15th September 2017

 

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).

14th September 2017

The main topics arisen from the tutorial:

  • The Future/Beyond the MA
  • Reflection on last 12 months work
  • Defining ‘The Uncanny’
  • Immediacy of Making
  • What next?

The Future:

  • Teaching at HE level (Associate lecturing, technical facilitation…)
  • Requires experience in professional creative practice, i.e. exhibiting work and/or publishing written work – neither of which I have yet done
  • Opportunity to apply for residencies and/or open call exhibitions; artist statement required for this – TASK: write an draft artist statement and send to Bridget
  • Opportunity to get some teaching experience with BA 3D Design – TASK: speak with Jason (new course leader of BA 3D Design)

Reflection on last 12 month’s work:

  • Agreed that a new proposal to be written, however some kind of direction or short term action plan needs to be in place in order to avoid stagnation (see slow)
  • Earlier work I feel ready to ‘let go of’/put down (Tactiforms and Tacti-Vessels)
  • Interesting debate came up regarding the term ‘gimmicky’ – I referred to my Tacti-Vessels as too gimmick in a negative way. Unpacking this point, I realised this is highly subjective, and can have a lot to do with intention and function, and how original the idea is… there’s certainly room for gimmicky or camp work in my future projects but it does beg the question ‘where is the line, between acceptably gimmicky and tacky-gimmicky?’

 

  • I still have a strong feeling towards certain aspects of my later project (Object, Language, Landscape)… there are several elements that I particularly like/enjoyed and feel there’s more to be done with these:

 

  • The types of objects I had chosen to make still hold my interest, however I’m starting to think that food objects might be the way to go with this – I seem to be able to come up with a lot more examples of potential uncanny objects which are foodstuffs – there must be a significance in this, possibly to do with how food plays a fundamental element of culture, but also because I’m a bit more partial to food than I should be!

 

  • I also particularly my selection of finishing treatment to the ceramic forms: I like the cheeky, unconventional-ness of using car paint to coat the ceramic forms, rather than glaze. It makes them more plasticky, and helps to enforce that the objects aren’t meant to be an accurate representation of a sandwich, a cactus, a hotdog, etc. (i.e. not a still life), but more like a suggestion or an indicator – like a glyph or icon. I could have used a typical ceramic glaze, but that would have enforced the ceramic element, made it more ‘formal’, which I didn’t thin would help to enforce the notion of the uncanny within the forms.

 

  • The colour choice was quite a subconscious decision, or should I say it was something of a matter of fact in that in my mind there was never any question as to what colour the objects would be… they were always blue in my mind. Blue is a very inorganic colour, especially when associated with food. It makes objects immediately look plasticky and inedible, and helps to confuse the materiality of the form – it looks man made, but I could be hard, could be soft, heavy or spongy… blue is hard for us to tie to a particular organic medium. The pairing of blue with orange was also something of a gut feeling – a certainty. The two hues have a very similar value, which is why they contras so vividly – this brings another uncanny effect to the assemblage. The overall impression appears so striking, and so inorganic that it bares the appearance of a digitally rendered image – like CAD/graphic design but in the flesh.

 

Defining the Uncanny:

  • I had been often using the word ‘Iconic’ in the wrong way: I meant Uncanny. The problem was that the meanings are actually quite different. Uncanny objects reference other attached experiences and feeling – they emote beyond their function and inspire wonder, daydream and whole worlds of ‘otherness’ not figuratively depicted with its form. They are almost transportive or teleportive. An iconic object on the other hand stands for something… it means itself. I would argue that there are instances where an uncanny object can be or can become iconic – such as The Statue of Liberty (representative of American culture, but also representative of liberty and empowerment). And this can also be the other way around – an icon becomes uncanny, once its original meaning is removed through a change in its meta-language. This can be exemplified in the Eggplant Emoji, which is used to emote ‘penis’ (as an uncanny object)… yet a cartoon picture of an eggplant just 5 years ago would have only meant ‘Eggplant’, and thus referred to as an icon.

 

  • I think I would be good to get some other’s take on the idea of the uncanny, I am certain Magritte probably write or made work based around this aspect of semiotics and semantic visual language, but also I have been recommended to look into the works of Martin Puryear… he speaks of the idea of visual language being used in a non figurative way to conjure and represent the figurative within our minds.

