We were extremely lucky to be able to get on a nice warm coach and be taken to Bath to see Grayson Perry’s most recent exhibition, ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’. This exhibition was an excellent depiction of class in today’s society, telling a story through 6 beautifully crafted tapestries. Grayson Perry describes:
“The tapestries tell the story of class mobility, for I think nothing has as strong an influence on our aesthetic taste as the social class in which we grow up. I am interested in the politics of consumerism and the history of popular design but for this project I focus on the emotional investment we make in the things we choose to live with, wear, eat, read or drive. Class and taste run deep in our character – we care. This emotional charge is what draws me to a subject”.
I have always been heavily influenced by Perry’s work. I have never worked with subject matter the same, but for me he has always been to artists that gives you that ‘wow’ feeling when you find yourself in the same as his work. Something I think that helps make this happen for me is that his work is detailed and interactive, which is what I am now learning I respond to best both in others work and my own. His work is busy, colourful, big and inviting and I can never take my eyes away. His pottery works have also been a huge influence on me, and I was also lucky enough to see them in the Tate Modern last year.
I didn’t leave this exhibition without buying his book. In there he shares with us many of his sketchbook pages, and as i’m sure you know, I do love my sketchbook. So this will be a feast fir my eyes, and something I can resort back too when I find myself in that good old artist block.
Well it’s here, its passed and i’m glad. Yes, I’m talking about that dissertation!!!
I had my dissertation finished and printed by Wednesday the 28th, however I didn’t hand it in until yesterday, the 1st Feb. But I already feel great. So today I signed myself up for a tutorial with Dan Peterson, and it was fantastic! I don’t think it could have gone better, and to be quite frank, I don’t think I could have handled it if it went badly!
I was nice and prepared for the tutorial, with my main talking point to be focussing on my website I have developed over the past few weeks and the work that I will be showing on there. I made it very clear to him that there is very little work from my first 2 years here that I would actually be happy to put on there. Not because I dislike it (well, some of it) but mostly because my way of working has developed so much in these past months that I wouldn’t want to be working in the same ways that I have been doing in the previous years. This refers to mostly sticking to watercolours and not giving myself the room and freedom to do what I actually wanted to do, which is make things! I wouldn’t want to advertise work on my website that I wouldn’t be willing to reproduce. And Dan was totally on board with all of this.
I found it really refreshing to talk to Dan about the work I am currently making, for two reasons. 1) it was good to start talking about my work again after a long while of writing dissertations and almost neglecting my project work, and 2) it was lovely to speak to Dan about it, who is a different person to Amelia and Martyn (A fresh face), so it installed the excitement back in me. After explaining all about my work and my materials and my intentions, I was asked some important questions (That have been asked before). These included questions about context, place and why? After a while I began explaining idea’s I had for my work, and we began to imagine it in an advert and photographs, experimenting with different locations and places that my work may be found. This was really helping because these are the questions I had been asked before the christmas break and struggled rather hard to answer.
After talking about my work we went back to my website and I noted down some changed Dan suggested I make, and we spoke of ways to photograph my work and what makes a successful photograph. All in all it was a very uplifting day, and it feels good to be back on track.
This final year of constellation certainly was different from the first and second years. Not only have we been focusing on and working towards the completion of our dissertations, but the module as a whole, for me, has been much more enjoyable and approachable. Something I struggled with a lot in the first two years was comprehending the topics we would be discussing lectures, and also struggling to find a connection between the constellation practice and my project work. The topics discussed in ‘Metaphysics of Metaphor’ were interesting and insightful, however I always struggled to contribute and be able to get a strong understanding of what was being discussed. This is partially down to me not being a philosophical person; I haven’t much background and knowledge with the subject, which proved to be a problem when it came down to producing work for the subject. There was an instance where this became extremely apparent when we were asked to produce a 500 word essay and my results weren’t short of disheartening; I just haven’t ever been that skilled when it comes to written work. I was usually left feeling extremely confused and a little lost when attending a lecture, which subsequently made me rather anxious and skeptical of going into year 3 of constellation (especially with the dissertation pressures looming), however this year has been much different. I would put this down to voicing to Clive that I was feeling these emotions when leaving his lectures or tutorials, and since speaking about this I feel his approach towards his methods of teaching with me have become much more direct and understandable. As a student, I benefit better from direct and clear teaching, so it quickly became apparent that ‘Metaphysics of Metaphor’ wasn’t to right subject for me. Although I struggled I still tried to contribute, but it never seemed to materialize. I feel like experiencing these emotions reflected in the work that I produced. I haven’t ever been especially talented when it comes down to writing an essay, and I feel like this really showed throughout my constellation essays, always falling below where I had hoped to be although I had been working hard on what I was writing. Again, this filled me with dread for when it came to writing my dissertation. After leaving school and college, there haven’t been many situations where I have had to write an essay, never mind a 10’000 word essay. Due to this I felt rather unprepared for the dissertation period.
