18th September 2016

Now that I have started to distil my lines of enquiry I am beginning to rationalise these thoughts against what it is I want to do, make and find out.  At this point (and in reference to Lecture 1 – ‘Introduction to Practice as Research’) I am unsure as to which of these questions to address first; which should take president and lead into the others.

I want to develop existing and learn new making skills using a range of 3D media, because this is what I enjoy doing.  It is hard at this point to give specific reasons as to why I enjoy doing this, beyond the simple responses of I am good at it, or that I use these skills in my vocation, or to lead me onto an alternative line of employment.   I also want to build confidence in what I do and make; I am historically objective and realistic (pessimistic) of my own abilities and how my work applies to wider contexts, professionally and creatively (more on that later).  I need to gain the confidence to make my practice work for me, and take myself seriously as a practitioner.

I also want to move beyond the experimental stage of the creative process; my job as an Art & Design lecturer inhibits time spent on what I make (in practice, in reflection and in continuum).  My creative output is condensed into the spare hour or so that I might have between teachings, and although I can be easily inspired by the fast pace of contexts I am exposed to (as well as the practical opportunities), it is hard to find longevity in these endeavours.  Often the work I produce exists as one-offs, successful or failed experiments, or merely ‘good ideas’.  The next wave of creative stimulus comes along quickly, and therefore my practice exists in a constant state of halfway through several creative processes.  This needs to change.

The want for the more ‘intellectual’ side of a body of work may at first appear to be lower down on the list of demands, and to some extent the hunger for this is not the same as the hunger for making, but it is an integral part of what I enjoy about visual culture.  I enjoy deciphering and unravelling context within artworks and the open discussion of contexts, concepts and meanings in art and craft works is stimulating, and
something I readily participate in. There are broader and specific thematic areas that do interest me, however I often omit these and err towards the superficial when I produce my own work (or embark upon my own stunted version of the creative process (possibly
because I rarely reflect and develop these ideas)).  Beyond the attachment to a creative output, I am keenly interested in my own behaviours & beliefs as they change and
respond to the world around, which in extension I relate to the behaviours and beliefs of others in this world too…

…Ultimately I am concerned with non-spiritual existential questions, and the struggle between reason and feeling.  I find it often too easy to justify or explain my actions and behaviours (and the actions and behaviours of others) through a rational ‘scientific’ approach (cause and effect), yet the answers often don’t help to reconcile the emotional feeling.  As an example, I often feel the sense of average-ness about my self, my abilities, my looks, my thoughts, my choices, etc.  I use this notion to help connect to others – often it has been remarked that I give good advice and help people identify and understand the ‘psychology’ of their own confusions, predicaments and problems.  As a result I find people gravitate towards me as a good listener and someone who can make sense of the mental or moral mire they may be in.  But in stark contrast, within me this evokes a feeling of loneliness and disconnectedness from others; why can’t they see things like I do?  Why can’t someone make sense of why I emotionally annex myself from other people? Why do they seem happier than I am, in their irrational, provincial bubble?
My thoughts are serious, weighty and often make me feel unsatisfied, judgmental, isolated and aloof. – and very alone. But I cannot help trying to rationalise these feelings by applying my own psychobabble and rationality, with no warmth or feeling.  To summarise, I find it impossible to just ‘be’.

My lack of self-understanding and wider respect often manifests itself in my attitudes towards visual culture as well.  Certainly throughout my younger years as a creative I had struggled with the definitions of ‘art’ and ‘design’, and often tried to rebel against the ‘elitism’ of the creative industry’s low view of the superficial and the purely visual. I have come to understand and reconcile this through my teaching practice, but I also believe there can often be an undeserved leaning towards the conceptual in lieu of the aesthetic. This leads back to the question of rationality versus the irrational; why things feel right (or in my case why things feel wrong), despite all fact and reason stating the opposite.

With these notions in mind, it makes sense to explore the notions of rationality and the irrational mind, if anything but to illustrate the difficulty of doing so in such a ‘proven’ world, where cultural conditioning tells us how we should think, act and behave, yet as
individuals we often feel applying a rational mind-set is not satisfying.  Is this a human condition; do we long for a pre-culturally programmed mind-set (infantile, or perhaps even animal)?

NB – Importantly I am not remarking that my work will necessarily be cathartic or serve as self-help, moreover this discourse outlines a personal rationale for the effect my practice could produce (no pun intended).

16th September 2016

Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak with London-based French installation artist Romain Meunier.  His work deals with human/public responses to unusual sensory interaction – his work is very playful, free, open-ended and encourages people to participate and respond in their own way.

There is lots to like about his work; the experience of the ‘unusual’, in the sense that the actions themselves are uncommon in our day to day lives, such as suddenly hearing a guitar string plucked high above us, or how our shadows might affect a sound.  I was drawn to how immediate the reactions were and how quickly the participants dropped adult/cultural standards of behaviour to continue to play.  This really links in with some of my themes and concepts.

There is an opportunity to work collaboratively with Romain and my peers, which I am very enthusiastic about.  Although such a project is not designed to be integral to my own project per se, the nature of Romain’s work is very much in the same theoretical vein as my own lines of enquiry.  It would therefore be very beneficial for me to participate, make and observe the affects and effects as a maker and as an ‘end-user’, as well as giving me a case-study environment to draw parallels to my own personal practice.