 

  • My contextual writing will focus around this, and I will spend the majority of the next 3 weeks working on this. I aim to identify 3 case studies of the uncanny – or what isn’t uncanny – one of which I think will be Jeff Koons, who I believe works towards devoiding objects of any iconography or uncanniness – good way to define my terms by identifying an antithesis.

 

The Immediacy of Making:

  • A discussing came up regarding my choice of material; I have always worked in clay yet I always feel reluctant to limit myself to clay in the future, regarding outcomes. There is an immediacy that I connect with when I use clay, it is instantly manipulated, I can sketch with it, and I can refine it all in a relatively lo-tec way (excluding the firing, and glazing). The actual making is very instant, and changeable. You don’t need a rubber to undo your mistakes or anything you’re not happy with, you can add or subtract clay in an easy way, it is resilient enough to cope with an organic mindset and changes to design. It is also cheap and very available to me.

 

  • There are other materials that I work with which are also quite similar in their immediacy… I have experience with building using card and paper, and even stationary materials such as masking tape. It was even suggested that cheese, or other foodstuffs could be used and manipulated in an immediate kind of way… before I embark on a period of refined making and ‘final designing’, I have the opportunity to do some more experimenting in these materials before I commit to what my major outcomes will be.

 

What next?

  1. Research into other people’s take on the uncanny
  2. Find and curate a selection of uncanny objects – possibly focussing on uncanny foodstuffs?
  3. Photography and/or arrange these items with a similar colour treatment to ‘Object, Language, Landscape’ project, in order to elevate the uncanny aspect. This could involve spray painting or dipping the objects into some kind of plastic.
  4. Respond to the objects by making ‘immediate’ versions or responses, in card, tape, etc.…

1st August 2017

Review of 1st Year Projects

Project 1: ‘Tactiforms’; September-December 2016

3 keywords:

  • Texture
  • Amorphous
  • Handheld

3 positives:

  • Explored a range of different textures and people’s response to textural (subversive) qualities
  • Began to explore amorphous forms that felt ‘just right’ while making and while holding
  • Looked good as a whole set/collection

3 negatives:

  • The work seems more like a scientific experiment with little aesthetic/artistic merit
  • The project is somewhat unfinished in that the results didn’t lead to any specific outcome
  • The general quality of the making was questioned by my peers/mentors

Project 2: ‘Tacti-Vessels’; January-April 2017

3 keywords:

  • Texture
  • Visceral
  • Perverted

3 Positives:

  • The forms had a function, and therefore some kind of outcome or resolution of the contexts/concepts was tangible
  • Making skills were stretched in learning the mould-making process for casting; keen to use this skill again
  • Tried to push irrational revulsion of texture further by making forms which reference human (sexual and gastro) anatomy

3 Negatives:

  • The pieces were quite cliché and gimmicky
  • The pieces were not finished to a high or useable standard (glazing)
  • There were fundamental issues with the usability, by the material of choice: ceramic (i.e. small, brittle, breakable parts)

Project 3: ‘Object, Language, Landscape’; May-July 2017

3 keywords:

  • Iconic
  • Colour
  • Meta-Meaning

3 Positives:

  • Enjoyed making these pieces – it felt like fun, and ambitious (installation)
  • Gut instinct about which objects to make, which objects were ‘iconic’
  • Really pleased with the colour, plus the cheekiness of using car paint instead of glaze

3 Negatives:

  • The pieces were not finished to a consistent high standard – some where better made than others
  • Some objects did not hold enough meaning on their own, and made the viewer question to their inclusion
  • The size of the objects or the number of objects needs to increase to maximize presence

22nd May 2017

After several, generally supportive and encouraging tutorials, I feel fairly confident in my instinctive vision for some kind of ‘final piece’ to be exhibited during the summer show. I think I am going to create a landscape of the afore-mentioned objects, as an assemblage or installation of some kind. There are 3 main aims of the work:

  • For me to try and ascertain if there is any rationale to these particular objects being interesting for me to build. Are there any similarities in these forms? Am I interested in the objects’ manufacture, or is it an affinity towards the individual forms/types of form that drives me to make these selections?
  • To see if these objects (and the way they are displayed) have a connection to a wider audience. Is it the same connection? Are these objects significant to me, or are there wider significances embedded in these objects?
  • To develop my crafting and fabrication skills, improve the overall quality of my output and achieve consistency (mastering of skills)

There are a few contextual questions I am posing while making (and while presenting) the work; questions I hope to be able to find out, understand in some part or lead to further critical thinking:

  • What these objects communicate? Individually? Collectively?
  • Do these objects mean the same thing to other people? To all people?
  • How are objects used to communicate meaning?
  • How does assemblage communicate meaning?
  • (What is meaning? Is it a language? Is it a universal language?)