When it came down to beginning the research and preparation for my dissertation, I jumped straight in. I had many ideas on what I wanted to write my dissertation on, but one stood out the most from the get-go, and that was studying the works of Marina Abramovic. The next few weeks showed me switching in and out of confusion as to whether this would be the correct topic for me to work on, but eventually I decided that this is the topic I was most passionate about, therefore this is what I should focus on in order for me to write a successful dissertation. Although Abramovic is a performance artist and I am an illustrator, I quickly began to find links between my dissertation topic and my project work in Subject. The work I had been producing over the last year has been focusing on the workings of the human body. Mostly I have found myself fanatical about how our bodies are put together in such a clever manner, how we are held together in one piece by so many important and critical bodily parts and functions. When it came to writing my dissertation I found myself still focusing deeply on the body, but exploring different ideas and concepts of this. For example, Abramovic uses her body as her medium and throughout her performances we are reminded of how important this is for both her as a performer and us as the audience. As time progressed I began to really value this link between my dissertation topic and my project work. Although it may be faint, there is a connection that is enough to explore different paths within the subject matter. I found myself focusing on what happens within our bodies in my project work, and with my dissertation I found myself highlighting the different ways we can use our bodies within performance. By choosing to focus on this for my dissertation, I feel like it has given me the opportunity to do something I may not have had to chance to do. For example, I am studying illustration and I have written about performance art. Knowing the way I work as an illustrator, I knew that there probably wouldn’t be a situation where I could give myself the opportunity to write about something else that I find myself passionate about.
I chose to do the 10’000 word essay over the artifact. This is mainly because I didn’t think having only 6000 words would be enough to cover all of the information I had researched, on top of speaking about my own work. However, I did find myself considering this for a short while, and being faced with the opportunity to create a performance of my own excited me. Clive and I spoke of how I could combine subject areas, illustration and performance art, to make a performance of my own. As well as this, I would have included research results of Abramovic’s approach to performance. But alas I didn’t feel as though this would have been the correct approach to my dissertation, so I stuck with the full thesis, and upon completion I am happy with my decision.
Throughout my dissertation I found myself exploring and researching areas that I would have never of thought myself to get into. These included research into different theatre techniques that Abramovic incorporated into her own performances. Both the works of Bertolt Brecht and his design of the Epic Theatre, and Antonin Artaud and his development of the Theatre of Cruelty have been used within performance art from the 1960s to the 2000s. Alongside this, I found myself delving into Stanley Milgrim’s theories of obedience to authority in order to attempt to explain the actions of members of an audience. I feel rather positive about including these areas of research as I struggled quite a lot at the beginning when it came down to finding information to include in my thesis to support my arguments and claims.
Throughout the process of writing the dissertation I found it extremely helpful to refer back to the example dissertations that were submitted online by Cath. This helped me to get an understanding of structure and fluidity of writing. I mostly found these dissertations helpful when it came down to writing my introduction and conclusion, as I wasn’t sure on how these were to be written. Overall I feel like I have worked myself hard and pushed myself, now I can only hope that this is reflected throughout my writing.
I was lucky enough yet again to be part of another beautiful exhibition with all my close friends. Following on from last years exhibition (2014) titled ‘Substance’, we got ourselves back together to create something bigger, brighter and a little bit weirder.
All together there were 13 of us, working in The Abacus (Which is sadly closed down now). However something magnificent and wonderful about this year is that we managed to bag ourselves a 3 day residency there from the 8th-11th December, with an opening night the evening of the 11th to celebrate the end of the residency and opening up the exhibition for the next few days. Whilst we were all down there working for those 3 days straight, the doors to the Abacus were left open in order for members of the public to come in at thier own will and be able to see us working both individually on our own works but also being able to witness how we all worked as a team in our own environment; giving opinions on each others work, helping one another carry/hang/hold work, dancing to the music we played and taking it in turns to make cups of tea (and when the evening came, buying some beer). The atmosphere was strong and lively and we fed ourselves off each others energy. I found myself in a brilliant new state of mind, that I hadn’t especially experienced before. It was different from our studios at university; I was surrounded by my most treasured friends and everyone was working so hard. The work I produced for this residency consisted of me standing on my feet for hours, whilst tediously and constantly using a black posca pen to produce tiny dots. My days at the Abacus were usually 11 hours long, sometimes more, and by the time I found myself finally resting in bed, my closed eyes were haunted by flashing dots. (Suffer for your art, eh?)
