A2; Response to Tutor Feedback

My recent Tutor Feedback can be viewed here.

Overall

Cari has identified lots of positives from my response to Part 2, I was particularly pleased that she felt the work was ‘investigative and questioning’ and could see that I generated ‘some more really interesting ideas’.

Sketchbook

She has acknowledged my efforts to include more drawing and reduce the number of diary-like entries in my sketchbook. This now forces my attention to my blog, which:

‘At times, the learning log can be diary-like, focussing more on what you did rather than why or whether it was successful’

Blog

I really struggle with the blog, I find it the hardest part of the course. I need to change the way that I use it and find a way to make it work for me. At the moment, I still view it as a loathsome necessity, merely a hoop to jump through. I often leave the entries until the practical work is completed, this contributes to the ‘diary-like’ feel because I am recounting what I did, instead of puzzling what I should do next.

Having concentrated on improving my sketchbook in Part 2, I intend to now turn my attention to my blog. I want to fully incorporate it in my practise so that it becomes a useful tool, that works for me.

Samples

It seems some of my samples were well met, particularly the more experimental, less well refined ones. I predicted that ‘Washing Machine Spoon’ would be deemed successful, having taken less that five minutes to create. My ‘patchwork and quilting’ samples that took far longer were not so well received ‘a little too easy, perhaps too practised or comfortable’.

I am coming to terms with this. It is difficult, it feels like it is challenging me at my core. I need to lose my ‘neat’.  ‘Push yourself to keep exploring imperfection and irregularity’ –suggests I am beginning to do this. I want to do it but I feel a resistance- like I am going to lose who I am, in a bid to be what tutors/assessors want.

One of Cari’s pointers for the next assignment is: ‘Emphasise experimentation over refinement’. I may have to make this my mantra!

Context

I completely agree with Cari about the relevance (or rather irrelevance) of the Contemporary practitioners I used in my study. Looking back, my response to Ptolemy Mann was hugely inappropriate to the brief. My focus shifted from Joining to Colour and Pattern. I think there is probably quite a fine line between a lateral personal response and going off at a tangent!

The comment…

‘Critically consider how your research informs the work in a relevant way. Focus on artists who use appropriate materials and processes to help inform your investigation’.

…really hit home. I began working on Part 3, pending this feedback and I can now see I have made exactly the same mistake again!

I set off with really good intentions of allowing the materials to guide me. Yet in my sketchbook I can already see my attention wandering: focussing on Rachel Dein’s use of composition rather than the material qualities of plaster and clay.

Just before I received  the feedback I caught myself planning an intricate Paolozzi style cast of objects. I’m really glad the hot weather intervened and broke the clay tile because I was about to pursue a considered outcome with a material I knew very little about (latex).

‘Avoid considering outcomes/products, focus on generating a wide range of samples which exploit the creative potential of both process and materials’.

I need to go back and look at the Envisions Group again. I found their approach of exhibiting ‘everything but the end product’ helped me to understand this way of working.

Right now, I am at a bit of a loss as to how to proceed. I almost want to destroy what I have done so far and start again (not the OCA way). At least my mistakes should serve to demonstrate that I am willing to take on board tutor advice and to learn from it.

A2; Written Reflection

Although my posts for Part 2 have often expressed difficulty and frustration, I have really enjoyed it. It felt like a long and sprawling investigation of yarn and material that reminded me in some respects of Part 4 of ATV, which I found both the most challenging and rewarding.

Some of the samples I have made felt new and exciting while others more familiar and comforting. I really enjoyed working on the concept of memory during Ex 2.2 and hope this is something I can continue to think about in the future. I have loved the amount of sewing I have been able to incorporate into both Joining and Wrapping, but also the amount of drawing I have done.

Responding to my last feedback by greatly increasing the time I have spent drawing has made a large impact on the body of work I have produced. After Part One I felt rather lost, like the work didn’t belong to me, but this time I feel a greater sense of ownership.

Receiving my feedback for ATV part way through Part 2 influenced me greatly. I was advised to focus more on contemporary textile artists and to consider the context of my work.

This led to a great deal of soul searching on my part about who I am and what I want to do. These are both questions I have avoided in the past. As I described in a previous post, I have been using Jane Dunnewold’s book: Creative Strength Training to think about what drives me. I feel the work I have submitted, touches the surface of the thinking and learning I have done. Part 2 has felt rather transitionary, like things are shifting. I have a sense that my responses are a bit more grown up this time?

