aftermath / after hand-in

It’s been a while since I thought to write anything on here. The summer’s almost gone and perhaps the reason is that so much has happened in the space of three months. Sometimes it’s more important to enjoy the moments, to live, and let it all happen before you know what’s worth recording and writing about.

First things first – I am no longer a student. The last few posts I wrote were published on the day of my hand-in deadline. After all the hard work, the stress exploded from all of us in the form of celebrations and indulgences of all kinds – everything we denied ourselves for months we got to dive into in the space of a few weeks. In a sort of preparation for the exhibition which opened the week after hand-in.

Oh it was so good to not be worried anymore. Well, of course I was worried. I had the most dreadful feeling about my assessment, mixed with the most liberating sense of freedom. Nothing can hold me back now. I was free to focus on the ideas I wanted to focus on, the way I wanted to focus on them. All that with  a massive pinch of excitement about my family coming to Cardiff to see the show. (MASSIVE)

Some important questions (to myself) answered:

Was I happy with my final works?
I was as happy I could be – it was a project I had worked on for longer than any other and it was one which morphed into so many different forms throughout the time I worked on it. The core idea remained, despite the change in the translatable meaning. I was well aware I was capable of something monumentally more substantial though after the last decision to change the project, I effectively stabbed myself in the back and capped my result to something satisfactory to myself rather than something outstanding.

Did the result surprise me?
Not really. I was expecting a low grade but at the same time I was well unhappy about how I was judged. The unfairness of the whole situation was the most frustrating aspect of it, feeling like I’m being completely misunderstood when all I try to do is bring people’s attention to ideas and issues every single person thinks about at some point or other, without a doubt. Somehow it would’ve been better if I had focused on a mundane issue with little if any whatsoever deeper existential meaning, as it seemed like that’s the type of topics which the tutors fancied the most. I have no regrets at all. I just wish people appreciated deeper thought processes a bit more (and appreciated personal expression).

Would I have done it differently if i had the chance?
Yes and no. Yes – I would’ve stuck with my gut and done what I meant to do since the very start without changing my idea a thousand times throughout the year. I would’ve had a lot less tutorials than I did, as it seems to me that’s what messed up  my process in the first place (and I ended up being accused of not having enough tutorials… excuse me??). And No, I wouldn’t change my idea and what I wanted to communicate – my research has become an invaluable part of my philosophies and personal beliefs, and I still believe what I was trying to say id incredibly important in our day and age.

To conclude, in this one week before the show, the tornado inside my mind dissipated and suddenly I could see with clarity all the details of the wasted landscape. All in place, maybe not in the place they initially were, but in place nonetheless – exactly where they should be. It took the most devastating of storms to set things right for myself as a person and as an artist.

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Field year 3: Encounter (PDP)

 

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In Illustration they don’t appreciate exhibitions in the same way as other courses do. The whole idea is that the work we do is not the type one would see in a gallery, so there is no emphasis on shows, and that makes complete sense. As illustrators, this isn’t something we have to worry about, while our friends in Fine Art actually get assessed on it. Since first year a few of us have felt this certain discontent with how for two years we’ve seen amazing work exhibited by our friends while all we had was our portfolios, project books and desks. Personally, and I know this is true not just for me, I believed that if we had exhibitions at the end of first and second year, it would not only have been good experience but also would have helped us have at least some basis for this year’s ‘Encounter’ brief.

The most confusing part of the whole thing was constantly being reminded that we should not think of it as an exhibition (because it’s not what illustrators do), but we should focus on our work and think of how it sits in the world and how we want it to be encountered… that’s all fine, but at the end of the day what happened was that we were building spaces and putting up an exhibition. The continuous refusal to refer to it as such added to the constant level of stress throughout the year along with one other thing.

Groups. Since the start of the year, we were told to divide into small groups according to what our work was about, so when we put up the show at the end of the year, people would be looking at a collection of works with the same thematic. Instant red light goes up in my mind, how come we are the only course that’s not exhibiting everyone’s work together? Ignored the red light and tried to make sense out of the situation but it was only worsening. First with realising that I’d have to be into a group named ‘Myth and Fairy tales’, even though my project wasn’t meant to be perceived as a project on fables but a project on scientific truths based on mythology. When it turned out to be only me and one other person in that group we were told to just group with everyone who’s uncertain or hasn’t decided and so our odd-one-out group barely had any relation whatsoever between everyone’s works. We managed to find connections in the end although the very idea of having to consider how our work comes together and speaks as a whole was adding so much unnecessary stress, I was this close to leaving it all.

