I have begun to think about how I could use sgraffito to scratch in images of memories. When I was in school, each year my neighbour and I would take a photograph of us in our school uniforms starting a new year of school. It is interesting to look back and see our growth and how much things have changed. I have begun to draft up some ideas of how I could commemorate these memories.
After meeting at the museum on Tuesday where I began to generate ideas about what I want to convey through commemoration in Home Truths, we began the physical part of our exploration today.
First we had a throwing induction from Duncan. I have a fair bit of experience with ceramics and throwing so I tried to plan the shape of the objects I wanted to throw. I decided on bowls and cylinders, as I wanted forms with a large surface area as for maximum room for decoration. It went fairly well and I was able to make some useable forms to experiment on. Within the next couple of days I will turn my pots to neaten off any imperfections.
In the afternoon we moved onto trialling slip decoration. We were shown a variety of different techniques we could use to create different effects. Using slip for decoration is an easy and effective way of getting decoration, it is very similar to painting. Applied raw the colours don’t show through, but once they’ve been fired I hope for the colours to be really intensified. I trialled multiple different techniques as I wanted a lot of test tiles in order to see what works well and what doesn’t work so well.
From the results of my test tiles, I really like the effects created from the technique sgraffito. It is a technique that allows you to create precise and intricate drawings through scratching into the clay. I think this will work well with future work I make in home truths as I plan on incorporating line drawings of specific memories onto the surface of my work.
180 The Strand
Richard Long ‘Pelopennese Line’, 2017
‘Pelopennese Line’ was made directly on the wall of the gallery. By doing such, Long makes the work temporary as eventually it will have to be painted over to make room for new artworks. The gesture’s of the clay and mud were made using finger marks. I like Long’s unconventional use of clay. Clay is a material I want to heavily incorporate into my own work this year, and ‘Pelopennese Line’ has shown me an alternative way to work with clay.
Stanley Whitney ‘highsummer’, ‘Prussian Blue’, ‘May Day’, ‘Bertacca’, 2017
I found that Whitney’s four works in 180 The Strand had good applications to my own work. Whitney’s work explores the possibilities of colour within ever-changing grids. I really like this idea of testing colour combinations, arrangement of colours and the transparency of colours.
Julian Opie ‘Night motorway. 1.’ 2017, ‘Tunnel. 1.’, 2016
I liked how illusionistic Opie’s video installations were. Although they appear to be scenes from driving and are titled accordingly, the videos only consist of sections of colour, there is no real evidence that they are what they are titled as. I liked this use of sections of colour to trick the mind.
Arthur Jafa ‘Love is the Message, The Message is Death’, 2016
Java’s video installation was quite emotional to watch, as it was creating a discussion about Black American history. The video was shown in a tent inspired by revival tents and consisted of a convergence of found footage that traces African-American identity.
Ryoji Ikeda ‘Test Pattern’
‘Test Pattern’ was a completely immersive installation. You were stood in this dark room and the floor flashes different patterns of lines that are constantly moving, and this is accompanied by a high pitched noise. ‘Test Pattern’ is a creative system that converts any type of data into barcode patterns and binary patterns of 0’s and 1’s. It was a really trippy installation experience.
I really liked Wade Guyton’s use of patterns in the majority of his work and how he overlapped them over the top of other images. This is a technique I was thinking of translating over into my own practice to create the idea of losing the image behind the pattern.
I have started drafting up some ideas for my potential work. I have sourced these colours and patterns from photographs from places I have visited and from my subject work. I think working on flat surfaces such as tiles, plates or slabs will allow for a lot of decoration, something I really want to utilise within Home Truths.
I started Home Truths this week. We began the field project by meeting at the National Museum of Cardiff where Duncan gave us a guided tour of the museum’s ceramics collection. The National Museum had a huge collection of ceramics, some of which I really liked and think I could relate across to my own work in Home Truths.
Work I saw:
I really like the use of colour in a lot of these works and the textured surfaces. These are techniques I want to incorporate in my own work.
We also explored the role of a commemorative object and the historical and cultural context that can be behind this. Some examples of subjects explored through commemorative objects included: birth, death, marriage, news stories and political events. Personally I want to commemorate memories, in particular family holidays and the places that mean something to me. I plan to commemorate these places through patterns and important images that I associate with the places.
A piece that caught my eye in particular was Elizabeth Fritsch’s ‘Blown-Away Vase, Over the Edge, Firework XII’. I love Fritsch’s use of bold colours and patterns. This use of colour and pattern is a concept I am currently exploring within my subject work, therefore I think this Vessel could be translated across to both Home Truths and my subject work.