I also addressed my feedback by subscribing to Selvedge and Craft Council Magazines, I realised exactly what I had been missing as soon as I received the first issues. I don’t usually ‘do’ social media, beyond Pinterest, but I made myself an account, just to follow contemporary artists, galleries and stockists. This removes the distraction of becoming involved in the pets/children/dinners of everyone I’ve ever met! The Entangled Exhibition also had a huge impact on me, opening my eyes to working with conceptual ideas as well as focussing on making.

I have in the back of my mind been dreading Part 3, thinking that as someone who likes to work flat, that I am going to struggle. Reviewing my work for Part 2, I realised that actually, I have managed to produce some spatial samples. I have worked effectively with paper mache in the past and recall casting concreate for my A Levels years ago. I actually feel really positive about the next project, I think it is going to be exciting trying something that I am unfamiliar with.

Context and Debate

My ATV feedback, suggested that I ‘Broaden my awareness of contexts and debates’ so I have spent quite a lot of time thinking about what concerns and interests me. I found this surprisingly difficult. I have been using exercises in Jane Dunnewold’s book ‘Creative Strength Training’ to help find my identity. Much of the book is concerned with enabling people to devote time to their art work, to developing a regular work ethic and to learning how to generate ideas. None of this was really relevant to me but I have found that regular journaling has helped.

The funny thing about my ‘journal’ is that it is probably exactly the same thing as a Learning Log, as prescribed by OCA. I did used to keep a paper log as well as my online blog but then the waters became muddied between it and my sketchbook, so I stopped doing it. I have been writing about what interests me and how my work could fit into a wider context, the great thing about it not being part of my blog or by submission is that I can edit and censor what I am not ready to say.

I have begun to identify three areas that I find really interesting, I am putting these forward in the hope that by discussing them I will begin to find a stronger personal voice:

  • the hierarchy and division between disciplines in ‘Art’
  • the preservation of traditional skill and techniques
  • where ideas come from

HIERARCHY

This is important to me, I have always felt that my work doesn’t really fit into any one category. At Art College in my late teens, my experience was that my work was too graphic for art (not in the explicit sense!). Too arty for graphics. Too crafty for sculpture. etc. I still wonder why no-one ever thought of offering me textiles back then? I think probably because I was enrolled on a Fine Art Course and a certain snobbery existed. Things have changed a lot over last twenty years, many more artists have successfully worked across the divisions but these hierarchical subcultures still exist.

It was really refreshing to read about Contemporary Basket Making and the moves being made by contemporary practitioners to raise the profile of this ancient technique. (Selvedge Magazine #75, P74). Yet the article begins:

“Not long ago, basketmaking was considered by many makers to be the ‘poor cousin’ of craft -not always taken seriously by those involved in neighbouring practises.”

I find the division between Art and Craft fascinating enough without adding yet another layer of snobbery! I had always assumed ‘Craft’ to be the injured party in this equation, looked down upon by those making Art. I now feel sad that poor old Basketmaking feels rejected, really ‘Craft’ should know better!

In Crafts Council Magazine (#265, P103), I found more evidence of ‘Craft’ being it’s own worst enemy. Rosy Greenlees (Crafts Council director and OBE) explains how, over the last 18 months, she has been collecting opinions of “people working and active in the field- including makers, curators, educators and gallerists” She reports some suggested the rising popularity of ‘Craft’ was a ‘double edged sword’:

“Though it is wonderful that the public is becoming increasingly engaged, sometimes it isn’t necessarily discerning, and that the proliferation of online platforms selling craft muddies the waters between amateur and professional.”

Hmm, sounds like more snobbery to me! In this same publication, the organisation are advertising and sponsoring HEY CLAY, a FREE opportunity to “Unleash the Inner Potter”. Perhaps those members fore mentioned might feel that there should have been a test at the door to exclude any “amateurs”!

TRADITION AND IDENTITY

This is not a well formed explanation, it is an idea in it’s infancy but I think the meaning behind it is: Take advantage of who you are and be yourself?

Another issue that I have discovered that interests me is the preservation of traditional skills in an increasingly mechanised and technical world. I love low tech, handmade, time-consuming, meticulous repetition. I love it when I see an artist using a traditional technique with a new twist, like Beccaria’s woven jewellery or Vasconcelos’ crochet skins.

It is a bit like the revival of interest in knitting, yarn bombing and Stitch n Bitch (are we past that yet?) or the reinvention of 1970’s macramé to something we see in the modern home or on the catwalk. I want to stay in touch with and promote skills I see as invaluable: the ability to produce legible handwriting (rather that type or text), dressmaking (can’t even sew on a button).

