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.

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.

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.

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.

 

26th November 2017

Tropes from my history – a list of creative memories or tendencies:

 

  1. Assemblage, arrangement, build
  2. Modularity, pieces, construction/deconstruction
  3. Toys
  4. Colourful, contrast, colour-object relationship
  5. Collection, collectibles, grouping, genres, completion, interchange
  6. Display, show, curation, togetherness
  7. Fantasy, narrative, otherworldliness
  8. Uncanny, strange but familiar, transformation, beyond the ordinary
  9. Manufacture, admiration, wonder, workmanship
  10. Cuteness, friendliness, personification
  11. Form, tessellation, interrelation of forms
  12. Mechanism, moving parts, animation
  13. Craft, making, doodling, experimenting
  14. Materials, textures, tactility, interest, fidgeting
  15. Physical-digital world overlaps
  16. Pride – collection, creative ability
  17. Invention, pushing the limits of product function/intention
  18. Wanderlust, the exotic, the mystic, the ancient, the alien, discovery
  19. Psychology, relationships, identity, morals
  20. Gadgets, technological novelties

 

This list seems very long, and although there are lots of overlaps and cross references, I am unsure what to do with the information.  I would say that ALL of the above links in with what I have tried to do with my own practice, yet the words highlighted in bold seem particularly relevant to my current direction.

 

What I feel I need is someone to say that it doesn’t matter about finding an answer – it’s all subjective, we all have our likes and dislikes, and these can be irrational and interchangeable. We can be fickle and we can change our mind – we like what we like, and sometimes we can’t explain it or say why.  But I feel that I am being challenged to stay away from that ‘easy’ answer.

 

I just want to make what I want to – it has taken me long enough to find a practical project I can focus on.  I don’t feel I have time to do the requisite research into psychoanalysis or narratives or artistic imperatives at this stage. I can’t give any more effort than I have been doing so. I am at my maximum capacity.

 

23rd November 2017

Why do I make the things I do?  Why am I compelled to make certain ‘ordinary’ objects, and not others?

 

This is a question I have been trying to answer over the last year, and although I feel I have tried to resolve this through my practice, I still feel the answer is fleeting.  I have spent time analysing others work (Skoglund, Kular, Koons, Gormley, Rasmussen, etc.), I still feel that their individual rationale regarding their object choice is fleeting.  I have listed and grouped my own work, I have noted a clear ‘inner voice’ that almost decides what to make, and what not to make, but I can’t answer the ‘why’.

 

I have even gotten to the stage where currently I don’t even see the cactus as a ‘cactus’, and more of an avatar or a placeholder for the eventual form it will become, which demonstrates that the specificity of the object is interchangeable at best, and indeterminate at worst.  The project seems stuck until I can resolve this problem, and I feel very vulnerable to criticism of my work until I can be sure of this answer.

 

In order to understand these questions I have tried to look back into my own personality and interests in the visual and physical, to see if there are any identifiable tropes or themes.  I am curious to see if the are links between my own history and interest with the visual, creative and “play” worlds – from toys, games, stories, films, cultures, objects and things – which might explain my own choices.

 

Another way I could explore my choices may be through deep psychoanalysis, however I am reluctant to make my work seem serious and scientific.  The same inner voice which tells me to make certain objects seems disinterested in taking this route. Perhaps we are talking about artists’ intuition here?  Are there any writings on this, or is it one of those ‘tacit knowledge’ things, where I can only obtain the answer by doing and experiencing it myself? I feel that I have done a lot of contextual research about this and asked this question already and still I don’t find I am any closer to the answer.

 

However, is it 100% necessary to resolve this answer? Even that, I cannot be sure.

16th November 2017

First Impressions:

  1. The small cacti look quite cute and extra friendly… each took about 10 minutes to make however, and the arms had to be attached separately which was quite fiddly and labour intensive. To make 4 of these, this amount of time isn’t a big deal, but if I was making hundreds of these it would be very difficult, and there is potential for the joints to fail or at least crack. In order to test this further I will see how many I can make in a day, and analyse the quality over around 100 cacti.  The handmade quality of these small cacti were quite pleasing and really helped elevate the fluid/malleable characteristics of clay and hand building that is important to the piece as a whole.       However if it is impractical to make hundreds of cacti in this way (or other objects for that matter) I will have to consider casting, and finding ways to make the casts appear more organic before firing. This could be achieved by further shaping the forms by hand once removed from the mould.
  2. The scale of the cacti could work, however it does raise some questions about density or how far apart each object is placed/dispersed. With the original blue and orange installation from July ‘17 (Object, Language, Landscape), the spaces between each object was roughly between 1 and 1.5times the average size of the actual objects. For example, if a cactus of roughly 20cm diameter was placed near a tooth, it would be placed around 20-30cm away from the tooth.  This was all done by eye and arranged until the composition was “just right”. I will therefore have to see what sort of arrangement looks right with a larger number of smaller objects – this can be achieved in the same text as above; making around 100 cacti and arranging them.
  3. The “inherited kintsugi” cacti and mugs appear to yield interesting results.  The mug has been glazed with a ferric/volcanic stoneware glaze, which was inspired by the form itself… the effect of the broken mould upon the cast left very pronounced ‘spillage’ where the slip worked its way into the cracks of the mould.  These appeared torn, fragmented, aggressive and almost tortured in the way the earth might get ripped apart by an earthquake. But also, these ‘seams’ also reference heavy duty metal casting – something I have seen in the foundry or when I worked with molten aluminium casting last year.  So with those contexts in mind, the glazes had to be accommodating to these references. However, I would also be interested in seeing the effect represented in a more plastic colour and finish (like bright blue car paint).  The broken cactus casts have yet to be fired, and I am in the middle of making a series of these which show the degradation of the mould.  These would be ideal to explore other types of glazes and colour finishes.
  4. As mentioned above, the bright yellow mini cacti have a friendly and personify-able appearance – the cacti have always had 2 arms, but here they have a much more fluid texture against the previous larger cast cacti.  The colour also helps in some way make them appear friendlier, plus the yellow is much closer to an organic colour than the blue, and may even appear more like a skin-tone, especially when a viewer is familiar with cartoons such as The Simpsons or Minions.  In hindsight, the yellow perhaps is not inorganic enough, or too connected with these cartoons in order to avoid being associated with them. I terms of colour combination, I have briefly photographed the cacti on the bright green roof of the kiln to test this.  In reality there is not the same ‘colour shock’ as experienced with the blue on orange, however once photographed this appears slightly heightened. I will further investigate other colour combination.

 

I have also been further exploring newer contexts with these experiments, particularly the work of sculptor Katharina Fritsch and her brightly monochrome coloured objects, and ceramicist Pattie Chalmers, who seems to have a similar approach to selecting ‘everyday objects’ and hand building them in clay, in the same way that I do.  She is currently working on a project to make 365 objects in a year. I will be interested in how she plans to present the work once it is completed, however I may need to contact her and ask, as I am unsure when the 365 days is up! It could be after my MA finishes.