Video Lecture 2 – From Archive to Interview

This video lecture was focused on how we research work using the internet. Online we often see work without any understanding of context. We will look at images of different qualities often without any details of scale, media, titles or dates. This makes it difficult to know what we are looking at.


_44224100_plinth_schutte_bo        plinth3721   Thomas Schutte’s Model for a Hotel 2007

Thomas Schutte (b. 1954)

We first listened to Adrian Searle of the Guardian who made an audio recording about a later exhibition Big Buildings Models and views, Bonn Germany. Searle was really positive about all the work, feels that Schutte is an artist who is free. Searle prefers the siting of the 4th plinth piece in the exhibition without all the noise and dirt of trafalgar square. I found it challenging to listen to the information without images. I looked up some of the work but it still felt rather disconnected.

We then heard about written critiques of the Model for a Hotel piece from Time Out’s Ossian Ward and Richard Dormont for the Daily Telegraph

These had conflicting views, Ward found the proposal too similar to the model and indeed appears to have an issue with the idea of a work of art being a proposal. Dormont on the other hand marvelled at the apparent weightlessness of the heavy monument. These differences were partially because of the actual piece but also reflect the writers and journals’ philosophy and attitude to art.

Kiki Smith (b.1954)

Kiki Smith is a contemporary of Schute’s but is based in the states. We heard some biographical details and listened to interpretations of Kiki Smith’s work over a period of time and asked whether her work has changed so much or is it being interpreted differently. Dr Rogers posed the question of whether it is ever possible to get  a fixed picture of an artist’s work. I feel that it is impossible and not necessarily desirable. She further questioned how important biographical details are in understanding an artist’s work. I feel its can be helpful but in a quite limited way.

Louise Bourgeois

bourgeois_peaux_de_lapins_chiffons_ferrailles_a_vendre_2006_1944x1320 Louise Bourgeois 2006

Bourgeois is an artist whose biography famously relates very clearly to her work. Considered by many as the mother of confessional art it often seems her work depends on the understanding of her childhood. We were presented with 3 sources. The first was an anonymous obituary in the Daily Telegraph which acknowledges her career as a mature artist having been relatively less known in mid life owing to the rise of abstract expressionism in the USA where she was living. We then looked at another article by Richard Dormont also in the Daily Telegraph which criticized the reliance on biography and suggested that, in addition to being more famous as a celebrity and for her biography than for the work, the work has little meaning without the biographical details for interpretation. Then we heard from Siri Hustvedt writing in The Guardian who tackles this problem but with more emphasis on ourselves as viewers who need to work on interpreting the work beyond the biographical details and recognising how challenging that is. They seem to agree that the work being merely autobiographical is a problem, however there is a disagreement as to whether there is more in the work. Again this is, as with Thomas Schutte, the journalists own philosophical view point and often that of the media which employs them. For Thomas Schutte it was about the nature of monuments and whether art can be a proposal. Here it is more about our role as an audience about interpreting the work.

Bobby Baker (b.1953)

The work of Bobby Baker deals with domestic life and often the tension with this and work outside the home. Much of her work is performance based using food. She believes that the domestic sphere can and does influence the world outside and international affairs. In 2009 after a period recovering from mental health issues,  the welcome institute published her book of drawings that she had made in a day care centre as a diary. This could be seen as a very different way of biography feeding into the work. The nature of the work, it’s process and intentions are clearly completely different.

B0007861 Diary Drawings: Day 8


The Turner Prize

This prize has had a highly charged relationship with the press for many years. Dr Rogers asks whether the Turner Prize is still cutting edge. It has attracted much media attention and we need to acknowledge the politics of the press. Here she suggests that the political beliefs of the newspapers will determine their position on many issues relating to art.