When it came down to deciding what I would produce for this piece, I was rather anxious. This was down to a few things; I haven’t ever been part of a residency before, and as an artist I am usually used to created work over an extended period of time rather than constantly working on the same piece. I was the only illustrator within this exhibition, finding myself greatly out numbered by fine-artists, so I felt a little like the ugly duckling. Finally I decided that I wanted to work bigger than I have worked before, which again was something brand new to me. So I had a few concerning thoughts about it all, but everything worked out fine. I drew up my image onto paper which wasn’t cut to a particular size, however it would measure up around A1, and then the dots began.
I wanted to continue in the same illustration techniques as I had worked in the previous year, as I would like to build a strong body of work in this style. I choose to work this way only outside of university, as I am getting off the paper within my studies, yet I still enjoy working this way so I keep it to myself. I also wanted to stick with the same subject matter, which is the human body. Last year I produced three A4 drawings uncovering what’s beneath the skin of the eye, the ear and the mouth. This year, with the ambition to work bigger, I wanted to get more detailed too. The way our bodies work so hard and stand up so well has been a fascination of mine for quite some time now, and it’s buried below our thick protective layer of skin, so we often turn a blind eye to whats really happening within us. So for this piece, I wanted to expose it.
I suppose I took the theme quite literally with this piece, exposing all the greatness lurking inside us. I knew that I wanted to to keep part of the illustrated body whole and empty, with skin still intact, in order to highlight the smoothness of the skin and to emphasise the dramatic difference to what’s beneath. I chose to work with the female as it can go through so much. Another piece I did, Illustrating a baby still within the womb, sits nicely with this piece. By choosing to work with the female body, I also had the opportunity to expose how beautiful breast tissue can be. When I first drew up this image, I originally drew in hair. I later decided that it wasn’t necessary. I feel like it would have been too much detail compared to how much I was including in the main body.
– CASS ART –
Something that was pretty exciting about this exhibition was that we had funding from Cass Art. Sarah Padbury, 3rd year Fine Artist and also exhibiting work in the show, managed to sort this out for us. We ended up being sent endless amounts of paper, spray paints, acrylic paints, brushes and much more. This was extremely handy for us all and saved us a lot of money. They also helped with advertising our event, and even travelled from London to see the show on the opening evening. A report of the show is up on their website for all to read:
Overall I really enjoyed this experience, and have definitely been one of my favourite memories made whilst living in Cardiff. It is truly something else when you’re working with such lovely people constantly feeding off the atmosphere to create something beautiful for the public to enjoy. Watching everything unfold around you and come together at the end to then celebrate it with everyone around you is truly spectacular!
After all of that thinking and figuring out, I finally mustered up the courage to begin actually knitting something! Before doing so I wanted to go hunting for the right wool. I wanted to keep my wool not too thick for now, so it is easier for me to work with. I already had some really lovely golden yellow wool that I knew I’d love to work with, but I really wanted some vibrant blues to work with also. I knew I always wanted to work with blue, but blue and yellow together are a really lovely combination. I eventually found a vibrant elective light blue to work with alongside my yellow, and also two other rather funky wools. I had never worked with this style of wool before so it’s something new for me. On the strands of the wool there are little loops of loose and unwound wool. When it is lay out flat it is rather clear to see what the wool is like, however to work with it is another story completely. As I am using crochet to work with, this wool can be difficult when it comes to trying to pull the wool through itself, it is easy for it to get tangled and knotted. Don’t get me wrong this was extremely frustrating for a good half an hour before I put it down for a bit and went back to it later. I tried to create the same shapes I had been making with the normal wool, and it didn’t turn out too bad. However saying this, I maybe wouldn’t use this wool for the main body, or for big knit projects, as it can be a pain to work with, and unless you do not mind having detail lost, then I’d say it’s better to use this wool for minimal details. Saying this, it does create quite a nice abstract shape, with plenty of texture and character. Below are some photos of the things I have managed to create so far, with my crochet needle next to them for size. These are just little experiments to trial out the ideas that I have so far.