Sketches from the gallery:
Ceramic artists I am interested in:
Dawn Youll is a ceramic artist that responds to items found around her home, studio and local area. I really like Youll’s use of ordinary objects in art and showing the beauty of the everyday item.
I love the work of Grayson Perry and his surface decoration. I think his work is very good at telling a story and conveying across a message, therefore he is definitely an artist I will refer back to throughout Home Truths.
Lubna Chowdhary’s work focuses heavily on the use of colour and use of patterns, creating the discussion that patterns are nostalgia. This use of pattern shows close similarities to my subject work so I intend on looking closely at Chowdhary’s work as a way of commemorating family holidays.
What about Pleasure?
Pleasure can be problematic in writing about art. On the one hand, everyone acknowledges that pleasure is fundamental to our experience of art. If we like something that’s neither useful nor morally good, then it must be because it gives us pleasure. On the other hand, compared to something like meaning, pleasure seems trivial. Many of the arguments for funding and preserving art rely on the idea that art is serious like a religion or philosophy. As a result, pleasure is disavowed in much art writing. It’s simultaneously acknowledged and dismissed.
Carsten Höller’s ‘Test Site’ is an example of art that provides pleasure. Set up in the Turbine Hall in Tate Modern, Höller’s sculpture is that of a giant slide. I think kids are a good sign for wether art is pleasurable. Kids wouldn’t think twice about sliding down ‘Test Site’, they wouldn’t care if it’s art.
3 Forms of Pleasure:
1. Humour (laughing in a gallery, jokes, stupidity, satire)
2. The Body (sex, physical pleasure, playing)
3. Abstraction (meaningless)
How not to behave in a Gallery:
Woody Allen, scene from ‘Play It Again, Sam’ 1973
- How should we behave in a gallery? What sort of things should we say about art?
- The video consisted of a man and a woman looking at a Pollock, instead of him looking at the art, he’s stood there to get a date. Her response to the art is so lengthy and “deep”, that it becomes ridiculous. Both characters are taking the piss of the gallery setting and the way in which people act within the gallery setting.
Jean-Luc Godard, scene from ‘Bande á Part’
- How are social forces revealed in this scene?
- The video answers the question, how fast can you get through Le Louvre. Three people can be seen running and laughing through the gallery. There’s a conflict between their action and the stationary-ness of the gallery and art. They are breaking the conventions of the gallery.
Why is it funny when someone falls over? Why do we find human error so funny?
Henri Bergson, Laughter, An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic, 1900
- Human – do animals laugh?
- Indifferent – is it true when we laugh at someone, we don’t care about them? However I think there are degrees if indifference. We feel more sorry for some people than we do others.
- Social – does laughter reinforce social boundaries?
- Laughter is triggered when someone acts outside of their allocated role and function, and fails.
- Laughter is society’s revenge on the individual.
- In a funny situation, the physicality of the body visibly punctures social pretension. When a model trips on the catwalk, it punctures the elegance and perfection of the catwalk, and normalises it.
Is there an equivalent in art to falling over?
- The Amateur Fresco Restoration, Spain, 2012 is an example of such. ‘Ecce Homo (Behold the Man)’ by Elias Garcia Martinez had deteriorated due to moisture. An amateur painter took her brush to it to restore it. Her restoration job was so bad you can’t help but laugh and feel sorry for the “restorer”.
Is there a wisdom in the dumbness of the body?
- Gelitin, ‘Nellanutella’, 2001 – deliberately falling into the canals of Venice, henceforth deliberately embarrassing themselves. I think there’s a relief in not having to think. It releases the social pressures of art and the gallery setting.
For Bergson, verbal humour works in a similar way. The set-up leads us in one direction but the punchline trips the listener up mentally and deflates our expectations.
We fall for a joke, we can laugh at our own stupidity because it’s disguised and we feel that we are laughing at someone else. Someone who doesn’t get a joke becomes the butt of others’ laughter, thus the social bond is reinforced through inclusion nd exclusion.
- A news article came out in Norway titled, ‘Bus seats mistaken for burqas by members of anti-immigrant group’. Bergson would suggest that this is funny because of the stupidity of the anti-emigrant group. As we are not members of that group, and have nothing to do with its policies, we can laugh at their stupidity. The things we find funny emphasise the particular social groups in which we find ourselves in any given society.
- David Shrigley ‘Untitled (I Hate Wood)’, 2013 – can it be explained with Bergson’s theory? It parallels the previous point about immigrants but with absurdity. No one really hates wood, It has the structure that Bergson identifies but there is no real target unlike with the immigrants. Anti-immigrant members are stupid whereas wood-haters are silly.
