PDP

The New Materialisms class in term two really opened my eyes to a more holistic approach to my art and the things I learnt immediately filtered into my everyday art practice. One particularly meaningful class explored the ocularcentricity of modern western culture and encouraged us to think beyond the sensory hierarchy that priorities vision. I think this struck a chord with me personally as someone with poor eyesight that progressively worsens year by year; before this class I’d been quite closed minded to creative possibilities beyond the visual so there was something quite enlightening in being urged to think outside of that box. As a creative I think a short coming that I have is finding something I like and sticking with it rather than consistently pushing myself to try different approaches, I get comfortable in a particular medium or style very quickly and can be quite stubborn to venture into something new. My work this year was centred around the body, intimacy and privacy and I really seemed to stick to figurative depictions in drawing and paint, however there seemed to be an emptiness to a few of the pieces that felt more like I was just reproducing what I saw in the world rather than making visible the feeling and experience I wanted to get across. One quote from a text we studied in New Materialisms really resonated with me; “[Ocularcentrism] has left the body and the other senses, as well as our memories, imagination and dreams, homeless” (Pallasmaa, 2005, p. 18) I wanted to find a place in my work for the senses, imagination and memories I’d neglected in focusing on the visual.

To achieve this I combined my studies from Constellation with the Still Life work I had done in one of my Field labs and persued a project called ‘Sensory Still Life’ which can be found here. I blindfolded myself and felt an arrangement of random objects drawing with my eyes closed what I could feel, hear and smell. After each drawing was complete I used photoshop to overlay the individual drawings into an arrangement to create the “still life”. I was incredibly proud of how informing myself through my Constellation studies enabled me to push beyond my comfort zone and allow me to further push my understanding of the themes that interest me by exploring them in a different way creatively. I had known for some time that I had a habit of playing it safe and sticking to what I was used to but I think it took the push into researching new theories and ways of thinking for me to take that leap and try something completely different. Having a lesson totally devoted to the cultural phenomenon that creates these unconscious biases that prioritise the way things look over the way things feel, smell or sound, a bias that in some part will be contributing to my stubborn focus on the visual, totally helped break that pattern of behaviour.

While right now I still feel connected to drawing a painting as mediums I feel there’s something very changed in my approach to these mediums. I’d like to demonstrate by exploring two of my pieces, one from before New Materialisms and one from after:

Pedicure
Pedicure Acrylic on MDF (2ft x 2ft)
Lazy Sunday
Lazy Sunday Acrylic on Canvas (4ft x 6ft)

While both are acrylic paintings there are some notable differences between the two (of the same subject) that I think are mostly if not wholly influenced by my studies in New Materialisms. Firstly, the colour palette is much more vibrant and imaginative, after Constellation I was more inclined to choose colours that fit the mood and feeling I wanted to portray rather than choosing colours representative of the actual object or subject I was painting. I think this is an example of eschewing the visual accuracy of my painting in favour of capturing more of a feeling. Secondly, the scale. After Constellation I was more inclined to size my painting up, there was something in the physical experience of painting large that really resonated with me. As well as capturing the image, painting in a way that engages the entire body, in sweeping gestural strokes felt like it was capturing more of my presence as an artist within the image. There was something so much more open, enjoyable and honest in painting this way. I began to prioritise the sensory experience of creation where as before Constellation I prioritised the final outcome.

This final outcome focus was covered extensively in New Materialisms; how, as creators, we are taught to see creating as a project with a plan and then a method which is carried out to create the outcome. We were encouraged, instead, to think of creation as a process of growing. To grow your creation it’s a collaboration of equal parts between the matter you are shaping, the environment and you. Evolving an understanding that my materials and tools are not working for me they are working with me felt like a really pivotal breakthrough; that the creator is not a dictator the creator is a collaborator with matter and environment. One quote that really fast tracked my understanding of this: “I want to think of making, instead, as a process of growth. This is to place the maker from the outset as a participant in amongst a world of active materials. These materials are what he has to work with, and in the process of making he ‘joins forces’ with them, bringing them together or splitting them apart, synthesising and distilling, in anticipation of what might emerge” (Ingold, 2013, p. 21). The idea that the world around me is active and the materials I use have agency of their own totally changes the perception I had about what it means to be an artist. And while I can’t say that this is a habit I’ve broken this year it’s something I’m eager to push my understanding of and learn a lot more about as I grow as a creator.

Beaches and Boobs

Inspired by David Hockney and the field theme of light I spent a lot of time producing a series of illustrations of women relaxing and sunbathing, I really wanted to capture moments of freedom and peace and give a viewer a look into like a private moment of peaceful solitude. I really liked them but I don’t really think it fit with what I wanted to explore thematically, the style was too illustrative and the thinking and research I was doing into sensory perception and my thought processes about masculinity werent really represented in them. Nevertheless they were fun and could potentially grow into something bigger around a different theme.

Grayson Perry on Masculinity

Grayson Percy’s current book “The Descent of Man” and documentary “All Man” as well as the works he produced in the BBC series have been incredibly thought provoking. It’s really made me think more deeply about the men in my life and the effect stifling gender roles has on male psyche. Growing up I was always closest to female family members and with the exception of a few I still feel a great distance towards many male family members. My relationships and encounters with straight-cis men have been difficult, and on occasion violent. Entering into a long term relationship with my partner has been difficult and healing and enlightening, Perry’s work has made me reassess and think about masculinity differently. I think there’s something really valuable in appreciating and acknowledging men through a feminine lens.

 

Boys by Girls

This publication has been really useful, the way male models are posed and shot by the female photographers shooting them really speaks to what I’ve been trying to accomplish.

BOYS BY GIRLS is a bi-annual print publication with a fast growing digital presence, where the beauty of the contemporary young man is explored through the female lens.

Launched in 2011 by menswear photographer Cecilie Harris, Boys by Girls strikes a balance between fashion, art and documentary resulting in honest and beautiful photography. – http://www.boysbygirls.co.uk/index.php/info/

While fashion photography, the staging and composition of the images are really informative, the images themselves are captivating in their sort of honest vulnerability.

Canvas Making

Learning how to construct a canvas from scratch has been so important. The skill has been so useful and the support provided by Laura so valuable. Learning the best way to clamp, drill, saw and stretch etc. took some time. I haven’t really had much experience making something that big or sturdy so it was such a big learning curve and really accelerated my confidence in creating larger scale work.

Sensory Still Life

Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.” – Klee (1920) 

Producing my Sersory Still Life I looked a lot at the thinking and theories behind the work of Paul Klee and his philosophy that art goes beyond reproducing what we see. Employing drawing and painting as a philosophical practice and making clear the process and environment in which the art object was made. His work really inspired the concept behind my final field outcome. Coupled with my research and reading in the New Materialisms Constellation class which has also fed into and informed my ideas around these pieces.

“Vision and hearing are now the privileged sociable senses, whereas the other three are considered as archaic sensory remnants with a merely private function, and they are usually suppressed by the code of culture. Only sensations such as the olfactory enjoyment of a meal, fragrance of flowers and responses to temperature are allowed to draw collective awareness in our ocularcentric and obsessively hygienic code of culture” – Pallasmaa, 2005, p. 16

I wanted to create something that pushed me out of prioritising and romanticising sight and vision and that called upon a more holistic approach in its creation.