I currently believe that the selection of these objects are likely to be understood by me very differently than to others; my instincts tell me that the selection and creation of certain objects is defined by my own conscious and sub-consciousness, and informed by my own contexts. Thus I hypothesise that while there may be some common ground for like-for-like meanings and significances, I think there is a great deal of personal choice at work within a great number of variables, and therefore the meanings will differ person to person.

There have been a number of contexts I have discovered and recommended. Each brings its’ own influence and potential, and these must be considered in order to enrich and give purpose to my investigation:

  • Felieke Van Der Leest, jewellery.
    • Playing with familiar forms, deconstructing and reconstructing
    • Applying the recognisable and familiar to motif and aesthetic
    • Applying playful, toy like qualities to precious jewellery

25th June 2017

Objects to make:

  1. Hotdog
  2. Sandwich
  3. Pie
  4. Toothpaste
  5. Plug
  6. Padlock
  7. Screw
  8. Tooth

Supporting objects:

  • Cactuses (x4+)
  • Big blobs (x2)
  • Small blobs (x2)

Arrangement:

  • On floor
  • Felt ‘tendrils’ connecting objects
  • All painted blue
  • Original ceramic texture important

Timeline:

  1. Monday – Hotdog, Sandwich, cast cactus #1
  2. Tuesday – 2x Big Blobs, cast cactus #2
  3. Wednesday – RUTC SHOW, cast cactus #3
  4. Thursday – Padlock, Screw, cast cactus #4
  5. Friday – Tooth, 2x Small Blobs, cast cactus #5
  6. Monday – AWAY
  7. Tuesday – Experiment with felting wool: arrangements and into plaster
  8. Wednesday – Felting wool into plaster
  9. Thursday – Firing (A.M.)
  10. Friday – Take out of kiln, Photoshoot with Dorota
  11. Monday – Last day for firing
  12. Tuesday – Installation
  13. Wednesday – Display work
  14. Thursday – Summer Show

 

What about bone? Or bone china?

These things come from my mind – what material is the right way of expressing this?

5th May 2017

On the run up to the start of term, I have feel I have been working with a different kind of attitude towards making. Term 2’s output felt very forced and objective, to the point where I was trying too hard to formulate a functioning brief, rather than making something I feel engaged or passionate with. Instead, over the Easter break I had been making work that I wanted to make, with no rationale other than ‘I made it because I wanted to’.

Perhaps there is something to this statement: something that gives a truer insight into my sub-consciousness perhaps?

The work I made could be categorised as non-functional objects (often in ceramics) – some of which were figurative/recognizable objects, whereas others were more abstracted. I made the following objects:

  1. Twisted aluminium wire figure with obsolete electronic plug for a head
  2. Small ceramic blob creature, with a hole for a face
  3. Thrown ceramic bowl, filled with a fragranced wax candle
  4. Scrap wood ‘cubist’ self portrait, using only 10 pieces
  5. A ‘dinosaur bone’ image using heatpress-melted cellophane
  6. A larger ceramic blog creature, with felting-wool coming out of its face
  7. A series of slipcast cactuses in various inorganic colours, which maintain their casting edges
  8. A ceramic sandwich, where golden glaze is used instead of jam

I am unsure as to why these objects were chosen other then out of a whim or gut feeling perhaps, however I seem to be drawn to fairly recognizable objects (sandwich and cactus in particular). I am also somewhat keen to play with size differential between the objects, and against their real life counterparts – again I am unsure at this point as to why I have made these decisions, beyond gut feeling or intuition.

1st March 2017

Mid Point Review sheet

Pathway: Designer Maker

Name: Martin Williams                                                      Date: 1st March 2017

Briefly write here (500 words max) on two or three key issues (you can list these in bullet points) on the development of your practice in the following and see them as points for discussion. 

