My proposed question for my dissertation is, ‘Has contemporary art liberated colour from its traditional role of filling out form? What are the new functions of colour in contemporary art?’
The interest in colour was sparked both from my own practice, but also from the Learning from Contemporary Art lectures. I decided that I wanted to explore the topic of colour within my dissertation due to colours being a topic that I am currently exploring in my own work, and having gained theoretical knowledge on colour and contemporary art that has helped to inform my practice, from the Learning from Contemporary Art lectures. Writing my dissertation on a topic that has covered all aspects of my work this year will tie it all together and help me to specialise in this specific area. I especially wanted to explore this divide between the function of colour in its traditional role versus that of the shift of its purpose into the contemporary, as I have noticed a similar shift within my own work. My practice has shifted from pictorial representation, into a more abstract and expressive style. Attending the Learning from Contemporary Art lectures has been really useful in allowing me to develop my art, as well as develop a theoretical and contextual knowledge, with a strong basis of colour and contemporary art knowledge that has allowed me exploration. Without attending these lectures, I think I would have found it much more difficult to know where to begin research into contemporary art and consequently the role of colour.
I think my interest in abstraction came initially from my essay last year on indexical drawing, a philosophical concept that explores alternative and abstract ways to draw something. An example of indexical drawing involves wrapping a piece of paper around a door handle to create a ‘drawing’ of the door handle. Artist Olafur Eliasson’s, ‘Untitled (black boat drawing)’, is a prime example of an indexical drawing. The drawing is created from dipping a ball into black ink and allowing it to roll across the paper with the waves and the movements of the ocean, for a set amount of time. Thus the drawing represents that journey and motion of the boat. This is an incredibly abstract concept, that pushed me to think outside the normal boundaries of my artistic practice, and this abstraction is something that can be heavily linked to contemporary art. However, my level 5 constellation Learning from Contemporary Art has been far more useful in sparking this interest, as through it I was able to grasp a much stronger meaning on what contemporary art actually is, and how it can be defined. I was given the tools to understand that it does not have just one definition, but has several meanings and functions. It can be used as shock-value, it can be the vehicle for political, social and cultural views, or it can discuss a current contemporary issue. Contemporary art is the idea that anything can be art, the idea that it is contemporary art is enough to make it contemporary. This is a concept that will form a strong background within my dissertation.
In addition to this, I was introduced to colourist artists that have ended up being key in my research, that have given me a deeper understanding of the role of colour in contemporary art. For example, we explored the work of contemporary artist Karen Davie, whose work is about gesture, form, and colour relation. Davie works by layering up different contrasting colours in different gestures. The background colours should appear very much behind, but through Davie’s choice in bold, neon colour, the colours appear on the same plane, creating a flat expressive painting, focused solely on the use and manipulation of colour. There are a lot of similarities between Davie’s and my own work. Davie is now an important artist for contextual reference into my own practice, as of her sole use of colour and mark making.
Another key concept, vital to the development on my contextual knowledge, and a key feature I plan to discuss within my dissertation is the idea of what counts as realistic representation in the 21st century. In the lecture we discussed Jakobson’s theory of representation and how the realisms of yesterday become the unrealistic conventions of today. This is supported by visual technology, like the development of cinematic experience, from 2D, to 3D, to IMAX and 4D. This idea of the true standard of visual representation is constantly improving with the vast technological developments. This led me to discuss within my dissertation proposal, the development of the camera, and how it resulted in the decrease on mimesis within art, as of the ‘technological development’ to replace the previous form of realistic representation. The concept of whether visual technologies allow us to get closer to an object’s truth or whether they give us a different viewpoint which we perceive as realistic, was also discussed within these lectures. This is a key concept I will go on to discuss within my dissertation, as it is an important idea on colour’s close relationship with representation, and will be vital element into my exploration into colour’s role.
The combination of an interest within my practical work and contextualisation from constellation made me want to continue looking at the use and role of colour in art, how this role has changed and the causes and reasons for such. Attending constellation has made me realise just how important it is to have strong contextualisation behind my practice, and understanding theories in relation to my chosen topic of study. Before this, my practice was mainly involved with the physicality of making my artwork, without much or any theoretical contextualisation. This was all true within my previous constellation essays. I tended to promote my idea without much theoretical support; up until the point where I started attending these contemporary art lectures. But having been given the opportunity to explore a topic of great interest to me, has meant that I have been able to contextualise my practice and ideas a lot more, through artistic theories and supporting artists. Additionally, having the opportunity to have one-on-one tutorials in which I was able to discuss relevant information I had gathered, in order to filter out the bad sources from the good, has really helped me to write an essay that has strong support, and is well-researched. It has given me the tools to be able to decipher valid sources in order for me to write strong, well-supported arguments, that will hopefully help me achieve the grade I desire.