Formative Review (Mid-Semester 1) // 24/11/2018 // Retrospective

A power point presentation used as a basis for a formative assessment (and written as such) halfway through my first semester as a BA Fine Art student at LAU, reformatted for WordPress.

Ruminations // The Individual and the Social

From the offset in this project, I wanted to focus on my art as an individual and how by moving into the social setting of studio practice I could develop my own work. This took the cognitive understanding of what it was I was producing in the first place, and how it could blossom into something more interesting, technically developed and, perhaps, more sophisticated and as a result, a lot of my earlier pieces were in reference or as a result of my previous works. I feel this was, however, a failing on my part as I should have forced myself to detach from previous studies more readily in order to have a cleaner and thus more easily explored project.

For example; the move from working in a sketchbook to working on a wall mounted illustration is a simple example, but one one that takes definite consideration. Much of my work from before – as seen both above and below – was either sketchbook based, portraiture, or both. My challenge was simple; how can I move on from this?

Early Material Processes and Development

At the beginning of this project, my work investigating the ‘process’ of creating art in a very literal sense – turning the final piece into a living timeline of its own creation by shrouding elements in paper as I layered charcoal and chalk in more and more detail. The result was, unfortunately, quite underwhelming; largely as a result of my use of charcoal which has a way of always seeming somewhat ‘unfinished’ when in my hands.

 In order to remedy this I attempted first to continue along the same lines except making use of ink and then eventually resolving to do away with the idea entirely. Process, I realised, was something far more interesting when I could restrain it to its conceptual roots yet still attempt to portray in a physical form.

Form Influenced by Space

One way I realised I could convey this assessment of ‘process’ was by analysing how the space in which I was working would effect my pieces. This is a factor that not only influences the size of our working surface, but also the materials we have available, the mind set we have when working, the outside influences we are faced with, our lighting conditions- the understanding we might have for possibilities of presentation even! This was a major influence, I feel, in my search for a new way of investigating process as  it was whilst reading through books on colour theory that I began sketching in the only small notebook I had available with the only pen I had on hand- a blue biro.

 These limitations of space and design lead me to attempt to convey the complexities of colour theory in monochrome in a tiny space which lead me to think; why not switch the two? I decided to develop a practice which attempted to convey a simple idea with as few boundaries as possible – aside from that of being in a 2D space as I feel certain limitations I must apply to myself in order to achieve a higher quality of work (to not stretch myself too thin in a way).

Consciousness and Exploration – Ruminations

Process has continually defined my work since the introduction of the project as it is often in the large amounts of time taken to create a piece that I find my influence; be it the music I am listening to or the thoughts in the back of my mind. In the case of my later works, they were very much inspired by the Sci Fi writings of Terry Pratchett, Stephen Baxter, and Iain M. Banks that inspired me to create works about exploration of the cosmos and it was the psychedelia of Ultimate Spinach, Fairport Convention, and Jonathan Wilson that in turn realised the association of these thoughts with that of the exploration of ones own mind.
Trying to figure out what makes a human human is the essence of human curiosity – the foundation of Science, Music, Historical studies, sociological investigations, even just the act of going for a walk or attempting to understand what we mean by ‘love’ leads us down these trails – and so it is only the natural result of a human consciousness told to ‘create something new and interesting’ that it would then attempt to recreate that train of thought in the form of an image.
The spirit of human exploration is one that I feel is very similar to that of the human consciousness – a ship sailing across an ocean it has no knowledge where the end may be and ones own personal discovery can be one and the same. My influences in this regard have most definitely found some kind of foothold in the works of writer ‘Isaac Asimov’, known for his science fiction novels that have been widely acclaimed for their analysis of the human condition itself.

Both my conceptual basis and drawing style were somewhat influenced by the hugely identity based works of Ida Applebroog in their simple line based aesthetic and definite base in the politics of the mind. In this, I suppose the greatest similarity between our works is our attempts at understanding the world as we see it through an often monochrome visualisation.

The Influence of Loneliness and Solitude

Much of the self examination of the human mind that I am working towards expressing comes about as a result of spending large amounts of time alone – either in my work or in my nightly insomnia based hours of frustration. Without the filter of human conversation or the shallow distraction of media consumption, ones mind is left to wander through its own depths in both enlightenment and confusion. In a sense then, I have been inspired by loneliness, and that is something few have captured better than Picasso in his Blue Period. Having recently read a biography of the mans life by Patrick O’Brien and having visited the ‘1932’ exhibition of his work at the Tate Modern, I am far too often referencing the work of the master, however, I feel very strongly that his work is one of the few examples of expression upon the canvas available to the student of art; by which I mean his work is that of his own mind and of no one else’s.