Tate06Demo9(500)    The stuckists protesting in 2006

The stuckists are a group of figurative painters who have regularly protested against the Turner Prize and the Tate. They claim that 1000s of painters are better than the work in the Turner Prize. They also suggest that the British YBA generation are part of the establishment as they are sponsored by the labour party and Charles Saatchi. Although the Stuckists are often not taken very seriously within the art world we heard how sometimes they have relevant points to make. For example the journalist Andrew Marr pointed out that the British YBA generation are difficult to be seen as subversive or avant garde as they are sponsored by the labour party and Charles Saatchi.  In the same broadcast, Neville Brody says he agrees with their point that everyone should have equal rights to study art and design regardless of financial situation. The stuckists also called out attention to the Tate’s unethical purchasing of a Chris Ofili work for a large sum whilst he was a trustee a purchase that was later taken up by the charities commission. Therefore maybe we should listen to sources who might initially seem to be of little credibility.

Dr Rogers showed gave us an extensive list of types of resources we could consider in our research. This was really useful, what really made me think was how we should try sources that were not obvious and which generally had ideologies we were not in sympathy with.


Dr Rogers then posed the following questions:

In what way do artist’s biographies inform or detract from the viewers experience of the work?

I feel that in general biographical details only help when the artist has used their personal story in a relatively direct way in their work and, even when this is true, they can only ever be one factor in interpreting the work. The work should not be judged based on the biography but it may help to understand certain aspects of it’s meaning. For example, the work of Louise Bourgeois has a heavy presence and in extremely powerful regardless of her biography. I remember seeing an exhibition of hers at the Reina Sofia when I barely knew who she was, regardless of this the work was extremely powerful and I don’t think it relied merely on biography. In my teaching practice I feel my students tend towards biographical detail and it is largely unhelpful. Perhaps I am unusual as I do not have so much curiosity about personal details and I find many of them largely irrelevant. I do not think Bourgeois work is successful because of her biography I think it is what she has made of that experience. The Bobby Baker example is completely different. One needs to know why it was made. The work only exists because of her biography. It is a brave move to make it public and I think the process and function of that work is completely different, it acts in a totally different way upon us.

What are the implications of Ward’s assertion that ¨all art is a form of proposition and therefore anything is possible¨

I feel that to a certain extent all art is a form of proposition provided you see interpret proposition in an open way. What it proposes could be anything from this is how aspects of the world might be to more propositions which are more about form. I have a problem understanding why that might be a problem: if I think of western art history it could all be seen that way. Maybe some non western traditions have such different purpose they would not be seen as propositions by their makers communities but by me from the outside they could be. With regards to the ‘anything is possible’ part of the statement I wonder why this is so contentious, we are not talking about quality as this can vary regardless of media. There are plenty of bad paintings around. Maybe it is because we are worried about the criteria for judging new media.

If you had to choose one source would it be the artists own words or a piece of art criticism?

Ideally both or more sources are necessary to get a bigger picture but it depends a lot on the political position and the character of the critics and artists. We are all biased. Some sources are more informed and balanced. If I had to choose I think it would depend how much sympathy I felt with the artist – if there was a trust in them I would choose their bias if I were less sympathetic I would possibly choose the critic especially if I could choose one who were either relatively unbiased or their bias coincided with my own. In the end I think I always have to go back to the work.




Stewart Geddes lecture 20/10/14

This Monday’s lecture by Stewart Geddes was very intense and really helpful. In addition to the fact that he uses paint and therefore there were elements of process which were of more specific interest to me, there was an overview of how his studio practice has developed over several decades to which he gave us a really interesting insight as to how that can happen. In this case how a ‘crisis’ in his practice evolved and allowed him to go in new directions. This is really useful at this stage where we are in a sense  ‘unpicking’ what we do.

These are the things I chose to reflect on:

The idea of making a painting into an object. Geddes changed to wood as a support as it is more resistant to his process of removing and scratching away than canvas for example. He has also chosen to alter the shape of the support and reference contemporary objects such as ipads. I am interested in the connection between the painting and the object and seeing paintings as objects in this way.