So far I’m imagining injecting elements of unexpected fun into a serious environment… For example, imagine an office where the tapping of keyboards is replaced by random, xylophonic noises.  How would that affect our feelings about the workplace, and the act of working?  At first it sounds irritation, but why is work work, and why play is play? Is there the possibility for work to also be play, in the most banal of environments?

15th September 2016

So suddenly I’m in week 2 of 10 for this term and I feel like I haven’t started to do anything!  I’ve written so many pages of notes, been thinking and talking about my proposal a lot, but I feel like I haven’t really gotten anywhere.  Should I have written something meaningful or read 2-3 books by now?

What I have done is gained some kind of confidence to trust my initial lines of enquiry; as mentioned previously Proposal 1.0 had one clear thread, whereas I now have up to 5 strands to the whole proposal.  Yet it still feels woolly, messy… undefined.  I’d like to really easily be able to say ‘My project is about…’.

So far I’m interested in looking at:

  1. How and why our minds try to ‘force’ us to identify familiarity when faced with randomness, and what happens when our minds aren’t able to rationalise abstract and non-figurative forms.  This is intended to be multi-sensory, with a leaning on the tactile, rather than the visual, however it may be important to understand the ‘hierarchy’ of our senses.  I must also consider the differences between the responses of the maker in contrast to the response of a holder/user.
  2. The notion of play: which I often feel is an irrational response (as a ‘culturally-programmed’ adult).  This is quite a complex soup of theories and thoughts.  Firstly to address there is the concept of defining ‘play’ (and it’s antithesis ‘work’), of which I am keen to explore the notion of play from an adult perspective.  Is it the same behaviour as when children play?  My gut response says this isn’t the case (due to cultural conditioning, ‘maturity’, knowledge of the world, etc.) however this is just a theory.  Is adult play more complex, appreciative of the poetry of aspects, such as engineering or aesthetics?
  3. The ethical debate surrounding the art of making.  This is again complex, and also taps into emotional or irrational responses to the act of crafting, but not necessarily in reference to mass-production or consumer culture.  My angle is more concerned with the states of matter, ephemerality and permanence in my own practice.  The ceramic work I produce (finished or experimental) will exist forever, and is hard to break down again.  Much of what I create is experimental and once I have found out what it is I wanted to know – what happens to these ‘scraps’?  There are forgotten and/or discarded.  I experience some ethical conflict in this activity, however there lies the opportunity to look at the material and try to reconcile this feeling, perhaps through breaking the pieces down, and reusing the material in some way.

Comparing these strands, it seems there is an overlap with the theme of irrationality and interactivity, looking at the relationship between the object and the mind, but also the subconscious or even animalistic (uncultured) behaviours.  Threads 2 and 3 certainly lend themselves to concepts of construction and modularity.

Gradually these themes are being distilled, honed and I get the feeling I am not far off being able to form a coherent proposal, albeit in a looser sense.  The more I think and talk about these factors, I can feel them taking gold or some kind of gravity forming which holds the pieces together.

8th September 2016

Below is a rough summary of my initial project proposal for the MA programme; this was written in January and has since gone through much digestion and mental deconstruction, reconstruction and reimagining; of which I will share more later…

Working title:

the physical and allegorical values of amorphous objects

Rough idea:

To investigate irrational thoughts, reactions and associations we have when presented with unfamiliar and abstract objects.

The basis of this proposal centres on concepts of justifying and valuing objects and things based against societal norms of function and material worth.  Moreover, it aims to open discussion as to what happens when the rational mind (socially programmed mind) is unable to process the emotional or subconscious response we may have to objects that do not fit into the category of functional or familiar object.

There are two main threads to this concept.  Firstly, the response of the holder, who has no prior expectations of what these objects may be. Secondly, the response of the maker, during and after the production process of said amorphous objects – decisions of design are made throughout the stages of creation, and therefore may not be as subconscious or abstract as initially thought.

Recently I have been reading about some contexts which I think are quite interesting to apply to this project; 2 notions of psychological habits.  Apothenia and Pareidolia are occurrences where the mind tries to ‘force’ sense and pattern out of random information, such as seeing a face in the craters on the surface of the moon, or seeing Jesus on a piece of burnt toast.  These conditions can also be extended to the Rorschach inkblot test.  An understanding of these pending further investigation will help me to understand why the mind makes these erroneous judgements, and may help me to control or trigger this through my practical work.

Some of my previous practical work has already begun to explore these themes, although findings have yet to be formalised.

7th September 2016

7th September 2016


Welcome to my blog – the page is designed primarily as a diary for my on-going MA project over the next 2 years.  There will be lots of personal insights and ramblings, pictures and possibly videos of my practical work.  If anything is of interest then please feel free to get in touch, interact or whatever you feel like

A little about me, I am 33 and live in London, UK.  I am currently studying my MA in Visual Arts (Designer Maker) at UAL Camberwell, alongside teaching Fine Art, 3D Design and Architecture at a sixth form college, also in London.  My background is not that of a formally trained artist; I am a bit of a dabbler, in that I have tried and briefly flirted with a rage of creative disciplines, but something always pulls me back to 3D making.

The kind of work I love tends to be very playful and honest (and sometimes primitive), rather than finely crafted, serious, high-end works.  I will share the works of others quite readily, and love finding out about new artists and makers who hide away in their studios creating amazing and strange things.

If you’d like to see more of my previous work (I’m concentrating on current developments on this blog) then please do check me out on Instagram @cafedelmartin