The Influence of Da Vinci and Sfumato

My influences born from the works of Da Vinci and other ‘Sfumato’ style painters are, quite apparently, in concept rather than practice. It is not the art historian definition that influenced me (i.e. “a fine shading meant to produce a soft transition between colours and tones, in order to achieve a more believable image”), but rather the very basic elements of the process; the layering of tone and colour over and over to create a final image. My work began very representative and slowly transitioned into the more abstract, but this aspect of focusing on the separate layers of each piece was consistent throughout – it was more about the process than the final piece in many ways. Whilst in future projects I would love to take Sfumato more literally, in this case I took it apart and reformed it as a tool for my own development.

Alexander Calder – Lines in Space

The work of Alexander Calder is that which has been persistently influenced by the space in which it is created or the space in which it shall be presented. This is something that I have attempted to incorporate into my own line drawings, creating abstract pieces that begin from a blank space and take form as a result of the shapes I see around me in the room, or the framing of the paper upon which I work. One of the more obvious examples of this is a piece I created by attaching a number of leftover cut-off’s from a failed piece together and then drawing upon them as the shapes found in this regimentally stripped apart and well worn paper presented me. As my work developed into concepts of consciousness and of the human spirit, I realised that being influenced by space could mean more than just what we can find in the three dimensions of the studio and I began to allow every thought or sound that occurred to have influence on the lines I drew. Atmosphere thus became space and my drawings became inherently a part of the pace in which they were created. My favourite aspect of this space meets line style of work is the battle between my early steps into a piece and my later lines as the ever developing special zone meant my work would begin to contradict and antiquate itself the more I drew. In essence, line influenced by space, influenced by line etc. etc.

Lesser Works

These are pieces which I couldn’t call my most resolved works, but are important in understanding the development of my artistic style throughout this project. The most important aspect they show is my move away from entirely representational art into that of the abstract and more surreal. I feel that my journey away from such work is a much needed but certainly temporary sabbatical which will allow me to approach my future work with a refreshed and less dogmatic view.

Resolved Pieces

Scatterbrained and Definitely Wobbly, October 2018

This piece was the last large scale representational image I completed in the project. As my practice was becoming more and more about translating colour and shadow into line and geometric shape, I wanted to put these techniques into practice in the form of a 6ft tall life size portrait of an old school friend. The point of this piece was to represent the internal dialogue of the human mind within a person but I’m not sure this comes across so much as it does as simply being an interesting way of drawing someone, however, it still works as a piece when faced with it in a physical space. It was this work that led me to think about creating works that first made you look at a large mass of shapes and to then move in closer in order to appreciate the details as perhaps even a separate piece. In a sense this hearkens to the processes I previously investigated of representing the layers and steps of a painting or drawing within a piece, except that in these cases it is rather a layered process of looking that I am studying – the audiences step by step reaction is the real goal of these layers of visual complexity.

Themes on a Sleep Deprived Mind, November 2018

In this piece I made a point of fully utilising the Calder-inspired mantra of line as influenced by space and took this to another level by using random off cuts of paper to create a wild surface on the wall of the studio upon which I would create a line drawing inspired by the shapes they are thus framed by. The resulting piece was then taken from the wall and reassembled upon three pieces of mount-board of complimentary and muted but certainly different colours, once again giving me a chance to re-frame my piece in both shape and colour composition.

Another level was again added through the usage of three different types of tape to attach the drawings t said boards, creating another aspect to the compositions as opposing colours and shapes reacted differently to the different background colours. The final result is a piece which isn’t quite 3D but certainly lives outside of the realm of the 2D with its bumpy and botched together surface coming together to form one image. Again, the piece is designed to give two layers of appreciation; the image as a whole and the detailed segments one can only realise by physically moving closer to the work.

Untitled (Trail), November 2018 // Unfinished

The purpose of this piece was to lead the viewer on a journey, following the lines of the drawing around their naive maze like route across the pages. Again, it is a piece in which the surface and its placement plays a role, I felt that offsetting the quadtych laterally would create not only an interesting challenge in creating a whole piece but also make the overall shape of the piece a part of the art itself – much like with that on the previous page. The two level view I have discussed before was integral to this piece; from far away it seems to be one of the more simple images I have created thus far and though it is pleasing in shape and composition, this is largely shallow without closer inspection. This inspection reveals some of the more painstaking and detailed work I have commenced upon in the last few years, and this is really what the work is about on a practical level. The concepts I was working with, however, remain quite simple. The idea is essentially to follow the line as one would a train of thought – it is sometimes complex, often simple, and occasionally purely confusing and confounding. This is a narrowed down version of my previous works and I think quite a suitable conclusion to this project thus far as a result.

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