This is my final outcome from my subject work. I chose to display a body of work including my 3 large oil paintings on canvas material, my sketchbook of watercolour landscapes, a range of zines with block prints and photographs taken on my travels. Although these pieces look very different at first, they all show landscapes.
My large oil paintings are designed to be outside, appearing small in their surroundings, much like how I intend the viewer to feel when looking at my paintings, whereas my zines and watercolours require more attention, showing that even smaller details contain whole worlds and landscapes of their own. Depending on our own experiences we see the prints differently. The text along with the images encourage the viewer to see the same landscape I see.
My work, as a whole has a purpose to evoke the same sense of wonder in the viewer that I experience while on my travels and to ignite the realisation that compared to our surroundings, we are minuscule and blend in, we are not above, nor do we have any higher importance than any other being or thing on this planet.
Over the field module ‘things behind the sun’, we visited three different places, these included; Pembrokeshire which was filled with beautiful landscape that I adored and which inspired by Subject module, Neath Valley which was full of nature and waterfalls and Port Talbot which had the most influence over my work within Field. The hard machinery and industrialisation contrasting to the natural lines of the beach, sea and rock formations inspired to look at human involvement in nature and the effects that has on landscapes. I began by monoprinting, basing textures of nature on my previous 100 images from Pembrokeshire. However, because I did not feel as though I could actually represent nature without using it itself, I began experimenting with using wood and the textures it naturally has. The more I worked with wood, the further I drifted from print and began experimenting with sculptural art work after being inspired by Betty Mcgeehan. I found this very interesting as I am a painter and haven’t worked as a sculptor before. Because of this, I was able to experiment in different ways and expand on this skill, which I wouldn’t have done if I had not been doing this module. I would like to continue to look into wood work as I develop my work as I find it a very interesting material to work with. On the wood that I had required, I started to experiment with how to create man-made textures to create contrast, such as sawing into the wood and burning it while focusing on my thoughts of industrialisation and deforestation, which I believe are key examples of humans influence over nature. The burning and wooden logs represent deforestation, where the sawed lines embody industrialisation. All of these marks contrast greatly to the natural marks and curves of the wood. Putting all of the wood together, along with the contrasting man-made textures I have placed into the wood using assorted tools, I believe that it represents deforestation as the wood takes the form of cut down trees. This lead me to build a tree out of cut up logs to represent how once we destroy nature, there is no bringing it back. I wanted to show the natural patterns within the wood, so sanded down the hard exterior to reveal the smooth natural marks from the wood. I then stacked the logs together creating the trunk of the tree. The fact that the logs don’t fit together only supports the idea behind the sculpture further, almost like a jigsaw puzzle of a forest landscape, highlighting the idea that the damage we cause to nature and landscapes is irreversible.
For my second field module, I visited Morocco over the course of a week. I had already been to Morocco a few months before this trip during Ramadan and I know quite a lot about the culture and religion of the people in Morocco, from the history of the medina and how tourism is a large aspect of their lives. Because my previous visit was during Ramadan, I already had an interest in the Muslim religion and the culture of Muslim people due to the strict rules within the Quran, my interest in this only increased with my second visit. I know that material is very important in Morocco, especially Pashmina and leather, however, I do not agree with the use of leather due to personal beliefs and wanted to avoid things like leather making and activities that involve the exploitation of animals such as camel riding. Due to being a fine artist who specialises in painting landscapes, I am particularly interested in nature and the nature within in Morocco particularly appealed to me. The small sections of tranquillity within the busy city were beautiful and were respected widely among the people. These small gardens as well as a trip up the Atlas mountains inspired me to look at nature within the Muslim culture in more detail and adapt it into my work. After my trip to Morocco I came away with a stronger appreciation for the Muslim religion. I think this is due to seeing the amount of people going to the Mosques and respecting the environment even when not in the holy month of Ramadan. I paid particular interest in the Arabic language. This started with a visit to the synagogue where I was able to look through the old Hebrew books full of beautiful patterns. I am also fascinated with the idea that they read from right to left unlike in English. However, there is a very little Jewish community in Morocco, so I began paying more attention to the Arabic language rather than Hebrew. It is this that my project was based on, using the Quran as a key aspect to represent the religion. The Arabic language is made up of beautiful patterns, with dashes and dots used to express accents. Putting that with the Quran, which I find beautiful in itself, represents what I find Morocco to be, using stitch to represent the material aspect of Morocco. This is very different to my usual work but I feel that it accurately describes how I felt about Morocco. I chose white fabric for multiple reasons, as it symbolizes purity and peace – often worn when attending Friday prayers. It is also worn when performing sacred rites of pilgrimage and is what the Umayyads chose to wear for their battle standards when they fought the Abbassid during the Caliphate period, and it has appeared on many Islamic flags since
These field modules, although very different, link to each other as they both contain elements of landscape and nature, however they have very different approaches to work. Wood work and sculpting is a very heavy and bulkier task, whereas stitching is a very delicate technique, especially when it also includes the Arabic language which is already very intricate. However, it can be considered that since my focus within the woodwork is the original textures and patterns found in the trees, both projects focus on the intricate behaviours of both nature and beliefs.
