Paint Box

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Using Reading

Art & Today - Art & Narrative Postmodern Storytelling (notes)

  • Tradition of narrative in Art dates back to cave painting, sacred painting and History Painting - allegory.
  • Storytelling - tool for human expression
  • Less weighty in contemporary work - focus on peripheral characters (very relevant). Reference to novelists and literature...'not so much the tale itself but how it is told.' pp. 122 This is a reminder to not be too literal and weave a tale, suggest ideas rather than illustrate, plant visual clues which can be interpreted by the viewer to communicate intentions.
  • Wide ranging from mythology to everyday life
  • Some artists rejected traditional story telling e.g. Courbet, Impressionists - replicating the perceptual experience of natural light and colour. This 'demoted the storytelling impulse first by revealing its artifice and the dispensing with it.' pp.122
  • Postmodernism - narratives have become 'self-conscious', suggesting to the viewer that their stories may be 'biased, incomplete or entirely fictional'. Possible form of allegory
  • Cinema - scrambling of narrative, non-chronological order, merging of characters and narrator (could be artist) - ref to staging of the self
  • Pastiche - misremembered fictions about the past - Jameson
  • Death of the Author - Barthes. The reader/viewer engages with the artwork or 'text' and activates it by engaging with it
  • David Salle/James Rosenquist/Alex Katz - up to viewer to make sense of relationships between images - not sure if this is right as surely the artist has some responsibility towards the viewer and the ideas that they are communicating
  • Cindy Sherman -draws on familiar imagery, staging, deliberate mimicry. Her film re-reference still photographs which she created herself with no reference point makes the work self-reflexive and anti chronological - very postmodern. I really should play with the idea of anti-chronology...
  • Greg Crewdson, Eleanor Antin - incomplete imagery, viewer is left to fill in the gaps between frames
  • Anna Gaskell - foreboding and anxiety. Link to magical realism and Paula Rego. References fairytales in isolated frames, adolescents, claustrophobic spaces
  • Film allows for narrative to be explored in time and with continuity - Matthew Barney, Issac Julien - loaded with symbolism and references to the history of films. Audiences needed crib sheets to help decipher meaning. Eyewitness accounts can be false. Looping for 'circular featurettes'. Filmakers present multiple versions of the same narrative, using different actors - could be good for paintings with duality. Also shifts meaning.
  • Kabakov is 'both playful and elusive - one is never sure where he, the artist, stands in relationship to his inventions.' pp.137 Response to Soviet Russia, creates the unreliable narrator.
  • Ahtila - crazy logic is presented in a fractured way on multiple screens which begins to make it plausible for the viewer, less disorientating.
  • Nan Goldin - intimacy from saturated colour, not staged. Shows reality - artist appears in images, dual role of observer and observed. 
  • Sophie Calle - breaks boundary between artist and subject, spying on guests in hotel with documentation - constructs personal narratives for strangers using visual clues. She became part of the narrative and used contacts to interview acquaintances of the inhibitors of the hotel. 
  • Make audience active participants in the story of the work
  • Matthew Richie - 'Given its multiple layers and tangled story lines, the only way to experience his work is to recreate it for oneself, following the threads of one's choice to create a narrative that is as viable as any other.' pp.141

Artist Statement - 1st Attempt

My practice currently pursues two parallel lines of enquiry, one of making and one conceptual. I am interested in referencing familiar imagery whilst constructing ambiguous narratives which are the result of composite images. In my reading of the Art & Narrative chapter in Heartney’s Art & Today, I feel that my work is anchored within this genre which references fractured, constructed and implied stories. I am exploring making images with peripheral, childlike characters, placed like props or puppets within each scenario. Through these I am attempting to reveal a glimpse of a story, an encounter or game. There is a sense of play, but also a sense of the macabre. My work draws on literature, photography and the tradition of spectacle aiming to engage the viewer through a sense of unease and curiosity. The imaginary painted space uses both inside and outside environments and challenges perceptions of scale to emphasise tension and displacement. Through my use of colour I hope to create a sugary facade which tempts the viewer to spend longer examining the surface. In addition, I am interested in the notion of fluidity both in media and character and am beginning to use this to enhance ambiguity, building on themes explored by photographers such as Claude Cahun and Francesca Woodman. Collecting, manipulating, constructing and layering are processes which compliment my ideas and support the evolution of my work

Feedback - The group response to my statement was mainly positive. The only real criticism I was given was my use of the phrase 'sugary facade' which they said didn't seem accurate. I included this statement because I have always intended my use of colour to entice the audience, capturing their attention before they realise that something more sinister or unusual is happening. Having considered alternatives for this phrase, perhaps I could use 'vibrant' or 'decitful surface', or 'complex' or 'surface which challenges the audience's initial perception'.
There were projections of these questions on the wall in the tanks, from a twitter discussion on the following ideas #tanks. In relation to my own work, I responded to the questions... 

Does live Art have to be experienced live?
The experience of live art is integral in engaging the audience, it is more memorable, interactive and opens the viewer to living the experience of the work, as opposed to seeing or hearing something which is complete. However, the documentation of the work and second hand experience of it has value, giving the work a life beyond the performance and duration of the 'live' experience. For my own work this is a difficult idea as the work would generally be 'finished' before the viewer engaged with it, unless it was an open studio setting. I like the idea of a performance or gathering which is then documented and preserved in the painting.

