showing myself to the world
  11. Consolidating the parts of all my work that are recurrent (tropes), or seeing the value in certain creative gestures that were missed the first time around.

 

Going forward, I feel like I am walking into a vacuum or an empty space.  For the first time in my life I have no job or income.  I am trying to allow myself maximum availability to be able to take advantage of any opportunities that come along instantly, such as responding to open calls, applying to galleries, etc.  But the truth is I don’t feel I have a strong enough sense of networking to be able to capitalise on the opportunities out there.  Therefore it is vital for me to get myself involved in creative communities, through group projects and collaborative works.  I still have a desire to teach, or be involved in creative education, however I am keen that if I do go into this direction that I am able to be and express myself in a honest and unmasked way – which my work has just started to become.

1st July 2017

Artist Statement: Revised

‘Wherever we are is where we are meant to be’

In loneliness there is safety from being disappointed.  Everything, everyone, has the capacity to let you down.

Is it important that every language and every word is understood?  Is it possible to feel connected, feel moved or empathise with things we don’t completely understand?  Does every gesture have to be grammatically correct in order to be validated or legitimate?

There creatures exist in a divisive state of material conflict: jolie-laide, ugly-beautiful, honest-ambiguous… yet each one is exactly as it is meant to be.  They feel vulnerable to the judgements and expectations of others, yet in loneliness they find a haven.  If they rely on others to accept them, they must face the inevitable disappointment of not being good enough.

They are me.

8th June 2018

Revised Artist Statement

 

“Loneliness is safety. Fear is disappointment.  Everything, everyone has the capacity to let you down.

 

Is it important that every language, every word is understood? Is it possible to feel connected, feel moved or empathise with things we don’t completely understand?  Does every word/artistic gesture have to be grammatically correct in order to be validated or legitimate?

 

These creatures exist in a state of material conflict: jolie-laide, ugly-beautiful, cute-gross, honest-ambiguous, yet each one is exactly as it is meant to be.  Their world is a haven from the rationality and expectations of others. They accept their imperfections privately, yet they are shy and feel highly vulnerable to the expectations of others. In loneliness they feel their safest.

 

If they rely on being accepted by others they must change, adjust, edit themselves… or face the inevitable disappointment of not being good enough.

 

They are me.”

 

About me:

 

I work in ceramics but often using conflicting or disassociated materials and process, while expressing emotive narratives of loneliness and self-preservation, alienation and judgement. I enjoy being cheeky and defying conventions through my work, such as using car paint to colour my ceramics, rather than traditional glazes, or presenting my work on sugar, for example. My work is associated with jolie-laide, as well as pop art and design art, yet tries to make a statement about the apparent insistence of being absolutely understood or validated by others.

 

29th May 2018

Symposium Feedback/Outcomes

 

  • Decide if audience touching or audience looking – what strengthens my intentions?
  • Try writing an artist statement in 3rd person, in order to help be clearer and more succinct in explaining own work.
  • Autobiographical work (self-portraits) – how do other artist ensure their message is watertight?
  • Narrative – does it have to be a written out story, or is it enough to name the characters?
  • How do my personal effects impact the message, when the creatures are displayed on them?

 

Further thoughts of reflection

 

