Constellation Yr 3: Contribution (PDP)

In the context of Constellation the past year has been nothing but pivotal and excruciatingly heavy – stress became a key word and there was no way to truly relax even during breaks and holidays. This time last year we were having our first lectures about what our dissertation is and how we should be starting to think about it. Most of us left those lectures even more confused than when we entered. At least that entire process started early enough to allow us enough panic time before we had to actually sit down and get some work done.

It took me a while to find what I wanted to write about. Not because I had no ideas but because I had too many to choose from. We were instructed to write about something we love and wouldn’t get bored of easily. It was difficult to align that with my idea to write about something I find important or at least inspirational. I could’ve chosen to write about anime and gone on and on and on about Studio Ghibli, Akira and all the rest of my favourites, I could’ve written about comic books and the ways they influence our lives, and gone on to analyse the works of Moebius, Crumb and so many more. I could’ve gone into tarot cards and alchemy and all the illustrated manuscripts, which were the basis for modern scientific practices. I could have written about so much… but I didn’t. I chose to focus on perhaps the one topic, which could never be truly explored in its totality because its subject is infinite in essence.

Once I truly started thinking about it the answer appeared in my mind, as if on its own. Memories started re-emerging of my 12-year-old self tirelessly writing lists upon lists of gods and goddesses and what their powers were and which mythology they were from, grouping them in all sorts of ways. As soon as I remembered my notebooks and attempts at storytelling, I knew that it had to be something to do with all that. I wanted to relate the idea to my practice, I am in art school after all, so perhaps I should look at the visual side of the matter – that made for the initial question: Why do we visualise gods and goddesses the way they do? In essence, I did not agree with the idea that each divinity was meant to look in a specific way – why does Aphrodite have blond hair, why does Zeus have to have a big bushy beard, why are they curly, why aren’t they fat, questions of all sorts, often shallow and not necessarily promising. But every brainstorming session is bound to produce more than several ridiculous bits and pieces. Eventually, the question morphed to Why do we even depict them as human? As being existing in different dimensions, it makes no sense for them to be limited to such a thing as the human body, and surely they can’t be defined by its appearance. So why do we put so much emphasis on the depiction of a form, which is just one of the many shapes a god can take within our world?

God and religion aren’t topics I enjoy talking to people about, mainly because of the endless disagreements on the matter. I don’t particularly enjoy having to put concepts like “GOD” into academic terms and definitions, as it is not only impossible but purely ludicrous to “define” something which is undefinable by definition. People love talking about god, up in the sky, judging form his throne in the clouds; they also love drawing and picturing the old man with his beard and stern face and robes and sandals. Perhaps this is why I never found the appeal of religion – you could be completely in touch with nature, and follow basic moral principles, you could be spiritual and devoted to your faith but why do we have to have someone’s restrictive ideas pushed down our throats since day one? How could we allow for such a limitation to our perspectives of the world?

Of course, we all have our own views on the matter and I don’t want to disrespect anyone’s understanding of this highest power – because that is what it ultimately is – a highest form of power, which we all believe in, under one form or another. For some it’s Buddha, others call it Allah, or God, but no matter where we look, there is always a concept of that which is transcendent of everything else – its name and shape are just the product of cultural differences. This is exactly where I’ve rooted my entire question.

Titled Art and the Divine: Visualising the Unimaginable, it is, in essence, an exploration of how gods and goddesses have been depicted throughout time and in different environments. I won’t talk much about the dissertation itself; but it is a piece of work I am immensely proud of, as I never thought I was capable of writing something so consistent and so lengthy. What surprised me the most was that I ended up going over the word limit by about %50, and that was before writing the introduction and conclusion. My topic was more extensive than I’d imagined, even without being as analytical and explorative as I wished. There was so much I wanted to write about and cover, but 10,000 words is barely enough to even get my point started.

I believe our dissertation group was blessed with one of the best possible tutors – Mahnaz Shah. Without her guidance, commentaries and patience, I believe I would’ve lost faith in both my writing and myself a long time ago. It is truly a wonder, to be inspired by your own studies and trusting your own perspective on matters you wouldn’t imagine to ever view academically.

I may have suffered creatively (in Subject and personal projects), but I have to say, every bit of it was worth it – my mind has expanded exponentially and is ready to be filled with even more wondrous ideas.

Here’s the visual cover I did for the dissertation (a test-collage from last year’s Constellation lectures, when we were asked to depict our reality), followed by a short excerpt, which in my opinion manages to sum up the entire piece.

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“Perhaps the infinity of depictions of god is symbolic of the infinity which is god. “

feel the chaos

I wanted to continue trying out ways to use the marks more abstractly, without the ideas of male and female, but as a singularity.

The studies below are experiments with black and white and line. You need to feel the chaos, to create the chaos. So I created some dark infinite chaos, hoping to find the perfect way to represent the ideas in the right way.

