James Green’s Rhondda World

A couple of weeks ago James Green had a show at Cardiff M.A.D.E. which was very exciting to see. The works included decorated tribal masks, a room of collages (quite literally) and several mind-blowing paintings.

Since last year’s Field module led by James – Gorillas in the Roses, collaging has become synonymous in my mind with creative madness. There’s something very special about it – dismissible yet profound qualities…

“James Green’s Rhondda World is not a single world, but a place where numberless cultures, histories, fantasies and fabrications jostle against one another in permanent upheaval. Incongruous worlds are shuffled like a giant deck of cards. Each shuffle opens new doors into the possible and improbable. Some of these worlds are real and tangible, some are imaginary; sometimes the different worlds mesh together to produce a new reality, at other times they clash and rebound spilling disconnected ideas in their wake. ”
Dr Jon Clarkson

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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. “

lyric sketchbook / updates

I went back to the Lyric sketchbook I made at the start of second year (I might be mistaken, it was in 2013) sometime round mid September. I’ve been doing periodical updates, but I recently did a few big ones to pieces I’d already been updating and ones that I’ve finished before this summer.

A note on the Lyric Book – I wrote a lyric on each double page spread from random songs that I thought particularly interesting at the time. I thought it would be a good idea to try and illustrate bits of songs without being influenced by the song itself. It’s an curious process with surprising outcomes most of the time.

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‘I thought of angels, choking on their halos, get them drunk on rose water’ Just One Yesterday by Fall Out Boy

 

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‘up in the air, out of my head’ Up In The Air by 30 Seconds To Mars

 

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‘assembling their philosophies from pieces of broken memories’ This Is Gospel by Panic! At The Disco

 

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‘our blood is gold, nothing to fear’ Splitting The Atom by Massive Attack ft. Horace Andy

 

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‘uncover our heads and reveal our souls’ Keep The Streets Empty For Me by Fever Ray

 

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ARCTIC MONKEYS

 

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‘your pastimes consisted of the strange, and twisted, and deranged ‘ Crying Lightning by Arctic Monkeys

framed

Once I finished this piece, I went out on the look for frames. I knew I didn’t want this drawing to be forgotten away somewhere in a sketchbook or an album, and I wanted to give it an honourable place in my room. 

Field / overall reflection

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Experiment 2 (part of my Rorchach Experiment book, inspired by Painting Performance)

I was beautifully surprised to get to choose from so many interesting Field options this year. Even though the ones I chose were both short 5-week projects, I got to experience an artistic cleansing of sorts, an opportunity to see my ideas, process and artwork in the context of two incredibly different practices, both of which I was already quite interested in. Throughout ‘Painting Performance’ and ‘Gorillas in the Roses’ I went through several drastic changes of the scale on which I was working on, the materials, and the very process and its pace. And dealing with all that, as well as my Subject work, I started delving deeper and deeper into the mysteries of how my own mind works. The different kinds of artistic freedom of expression the two options presented were what led to the inevitable influence in my way of thinking and my artwork ever since. I found it incredibly exciting to think of both practices as illustrative, and clearly intertwined. They both now seem to be vital parts of my repertoire as an artist, mostly because of their incredibly clear methods of interpretation – the understanding of meaning through the traces of the intrinsic connections between mind, movement and material.

During Painting Performance, we were introduced us and allowed to experience the history and development of performance art for ourselves, and so we started heading in our own directions within our groups – researching artists, themes and techniques more similar to our collaborative ideas and interests. As the module was all about action, the documentation aspect was very important and the final outcome was a short film based on my experience. It was interesting to practice my video editing skills and exciting to work on the outcome but the true power of this module (both Field options) for me was in the implications of deeper meanings and context to every single aspect of an artwork and the process of its creation. That proved to be the real ground for my collage outcomes in Gorillas in the Roses. No matter how chaotic and crazy my collages were becoming, they helped me find the order in the chaos and the excitement and almost godlike qualities of creation via destruction.

Out of my whole university experience since I’ve come to Cardiff, this year’s Field module has definitely been one of the most memorable experiences. In all fairness, I didn’t think I could have so much fun while learning and growing as an artist and I truly believe that the artwork I’ve created and the techniques I’ve learned will come in handy over the next months, and hopefully years. I will continue to explore my mind and its mysterious ways, and now that I have learnt about performance art and collaging, I feel like I have much more solid ground to work on – with research, technique and ideas.

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“something I can’t understand is reaching out to me, trying to tell me something” (collage part of “human nature, cosmic nature”)

Gorillas In The Roses / reflection

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GITR Zine Cover (for our zine of zine covers)

After the chaotic atmosphere, large scale and spatial freedom in first term, Gorillas in the Roses, led by James Green, seemed like a real challenge because of its contained nature. With my collaging experiments from last year to back me up, I’ve been thinking it might be interesting to learn about the true nature and history of collaging, how it fits in the greater scale of the art world. I couldn’t help but notice how different the two options were. I had to once more change my perspective on processes and materials, and it was the most exciting idea to reflect upon in my work. I’d been thinking about Nature – the general nature of things, ‘nature’ as in our environment, the nature of the world we live in, human nature, the nature of my thoughts and emotions.