  • I feel frustrated that I seem to be making more problems for myself. Each action I take, each object I produce or aesthetic decision I make seems to cause Maiko/Oscar – and the world – to question my work more. It seems my work is becoming very unclear to them. I feel mistrusted.
  • I innately know that I am not interested – and it is not important – that people arrive upon a common narrative, reason or interpretation of my work – it actually seems incredibly superficial, and quite vain to be that demanding of a unanimous meaning. It is very important in fact that the notion of demanding the answers and the definition of my work to be presented or communicated really irritates me – it doesn’t matter to me if it all makes sense, so why should it matter to others? The constant search for an answer fuels judgemental behaviours. Things can be experienced, witnessed, even enjoyed just because… not everything should have a reason, and not every action or existence deserves to be analysed in order for the decision to be made for it to become legitimate.
  • When I look at the work of others, I don’t really care if I ‘get it’ – I’m looking at it, and if I like what I see, or it moves me, then that is what matters to me as a viewer… I don’t look for legitimacy through meaning. I don’t need to feel clever that I managed to work out the ‘code’.
  • If the world requires an example, I can link my frustrations very closely to Derrida’s theory of deconstruction, in that the meanings of creative works can greatly differ from person to person. For example, my contexts and development of my own ‘language’ is mine and my own, as a product of my unique journey. As the maker of my objects, I can never rely that what I transmit will be totally understood by someone else, because they come with their own unique contexts and grasp of language, and did not make it.
  • This is how I feel about myself in the world – no one ever really understands me, I feel. I very much alone with my mind, and I constantly battle to feel legitimate in the world. When I feel at my loneliest, is when I feel myself the most. I don’t build deep relationships with lovers or friends because I don’t feel validated by them.  Instead I feel questioned, invalidated and let down by them, and as a result I feel the person they know is not the real me… that they don’t look hard enough to find me.
  • The process of creating allows me to learn and develop my own “language” that makes me feel connected with a world, a place, where even if it doesn’t make sense, it isn’t confusing.  I exist alongside my work – we are as good as each other, we all belong together, despite being misunderstood by the world beyond.
  • But something inside me tells me that surely there must be others who feel this way – I am not a nihilist, I am an empath – there must be a world out there somewhere where I feel like I belong, even if that world is just one person. Maybe many people feel how I do. Maybe we all do?
  • In my bedroom, in my flatshare, is where I feel at my loneliest, and my truest. A 3×3 meter room. Everywhere else I am some vamped up, well behaved, diplomatic, homogenised, capable, adjusted version of myself. I am myself when I sleep alone on my mattress… my shelves collect objects of my own choosing, which would seem random to anyone but me… my cups and plates serve me with the food I make for myself only, without any judgement other than my own… my selection of clothing exists out of my own will. This is my own world, or perhaps it is the only world in which I exist?
  • So my creatures – who are all me’s – all find each other, no longer feel lonely, no longer feel illegitimate, judged, scrutinised between themselves, and shame on anyone else who looks at them and judges them. Your lack of empathy, your judgements and insistence on understandability are what has driven me to feel so lonely that I cannot connect with anybody, and I hope you feel bad about it.
  • I am the empath that no one empathises with.

13th March 2018

WIP Show Artist Statement

 

Martin Williams

Instagram: @cafedelmartin

cafedelmartin@gmail.com

 

“Sandbox”

 

Ugly, uncomfortable, unfashionable, imperfect, out of place… it doesn’t matter – everyone is welcome.   Although we are surrounded by talk of inclusivity and equality in our culture, why are these ideals of legitimacy often ignored when it comes to our things?  There is a tendency to look a gift horse in the mouth; to hide the chipped mug; to separate our things into tribes of what belongs together and what doesn’t. ‘Sandbox’ intends to discuss this through sentimentality, empathy and zoomorphic objects, in a world where everyone is legitimate, none are turned away or separated.  They all belong, they are all welcome.

8th February 2018

WIP Show/Library Display

 

Working Title:

  • “Everyone is welcome”

Working Project Proposal Title (ideas):

  • Expressing and challenging conflicting feelings through zoomorphic sculpture
  • Expressing Investigating (autobiographical) feelings on inclusivity, coexistence and legitimacy through making and curation of sculpture.
  • Identifying why I make what I do, what it says about me, and what I communicate through my practice.

 

Objects to display:

  1. Ceramic Cast Jellybean – Magenta cast (+)
  2. Ceramic Handbuilt Jellybean – Yellow (+)
  3. Ceramic Black cup or Broken Cup (+)
  4. Ceramic Purple tactiform (or blue) (+)
  5. Ceramic mini Tactiform (+)
  6. Ceramic Blue Cactus (+)
  7. Wooden Robopants
  8. Metal Plughead
  9. Masking Tape Coral

 

Other/more materials (to consider/experiment/make before WIP Show)

  • Wax – make wax Tactiform or Jellybean
  • Card – pangolin hat style
  • Paper – papier-mâché?
  • Tape – more figurative?
  • Plasticine – make Tactiform or Jellybean
  • Metal – ???
  • Plaster – carving, whittling, casting

 

Ideas of how to display, and why:

  • In a round/crowd – conversing, mingling, participating
  • On grass – symbolic of existing in an environment – their land, world, microcosm, but a world we as people share too
  • In a house/dolls house – all living under one roof
  • A kunstkammer – a curious “world” where a range of wonderful, diverse and not-necessarily related (serialised) things are display and exist as they are
  • A selection (curated), based on maintaining diversity and equal distribution of all kinds of objects… but this makes the work quite ‘exclusive’, maybe.
  • All objects ever made by me… logistically quite difficult! Can this be played with, for example, by objects ‘overflowing’ a shelf, or starting to take over a wall, or defying gravity, etc?
  • Simultaneously displayed collections – the same objects, or different? How are these separate ‘worlds’ decided upon?

 

Feedback from Oscar, 08/02/18

  • Titles are a little clunky – broaden and then gradually decide which bit is the most important part to express/unpack.
  • Try to think about how critical my question/position of enquiry is – does it allow me to question, critique, investigate and analyse my process or approach to finding something out (ie is it objective)
  • Collage and bring in as much stuff as possible
  • A variety of forms, materials and processes makes for a more confident direction, and allows for greater objectivity
  • Could each of the three display opportunities be approached differently (I.e. try a different thing, arrangement, objects)?
  • How does the notion of simultaneous ‘worlds’ affect the notion of inclusivity and legitimacy?