And then there was the lectures on how to put up a show, which, to be fair, I completely understood, though I believe both the lecturer and most of my course mates were misinterpreting the situation. Rita Cachao was teaching us by giving examples of different shows and how they work together, but the very idea is, that the work is collected or created for a specific show with a specific purpose, whereas each of us had been developing their own project of choice. Most people in the lectures were misinterpreting her efforts, thinking that now we have to change our work because it all has to go together. At that point the lectures were cut off and everyone felt even more frustrated because of the uncertainty – are we exhibiting together or are we not? What was the point to all the groups in the end?

One thing we had to do a month or two ago was fill out a form about technical requirements and describe the type of work we’d be exhibiting. After having stressed and talked to tutors about my installation plans and needing a large, open, free space, time and time again, and after handing that form in, you can imagine my surprise and frustration when I was allocated the furthest corner in the tightest maze of a space, which by the way turned out to also be where the door to the product design storage room was. Having that on my mind, being told that it could change when it obviously wasn’t going to (and it didn’t) and in the end being told I shouldn’t be stressing about it was just drop after drop until the cup was full and I no longer cared about how my work was going to be encountered. Nothing went according to my plan and in the end I had to rethink the whole setup just to make sure there is enough room for my work to be observed and for people to be able to go into the space right next to mine without getting caught in my pieces and messing everything up… all was fine in the end, I don’t have my hopes too high, knowing how much better it could have been had I got the type of space I asked for.

Building the actual walls and boxes actually turned out to be more fun than I thought, and it felt like a good way to connect with everyone and do something together, as a team, although some people didn’t show up and that ended up delaying us. Altogether it was a good experience that could have been so much better had it been addressed differently.

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Subject year 3 (PDP)

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Since the end of last year, throughout the summer and the whole of first term, my focus has mainly been on the idea of gods, goddesses and their visual representations. The dissertation proposal gave a lot of weight to the subject and in my mind it was like a seed which slowly but surely started poking out of the ground, becoming my main focus for the start of my third year of Illustration. Knowing that it would be a project that would take up the entire year, unlike anything else we’d done before, I knew I had to choose well and make sure my project would feel relevant to me throughout the year. It was not an easy choice because I’m all too well-aware of my interest and attention levels, and yet it was – knowing I’d be concentrating on the dissertation made me realise that whatever research I did would inform both aspects of my studies.

From the very beginning we were assured that nothing is set in stone, our project idea will grow and evolve and potentially change into something completely different from the initial concept. It was important to keep our minds open, and that is exactly what I did. At the start I chose to focus on mythology, specifically creation myths. I was keen on visualising the similarities between the different stories, my plan being to show that as different our cultures were, they all built on the same basic set of principles – the primordial void, the cosmic egg, the world tree, the creation of humans out of earthy substances (mud, dust, trees). My good intentions weren’t entirely applied, as I didn’t actually do a great amount of work in first term – the dissertation was taking most of my attention and in the end I only had the theory with some concept works, which resulted into a weak formative assessment. Looking back, I realised I could have put together a significantly more substantial, uniform set of works. My problem stemmed from the fact that I hadn’t decided what I was working towards. A visual storybook, a graphic novel, posters, and animation…? I realised, the hard way, that knowing what I’m working towards helps me mould my ideas and direct my work to a certain standard and consistency, something I was lacking in first term. There was not much I could do about it if I wanted to do well in my dissertation and do it right by the deadline, although I took the time to arrange all my ideas and come up with a plan for the type of work I would start working towards immediately after – an animation.

As my plan changed, my idea and the reasons behind it became more diluted. I was painfully aware of the amount of work I’d need to do if I were to make a hand-drawn animation. At the time there were several drawbacks to the plan, work that didn’t have anything to do with my project but was in fact the type of work I want to do as an illustrator – an EP cover and the exhibition we organised at Paper Arts in Bristol (a big shout out to Jamie Stevenson who was the man behind it all). Before I knew it, it was already time for our second term assessment and all I had was, again, concept work and thumbnails for my animation so I decided to create a long continuous piece which would in fact be the full visualisation of my final short animation. The positive feedback I had for it as a piece on its own made me rethink my whole project – leave the animation focus on this. It made sense – if it works, why not? I was also largely swayed by the lessened workload, one big hand drawn piece is better than hundreds and hundreds of illustrated frames. And all was good until the opening night of Within/Without, where one of my tutors noted the success of my pieces and advised that I revise my choices and work towards a similar outcome for my final piece. That was the point when I felt completely thrown off but I took her advice regardless. The development illustrations I’d been doing in my sketchbook could easily be translated into separate images which I could turn into an installation – a series of hanging pieces forming a narrative of a backward timeline, the Cosmic Genesis. With only a month to finish everything I found myself rushing everything. Stress levels started increasing drastically around the time I had to lose about five days waiting to get my laser cuts done so I could start painting over them. I went even further down the stress hole when we were allocated spaces and I got the furthest possible corner space when I’d asked specifically for an open space for a free-hanging installation. Up until the last moment I was assured it was not final and changes could be made and at the end it was evident that changes were not going to be made. The culmination of all possible stress was reached in the last few days – finishing everything off, making sure I have everything required for hand in and setting up the exhibition and the studio space. Now that it is all over I can evaluate the different aspects of the project:

IDEAS

It was difficult to explain my concepts in presentations, even with concept work for back up, there wasn’t enough and it seemed like there was nothing to ground my idea, according to feedback. The project changed drastically over the course of the year and so did the idea behind it but in the end, when writing my statement, I felt like it had finally come together in the best possible way, bearing the desired message.

RESEARCH

As the idea morphed so did the research. From myths to animations, academic reading, artists of interest, individual and collections of works, spiritual and scientific studies… even though it was a bit all over the place I feel it was all necessary to shape the project into what it is.

DEVELOPMENT

With so many shifts, I ended up having to discard most of the work I’d done over the course of the year. But at the end it’s all about how you allow your project to grow and evolve, which is exactly what I did.

OUTCOME

Even though it all felt a bit rushed, I am happy with my final pieces, even though I feel like I could have done an exceptional job had I reached the idea earlier and not had to worry about the exhibition space.

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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. “

reflections, musings & developments

I won’t be talking much about the creation of the world in this presentation. However, it is a core part of my idea for a final project, or in a way, a series of projects, looking at and trying to point out the similarities in a number of Creation Myths.Slide3

There is something really interesting about them; almost every single one (if it hasn’t been too altered by its verbal format) starts with a notion of darkness, chaos, infinity, nothingness… often water and gooey primordial substance and very often…

an egg. Our ancestors had notions of the world and how it was created, no matter where or when they were from, what’s amazing is how the stories they came up with are so similar, and yet almost completely different – that’s the beauty of language and diversity.

Nowadays, with science doing the job creation myths used to, and religions being described in conflict with each other, no one knows what to believe anymore; there is not one religion that promotes violence, they all teach love, compassion, peace and cooperation.

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Education, 1890, by Louis Comfort Tiffany and Tiffany Studios; stained glass window for Yale University’s Chittenden Hall

So how could that lead to conflict and misunderstanding? How long will it take for us to appreciate religion and faith for what they’re meant to be – an inspirational and unifying factor of our existence. Spirituality and faith are unique and tailored to the individual within the larger group, we understand what they represent for ourselves, in our own way. That is unique and yet unifying under the dome of a said faith.

But what about the higher knowledge, the mysteries, which myths convey for the open mind? I have chosen to delve into mythologies of various ends of the world and different points in time. I will be studying a handful of creation stories and attempting to unveil hidden meanings by extracting the deeper similarities of those myths and then illustrating the story in phases, so they can be juxtaposed and exposed for how much they are alike despite their different interpretations. I believe this could be deeply reflected into our own lives by the simple truth of it. I am not altering the myths but only bringing the attention to those details which could be proof of a collective consciousness, a unity we should all be striving towards as a kind, as a planet, in order to grow and continue experiencing this world… but i’m trailing off now, step back.

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At the beginning while I was in the process of coming up with ideas for what I could do, I started visualizing thoughts of a final piece. I think it always helps to have a bit of direction, but also to allow it to morph as you go along. I ended up doing more sketches of that than development work, and even though I was trying to think of the other, I kept going back to the final piece concepts, which evolved as my research went along. I’m sure that was key to helping me visualise the idea to chapterise the myths where each story is like a different prism for the same narrative. This example sketch I did was the most recent one, and probably the most reflective of where I feel my idea might end up.

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Considering I’ve been polishing my idea for a few months now, I had to do some developments, and so I had to start making some choices. What mythologies am I drawing from? Where do I start?

Initially, even though I was spending most of my time on my dissertation, I had the urge to get a few visuals down for later reference, if not just to clear my head space. That’s what led to this little study of a possible Nut and Geb depiction – I like the idea of them fitting together so I tried to recreate that straight away.