- David Shrigley ‘Untitled (Fuck off I am a Painter) – I really loved this painting/drawing as I can sympathise with the predicament and find it relatable. I become a member of a social group with the painting and everyone else that doesn’t agree with the painting becomes the butt of the joke. Although it is funny overall, is the drawing funny in itself? Is it stylistically coherent? The amateur-ness of the drawing I think emphasises the point of the text so is ironically funny. Is the text funny itself? I think Shrigley purposely put the spelling mistake in the text, if it was removed it would be less funny. Additionally, if you took the “fuck off’ out of the text it wouldn’t be as powerful and therefore would be less funny. The blatancy of the language is what is funny and I think we like to hear people using it.
Freud, Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious, 1905
How jokes are formed:
1) Aimless play with words, concepts, things etc. ——> 2) Lifting of inhibitions, suspension of critical judgement. ——> 3) Expression of repressed ideas.
- For Freud, jokes are always obscene and come from repression. Therefore, the most repressive societies will have the most (and the funniest) jokes.
- For Roelstraete, the function of pleasure in a gallery is to ‘unnerve, rattle and destabilise’. Roelstraete therefore suggests that pleasure is a form of irritant.
- Paul McCarthy’s ‘Tree’ is an example of an irritant. At first glance the green from resembles that of a Christmas tree, however, it is actually in the shape of a butt plug. People didn’t realise at first but once they did they knifed the sculpture, causing it to collapse as it was inflatable. This raises the question of whether the vandalism destroyed the work or vindicated it.
2 main reasons why pleasure is disapproved of within art:
- Pleasure is disapproved as it’s seen as unimportant (compared to the pressing issues we currently face).
- Pleasure is disapproved of as it’s unthinking, therefore any pleasure is easily characterised as escapist. There’s a deep anxiety, Roelstraete claims, that artworks and exhibitions shouldn’t appear to be forms of entertainment. For example, video games are characterised as entertainment when some of their makers intend them to be works of art. This suggests we shouldn’t enjoy art.
2) The Body
The body becomes the object of our interest. The mind is the subject of experience.
- Disney’s Inside Out: If this is what goes on inside Riley’s head, then what goes on inside Joy’s head?
Jordan Wolfson ‘Female Figure’
- Wolfson’s ‘Female Figure’ presents the horror of the unthinking body. A robot dancing, faces away from you but locks eye contact with you whilst talking. It is an incredibly uncomfortable piece of work to look at, especially because it stares back at you. Being seen/ looked at by a machine is a weird concept. Although you are fully aware that it has no thought processes, you can’t hep but think about what’s going on in its mind.
Playing VS Contemplation
Ernesto Neto ‘The Bird Island’
- With Neto’s sculptures, children automatically want to interact with the sculptures, exploring the work physically and having fun, whereas adults tend to stand a safe distance away and contemplate the work without touching it. Children’s first form of interaction is to play if they’re allowed, whereas adults have to be encouraged. The unspoken assumption is that playing and pleasure are bodily and therefore the opposite of thinking and intelligence. This reminds me of when I went to the Venice Bienalle. There was a sculptural piece of work that was made to be sat inside, even though I knew it was allowed, I still chose not to go inside the sculpture and just stood next to it, contemplating and drawing. I do wonder why we as adults have this idea imbedded within us that it is socially unacceptable to have fun with art. It seems that everything has to be serious for the art to be a success. This is a concept I want to look at within my own practice. I want to think about the different ways in which you can enjoy art apart from the conventional, stand back and look at it. I don’t think we always have to take work so seriously in order for us to fully understand it.
- Abstract contemporary art has no identifiable objects, so it’s not about anything.
- We looked at the work of Karen Davie, in particular, ‘Seeing Spots no.7’ and ‘Symptomania’. Her work is more about gesture and form, and colour relation. Colour relation is a topic I am currently looking at in my own practice. Davie works by layering up different colours using different gestures. The colours beneath should appear behind, however they are so bright in comparison to the top colour of paint that they create a flat surface and look level to the other colour. This and many other abstract works raise the question of whether once you’ve got the idea, is there anything else to look at. I think there is plenty to look at, just in the mark making alone. I get caught up in the ideas about rhythms and find pleasure in exploring how tone and balance changes. The idea behind the work is less so important than the work itself.
- Charline Von Heyl ‘Jakealoo’ – with an abstract painting like ‘Jakealoo’, you get no help from the title of the work, therefore the only thing to do is break it down into components, i.e. marks, colours etc, and make associations to it with you’re own ideas. You try and identify things in the work that make sense in your mind.