 

Key words, and how to clarify what they mean to my investigation:

Legitimacy – what rules, laws, regulations? Can my choices be defended with logic, rationality or reason?

Inclusivity – how far do I pursue or press for inclusivity? Where does it end?

Coexistence – living in harmony, despite differences (ideologies, interests, species…)

Curation – how can curation still can make an exclusive statement, despite pursuing inclusivity?

Conflicting feelings – responses to texture and aesthetics such as recoil, adoration, inquisition, tentativeness, etc… is there a better term for this?

 

Next steps:

  1. Build strength of argument through contexts:
  • How have other artists/sculptors displayed collections of their works (retrospectives, etc.)?
  • How do other artists deal with questions about aesthetic differences between types of work they do (Damien Hurst, perhaps?)
  • How can a range of different objects (aesthetically, thematically, chronologically) by the same artist?
  • Have other artists used a kunstkammer or similar approach to displaying a range of objects/works? Why?

 

  1. Collate as many of my objects as possible
  • Start to assemble collections, photographing different combinations
  • How would these collections ‘overpopulate’, aesthetically?
  • How would these collections work when there is imbalance of certain types (i.e. too many blue things, too many ceramic things…)

 

  1. By Wednesday 14th February, ensure most of the objects I want to show are together, and bring to university.

1st February 2018

Proposal Rewrite

 

Working title:

An investigation into where the worlds of judgement, guilt, disgust, nurture and the maternal*** overlap, and manifest as sculpture.**

 

*As yet, I am unsatisfied with the choice of descriptors in the working title, and I am searching for terminology that is more encompassing, such as:

  • Jolie-laide/Belle-laide (pretty-ugly/beautiful-ugly) (although a better term would be one that doesn’t specify human attractiveness, but more a feeling, sentiment or emotion rather than an aesthetic)
  • Wabi-Sabi, although it has connotations with Japanese craft specifically
  • Cute/gross
  • Charming/disgust
  • Sentiment over rationality
  • Want to be picked up, despite flaws or failings
  • Inclusive, everything valid, yet defying genre or order

 

**I am also unsure of the use of the term ‘craft objects’, but I am reluctant to pigeonhole the investigation to ceramics only.

 

My investigation is as much a reflection of my own creative practice, the struggles to associate myself, feel accepted and validated within the world (and professions) of visual culture. The feelings of self-doubt, insecurity and feeling vulnerable to questions of appropriateness and validity of my work and mindset, or lack of validated ‘welcome’ or ‘place’ for me and my work within the industry.

 

In terms of display, it is appropriate that the work is presented as a microcosm, collection or installation of everything – a world of things which exist together.  This could be simply arranged in a room, depending on the allocation for the end of year show, or could have a specific structure built for the objects to be displayed in/on.  For example a shelving system, a kunstkammer, a doll’s house, a playroom, a studio, a workshop, a bedroom, a shop window… Each of these has particular connotations attached, and therefore these need to be investigated in order to analyse their appropriateness.

 

In order to extend and explain the philosophies and theories associated with my practice and the investigation, there are opportunities for the exhibition of my work to be accompanied by the delivery of workshops or other forms of audience participation.  Currently, the notion of the public all making their own sculpture to be curated and exhibited together using a small selection processes which I use, seems like an appropriate way to do this (clay hand-building, scrap wood modelling, cardboard maquette-making, etc.).

 

 

19th January 2018

Reflecting on Unit 1 Assessment

 

Main concern – very big gaps/weaknesses from Unit 1, how can I resolve these (quickly) so that Unit 2 is more successful, and how can this be supported (beyond written Assessment feedback)?

 

Actual aims of project not defined in proposal; why am I trying to make uncanny objects? What (and what kind of experience) am I trying to draw out by creating these objects?

 

Is it to show that these particularly objects (expressed in ceramics) can be used to create or express narratives?  If so, who’s narrative, and why?

 

Also, defining attributes to what makes an object uncanny need to be outlined in order to measure and justify my choices.

 

Maiko to assist or explain further: “reflection on a regular basis”, as I feel I have been highly reflective, rigorous and ‘overdone’ the writing. To advise on how to “utilise my thoughts, rather than let them just run on paper”.

 

“Manner of which the submitted materials were presented…” very little support regarding this. This needed to be more explicitly supported, via demonstrations, suggestions, exemplars, etc.  This is very contentious. Comment regarding categorisation in sketchbooks is agreed however.