When I come across the work of a contemporary artist I am often struck by their interesting ideas and ‘exotic’ inspiration from their childhood home or travels. I suddenly began to realise that though I may think ‘exotic’, to them it is normal, it is their life. Therefore, my story might seem boring to me, but interesting to somebody else?

This idea was validated by an article in Selvedge Magazine about Agricultural Smocks. In the past I used smocks to inform my studies, I felt this was a traditional technique that could be given a new lease of life. I was almost a bit embarrassed by how rural and common smocks were, but seeing them in the magazine made me realise while they are ‘common’ to me, they are rare to somebody else. I felt they provided me with a sense of heritage, nostalgia and identity. Why not celebrate that?  I come from an area with a rich history in farming, processing and spinning, its time I learned more about it.

IDEAS AND MOTIVATION

Lately I have started to notice the different state of mind I enter into when I really become involved in my art work. Experiments with working intuitively with my hands and not my brain caused me to think about the role of the subconscious mind in the generation of ideas.

Researching Judith Scott and ‘Outsider Art’ has led me to consider my motivation to produce art work. What strikes me is the drive to create and the prolific output, I spend way too much time thinking and not making!

Exhibition: Entangled

I recently visited the Entangled: Threads and Making Exhibition at the Turner Contemporary, Margate. I came across a discussion on the OCA Forum about how to write up an exhibition visit and have since been agonising how to approach this. In the end I decided to record the effect this exhibition had on ME, so my write up is probably going to be disappointing for anyone wanting to know what is on display there. I found it to be a powerful exhibition that created a period of introspection and self doubt but at the same time was incredibly uplifting and exciting…

I approached the exhibition in my usual way, avoiding all reviews and press beforehand to allow me to make up my own mind. This time, however, on arrival I made a preliminary circuit of all the pieces with my notebook firmly in my pocket. I then went away and had lunch, returning afterward to really look and make notes on what stood out for me. I found this a useful strategy in beating the fatigue that sometimes means I don’t have the time/energy left for an important piece.

What has stuck me since reading reviews in Selvedge Magazine #76 and Crafts Council Magazine #265, is that the pieces that I chose were not the ones picked out by the critics. Being me, I worried that perhaps I am not seeing what others see and this makes me a failure in some way. Maybe since I made my decisions based purely on aesthetics, that is why the selection differs? Reading the reviews provides backstory and context to the work, hence different pieces become more important.

An example of this would be Hannah Ryggen’s tapestry: 6 Oktober 1942. The pictorial scene and satirical nature of the image did little to attract me; I paid little attention to it beyond admiring the colours and thinking how well they had stood the test of time. I had no idea this would be the piece would dominate the reviews. In order to appreciate the interest in this piece I needed to first read the essay: Philomela’s Tongue by Marit Paasche in the Exhibition Catalogue. I had to understand that:

  • Ryggen was largely self taught because she was excluded from formal education because of an unmarried pregnancy.
  • She undertook enormous risks in depicting the atrocities she witnessed during an extremely dangerous time.
  •  She was dedicated to ensuring all bar three of her large woven pieces remained “publically owned and hang where all citizens had access to them”.

I suppose this comes back to a question I have asked myself many times: how much do you need to know about a piece for it to work? Reading the catalogue really opened my eyes and helped me to appreciate the work exhibited but unfortunately left me feeling extremely ignorant, it really highlighted gaps in my knowledge. My Assessment Feedback (ATV, March 2017) seems to recognise the same thing, saying that:

“Recommendations would be now to extend lines of enquiry via more extensive researching with a view to expanding personal knowledge and understanding of contemporary practitioners. Research is evident and relevant, however, to now broaden your awareness of contexts and debates will enable the enhanced use of materials, processes, applications and finishing via studying contemporary practitioners and their methodologies.”

Context was the area that needed most improvement for ATV. Given this recommendation and my own superficial responses to the exhibition I wonder if its perhaps time I made more informed choices about what I look at and how I respond to it. I think that the only draw back of this approach is that when you know an artist’s profile and reputation it is harder to be objective. It is not that I want to be told what to think but that I need to consider work by contemporaries in broader terms.

For example this was an all woman show. What does this mean? Why was it necessary to exclude male contemporaries? I considered my list of ‘favourite artists’ (blog post: Reflection 17.02.17) Why are they all women? I discovered that, as Head of Displays at the Tate Modern, Francis Morris has had a huge impact on me without me even knowing. She explains:

“although we were not specifically looking at gender, or even trying to achieve a balance, it was evident we were trying to show new perspectives in the history of art – even though that was Western European and North American narratives- and therefore we were looking at work that we had overlooked.” ¹

It seems ‘My women’ all fall onto Morris’ list for redressing the balance, regardless of the fact that they are all female. Is this a coincidence? No probably not, if the artists that remain undiscovered and under represented are women, there is clearly a reason for this! I then am seeing a new view of Art, one that includes the women (thanks to Morris) BUT Am I then too reliant on her opinion? Do I depend on one institution to inform my viewing?