My child could do that…
In constellation we discussed the idea of “my child could do that”. I am constantly hearing from my parents “I could do that” when they are looking at abstract work. I am constantly trying to explain that although it looks simple, there is often a lot of thinking and skill behind the work. We discussed this concept in constellation and Jon tested us with a couple of examples. First we were shown two abstract paintings, one done by a master painter and the other done by a 4 year old child. I could instantly tell that the painting on the right was done by the painter. You could see more a process behind the painting and the thought processes behind the colours and forms used. Next we were shown two paintings, one done by a master painter and the other done by a chimpanzee. Although I actually preferred the painting done by the chimpanzee, I could still tell that the painting on the left was completed by the master painter. This and the multiple tests that reached the same conclusion, that the majority of people were able to identify a painting done by a painter and that done by a child, show that “my child could have done that” isn’t true.
Another study that I find interesting showed that eye-tracking patterns changed substantially when a Mondrian painting was rotated, indicating a decrease in interest. Additionally, when a small block of colour was either added or removed, viewers reported a less pleasurable reaction. This shows that a minute change to a painting can completely alter the reaction from the audience and success of a piece of art. It also shows that Mondrian was a master and that his paintings couldn’t have been done by anyone. I find this concept really interesting and want to further look into it.
This is my second class of life drawing this year. I don’t see any drastic changes in my ability compared to my first class, but will carry on attending life drawing in the hope to improve. I also think I need to scale up my drawings as it is hard to get all the details in at the size I am working at now.
I want to focus my work this year on my responses to the places I have visited and will visit. My chosen artwork to base all of my ideas off of is Teresa Lanceta’s ‘Rosas Blancas’, which ties in well with my focus. Lanceta draws inspiration from her textile discoveries in Morocco. Her tapestries use different patterns combined together and analyse repeating motifs. The concept of repeat patterns is incredibly interesting to me in design as well as what using patterns can achieve. I plan on working with repeat patterns and colours closely, using a range of materials.
I decided to go down this route of patterns as I have always struggled with moving away from accuracy. As much as I like my photo-accurate work, I don’t find it challenging or stimulating; once I complete a painting I see no room for development. Consequently, focusing on repeating motifs I am able to think about what effect a place has really had on me and challenges me to create new ways to represent it.
I have already begun by working with a pattern I created from window architecture from Venice buildings, and laying it over the top of materials I gathered from Venice. Although it is personal to me and shows no obvious links with Venice (beside the collage), I think there is huge room for development. For example, the colours I have used aren’t personal to me, they are pre-mixed colours directly from a tube.
I want to further develop the patterns and colours and move into working with a variety of techniques including screen printing and ceramics. In a couple of weeks I begin my first Field project titled Home Truths. This project focuses on ceramic surface decoration. I am really excited to start this projects as I think it is really going to help me develop my practice and experiment with different ways of conveying across my experiences and thoughts on places I visit.
After seeing Teresa Lanceta’s ‘Rosas Blancas’ in the Venice biennale and starting to think about using fabric to convey across a sense of place, I checked out a book in the library called ‘Contemporary textiles’. Within it I came across the pattern and decoration movement of the 1970’s in which artists played with textiles, patterned fabrics and decorative techniques such as collage, embroidery, sewing and weaving in their paintings. Artists were able to play around with decorative possibilities that were once disapproved on in art institutions and academies. The movement unleashed the possibilities for the co-existence of fine art and craft. They explored a variety of materials including fabric, carpet, wallpaper, pattern and ceramics. This wide range in materials used in the pattern and decorative movement is really inspiring to me. I have only just begun to research into this movement but have already come across a plethora of artists who’s work interests me and is inspiring to my own practice. I will definitely be exploring further into this movement as it seems to be directly linked to my own concept behind my work.
Some artists that I have come across:
Jasper Johns’ work from various years showed similarities to some techniques and concepts I am using, and want to use in my own practice. What I liked about Johns’ work were the generic forms and use of repetition to create images, on top of drawing attention to things so familiar that they were ‘seen but not looked at, not examined’.
Additionally I like Johns’ choice of encaustic. I’m very similar in the sense that I am impatient with my work and want the paint to dry straight away, that’s why I tend to stay away from oils. Johns’ use of encaustic (hot wax mixed with colour pigments) meant that he could continuously work and at the same time also meant he was able to build a textured surface to his work. Bringing texture into my work is something I want to experiment with.
Jasper Johns’ work with cross hatching interested me the most as it relates to my practice closely. For Johns, it creates a ‘hypnotic search for visual coherence’. For me, the idea of repeat patterns is a way of representing place and landscape. ‘Between the Clock and the Bed’ and ‘Something Resembling Truth’ have made me think about different ways of creating repeat patterns. Although its not, visually these paintings look like the lines have been scratched into the surface. This technique of sgraffito is something that may translate well across into my practice and give my work more depth. Additionally, Johns’ use of bold colours in fairly blocked sections interests me as I want to work with solid areas of colour this year.
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