 

Certain choices (Kitsch colour, choice of objects) need to be addressed through rigorous contextual research and analysis, and experiments in turn.  Once these are done there is greater justification for my choices.

 

3rd January 2018

Themes:

  • “Everyone is welcome”
  • Aesthetics of friendliness
  • Why creatures?

 

“Everyone is welcome”

A particular personality trait I have, and one that I have always had, is a distinct sense of want for togetherness and inclusivity.  I recall being a child and enjoying the premise of collecting all of a particular series, of toys or other collectible objects, even if some of said objects were not my favourite or first choice. Rather, there is something to be said about those objects or things that would otherwise be ‘left behind’ or excluded if I did not take them in too.  There has always been a sense of responsibility towards togetherness in my history of things.

 

These feelings are also exercised when one of said collection is broken, damaged or less that perfect, and in fact the feeling towards this imperfect object exacerbates the sense of duty to include.  Although nowadays there are less toys in my immediate possession, these feelings can still be found with plates or mugs, wherefore should a mug become chipped, I cannot bring myself to throw it away and exclude it from the others.  The chipped mug still remains, and may even get used more, or at least more consciously than a) before and b) the others.

 

Yes these feelings are irrational – they are inanimate objects – but they are participants in my world, and I want to take responsibility towards what I can affect in this frenetic world, which in this case is looking after my things as if they were sentient, children or friends who share my world.  Rationalities such as space, aesthetics (I.e. colour coordination) and practical uses (i.e. it might not function, if it is broken), are disregarded for the sake of inclusivity. Everyone is welcome.

 

There is also an underlying guilt towards waste and respect for the craftspeople behind each object and thing, which further underpins my emotional connection.  I want to make sure the craftsmanship of each thing is respected by not treating the object as a throwaway, transient ‘chachki’.

 

Moreover, in my own work, over the last year or so (and looking further back), my creative output seems to be concerned with a few tropes which support these ‘inclusive’ obligations I have.  Firstly, a lot of my work centre around multiples, or a series, and every object is different in its own way. This could be through individual organic fluctuations in the design, variations in decoration, or being made ‘with lax standards’.  All objects are included, none are mistakes, and all make it to the final ‘display’.

 

Aesthetics of friendliness

Secondly, is the notion of friendliness, specifically the aesthetics of what makes an object ‘friendly’?  A crowd of people don’t look lonely, whereas a single person does, so a multitude of objects makes for a friendly scene, and much of my practice concerns a group or series of things.

 

However on an individual level there has always been a concern for the things I make to look or suggest anthropomorphic qualities and friendly gestures – not explicit smiley faces and hugging arms, but the suggestion of a friendly creature or character.  This can be seen through the large Tactiforms, which seem like they might have a head or face, or be looking up at a viewer/owner as if to be wanting to be picked up. The Mini Tactiforms also reference a personality through subtleties in visual language, in the way a slight roundness can suggest a face or belly, or 2 protrusions could be limbs, etc.  The handheld-ness of these objects also encourage them to be picked up and ‘petted’, smoothed or stroked. Interestingly, when these objects were made available for sale, most people chose to purchase more than one. Could this be an aspect of the new owner wanting to maintain the ‘inclusivity’, and stop a single Tactiform from becoming lonely (at their new home).

 

Currently, I have exploring different ways to incorporate ‘friendly aesthetics’ into ceramic objects, for example an ‘almost-amorphous’ object which looks like it might have a head, or arms, or feet.  These are seem to be an extension to the Tactiform series, in the sense that they are being modelled in a similar way, but this time with a different sense of purpose (beyond the textural experience). However these are elements of the Object, Language, Landscape project which are also present here…

 

…For a long time I have been unable to underpin why I feel a cactus is ‘cool’, or what I feel to be the ‘best’ object that I made.  I think that it might be because the cactus embodies the aesthetics of friendliness that I have been thinking about, with its arms stretched up for a hug, it’s expressionless, yet emotive face, and the fact that as a group they all look happy together.  The other objects all around all reference the sense of inclusion as their rationale – each object is welcome in the scene – which is the only decisive factor in the assemblage. They’re not a collection because they’re all edible, all consumable, all contemporary, all Western, all blue… they’re together because everyone is welcome.

 

Incidentally, the colour treatment is the only unifying attribute of the pieces in Object, Language, Landscape… for some people, the rationale of these objects existing together is that they’re all blue, so they belong together.  However I want to avoid my future work being read as such and so I will explore a more diverse colour pallet or possibly centre on CMYK to reference all colours/a spectrum, and all colours are welcome.

 

Now I have some clarity to my rationale I feel ready to experiment and plan ways to visualise this to an audience.