How can Art change society?
This is such a global question - I think that Art can change society by introducing and exploring ideas which are difficult to communicate, and perhaps not in the 'mainstream', giving the audience opportunities to become more open and informed. It can bring disparate groups together but also create conflict. Art can make global issues relevant through personalisation. I need to understand this concept better...

What is the role of the audience?
To activate the work through engaging, responding and forming their own opinion. The audience creates a dialogue with and about the work which gives it meaning.

How do you imagine tomorrow's museum?
I hope for a space where there is more dialogue with the artists and processes of making are valued and transparent. Also, art being taken to groups who wouldn't usually visit galleries to increase exposure and art education. Unfortunately I think it will be largely online which so it will be unusual to encounter work in person; the environment and three dimensional space of a gallery are fundamental in the way the viewer encounters the work, so I hope that this will be maintained. 

Notes on paintings made end of September  - Highlighted are the references to writing and artists which are emerging in my work; the reading has informed and identified where my work sits in a contemporary context.

Development from exploratory project – college with new heads and background
Context – Crowds and Power – Elias Cannetti – cornfield
Sense of distance in the image – horizon/corn/ground
Ambiguity – large eggs, shrinking figures?
Pathway through corn shows journey
Children’s clothing
Direct gaze – confrontation, viewer has slightly higher viewpoint, therefore characters gaze upwards accusingly.
Figure on left – head hangs at an awkward angle, puppet reference. Figure on right, left arm appears wooden.
Angela Carter ‘The Magic Toyshop’ – figures are transplanted into outdoor context
Image is constructed 3 developments of collage...background and eggs are planted in the space – joined by painted surface
Murder Girls ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’
Pyjama clothing references dream
Scale – Tim Walker photography
2 figures sets up a relationship and pathway inhabits the space between them
Figure on left has no arms – amputation or hiding
Primary Colours/Tonal/Range of painting techniques – reference Peter Doig’s surface

Pair of figures – interact with each other, Paula Rego

Sense of costume, fairy wings – play – ref. Vee Speers – The Birthday Party
Large scale bird – forms triangle within composition
Wallpaper interior – ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’
Trees and branches and ‘wilting’ wallpaper – context plays between interior and exterior setting
Figure on left meets viewer’s gaze – enlarged head, hanging arms are awkward, hunched and goblin-like – figure position references Nicky Hoberman
Figure on right – floating? Is her right arm raised to strike the other girl?
Constructed image from collage and building of context
Cropped on both sides – references photography
Both wear dark tights from original photos – composite figures
Same girls appears twice although not obvious – Anna Gaskell


High viewpoint – development from exploratory project
Tattered hunting jacket – red
Gaze meets viewer – less accusing, more knowing
Context – outside, tree house – symbol of childhood play/hiding
Tree house emerges from shoulder – reference Louise Bourgeois Femme Maison
House almost concealed by foliage – espionage
Disfigured fox watches in bottom left, front feet echo shape of girl’s
Subverting fairytale – red riding hood, Jack Zipes
Viewpoint is intended to confuse the viewer – looking down at the girl but up at the treehouse
Stain-like shadow – Francesca Woodman


This was a very useful exercise to identify exactly how my ideas and intentions are emerging from my work. It also enabled me to spend time in my studio without working which meant that I could step back from the making process and write objectively. It has also been useful in identifying recurrent themes and areas of crossover, for example my artist references are photographers; I need to really push this and explore why they are relevant to my painting practice. These ideas should underpin my artist statement.

Artist Statement - 2nd Attempt

My work is anchored in narrative painting which references fractured, constructed and implied stories. I am interested in referencing familiar imagery whilst constructing ambiguous narratives which are the result of composite images. I am exploring making imagery with peripheral and childlike characters, placed like props or puppets within each scenario. Through these I am attempting to reveal a glimpse of a story, an encounter or game. A sense of the macabre and quiet playfulness is suggested by the compositions, tempting the viewer to spend longer examining the surface. The direct and confrontational gaze of many of my figures intends to challenge and disconcert the audience, presenting a profound psychological state.

My work draws on literature, photography and the tradition of spectacle aiming to engage the viewer through a sense of unease and curiosity. The imaginary painted space challenges perceptions of scale and uses context to emphasise tension and displacement. I value the skill and process of making and take control of the canvas’ surface to create contrast between the absurd and the beautiful. Collecting, manipulating, constructing and layering are processes which compliment my ideas and support the evolution of ambiguity in my work.


Caroline felt that the content of my statement was getting there and that I had a strong opening statement. However, she said that it was written in a very clipped style, statement. statement. statement. I also felt this when I reread it. She said that I should make it more literary and add examples, for example the type of literature I draw on. I am going to revisit this again and flesh it out and include some semi-colons! I think I will probably write my essay and then use this to re-write the artist statement as I will have further developed my ideas. We also spoke about the length of the statement - it is too short...I am going to decide what the statement is for (wall, online, application) and write it for this audience. 

No comments:

Post a Comment