As you can see from the photos above, the shapes aren’t exactly what you would call ‘right’. Now that could just be me being the picky person I am, but I’m not that picky and they are wrong. These were only experimental pieces, and I am now learning that maybe, to get the size and shape I want, it would make more sense to make individual pieces and eventually attach them all together. I struggled mostly with creating the main body shape in a continuous crochet, which is the first image. the left hand side of the shape id near enough what I was going for, however when I came to reducing my stitch and increasing again to create the next half, I dragged it out and added too many stitches/didn’t increase quickly enough, causing myself to elongate my shape. However by doing this I definitely developed a better understanding of how to work the wool and needle, and my plan from here is to go much bigger, and attempt to make this shape.
In the mean time, I decided to give something else a go. The shape that I am trying to make is the above photo, a sketch taken from a microscopic image of a cancerous cell. As you can see the main body is he part I had a difficult time trying to crochet, so I moved onto the circular objects that jump off the surface. These were much easier to make and gave me a good chance to experiment with colour scheme. I would like to work with blue for sure, and for the middle of the main body and the outside details, I would like to work with either yellow or orange. I do quite like to work with opposite colours, I feel they work well with my work.
Now That I have finally managed to narrow down what it is about Cancer’s and Tumour’s that I would like to focus on, it’s probably a good idea to start making something.
I can knit, sure, but that doesn’t make me some sort of professional knitter. For the kind of work that I want to be doing, I need shapes, 3D knitted shapes, and by the standards that I am currently working at then I have a long way to go. I think the answer to this dilemma is to crochet rather than knit. By doing this I will be able to create 3D shapes rather than 2D knitted shapes, this will just take some practise.
With the colours I will be using bright and warming colours like I’ve previously mentioned. I plan to make these shapes a reasonable size; big enough to hold in both hands and get to know it well, feel and smell and play around with it, but not too big so that it becomes over-powering and intimidating. I plan to be working with the material I have found by looking under the microscope, mostly focussing on Cancer Cells. The image I have found that has inspired me the most, both in shape and in colour is the one below.
This is a microscopic photograph of a cancerous cell. I find it ever so intriguing and aesthetically beautiful, the shape reminds me almost of a toy, more specifically a dog toy. Now then, a toy is something to enjoy. I’m not saying that I want to make tumour toys, but its the impression that this image gives off without having prior knowledge isn’t something intimidating for frightening. After a little while I began to try to design how I would begin to use wool to make this cancer cell into something more comforting. Using watercolour in my sketchbook I very roughly and quickly sketched out how I imagined this knitted tumour to come out like. I added notes beside it to get a better understanding as to how I could use the material in different ways to create this shape.
PHOTOS OF WATERCOLOUR SKETCHBOOK CELLS
As you can see I want the orange and blue to fade into each other as the shape begins to thin out in the middle. When doing this with wool it would be a case of gradually introducing the other colour when it is time to do so. On the blue area, there are orange spots covering the surface area. These spots are growths that come off of the surface area, and these would be made separately to the main body and then added afterwards. To make these shapes I plan to crochet small flower like shapes, which I will record later on. By using crochet to make the main body shape, I will have to be extremely conscious of how I work with the wool, how often I increase the stitch in order to create a well-rounded shape and then be able to decrease the stitch in a similar and consistent way in order to then begin to make the other spherical shape. By being conscious of how I work the wool and my stitch techniques I will get a better chance of creating a symmetrical shape like the cell from the microscope. The mock-up on the other side of the page next to the blue and orange one is another image of a cancer cell. This one is slightly different to the other as it is in two sections, joint together by what looks like stands. This one appealed to me as it offered lots of room for experiment when working with wool. The colours I would be using are again lovely and calming, with the main body having a mix of pastel yellow and orange, with blue lumps (similar to that last one) and the strands that are connecting each body would also be blue. Something else that is rather interesting about this cell is that from the main body, there are also excess parts of matter that seem to connect the cell to something else, another surface. It almost looks like rope that is pulling the cell apart, or just keeping in strained to the ‘ground’. I find this pretty interesting as like I said before there is a lot of room there for experiment with using my materials. This then allows me to bring in some of those questions that Amelia and Martyn asked me in my tutorial. The main one of these would be ‘where’. Where would I see this piece of work going? If I were to place this piece in an exhibition environment, there is potential there to experiment with placing and composition, for example if this were to be on a plinth, I could have the strands that connect the main body to another surface coming away from the plinth and then travelling down the side of it too. However if this piece were to be elsewhere, for example if it were able to be picked up and moved and played around with, these parts would be loose and therefore dangling about, this could have two effects, 1) It would make the piece more interactive and the viewer would be getting a very personal experience with it as they are able to get up close and personal with it. 2) It could be rather inconvenient having loose bits that are floating around, there is potential for the cell to be ruined. This is all just brain for that I am slowly eating away at, maybe I am yet again getting a little too ahead of myself, and maybe I should actually get making and see if any of these things are possible.
