studies

A few days ago I was playing around with neon markers and ended up making these two images…

frequencies has a lot to do with the dream-themed images I’ve been doing for the exhibition in Bristol (Within/Without). I like to think that when we dream all our frequencies are in tune so this is about them coming together slowly and all at once.

distortion comes from the same headspace but that has more to do with my final project for the degree show at the end of the year. In trying to figure out how to represent the god/consciousness that created our world I thought to experiment with the ‘blank TV screen’ visuals – that black and white distortion which is in constant motion that I once heard was in fact frequencies emitted from the Big Bang.

I’m planning to turn those into prints to have at the show, so if you like what you see, you know where to look :)

 

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La planète sauvage

Fantastic-Planet-Poster-sam_smithA few months ago while wondering what to watch with a friend of mine, he suggested La planète sauvage. I hadn’t even heard of it before, which made me wonder how many mind-blowing old animations, films and books I haven’t discovered yet. I had to know more. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was agreeing to but I trusted my friend’s judgement (as he doesn’t normally appreciate animations as much as I do), and thank the heavens I did.

Fantastic Planet (as it is translated in English, though the literal translation is The Wild/Savage Planet) is a 1973 sci-fi film – a cutout stop motion animation – based on the 1957 novel  Oms en série by French writer Stefan Wul.

The story takes place in the distant future on the planet Ygam, home of the giant blue humanoid Draags, a technologically and spiritually advanced society. They have brought human beings (called Oms, from the French word for human ‘homme‘) from Earth, considering them to be animals and keeping some of them as pets. Others live in the alien wilderness and, like any pest, their population is kept under control by the Draags.

An Om mother is teased to death by three Draag children and her baby is found by a key Draag leader, Master Sinh, and his daughter Tiva, who names him Terr and keeps him as a pet. She is affectionate and careful not to hurt him, though like any pet she is instructed to keep him disciplined, else he’d be taken away from her.

So the baby Om is given a collar. We dive deeper and deeper into the increasingly strange world the Draags inhabit, following Tiva and Terr. She brings him to education sessions – the Draags have special headphones which transmit knowledge telepathically, directly into their minds. A defect in Terr’s collar opens him up to that transmission as well, so he receives knowledge Oms normally wouldn’t.

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As Tiva grows into her teens Terr is already a young man (Draags have a much longer lifespan and don’t reproduce as much as humans do). She performs her first Draag meditation, which allows them to communicate and travel with their minds – an absolutely mind-blowing bit of animation.

By that time Terr has already acquired a sufficient amount of Draag knowledge to steal a pair of headphones and run away into the wilderness…Now, this is one of those moments where I want to continue, but I don’t want to spoil the story, so I’ll leave it at that.

The surreal psychedelic imagery (created by writer and artist Roland Topor, production designer and co-writer) is what makes Fantastic Planet so recognisable and scarily captivating – at times you want to look away but you just… can’t, it’s transfixing.

Apart from its visual appeal, this film, or the relationship between the Draags and Oms which changes as the story unfolds, can be seen as an allegory of the relationships between us humans and between humans and animals, it could be related to themes of racism and speciesism as well as class division. The ending of the film (as well as the events that lead to it) carries a hopeful moral – violence suddenly stops, both Draags and Oms realise there is nothing to be gained from mutual destruction. Peace prevails…

But there is so much more (don’t think just because you’ve read this you know how the film really ends, there’s so much more to it than just this aspect of the plot)! It’s astonishing that the story was conceived in 1957, and it was animated in ’73 – the vision of such a world, such a future, is (even today with our ‘advanced technology and knowledge’) an extraordinary example of science fiction. A timeless feature, which makes you rethink and reevaluate all you think you know about human nature, the nature of society and the nature of relationships between yourself and others.

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If you haven’t seen it, rectify the situation as soon as possible – better to see it and not like it than not see it and miss out on such an outstanding film.

 

inversion experiment

Wouldn’t it be interesting, I thought to myself, if dreams were just reality inverted.

I’ve been experimenting with inversion as a way to differentiate between drawings of ‘reality’ and drawings of ‘dreams’.

The piece below was a quick way to distract my overloaded mind so I could focus on my project better. Even though I was coming up with ideas around those two cityscapes, they are mainly an experiment, as this time I was directly drawing the inverted piece, rather than inverting it with photoshop.

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sity scape & epacs ytis

 

finished

It felt incredible to print a 70-page dissertation out, bind it and hand it in. A massive load off my shoulders, off my head, off my mind and soul…

In all honesty I am incredibly happy I got to do something as consuming. I learned so much in the process… not only by going through something like 30 books at least, but also by thinking back on the process and how it all came together piece by piece.

Strangely enough, now that I’ve been through this, it feels like I’m ready for another challenge. Further research into what I was already talking about (which feels like it could turn into a lifetime’s worth of works) or something new to dive into. Well. For now, I’m happy to be done with it. It’s good to not be stressing over academic writing.

a multiverse of bubbles / gif 2.0

So when I came back to my project, I felt it was lacking something. Perhaps my perspective needed to be shifted. And it did.

I realised i’d been focusing on the idea of the creation of this world, this universe, without considering an idea which has recently been raising a lot of uproar in the world of science – the concept of a multiverse.