I have learnt a lot from these modules, and how to approach things differently. Wood work and textiles are not my usual area of work and I learnt many new skills that I can adapt into my future studio practice, such as sculpting, which is a strong aspect of art work when looking at landscapes and natural surroundings, but also how to create small details in a medium other than paint, which can also be adapted into paintings onto multiple materials.
Both projects had some sort of influence on my subject work, (mainly ‘things behind the sun’), due to them both involving elements of being outside completely immersed in my surroundings. It was also where I originally began drawing and painting outdoors using the 100 small images, and what originally inspired me to base my subject work on my travel experiences. I feel like creating art work while experiencing the subject in question, gives a more accurate representation of the feelings and atmosphere. Whereas creating from memory or photos, gives a more literal representation, which was not what I was aiming for.
It was in these projects, that I began to realise my passion for nature. The piece of tranquillity and wilderness away from human civilisation, which is what both projects ended up being about, along with my subject work, where my main focus was to get the viewer to understand and feel the same sense of wonder and peacefulness I experience when surrounded by a natural landscape. However, my field projects took a more political meaning, looking at the effects humans have on the environment or looking into the Muslim belief system, where my subject work was more personal.
This is inspired by more than one trip I had been on. It began based on my visit to Snowdonia where I spent a night sleeping on a park bench and woke up to a beautiful sunset while surrounded by mountains. This was another key moment where I felt small when compared to the rest of the world and wanted to show this in a painting. However, shortly after this trip, I was on a plane to Luxembourg as the sun was setting and from my window I could see a whole range of colours, changing drastically from each direction. I wanted to try and portray the colour changes in this painting, where it goes from blue to pink to yellow very quickly. Again, at this point, I felt tiny compared to my surroundings and completely in awe at the sight in front of me. Using these two trips, I wanted to portray my emotions in one painting, so that when the viewer looks at it, they too feel tiny and in awe at the surroundings and the colours around them.
Using techniques picked up from creating my other paintings, such as wide brush strokes with full arm movements, and splashes of colour to represent the mismatch of memories rather than a photographic painting, I feel as though I have captured the emotion of being completely immersed in a sky of colour, similar to the feelings I had over the course of these trips, sharing with the viewer what it feels like to be spatially aware of the surroundings and the small space we occupy in this world.
I have painted this purely based on memory with no photo reference, because of this, I cannot be certain of the placement of mountains or where they meet the sky. (This, and I wasn’t wearing my glasses at the time). With this factor, and the feeling of the sky washing over me, I feel that having the colours within the painting blur in together diagonally, is a more accurate presentation of my experience on this particular trip.
I was inspired after creating my zines, to continue looking at creating hints of landscapes rather than the landscape itself. I wanted to try using a different material, and decided on watercolour paints as it is possible for the paint to move and change without much influence from myself. It was also a way of using colour to portray diverse types of landscapes. My aim was to take this sketchbook on my travels with me and paint while travelling, in attempt to accurately portray the emotions and movement of the landscape I am surrounded by. However, one of the consequences of painting while travelling iis that there are other outside factors influencing what is produced, such as wind, and weather conditions controlling the movement of the watercolours. However, I believe that this has had a more positive influence on what I am creating than negative, as it twists the original concept of what a landscape is. One of the things I like about using watercolour, is that it can dry fast while outside, and using a small-scale sketchbook minimises the issues I had while oil painting outside in the woods.
For my exhibition, I spoke to the manager of the café in Llandaff fields who agreed to me displaying my work in the outside eating area.
This was an ideal place for my exhibition as it was surrounded by trees and other wildlife, highlighting the fact that it was a landscape within a landscape. One thing I would change if I was to do another outside exhibition, would be to have my work displayed in an even more ‘open’ area as it was slightly closed off due to it being in an eating area.
I believe that it did everything I wanted it to achieve based on my inspiration from various landscape painters and the sculpter ‘Katherine Grosse’ who I discovered in the Venice Bienalle. As mentioned in my previous posts.
‘The intended outcome from this, is that the viewer, after seeing how small the large piece of work appeared in a large landscape, would then compare that to how small they are when compared to t
heir surroundings. Much like the figures in my paintings.’
In constellation for the second year, I have been studying post anthropocentric practices. Before this, I had no understanding of what post anthropomorphism was. It has taught me how to look at the world beyond a human perspective and take into consideration how the rest of the world would view a thing, an object or a situation. To then take this idea and apply it to my practice as a fine artist has been very useful for me. It has opened my eyes to existing factors that affect the way I work and the final outcome of the work I produce.