Then I thought I should go more simplistic, abstract even. The more simply I go about making an image, the more meaningful the marks become on their own.

At first there was Chaos. It was asleep in the Infinite Darkness.
And then it awoke…

To be honest, I panicked over the range of choices and went for Ancient Egyptian myth almost instinctively. There isn’t such a character in their stories but it was inspired by my fascination with the concept of the ‘Ogdoad’, the four primordial forces which existed before everything. They are the representations (4 male and 4 female aspects) of chaos, infinity, darkness and nothingness. This experimental piece is key to my whole project where the mark is representative of the meaning as much as the image itself.

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Primordial female concept of Chaos, Infinity, Darkness and Nothingness

So I ended up employing that idea to the actual story and the results were fascinating to me, as they were exactly what I’d conceived them to be but also much more…There is a lot more work to be done, so I’ll be focusing on that alone now; there’s quite a lot of Subject work I should be catching up on…

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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)

Painting Performance / reflection

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Our Painting Performance studio with our group’s “Klein blue experiment” piece on the wall.

Painting Performance wouldn’t come across as a useful practice for an illustrator, would it? Surprising as it sounds this module was an absolutely irreplaceable experience which helped me rediscover my artwork and process, as well as my ideas and drives as an artist.

Led by prof. André Stitt, this module was packed with information backed up by performance exercises. After learning about the history of performance art, its origins and increasing popularity throughout the years, we got to experience it ourselves, experimenting with the techniques of artists such as Yves Klein, the Gutai group, Carolee Schneeman, Hermann Nitsch and more.

As we got the chance to explore the subject more deeply within our respective groups, and of course on our own, I realised how this expressiveness that is so vital for painting performance is in fact just as vital for my own work. I started noticing my process in a much more conscious manner in the sense that I started having a much clearer idea of what I was doing with each movement when I painted, the materials, colours and shapes I used started becoming metaphors for specific ideas, the awareness of the duration and repetitiveness of the mark-making itself uncovered a meditative aspect, all of which I’d understood as an inseparable part of the process of art-making, but for the first time I was paying attention to it all, I was mentally, consciously and physically aware.

I was very lucky to be in a group of friends which allowed us to quickly come up and work on ideas we all agree with. Interestingly enough we managed to translate our differences into our work and make them work together to reflect on our interaction with each other as a process as well as the idea of the performance itself. This was all explored in our final performance, as well as the idea of interaction, the individual, the group as a higher form of synergic consciousness, the ways we influence one another, the ways we influence the world around us, the traces we leave through our lives and the intrinsic connections between all of these ideas. With the incredible idea to do it all with the sounds of space as a background we managed to bring it all to life, to reality, for the short space of time we had. The relief, calmness and content that I experienced every time, after finishing each session, had never been more clear and powerful than at the end of our final performance.

It made me understand how important it is for artists to be able to express themselves in their art, even if it isn’t fully understood by the rest of the world. By the end of the module I’d been so deeply influenced by painting performance in my other artwork, it turned into deeper, more personal experiments with free movement, different mark-making techniques, more repetitious, time-consuming or really quick elements and ultimately an exploration of my own self and how my mind works.

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left to right: Kirstin Crocker, (me), Ethan Dodd; at our final group performance

Reflections on Constellation, year 2

After last year I came back expecting something similar but that made much more sense and focus. At first it was all a bit confusing because we were being taught about dissertations all of a sudden and being pushed to think of an option we’d like to be in. It was all a bit overwhelming, like we didn’t really understand what was happening, because it was just one thing over another. A few of the options were especially alluring to me, like Goddesses and Monsters, led by Cath Davies, Puzzling out Contemporary Art, by Jonathan Clarkson, Understanding Humour in the Context of Art and Design, with Theo Humphries, and last but definitely not least, Mannerism, with Mahnaz Shah.

I wasn’t confident at first whether I want to be in exactly that group, even though I am incredibly interested in Renaissance art, but I trusted my friend when she said Mahnaz was brilliant, after she’d been in her group last year. And I was convinced almost immediately. You wouldn’t expect to be taught in such a manner and it seems surprising at first but then by the time you really start enjoying yourself amidst the discussion, idea-sharing, contradictions and connections, Mahnaz is already giving you an assignment or something to research at home and talking about next week. You realize it’s finished too quickly, and then you can’t wait until next Friday… Time flies by when you’re having fun.