  1. Exploring notions of rationality and irrationality in object design and application: what is function/non-function?
  2. Splitting and conflicting fields of consciousness and sub-consciousness by presenting sub-conscious (primitive) behaviours
  3. Applying point 1 to point 2; making and presenting objects with questionable functionality that provokes the response to sub-conscious behaviours in a holder.

Firstly I wanted to address and define processes and responses to the creation of forms, which question conventions of rationality, purpose and function. I wanted to raise a discussion through my works as to what function and non-function is… Personally, I often feel it is hard to describe or rationalise why certain forms and visual language appeal to me, and I feel somewhat uncomfortable or dissatisfied with a sense of needing to give a reason to why I like a certain thing.

To explore these concepts I created a series of small ceramic objects, called Tactiforms (“tactile forms”). I chose to construct a multitude of forms, with similar visual language, yet innately individual in order to spark choice and preference in a beholder. The visual language employed references several contexts. Firstly, the size and shape of the form is designed to be hand-held, to encourage haptic exploration, rather than visual. Secondly, the forms are amorphous (unrecognisable) and non-functional as to discourage the eye from pre-analysing the object. It is my belief that the eye can often steer our other senses away from further exploration, if it is presented with something our mind already recognises. Thirdly, the choices of texture applied to each of the Tactiforms serves as discussion points, choices and haptic explorations, mainly to give rise to the ‘I like this one but I don’t know why’ response, or push the boundary of what function is within an object. They are designed to inspire the beholder to pick them up and explore with their hands, in both a conscious and subconscious way.

The questions raised by the Tactiforms lead me to explore the schism and conflicts of the rational and irrational mind. I believed that the sense of conflict between saying one likes a particular object (for example), but cannot explain why was perhaps down to an inner mental/behavioural conflict between different states of consciousness and sub-consciousness. After being influenced by primitive talismanic objects (Pitt Rivers, Ashmolean, V&A and British Museums)… with psychological and behavioural theories, particularly Freudian theory of the Id, the Ego and the Super-Ego, I noticed that there was a clear rift between the Id (which is primarily responsible for thoughts of instant gratification and primal urges) and the Ego (which gives credence to morals, social expectations and the acceptance of rationalisation of reason/law frameworks). The Id within us is only concerned with the very animalistic side of our human nature; the need to satisfy our hunger, with food and with sex. It made me think about what it would have been like to be a primal human: what sort of feelings do I have that I could relate to primitive behaviours?

In response to these thoughts I set out creating a series of semi-functional (or questionably functional) objects that attempt to reconnect a beholder with primitive behaviours, or even attempt to draw attention to their inner conflict of the Id and Ego sensibilities. Will a beholder be repulsed by the actualisation of basic human instincts (sexually suggestive forms)? Will the user attempt to use the objects to feed from? Or will they only go so far to admire them as non-functional objects?

Evaluation of my project proposal as a part of a self-directed programme of study:

My proposal has gone through multiple reinventions, and is currently in a state of deconstruction. The process of exploring ever deepening contexts and responses to each smaller ‘make’ has seemed to have paved a very long and meandering road. Most aspects of my proposal are almost unrecognisable in my later work. I am however not deterred by this, and don’t feel it is necessary to have answered all of my previous intentions in order to give value to what I am currently doing. Moreover, the creative process has been applied as an organic one; there are links back through various stages of makes (mini-projects as it were). With this in mind it is hard to apply a scaffold to evaluate my current progress.

I feel however that the journey has been necessary and much distance has been covered. I feel there is a lack of depth in some areas of my contextual understanding; for example I am only just starting to understand the nuances of Freudian theories, as well as contrasting these with the works of others (Maslow, Jung…). I am also somewhat aware that the practical qualities of what I have made lean towards the sketchy, the experimental and the unresolved, rather than showcasing real craftsmanship.

Where I need to develop study plans in relation to the Unit 1 Learning Outcomes (please refer to the unit briefing sheet):

  • Deeper and wider reading and understanding of contexts, leading to synthesis
  • Qualitative feedback on my work; recording the responses of others using/holding my work, comparing these results to my intentions and contexts, and developing responses by identifying opportunities to develop further work or manipulate certain variables.
  • Develop making skills to a level that yields ‘finished’ results, to a high standard of crafting skills.