Being confined to my desk space felt really strange at first but the lectures we were having soon took my mind off it. James introduced us not only to collage art and artists, but also to some of the most incredible comic book artists, examples of book art, shows and animations. The calmness and quiet of the collaging process (finding the right elements from newspapers/books/magazines, cutting them out, arranging them, and sticking them down) was what helped enforce the idea of a meditative process of visual reflection, of putting things in order and understanding them through this different perspective. While I was trying to put some specific meaning in every element of my collages I realized that what I was coming up with were perfect reflections of moods and mind states, strange combinations, that don’t really make much sense, but secretly, hold bits of a life story. Of mind states. Of Nature…

One thing I found incredibly reassuring, and liberating in a way, was that there were no restrictions, no limits, and no boundaries. We were just told to produce a body of work, to concentrate on something, and to do some collaging. That meant a great deal of experimenting and a lot of collages made on a purely random basis. And even still I kept finding meanings in the outcomes. At the start of the module James told us to each get a sketchbook for all our collages, but after the Subject projects, and the feedback from both this year and last, I was determined to create a finished outcome in book form, made from scratch, rather than just bought and filled. That is how ‘M!nd States’ and ‘Human Nature, Cosmic Nature’ initially formed as themes and ideas, and, as the module went on, as real finished pieces. But my work was also influenced by not only the artists I was encouraged to research but also my peers. Even though we were working alone and each of us in our own ways, we managed to produce more artwork than any of us thought, all while comfortably collaging in a room, chatting and listening to our favourite music. I couldn’t appreciate it more.

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Life and The Universe, as I see them in collage. (part of my “human nature, cosmic nature” book)

unexpected collages

All of these happened randomly and for no reason other than ‘I wonder what would happen if I did this..’ I think I’ve stumbled upon some interesting outcomes.            

   

*  the second to last one: the tape was all I had and I just haven’t thought to change it. 

* the last one: the little piece of hay on which I based the design broke off. You can still tell how it looked though whih is a great idea on it’s own. 

Batman v Superman

I stumbled upon these beautiful posters today as I was scrolling through my Facebook getting bored with life (as usual, it’s what Facebook does). I was genuinely impressed, not only because it was on the Little White Lies magazine page, but because these posters are a breath of fresh air in between the overly decorated and edited and crammed ads that I see on a daily basis.

I thought I’d share them here as a good example of a smart and simple artistic approach depicting the already legendary icons. We don’t need a thousand lines of text or the names of a hundred actors or cliched poses and predictable scenes. As I said, it’s like a breath of fresh air brought out to the mass public.

artist research / collage art

Jess Collins

The Virtue of Incertitude Perplexing the Vice of Definition. Jess Collins. Collage.
O! Tricky Cad & Other Jessoterica

Lawrence Jordan

Lawrence Jordan’s collage, “The Huntsman’s Dream” ; source: http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/umbrella-vs-sewing-machine/Content?oid=3125597
A Heavenly Time, Lawrence Jordan, original paper collage, 34 “x 28.5”, 2012
Ignus Electrici, Lawrence Jordan, mixed media diorama,15.5″ x 11″ x 4.5″, 1964; source: https://www.artpractical.com/event/10405-prodigies-of-physical-phenomena/
“Lawrence Jordan uses experimental animation to explore the subconscious. “

 

Robert Rauchenberg

Autobiography, 1968. ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG American (b. 1925). Offset lithograph on paper Gift of the Arch H. and Stella Rowan Foundation in Honor of Bob Green. source: http://www.theoldjailartcenter.org/RobertRauschenberg/

Autobiography, 1968. ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG American (b. 1925). Offset lithograph on paper Gift of the Arch H. and Stella Rowan Foundation in Honor of Bob Green. source: http://www.theoldjailartcenter.org/RobertRauschenberg/
source: http://galleryhip.com/robert-rauschenberg-artwork.html
source: http://galleryhip.com/robert-rauschenberg-artwork.html
source: http://pictify.com/373532/robert-rauschenberg-minutiae-1954
source: http://imgkid.com/rauschenberg-collage.shtml

Joe Orton & Kenneth Halliwell

the Islington flat richly decorated by Kenneth Halliwell
from Malicious damage (Joe Orton & Kenneth Halliwell
from Malicious Damage
from Malicious Damage

 

Picasso (& his works on paper)

GorillasInTheRoses: A Zine of Zine Covers

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At our last collaging session with James, we set ourselves a collaging brief – to create a cover for the Gorillas In The Roses zine of covers, which James suggested earlier this term, and to which we excitedly agreed. After giving it about two hours of intense work, we all came up with our different versions of what Gorillas In The Roses is, how we see it, what it means to us as a module or mmaybe literally, etc.

On the left: my GITR cover

We were, for the first time, working under a set brief. I’m not going to lie, I found it a bit stressful, but then again, there’s no inspiration like the deadline. Haha! We had to consider the size – the print was going to be size A5, so be careful about details too small. The other thing we had to be wary of was the fact it was going to be printed in black and white and any bright colour would be lost. Having all that in mind we all ended up handing in with very interesting outcomes. Everyone signed their names on a page that James made himself and then we were ready to go.

***

This week after the end of our assessment session, we each got a copu of the finished zine. I love how it turned out, as simple and strange as it is, it perfectly reflected Gorillas In The Roses and it was a zine, a little publication, that I contributed my collage artwork to, along with all my friends – you can see why I was so happy to have a copy  :)

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Above: GITR Zine Cover | Credit Page by J Green
Below: Inside Cover | Page 1 Cover

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I think it is fairly easy to notice, eve just from the first two images (and the cover), that the zine is filled with various aproaches to collaging. From minimalistic to elaborately detailed, from hand drawn to photographic, literal to abstract… all bearing our personal artistic touch and views and ideas.

This zine was a success, there should definitely be more of those, on all sorts of subjects, that’d be quite interesting…