In a way, they all work, but in a way neither of them does. The search continues. I think these will definitely be important at some point. At the moment they are more of a spin off of the main idea.

I’m eager to see what happens next time I sit down and draw.

infinity & chaos

 

 

Book of Nature

This book, combines in itself the idea of nature, wild and raw and beautiful as it is, with human nature, which ultimately leads to the questions of our existence and the cosmos itself.

This book is a concertina (12 x 12 cm) with several different fold-outs and two pop-ups, as well as a back spread.

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~      c   o   s   m   o   s    ~ (back spread, 12 x 48 cm)

This book goes hand to hand with M!nd States.
Note: there are more pages in the book itself which I haven’t included in this post.

Showers

Something interesting happened when two girls went into the showers after painting performance. I was waiting for them outside the cubicles we were laughing about some things or other, and then I noticed something happening on the floor of the last, empty shower…

This is an edited detail from the photo I took then. The colours blend in a really fascinating manner, being pushed around by the slow advancements of the water and the fast drips and little waves coming from underneath the showering girls’ feet.

It is also interesting to look at the 3D image (or detail of it) as a 2D image or surface.

 

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Non Art Materials / Performance

That day, everyone had an A4 sheetup on the wall in front of them. This was more of a personal exploration, unlike other times, when we shared a surface or worked as a group. We were supposed to bring in any non-art materials of our choosing, to use in our artwork instead of paint. Some people brought Gravy granules, teabags, cleaning products, flour, toothpaste, clay, tomato soup and so much more. I brought a bucket of leaves from the park and I got scared I wouldnt be able to make them stick. Fortunately, with the help of some water (cloudy with washed off acrylic paint), I managed to turn them into a more volatile substance.

We were doing slow movements at first, concentrating on muscle use and breathing and connecting with the material, exploring its flow and consistency and learning to work with it. Then we switched to a faster pace, an angry approach with violent outcomes.

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It was an interesting exercise for lots of reasons – seeing what everyone else had done with their materials, both as interesting mixtures of substances and interesting outcomes. By the end though, the mixed smell of all those mixtures became so potent, we had a hard time trying to focus and discuss the work.

Note:  video update soon.

Floor Art

Sketchbook pages with acrylic paint prints taken from the painting performance floor after painting performance. :)
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Seeing how much paint there was on the floor from where it splashed beyond the canvas, I just couldn’t control the urge to do something with it and the first thing that came to mind was my sketchbook. So I just opened it and put it on the floor. I experimented with how much pressure I put the paper down with and played with the speed and direction of pulling the sheet off of the floor.
The final pieces were quite interesting in colour combinations, marks and surprise outcomes.

Painting Therapy

Getting out some Anger personal work inspired by Painting Performance, acrylic on paper (3xA1)

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After all these painting performance sessions and everything that was going on in my personal life at the moment things were getting really confusing. I felt such relief during each painting performance and a sticky feeling of emptiness and pointlessness after, one day it just got really frustrating and I decided to take the practice out of the university/studio environment, both literally and metaphorically.

I set up some paper in our back garden and even though it had rained during the entire week I didn’t care if the work got smudged. The weather was influential enough to my mental state so it was only fair, if the weather decided to interfere in my process.

Once I started dripping and pouring and splashing the paint on the paper I think I must’ve entered a different mind field since I can only recall bits of it, rather than the entirety of all movements, like usually.

While making it I was concentrating on letting all my anger, frustration and built up negative energy and letting it flow through my hand and into the paint, where it could take shape and come alive on the paper. I was finished much sooner than I thought but I didn’t realize it at the time. Once I was finished tapping into the negative, I continued pouring paint, but this time the direction came from positive feelings, feelings of relief, of completeness, of calmness and relaxation, a sense of fluidity.

In a way in all of this I was also exploring how paint interacts with paint, different colours, different ways of mark making, which I didnt get the chance to explore much on a personal level in the painting performance studio. I could have full control over what happened on the paper, the pacing of the ‘performance’, its length, and the final outcome would be completely personal. It felt different not being in a group but exploring the same topics, you become more critical of yourself because you’re not sure of what people’s reactions would be if they saw it. When you’re surrounded by a big group of people, all excited about chucking paint around, it’s really hard to put much meaning into the art-making – you’re too busy having fun with your friends to give it too much thought. I found myself standing absolutely still in front of the blank paper, looking down at it. What was I doing? When do I start? Is everything prepared? Is everyone ready? It was just a split second’s thought. I was completely alone, there was no one to influence or control my movement or to block my flow in any way. I had the wind blowing in the trees as inspirational music and the cold as an atmosphere. I was in the exact environment which was the source of all the emotions I wanted to express onto the paper.