Review sheet (2)

Student to complete on the day of Mid Point Review and email a copy to tutor by Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Pathway: Designer Maker

Name: Martin Williams                                                      Date: 8th March 2017

Peer group comments noted during the MPR:

  • Not enough work made
  • Visual contexts not specific enough
  • Work is not of a high enough standard of finish (although I somewhat disagree that at this stage it is vital that they are representative of ‘finished’ pieces: they are sketches/experiments)
  • Try being more specific regarding particular reactions, i.e. phobias
  • General direction of intentions somewhat unclear and/or alienating
  • Responses are not ‘personal’ enough
  • Ceramic may not be the most appropriate material to apply recent designs
  • 2D drawing is not utilised effectively to express reflective thinking

Response to the discussion and next step – actions to be taken: 

  • Visual research – identify at least 5 artists/practitioners who make objects which apply contrasting textural elements (hard and aggressive/soft and comforting).
  • Break down the broadness of my current proposal and select one singular avenue to focus on until the interim show.
  • Explore other materials, such as rubber, wax, foam and textiles, in conjunction with ceramic elements.
  • Explore the notion of attraction/repulsion of human bodies and textures.
  • Draw more… human forms, body parts and contrasts of human textures.
  • Focus on my own response, rather than working ‘for others’.
  • Be more personal about what I do: do what I like and like what I do.

5th January 2017

What I am expected to do: Term 1:

  1. Project Proposal, continuously re-worked and refined as practice and context develops and deepens.
  2. 20-30 hours per week, practical or contextual

What I have done so far:

  • Written and re-written project brief several times (still not clear)
  • Made 50 mini tactiforms
  • Briefly explored the tactile qualities of amorphous hand-held ceramic forms
  • Gotten minimal feedback from public
  • Gotten some feedback from peers
  • Written a lot of notes – not followed through
  • Created a blog

What I haven’t done so far:

  • A clear proposal
  • A clear idea of what I want to do and why
  • Any formal reading, or recording of.
  • Any formal feedback of practical work, or recording of.
  • Not enough connection with context
  • Not enough practical work
  • Developed existing practical skills, beyond what I already knew how to make
  • Learnt new practical skills

What I need to do (this term):

  • Formalise a schedule of working – week by week
  • Formalise a blogging schedule
  • Identify term, course and overall aims
  • Make, Read, Share something every day.

Aims:

What I want to do (this term):

  • Have a clear idea of what to make
  • Have a clear idea about why I want to make it
  • Identify and understand a selection of appropriate contexts
  • Learn new practical skills and improve existing skills
  • Show a considered, high-quality selection of developmental work at WIP

How I will achieve these targets:

  • Be inspired by going on 2 contextual visits each week; having a clear idea about what I want to see, why and how I am going to record the experience.
    • New Design Museum
    • Martins WIP Show
    • British Museum – ancient, primitive figures, hand held
    • Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

Explorations of consciousness through objects

Current Project:

Explorations of the subconscious mind through ceramic objects

  • 3+ drinking vessels
  • They must be drinking/eating vessels, as the act of consumption is a key primal human function
  • They must physically connect with a user’s mouth in order to experience ‘the irrational’ tactile sensation
  • I believe the irrational response to be a breaking down of the barriers between raw human primal functions, suppressed by the modern/culturally-programmed mind. When people use the vessel they feel an unexpected or surprising
  • The action of putting something to the mouth references the close psychological connection between food and sex (both key primal human functions), as referenced by Freud, etc.

My aims:

  • Each vessel will physically stimulate the user’s lips and hands (grip) with unexpected haptics (in contrast to norms of function/form/design).
  • This should draw significance with the action taking place – consuming, feeding and inserting.

My objectives:

  • To stimulate an unexpected, surprising or ‘unexplainable’ response, caused by a tactile sensation of using serve wear.
  • To reconnect a user with basic human functions, though bestowing ‘irrational’ thinking.
  • Create an interesting range of serve ware that feels (and looks) interesting and unusual, as a haptic experience.
  • To promote discussion of suppressed human behaviours; to draw attention to the conflict of behaving as to societal expectations, versus basic human instincts.