This exhibition differed from the large one artist retrospectives I have been to at the Tate. Here each of the XX artists are only represented by a few pieces of work. I found this made a real difference, it is much harder to understand an artist without their whole life ‘s work laid out before you. Much easier to dismiss them because an individual piece doesn’t appeal/inspire. Another difference would be that many of these artists are contemporary, many of the works were specially commissioned for the exhibition. That they will go on to produce more work and neither they, nor I know what it will be, this really altered my perceptions of gallery art textiles.

My response to what I saw at the exhibition, read in the catalogue and my ATV report, was to subscribe to Selvedge and the Craft Council magazines. As soon as I received them I realised exactly what I had been missing. I have plans to visit exhibitions by male artists Olifi and Paolozzi (exhibitions advertised in Selvedge #75) to redress my over-exposure (?) to women in Textile Art. I won’t be avoiding the Tate Modern, I am looking forward to the forth coming exhibitions by Rachel Whiteread and Anni Albers but I will be mindful of the type of exhibitions these are.

¹Francis Morris, quoted by WRIGHT, K, ‘We are all Penelope’ Exhibition Catalogue. Entangled Turner Contemporary P21

 

 

 

 

Reflections on my Sketchbook

In my feedback for Part One, I was given advice on the use of my sketchbook. The problem was that I was using an A4 lever arch file instead of a more traditional sketchbook. As I blogged about my learning in Project One (Pt 2, Pj 1: Joining) I began to consider if I had managed to take this advice on board:

I am definitely more comfortable working in an A3 book, the additional space gives me more room to think about what I am doing. I have consciously tried to keep the written reflection to note form and included more drawing. I know that I have ‘used’  this sketchbook because some of the pages have started to fall out! I have always stuck lots of samples in and always use the same brand of book, but I have never had this problem before! I used electrical and washi tapes to secure the pages, using colours that compliment the work. I find that this looks quite pleasing and hope it doesn’t detract from the images.

Some pages look particularly cluttered. I think I always tend to work slightly larger than I have room for, I honestly don’t think it would matter how large my page was I would probably still fill it! I know when I did some large A2 drawings for ATV, I still managed to fill the entire page and come bursting out the edges! (Finally sticking 4 sheets together).

Is this a novice mistake? Do I lack the forethought to decide upon a scale that will fit, before I start? Or is it a rebellion? A refusal to be contained by a boundary? Does my drawing grow organically, spreading like one of Margolis’ sculptures?

I think the distance learning aspect also needs to be considered, I am always aware of postage. I try to cram as much in as possible, with a ‘more for my money’ type attitude.

I remember the first time I saw pictures of Roanna Wells sketchbook, I was awe struck her exquisite use of space around the drawings. Perhaps it has to do with confidence? On reflection, I think I would compare it to someone needing to talk to fill the gaps in a conversation. Do I lack confidence in what I say/draw so I have fill the silence? Maybe I need to have faith in my work, let space in and allow room for images to breathe.

Reflection: 17.02.17

I have a sense that things have shifted. I feel my first set of tutor feedback has really liberated me. Having had a week off ‘work’ has also allowed me to focus entirely on my studies. I am left wondering how wonderful it would be to spend all day, everyday being an ‘artist’? Unfortunately, time does strange things when I am engaged creatively, hours pass rapidly and I emerge dazed and bewildered wondering where the day went. If I didn’t have to stop to perform my ‘day job’ or cook or clean or spend time with my family, I literally think my life would disappear in a flash! Perhaps attending to real life, in between bouts of creativity, is more healthy in the long run?

I began the first Joining exercise as soon as I posted Part One. Having felt exhausted, frustrated and deflated I instantly found Part Two more engaging and my mood picked up. I tried to pin point why: Is this exercise more ‘my thing’? Is it the sketchbook? Is it being off work? Is it me? Of course none of this really matters and it is probably a combination of factors but it interests me to consider it.

Having received my feedback from Cari, I looked at what I had produced in a new light. The first thing I noticed is the ‘diary like’ entries in my sketchbook. When did I start doing this? I honestly thought I was quite good at keeping the rhetoric to a minimum and was getting better at being analytical…. but there they were! I found three glaringly obvious passages of “I did this, then that and now I’m going to…” It makes me wonder who I was talking to!