I didn’t want to film it. It just felt wrong, in the sense that it would break the intimacy of the painting and the process of making it. It was more about the personal experience, what I was feeling and doing, my solitude, the absence of any living being – just me and my surrounding environment. I find interesting the fact that I left the paintings outside to kind of set before I moved them inside to dry fully, expecting some rain overnight and being interested in the outcome but that night the sky had completely cleared of all clouds and I saw my paintings in the light of the moon and stars and it seemed like a sign from the universe and it made me happy. The next two days the weather was completely clear. Third one’s the charm, every time, I moved my paintings inside and it rained that same afternoon.

When I later had another look at the artwork I loved how the patternd were made out of smaller patterns of paint droplets and splashes. The details of the painting seem to contain small galaxies within the marks, as well as passages from one form in one scale to a different form in different dimentions. It perfectly reflects on my frustration with the ammounts of incredibly interesting information that I’ve been trying to process over the past few weeks and having so much to do around the house (purely on basic survival level) which leaves me with far less time for information assimilation and art theory than I feel comfortable with.

It has definitely helped me free myself from everything that is holding me back and pulling me away from ispiration. I was able to look at my life, my art and my practice, and particularly these three pieces, more objectively. I could see what I was lacking and what I needed to improve on.

Gutai Group Experiment

IMG_5823.JPGWell, we were focusing on blood and gore. I think I look like I just held someone’s heart in my hand.

 

IMG_5834.JPGOur outcome for the Gutai experiment.

 

IMG_5824.JPGThe Painting Performance studio.

IMG_5822.JPGMe, chucking ‘blood’ on the paper.

 

IMG_5835.JPGBack of Gutai Experiment outcome. Interesting pattern.

Practicing ‘Control’

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Graphite on table-sized sheet of paper

from top left, clockwise: Ethan Dodd, Sara Christova, Danielle Adair, Kirstin Crocker;

This is the final outcome of an exercise we had. Following simple instructions like “make dots with your right hand”, “make diagonal lines with your left hand”, or “make any marks you want with both hands”, we ended up doing automatic movements. We shifted from thinking about what we were doing to automatic movement, waiting for the whistle to tell us to stop. The result was different for everyone, even though we were doing the ‘exact same’ movements. We made different use of the space of the page, since there was a different amount of people on each table and just one sheet of paper on each; the free space between each person’s little mess varied between each group, reflecting in a way how we actually feel about each other, the more blurred the two scribbles were, the more open and friendly those people are to one another.

I find it interesting how something so seemingly innocent can easily tap into our emotions and subconscious thoughts. Being in control of these means being in full control of our bodies and the muscles we use with each movement, and our breathing. Then that would mean we are also in control of what comes out on the page. The mark then would be a purposeful illusion, rather than an unintended exposure of the person.

Memories of Art-Making

The first time we had Painting Performance I wasn’t so excited about it until I walked into our closed off area and saw a few familiar faces, mainly friends from fine art. As several people from our Illustration course moved to Fine Art, I’ve been subconsciously questioning my decision not to. Painting performance gave me the chance to relax and take a breath before we’d even started the key note lecture.

What immediately struck me during this first session was how deeply connected I felt to this sort of art and art-making; I could relate  it to some of my oldest works from years before I started thinking about art school. Later on this type of art helped me through a really dark period in my life, helping me to accept and get over what happened; I was in a state while I was doing both paintings, grabbing blindly for colour, getting violent and messy and splashing and beating and hitting again and again and again with the brush and my hand until there was no more paint left, and then I grabbed for more tubes. I remember my mom coming into the room and trying to calm me down, she didn’t know what was happening and I wasn’t in a state to explain and she ended up yelling at me, which made things worse… there was so much anger, sadness and despair poured into that painting I don’t even know how I didn’t get rid of it after. But once I finished it, I felt a strange sort of release. I’m not carrying all those feelings around in me anymore, they’re out there, on the canvas. They no longer have power over me, I have disconnected myself from them…

I did the second intensely emotional painting soon after, but that time I had experienced something awful recently, I still felt disconnected from the world, in a way, and what happened then flooded me just as fast as I tapped into it and poured it out onto the canvas. This time I wasn’t expelling the emotion and feeling, this time I was using its energy to paint because I had no energy left of my own. I felt empty and lost and it was like I wasn’t even present. I was just following a shape that felt natural, it was forming and expanding on its own, I was just letting it. Whenever I felt like I should maybe change colour I did. I did not question anything about it, which I suppose preserved the purity of the emotion.

I kept both paintings as reminders and proof of personal growth, I would not be who I am today if it wasn’t for these experiences and I respect that. As I said, the emotions stored into these paintings are out there, overcome, released from me.

I like how looking at and learning about the history of Performance art brings up memories of intense past experiences overcome with perhaps the ultimate form of expression – Art. I have also noted how I haven’t done anything like this in a while, and how maybe it’s time to get back into it and see where it leaves me. Not to mention what a valuable base for experiments it is.

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