I have used all three constellation groups that I have studied over the past two years, for inspiration within my dissertation.
The first study group I attended was ‘Archaeologies of the unseen’, which began my interest in looking at what affects an artists work such as the tools they use, what material they have available to them, how the weather such as wind or rain affect a piece and even how social values have an influence. Pallasmaa (2009) believes that ‘tools reflect social values placed on work.’ This particularly got me interested in the influence and significance of tools within fine art as well as the whole of society.
The second group I was a part of was ‘Visual thinking’, which although didn’t directly influence my work or practice is did encourage me to look at images in more depth, concentrating more on symbolism within a singular object.
The final study group, which was the main inspiration for my dissertation was ‘Post anthropocentric practices’ which looked at the world from human and non-human perspectives. It also questioned the anthropology of language, with particular detail in the words ‘object’ and ‘thing’. The most significant part of this, for me, was highlighting how we are constantly viewing the world solely from a human perspective and that it is impossible for us to completely know the world objectively. This is related back to the practice of fine art in Pallasmaa’s book ‘The Thinking Hand’ where he points out that when we paint a tree, we are not solely painting a tree, but a tree-being-looked-at. I found this particularly interesting as a fine artist as it got me thinking about how limited I am when creating paintings. This influenced a series of paintings that I made within my subject work, where I painted impressionistic landscapes, not taken from a real place, where each of the viewers saw something different. This highlights how we, as humans, view things based on our own experiences and not objectively, suggesting that we can never fully understand the world, just our own anthropocentric view of it.
This constellation project introduced to me to the idea of different umwelts, which is spoken about in Jakob von Uexküll’s book called ‘A stroll through the worlds of animals and men.’ I found this very interesting as it made me think about the world in a way most people don’t think about, considering the view point of animals yet also objects and things. It allowed to me think outside of the usual method of thinking, attempting to view how an insect would see a blob of paint as a large liquid trap rather than a blob of paint, leading to me writing a short story about how the insect would think.
It also got me looking at other aspects that can affect my work such as tools, in more depth, which again influenced my practice. I began experimenting with how tools effect art work, creating a series of images of apples using different instruments such as a pallet knife, a pencil and a paintbrush and analysed how much of an impact the tool had on the overall image, this became the basis of my dissertation proposal. This again influenced by subject work as it encouraged me to think about what tools I use and how I use them. It also raised the question what a tool is and can the body be used as a tool. To experiment with how the body can be used as a tool first hand, I created a series of portraits using my feet as a tool rather than a paintbrush or a pallet knife, originally inspired by the artist Richard Long who used his hand to create art work rather than a conventional device.
Looking into Post anthropomorphism within this Constellation module has broadened my outlook of what effects an artist’s work beyond humans and the tools used but also the world including objects, things and other worldly phenomenon’s. It was highlighted to me that human actions are based from our own experiences within life, which, of course is unavoidably anthropocentric due to the society we live in. Eduardo Kohn (2015), who wrote ‘How forests think’ said that because of this ‘application to an anthropology beyond the human is limited’
I began looking at the difference between humans and non-humans and why we place ourselves above other species when it comes to importance or significance within in the world. We destroy nature and entire species to suit our own needs and benefits, whether that’s by destroying a forest for buildings or for using the wood as a resource, or hunting animals for either food, material or just for fun. This is supported by Tonkinwise who states ‘It is not just a solitary tree that gets destroyed to become a table, but a home to birds and mammals, to insects and fungi and other plant species.’(Tonkinwise, cited in Design and future making, 2014 p. 201)
This topic has also made me aware of the type of language we use as humans, clearly specifying us as separate from the rest of the world. This is particularly evident when we call air ‘empty space’, which, according to Hippocrates, ‘There is nothing empty of air’ and that ‘The greatest need for a body is wind’. (Hippocrates, 1923). I began researching into why this is, and came across the German Philosopher, Schopenhauer, who believes that we’re not above animals, but in fact below, as we have a ‘defect’ that allows us to question life and worry. This hasn’t had a direct impact on my art work, but has impacted the way I think about life in general, which clearly has a butterfly effect on the work I produce. It also got me thinking about how we specify tools, viewing ourselves as separate entities, rather than believing that the tool becomes a part of us as Pallasmaa (2009) believes.
This has made me look at other factors influencing my work and how I can reduce the anthropomorphic influence on my work, however, the more research I do into post anthropology, the more I begin to question whether or not it is possible to create a piece of work that is completely beyond human despite Edurado Kohns theory that the entire world is one large phenomenon and that we are the world, therefore all the work we produce has to be post anthropocentric. After all these thoughts and theories, I have chosen to write my dissertation based on the question, ‘What control do artists have in art from a post anthropocentric viewpoint?’