In between those two weeks of waiting for feedback I was still on my merry way of making.
In the brief feedback given by the tutors immediately after the presentation, they mentioned to me about my stitch work that I should consider moving away from that, as it isn’t really communicating in the way that I seem to want my work too, and they referred to it as a ‘warm up’. After giving it some thought I began to understand where they were coming from, and that it was almost like a test for me to be able to get a feel of the colours and materials I should really be working with. Martyn also mentioned that my work is a little too ‘medical’ and that I should bring it back to the human in order to provoke those emotions I am looking to bring out in people.
Something that I hadn’t actually done yet and that I was keen to do was some more research into the subject matters I am dealing with. I felt rather ignorant deciding to focus all of my work on these tricky subject matters without having a good and broad enough knowledge of what I was actually talking about. So I decided to get to grips a little more with the ins and outs of cancer. This included researching into how it is formed, what are the causes of cancer and most importantly how it affects the body inside. ‘Cancer’ is given to a group of related diseases and they can start almost anywhere in the body. When normal cells become old, damaged or abnormal and they survive when they are supposed to die, new cells form. These cells can then begin to divide and separate without stopping and then growths begin to form which are called tumours. Many kinds of cancers begin to form solid tumours which are masses of tissue. However on the other hand, cancers of the blood, for example leukaemia, don’t usually form solid tumours. Cancer cells are able to ignore the signals from the brain which tell the cells to stop dividing. Cancer is a genetic disease that is caused by changes due to the genes that control the ways in which our cells function, especially how they grow and divide. Genetic changes that cause cancer can be inherited from our parents, they can also arise during a person’s lifetime as a result of errors that occur as cells divide or become damaged DNA caused by certain environmental exposures. These exposures include substances such as the chemicals in tobacco smoke, radiation such as ultraviolet light from the sun and over use of tanning machines.
There’s a lot more that goes into the making of a cancerous tumour, and if you would like to see what else I’ve written about this in more detail then I have a few pages of research in my sketchbook for you to look over. Now I have done some research into what I am dealing with, I now how to decide how I am going to use it. What do I want to do with it? Where do I see myself taking this information and making it into something else? What do I want my tone of voice to be? One thing I have to remember and bare in mind from my feedback tutorials is that I need to ‘humanize’ my work, bring it back to the person and try not to create so many analytical anatomical illustrations, as these aren’t emotionally stimulating and I wont be able to provoke the reaction from my audience that I have been hoping to get so far. After some more thinking and researching, I began to get a closer look at what it is exactly that I’m working with here, I began to look at images of these cancer cells under the microscope. By doing this I began to focus on the shapes, textures and patterns that come with these cells, these microscopic shapes and patterns that, without actually knowing what it could be, are rather intriguing. Something that I have been thinking about doing recently is talking to Chris Glynn and seeing if there is a way of getting me into the hospital and actually having the opportunity to look under and look closer at these cells under the microscope. This is currently in the making. Here are some of the cells and pages from my sketchbook that help visualise what I have been working on:
I then began to explore a little further away from focussing on Cancer cells, and see what other deadly diseases looked pretty funky under the microscope. I researched into the top 10 deadliest diseases that can affect humans. These included :
- Coronary Heart disease
- A Stroke
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Lower Respiratory Infections
- Trachea, Bronchitis and lung cancers
- Diarrhoeal Diseases
- Diabetes Mellifluous
- Pre-term birth complications
- Tuberculosis (TB)
All of these different diseases have different appearances under the microscope, all equally beautiful. It was a great way to begin to understand how these kind of things actually grow within the body, attach themselves to us and actually begin to focus on the shapes of the frighteningly dangerous diseases that we never actually get to see.
After spending some more time looking at the shapes and realising that I was liking what I was seeing, I decided it was time to bring back into my work the colours, the materials and the context.Throughout my tutorials and presentations, I spoke rather highly of wanting to incorporate knitting into my work, so that will be my next steps.