I was reading an article about a ‘wormhole’, a seemingly empty spot on the edge of the observable universe, which seemed to be emitting some form of energy seemingly from nowhere. This was what led some scientists to the idea that our universe may be one of many which, like connected bubbles, could influence one another, and that phenomenon could be the proof of that theory.

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I found this idea fascinating and decided to add the concept of a bubbly multiverse at the very beginning of the animation piece I’m planning. I wanted to see them breathe, shrinking and expanding, moving together, flowing with and according to one another; I wanted to see the multiverse come to life and I started doing some small scale experiments with watercolour.

 

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this is a gif of the 5 pieces above
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‘multiverse bubbles with a glitch’

I thought it would be interesting to see what happens when I use glitch editing, and I’m actually really pleased with the result. Apart from the visual appeal, it could be a reference to the idea of an inter-dimensional distortion. If we come from a universe which is contained within this multiverse – perhaps our idea of the level above (the multiverse) would be distorted by the limits of our cognitive capacity and perception.

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. “

AYLY3 / Revolt (a)

 Are You Lost Yet is a free zine published by young creatives, with the idea to “to pair up young writers with photographers, illustrators and graphic designers to make a zine that reads well, looks great and encourages young people from Cardiff and beyond to express themselves.” (www.areyoulostyet.com) Our friend in uni who is involved in the making of the zine told us we could contribute to the third (upcoming) issue, and I was all for the idea.

The topic was Revolt and I was certain I could come up with something inspiring and unifying. While I was intently listening to the new Muse album (Drones), I did a few sketches of conceptual pieces like a man in a wasteland and a little bit of writing which says until there’s nothing left, or an old woman holding up a mirror that shows the faces of a police force army. But in the end I couldn’t give soul to any of them. I soon realised something and changed my entire research perspective.

concept sketch for my final piece, the goddess of revolt, justice and balance

In my dissertation I am looking at gods and goddesses, what they represent and how they’re represented. What if I twist the idea of revolting, and relate my work to inspire and to support my arguments…?

My idea was simple…I looked up:
Adrestia (goddess of revolt, just retribution and the sublime balance between good and evil)
Dike (Roman: Justitia) (goddess of justice and the spirit of moral order and fair judgement based on immemorial custom)
Astraea (the virgin goddess of innocence and purity)
Nemesis (the goddess of divine retribution against those who succumb to hubris)

and came up with the invocation of the hope for justice that societies around the world are standing up for. The representation of a higher hope for retribution and ultimately peaceful coexistence with each other, with all other species and with Nature.

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”)

Us, Gods by Bernard Werber / review

Us, Gods cover, 2004, Bulgarian ed. (Ние, боговете), Colibri

Literally translated as ‘Us, Gods’, Nous Les Dieux is the first novel of a trilogy, in which the main character arrives on a strange island inhabited by all kinds of mythological creatures, where he would learn the hard task of being a deity under the guidance of the Olympian gods and goddesses.

The whole idea for the series came to be through the question “Well if you were a god, what would you have done?” In the books the focus shifts from what we perceive of the gods to the divine point of view, thus revealing a new understanding “of our historic past, of the possible future, of the struggles of our kind, and of the struggles of the gods.”

Apart from the existential part of it, I decided to pay special attention to the descriptions of the “mentor gods”. They were portrayed in a very specific way, and apart from the similarity of their clothes and the vague outline of their physical appearance, they are left to the imagination. All apart from Aphrodite… With the noticeably detailed portrayal Werber brings us to the idea that, ultimately, love, as well as beauty, is different for everyone. How many faces does the goddess really have? How many faces does God?

Bernard Werber, The Mystery of the Gods, 2007, Bulgarian ed. (Загадката на боговете), Colibri
The Breath of the Gods, 2005, Bulgarian ed. (Дъхът на боговете), Colibri

note: This book is quite important for the point I’m trying to raise in my dissertation. The questions of how we view the gods and what the gods really mean to us, and how that differs from how they were interpreted in the Renaissance and ancient times are, to an extent, explored within this book. The author’s unlikely choice of characters, famous historical figures as well as celebrities, who are being taught how to be gods, makes us question our definition of a god – can therefore anyone become a god, and if so, then why and how?

I am really looking forward to reading the second novel (Le Souffle des Dieux/ The Breath of the Gods), and then I’ll possibly try and get the third one when I go to Bulgaria in the summer. It is so unfortunate that Bernard Werber’s books haven’t been officially translated and published in English (neither in the UK nor the USA, which I find quite curious) because I can’t use any of the text directly as a quote unless I translate it myself.

On a separate note – I would actually love to create a few paintings inspired by the trilogy. Drawing up a new version of something because I don’t like how it looks takes me back. I used to do it all the time with characters from different animations. I must say that I am really not impressed with the images for multiple reasons. Perhaps as art and design in Bulgaria have only recently been reborn (and growing stronger and more highly appreciated than ever for the past ten years) and things like dreadfully assembled book covers weren’t really something to consider much and were being endlessly excused and made acceptable by the constant repetition of popular sayings, namely, “don’t judge a book by its cover”. Well, sometimes an incredible book needs an incredible cover.

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