Once I had identified the narrative, it really bugged me! I can see exactly what Cari means, I don’t need to write in prose when a few notes would suffice. I couldn’t leave the sketchbook as it was so, in keeping with the theme of revelation and concealment that I explored in Part One, I proceeded to obscure the text with gouache and draw over the top:

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As I noted on the page, I found this process extremely cathartic. Like some sort of cleansing ritual in reverse?

I was grateful for the opportunity to discuss sketchbook practise with Cari after my feedback, I explained that whilst I frequently make a mess when I am working, I tend to do this on paper, allow it to dry, trim it and then stick it in. To challenge this idea of allowing the sketchbook to be messy in parts, I continued to allow Louise Bourgeois inspire the resulting drawing (which I had been doing but on loose paper and stuck in of course!). The result feels much more truthful and authentic.

I have actually found studying Louise Bourgeois (particularly A L’Infini) quite empowering and think it has had a really positive impact on my own practice. I actually find her work quite disturbing. It is so raw I can’t bear to look for too long and yet I am fascinated.

Bourgeois work has an air of honesty, I feel she is telling me the truth about womanhood. Whereas when I look at Agnes Martin and I feel safe and still, Bourgeois makes me uncomfortable and disconcerted, she leaves no where to hide.

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I have been thinking about the artists that I would deem as my ‘favourites’ and how they seem to unite to form a multifaceted female personality. Individually, as incredibly strong female artists each one tells me something different about being a woman:

  • AGNES MARTIN: Appears serene and calm. Safe and comforting. Yet underneath is calculating and controlling. Cold and detached. Perhaps secretive?
  • SONIA DELAUNAY: Is the child, joyful and warm. Enjoys everything life throws at her. Is perhaps rather naïve?
  • GEORGIA O’KEEFFE: Is the ‘dirty’ girl who can’t keep her hands to herself or her clothes on. Sensual and sexual. Impulsive and self indulgent.
  • LOUISE BOURGEOIS: Appears cautionary: a warning that life is precious and fragile. Anguished and unhappy. Raw and brutal (or brutalised?) Honest and unapologetically forthright.

Do they come together and form a single truth? Is one stronger than all the others? Is she always dominant?

 

A1: Self Assessment

DEMONSTRATION OF TECHNICAL AND VISUAL SKILLS:

Since the Assignment is comprised of a selection of experimental samples they lack the quality of finish I would normally associate with a resolved piece. Hopefully, they demonstrate that I am comfortable to work with and manipulate a range of materials. Using drawing to record my outcomes was a welcome task, I felt more confident in my mark-making than my making. Stopping to reflect as I drew often gave me time to appreciate the sample and to decide where to take my investigations next.

QUALITY OF OUTCOME:

I swapped to working in a loose A4 binder, rather than the spiral bound A3 sketchbook that I am used to. The idea was that I would be able to remove pages and review them side my side. I don’t think it was a good choice, my sketchbook which is normally one of my strengths has become more like a physical log. I don’t think it was the size I found constraining but the opportunity to fiddle with organise and rearrange pages was a major distraction. Since I rely on my sketchbook as a ‘thinking space’ I found this affected the outcomes.

I found the Selection Process much easier than for ATV. I would like to attribute this to a growing sense of judgement, however, I suspect I wasn’t strict enough with myself and submitted too many pieces.

DEMONSTRATION OF CREATIVITY:

I always think this is the hardest category to self-assess. I tried to be bold in my experiments and treated each exercise as an investigation. I wonder if I could have taken more risks and been more adventurous in my selection of materials to work with?

I have thought and wondered about the existence of my ‘personal creative voice’ in the past. I definitely feel mine is beginning to develop, I feel able to distinguish between what I like and what I don’t like and am beginning to be able to explain why. (I find it easier to say why something works than why it doesn’t). More importantly, when I was struggling at the beginning of the course I simply felt the work ‘wasn’t my own’. I remember commenting later on that I had “hit my happy” because I began to recognise myself in the work again. This sense of ownership is really just a feeling, yet I can feel it building.

CONTEXT:

I researched and referred to a number of artists, becoming more and more interested in the thoughts behind their work, than just its appearance or the technique they are using. I felt that I communicated these links better than I included my own personal, visual research. The photographs and observations I made of trees over Christmas seemed to subconsciously sneak their way into my work. I didn’t realise their effect until I wondered where the green drawing in 3.2 came from! Once I realised I tried to communicate this in my ‘sketchbook’ and blog. This could have been made clearer.