The idea of the unstable sign. This was present in Geddes’ work in the process of ‘decollage’  for which he referred to Jacques Villeglé and Raymond Hains

raymond-hains-et-jacques-villegle-ach-alma-manetro-fevrier-1949  Ach Alma Manetro 1949

This is present in his process of adding and taking  away. so continually modifying both his ‘found’ signs and his own constructed, deconstructed and reconstructed ones. In a world where most agree that signs are extremely relative he takes this idea one step further in his practice. It is interesting that his other practices of found paintings and photographic work follow a very different process. It was especially useful to see how he unpicked the process of one painting for us. He showed many stages of transformation of this piece. One of the most memorable statements he made was how when he was seduced by one element of a painting he painted over it. This is especially interesting in the light of watching the interview on VL2 with Tomma Abts who says that the more developed a painting is the more difficult it becomes to totally change everything as she risks losing everything. I think we have all felt that so I am impressed by Geddes’s discipline. I tend to remove or paint over parts of my work that are not working and therefore become unbearable. This stage of the presentation was probably the most useful and enjoyable for me as a practitioner. Although I work very differently it was a great insight a made me question how I choose to edit my work.

Geddes’s ability to change his practice when he had a successful career as a painter is also really significant and opened up new ways of working. The use of photography focusing on the ruin of buildings from his own lifetime and the urban environment he lives with and found paintings which are again objects that he exhibits alongside his paintings and photographs. This mixture of practices which seem very separate in terms of process create another discourse when placed together. I suppose therefore illustrating the instability of the sign even further. I found that Tanya’s question about why he needed to paint when he could make the photograph really resonated with me. Tanya’s photographs she showed at this point were really impressive. As Man Ray said

‘I paint what cannot be photographed, that which comes from the imagination or from dreams, or from an unconscious drive. I photograph the things that I do not wish to paint, the things which already have an existence’

What Tanya’s and other good photographs have is that existence and something else I think but I have to be careful as I am very much out of my depth here. I did observe, however, that painting still seems to be Geddes’s main practice and the other elements are important but support the painting, add to it even,  rather than protagonise his studio work. But I am a painter.

The drawings. It was really great to see the drawings that Geddes shared as part of the presentation. I would personally have loved to have seen more of them. As is often the case they show most of the process and have an energy that few final pieces of work ever achieve. I regret not asking him about exhibiting the drawings and how they fit in with the other strands of his practice.

We were really lucky to get this chance to listen to Stuart Geddes and be able to ask him questions, he was a very generous lecturer.


Crying – development of series 18/10/14

I spent part of the weekend experimenting with inks and trying to decide on the composition and selection of images for the crying series. I need a range of people of different races, ages and a gender balance, I am not sure of whether I want the full faces or cropped as I have a real variety of sources and so I need to make some decisions.

These are approx 25 x 25 cm squares of korean paper and indian ink.

IMG_0001              IMG_0003         IMG_0002            IMG_0005       IMG_0006             IMG_0008            IMG_0011          IMG_0012              IMG_0007           IMG_0013

I am thinking I need to find a balance between emptiness (white paper or blank support) and detail. As usual the crucial question of when they are finished. I need to decide on the cropping of the images – how much to crop.

It seems practical to choose a small format to make sketches next week – half term – when I will be traveling a lot and then translate onto wood/canvas when I return. The advantage of the wood would be I can continue to work and erase, however I have to be careful not to overdo it.  I will start by cropping all the images as I have quite a few that work that way relatively successfully such as:

DSC_0126 - Versión 2  acrylic on board 40 x 40 cm

I will focus on the composition and balance over the half term along with preparing for the next Task.

The lost Communities

I tried a new way of drawing this on transparent plastic – I ended up with less plastic so chose a section and a variety of ideas. The original idea was that I wanted to draw directly onto a wall. But my walls are too small (original drawing idea is 3m) I couldn’t use indian ink on the plastic so the experiment is permanent marker and black acrylic. the white squares are added behind the plastic – some are painted in acrylic and others are paper stuck on.

12de octubre      difficult to photograph due to the sun reflecting on the plastic.

olvidados 11:10:14        olvidados details    olvidados det2

This is just a section showing both the marker and paint as you can see the dotted line is rather light. Also I need to take into account that my wall is rather unusual. I need to photograph on white background. It might be less interesting on a white wall. Maybe I need to make a wall texture or just take it out onto the street.

I like the idea of making the 20×20 ‘heads’ separately and drawing the lines on a wall directly. I might get the opportunity soon as have been invited to show in a local artist run space – small but flexible I think.