By viewing artworks from the old masters (Michelangelo, da Vinci, Bronzino) paralleled with ancient philosophy, and then finding the similarities and differences with art and design from 1880 to 1945, we gain a deeper understanding of the true meaning, intention and thought which exist intertwined within all of art. With the practice of listing what we disagree with what Mahnaz was showing us, we began to really grasp the concept of a multitude of meanings and the uniqueness of perception. Focusing on the ‘beautiful’, ’strange’, and ’ugly’, we managed to draw conclusions vital to the life of art and the place of art in life – what is strange, ugly or beautiful is only subject to our own perception.

Our lectures were always exciting and incredibly interesting to take part in. I was always amazed at how brilliant old art is, how incredibly intelligent and educated Mannerist were, not to mention the philosophers of antiquity. With our ‘homework’ we got to explore the topics from the lectures even further, such as the assignment on the Platonic Solids, and the collage artwork she let us make, depicting ‘our reality’, which helped really understand and experience everything we were learning.

With the end of our ‘option’ lectures, marked by our essays on the definition of the strange and the ugly, came the beginning of our dissertation prep, namely, the first lectures on what exactly a dissertation is, why we are doing one and how we should be going about it. It felt like an unpleasantly abrupt transition from the captivating learning process we had just undergone (in preparation of what was to follow) to the sometimes frustratingly long and almost confusingly detailed lectures which oft times left us in an even greater state of panic and awe of the cataclysmic tsunami that we were about to get to surf on, which was our dissertation. The more they tried to tell us it was not that scary, the more frightening it became. In fear of insufficient time I borrowed a pyramid of books to start off my research, my topic still uncertain – I wanted to write about something I know I can’t become bored of, something that I wish to find out more about, and something which I could relate to my own knowledge, ideas and work.

The freedom to write about anything we choose was almost unreal to me at the start. Apart from the final essay from last year, any academic writing I’ve done has been uniform for everyone and the excitement is always about how your friends approached the question and what they wrote. Now the great excitement, and fear, comes from what everyone else is going to write about – if everyone can write about anything, what would they come up with? what would I come up with? what if I end up writing about the same thing as someone else? With outlining  where my own interests lie, I felt like I had to make sure my research idea was special, otherwise I could not see the point of it. I am so delighted and even though I suffer with it, same as everyone else, it is an almost masochistic suffering which makes me incredibly happy on the inside. I appreciate the work, the knowledge and the research,  and I am very excitedly looking forward to where it will take me.

Venus and Adonis ©Cy Twombly. source: http://www.banc-moussu.com/2013/10/de-galeries-en-galeries-cy-twombly-chez-karsten-greve.and-so-on.html

Apollo and the Artist, 1975 source: http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/lingering-threshold-between-word-and-image © Cy Twombly

M!nd States

As you sit down and you look at the collection of old magazines, comic book issues, and all kinds of scraps and papers and pictures, all about to be cut up, rearranged and stuck together on a page in a sketchbook or a random sheet of paper, you can’t help but notice a little sadness amidst your excitement and delight – sadness about the ‘destruction’ of other people’s works because of a specific detail which we use for our own imagery. This ultimately makes you think about the kind of world we live in, the nature of humanity and the beauty of balance – to create you need first destroy – like the phoenix, which dies in fire and is reborn from the ashes. Collaging becomes this act of creation via cutting, tearing and trimming.

At the same time it gives life to all the scraps and the bits and the little papers that we come across each day – the receipts, the tickets, the leaflets, the wrappers… they are given purpose when they have none and they are made interesting when they usually wouldn’t be. What is by some considered trash becomes a gold mine for those who know what to look for.

Collaging in itself can be a deeply personal experience, which opens you up to how your own mind works – how you see things and how they subconsciously rearrange themselves inside your head; the outcomes become the reflections of ideas, thoughts and mind states. Collages are weird in nature; they are nonsensical, shocking and/or simply strange but that gives you the freedom to see just how far you can go before you get completely lost and confused and disgusted by your own artwork.

The following pages of this book are filled with the outcomes of my own exploration of that uncharted mind space – trying to make some sense out of things that at a first glance make none.

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happy new year
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parallel progression
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dreaming
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daydreaming
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‘how do you feel?’
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(after) g l o w
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me (you)
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jkcddda\\:”{w6uo/4 v3q50-]r oj”dX,XC.ZS BL!!!!!!!!!!!! (frustration), Collaging + Painting Performance
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s . o . s
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~   everything   ~

~~~—– 10 / 25 artworks from the book (all images in M!nd States were selected out of a larger body of work done in the last 5 weeks  —–~~~