Cup 1: ‘Voluptuousness’

  • Visual language (VL) of the basic form: chubby, curvy, engorged, soft, fleshy… this references ‘the body’ as a fertile, nurturing, nourishing and grope-able object.
  • VL of additional features: dimpled rim… this references the softness and grope-able texture of flesh; something that can be pressed and impressed. This is an unusual texture for the lips; particularly in contrast to typical smooth drinking vessels (cups, glasses, etc.). Belly button draws additional attention to the object being a representation of flesh – a torso – rather than a representation of a complete, or gender-specific body.
  • Context: flesh being a key part of the conditions of feeding and sex; we eat flesh and we crave flesh carnally.

28th November 2016

They’re finished! Not quite 100 as planned (didn’t want to rush and scrimp on quality), but each of these will be for sale this weekend. I need to get feedback and observe people interacting with them to help me understand my next steps.

The forms are designed to be selected and arranged to form some kind of ‘irrational language’, as justified by the holder. I am very interested in the reasons why certain forms will be selected and arranged.

23rd November 2016

After speaking to one of my colleagues about my mini-tactiforms, two of the textures I had applied – the dimples and holes – reminded them of the Suriname Toad.  She showed me a video and we both recoiled in horror and disgust!

I’m not sure why I didn’t realise this before when making the textures, but it has now completely changed my perception of what I have created, from something of intrigue, to something of anxiety.  Upon further research, the recoil I experienced is linked to a condition called ‘trypophobia’, which is the fear of densely-holed surfaces.  The rationality of the fear relates to the human condition to fear danger lurking in unknown, dark spaces, such as insects that may sting.  I was really surprised at how intense my feeling of disgust and recoil was, especially when I don’t consider myself to be afraid of insects, or pathological natural dangers.Suriname Toad

21st November 2016

So the first 25 mini-tactiforms have emerged from bisque firing; all looking good. The next batch is in tonight. Need to work out exactly what I’m doing for glaze…

…alongside the small tactiforms (which I tested out with some of my students today: their feedback to follow) I plan on making/selling 2-4 larger tactiforms (in bell-jars), about 20cm tall. A bit more formal sculpture than design, I guess, but then again it’s part of my output as an artist…

18th November 2016

…in 2 weeks time I will be selling my work at an Art & Crafts fair, at Richmond Adult Community College (Saturday 3rd December). This will be my first ever proper market, and first time I will ever sell direct to the customer!

I have been busily working on a series of small tactiforms (100 is the target)… 50 made so far; here’s how they look!

28th September 2016

I recently watched a TED talk by Professor Stuart Brown about how the inclusion of play-mechanisms in our life is vital to development and achieving potential… here are a few of my notes and observations

 

A state of play enables a “differential of power that can be over-ridden that exists in all of us”

Absence of play leads to vulnerability of anti-social behaviours, in some cases extreme

Why do we invest so much time playing with infants?

-cognitive development

-sensory discovery

-socialisation

-occupation

– NOT as rehearsal for adulthood or adult situation

“If its purpose is more important than the act of doing it, it’s probably not play”

Object play – fundamental part of being playful. “The brain in search of a hand, a hand in search of a brain, and the object becomes the medium”

Stopping the using of one’s hands (object play) limited the ability to solve practical problems – could this also be applied to mental (psychological or emotional) problems?

Physical play (rough and tumble):

-emotional regulations

-inter-social normalisation

-cognitive and spatial processing

National Institute for Play

-the programme states that the opposite of play is depression

Neoteny – retention of immature qualities into adulthood

“Rules of the Red Rubber Ball”, Kevin Carroll, sites play as a transformative force over his life

‘From Play to Innovation’ – course at Stamford, focussing on group dynamics and development through play

26th September 2016

Since Thursday last week I have been trying to think of why I want to do this project – why it matters?

The tutorial with Oscar went ok – I am still finding it difficult to accurately and clearly express my proposal, which made it difficultly for him to truly grasp my intention thus far, although his suggestions were interesting.

Oscar asked “why this project – why does it matter (to me)? And I couldn’t answer him. I still can’t answer that question, 4 days later. Is ‘because I want to and I find the discourse interesting’ good enough an answer?

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:

Exploring
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

Hi,

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