Post take 2 influences

Yesterday in the studio I decided to take the work from this project a bit further and try some of the suggestions and ideas I didn’t get time to do in the time limit.

I wanted to make it more 3D and in particular to break out of the rectangle / square format. The idea of a ‘holiday’ and making something outside of my normal studio practice really appealed to me. Also I got some really useful suggestions from my cohort: More layering, japanese brushwork, carving, embroidery, burning, distance etc etc I took the experiment I liked least and kept going with it.

take 2

I don’t think it works, but it has given me a lot of ideas. I shall continue to take ‘holidays’.

I realize that I really want to make bigger color work and that I probably do want to paint but the idea of an exercise in no splashing or brushes is great as is the idea of stitching.

What is History Painting Today?

This is the question Angela posed in my tutorial and I would like to make an initial response. I will then ask others what they think. My first reaction in the tutorial was that it must be on the street as street art seems to make the most direct comments on current events and often suggests a narrative. However, I suspect that might have also been because I am keen to do something on the street and therefore thought it would fit neatly in with my plans.

I have therefore begun to question what history painting was. Who commissioned it? For whom and to whom did it speak? Generally it seems to have come to mean large scale figure painting which depicted specific historical events. I always think of it as including a moment in narrative which can include stories most commonly from the bible or classical mythology. It is a tradition in western art which sometimes showed contemporary events as if they were from classical times with greek/roman clothing etc. The general consensus seems to be that it originates during the renaissance, was important in 17th and 18th centuries and declined in the 19th century. It is now questioned whether the ‘disappearance’ of the genre coincides with the end of history itself (Green).

It became the official language of the academies of many european countries; it was at the top of the hierarchy of genres. It was patronised by state, church and monarchy: therefore had a huge authority. I think this was my reason for wanting to give the ‘workers’ this level of importance. I also, going back to previous themes in my work, always wanted to give the unknown people doing unremembered deeds that status and importance.

The 17th 18th century audience for history painting I imagine would have been a relatively élite one. With art galleries not open to the public until after the french revolution, and in many cases during the ‘time’ of history painting I don’t imagine a wider public. The official art of today could be seen as that commissioned by governments – public art which commemorates events. But is it narrative?

1987 – Tragic and Timeless Today: Contemporary History Painting – See more at:

Is an exhibition from the 80s which includes artists such as James McGarrell and Mark Tansey along with Nancy Spero and Leon Golub whose work I was already aware of. Spero is adding women to the story however the artists are mainly figurative painters (reemerging in the 80s) and mainly men all dealing with different concerns.

David Green – History Painting Reassessed (2000)

I came across this book which could be interest and browsed the first few pages online: It proposes that history painting died with history. It examines the work of artists such as Jeff Wall, Louise Bourgeois and Gerhard Richter in the way they deal with history in post history.

Take 2 Influences 5


The experiments turned out like this:

exp 1experiment 1 exp 2 28:9experiment 2exp 4 final 29:9experiment 4

exp 5 29:9:14experiment 5exp 6 final 29:9experiment 6exp 7 final 29:experiment 7

looking at the pieces together I can see that I did manage to achieve more abstraction and I have take on board some of Katie Pratt’s ways of working, possibly in too literal a way. I have not pushed myself far enough from my habitual practices. I would have found it really hard to work on one piece at a time as they needed time to dry between layers and also found myself working larger and larger. The pieces seem quite somber in mood and I think this reflects some of the music and Ruben’s painting. I had wanted to make the cardboard into more 3D structures but this was not possible to do in the time limit. I think I shall continue to make some time for those type of experiments if possible.

I realise I fall into a lot of habits. Using paint in two of the larger pieces was not really pushing myself enough. I could have forced myself to go much further. I was not comfortable with considered deliberate mark making techniques, they made me tense up and the work look stiffer. For the larger piece I ended up almost copying Pratt’s combination of marks and therefore it becomes rather derivative. What I do like about it are again the looser overlays of brush strokes which add movement.

The next step is to consider how I could take this further and at the same time how I could use it to force a change in my workers ‘communities’ project.