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My constellation choice for level 5 was Jon’s ‘Learning from contemporary art’ group. This was my primary choice as contemporary art is a broad topic which I thought would have interesting and relevant topics for my practice. The questions brought up in these lectures were,
What does it mean to be contemporary?
What does the world look like?
Who is the other?
What are my responsibilities to the wider world?
What about pleasure?
These topics and questions are important to consider within any type of art I’m practicing, therefore I’m confident this choice would have been most beneficial to me. I found the lecture discussing otherness in contemporary art interesting, as otherness was a concept I had not looked into in-depth before. Zuleyka Zevallos’ definition of otherness broke down social identities, for example gender identity, cultural identity and class, into the umbrella of otherness. In my opinion, validation and recognition of social identity and otherness are key as a way of progressing as a society, and is not only important in contemporary art, but the present day in general.

My dissertation topics have changed multiple times, as I have developed ideas as part of my practice, however the themes of comic and sequential art have remained fairly constant. My final dissertation topic currently reflects my curiosity with narrative and comics. As I began researching ideas and comics for my dissertation, I came across freudian dream symbolism, which I found to link with my current ideas with dreams and surrealism, even though I disagree with many of the claims. Freud’s ideas on the unconscious mind are intriguing to me,  as my artwork is currently a reflection of how I interpret my dreams and thoughts to understand myself better. Whilst I disagree with some ideas, the notion that some thoughts are inaccessible and ‘below the surface of awareness’ rings true to me, and I feel artwork is a medium to access these thoughts.

Another idea I have since taken interest in is sequential art. Whilst looking at horror and pulp art during level 4 and 5, I had briefly looked into manga and comics, as these were also interests of my friends, which I was keen to look further into. I became interested in the ways in which narrative can be presented in comics and animation. I began reading Will Eisner books, such as Comics and Sequential Art, and Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative which explain the methods in comic book writing. Whilst I don’t intend to start writing whole comic books, I have also been looking at comic strips, such as Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes and Dick Tracy. I’m now able to think more critically about other artists I have been looking at in subject, such as Raymond Pettibon, and the research I have done on visual language has carved a path for my future work. I may not directly create artwork in the form of a traditional comic strip, but the combination of text and images are something I will consider in my future work. Furthermore, the seemingly endless possibilities of communication through ‘sequential art’ are something I am currently aiming to explore in my studio practice, as well as my dissertation. For this reason, I have chosen to write a 6000 word dissertation accompanied by an artefact, which will be my own piece of work I will analyse and compare alongside two or three comic book artists, and two artists. My dissertation will explore the ways in which narrative and communication are portrayed in sequential art, in modern and historical contexts. This is relevant to me, because I have enjoyed applying techniques from my research into my work, creating visual narratives.

I’m interested in looking at Art Spiegelman’s Maus, I had briefly read through this graphic novel whilst studying for my A-levels. Spiegelman uses techniques in sequential art which instils sympathy into the reader, for example, the Jews in the novel were represented by mice, and the Germans as cats. This illustrates a deeper sense of vulnerability, comparing Jews to mice, not only to reinforce the ‘vermin’ stereotype, but to show their powerlessness.  Alongside this I have been looking at the Black Panther comics created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The juxtaposition of powerlessness in Maus and the representations of black power and resistance, against enemies and the KKK.

I was suggested Olivia Plender’s work by Jon in a tutorial, and have since taken interest as I enjoy the presentation and stylistic choices of her work. Her piece, The Masterpiece particularly interested me whilst reading a summary on the Saatchi website, as the work had been described as a ‘by-product of artistic process and not actual artworks’, which I felt related to the way I work. In reflection, much of the work I produce, I invalidate as it never feels like a full piece of artwork, however this should not matter, perhaps matter even less as I’m currently using art as a way of learning about myself. Looking into this side of sequential art, I am less inclined to feel like my artwork should ‘impress’. I feel this idea of the work being a by-product, focusing on the artistic process is appealing to me, and because of this, I have been considering this in my own work. I have been creating drawings which come together and relate with one idea each set. Thinking about my artistic process and how I’ve been applying myself to each piece, has allowed me to create work efficiently and successfully, whilst improving my drawing techniques. I am much less inclined to give up on a piece simply because I’m unhappy with it, so I am welcoming failure, as a means to learn from my mistakes.

Overall, whilst researching for my dissertation, I have found interesting links between different theories, such as dream symbolism and surrealism, visual language, gestalt and sequential art. This has helped me better understand the work I’m looking at currently in subject, and given me inspiration for my own work.

Degree show proposal

For the exhibition, I am currently aiming to create a series of small mixed media drawings, and paintings which represent my emotions and reflections whilst studying on this course. These will likely be on paper, as I am working on now, and mounted as is. As of now, I intend for these to be presented on a blank wall and do not require any specific lighting, as long as it isn’t a dark space. Currently I have no special requirements and do not require technical equipment, as everything can be hung easily on the wall.

Updated artist statement

Looking back at the statement I had written for myself in the workshop, I had decided to expand on what I had already written to explain my intention and artistic direction in further detail.
For next term, I intend to make this statement appear more final and professional.

As I attempt to uncover and decipher my thoughts, I create work as both a coping mechanism, and a tool to understand myself better. Using a mixture of found archive footage, collage, painting and drawing, I piece together my thoughts, dreams and interests in a way which reflects my constantly changing mood and frame of mind. Themes I have been incorporating into my work are popular culture, manga and horror, which reflect my interests at the time. Previously, I have focused on painting and drawing, but I am beginning to explore film and digital art. Digital can be considered a form of presentation and publication of popular culture, therefore I take great inspiration from this in my work.

Expansion of previous drawing (in progress)

Taking heavy inspiration from the portrait of my housemate, along with my interest in dreams, I created a large collage and drawing, inspired by a recurring dream of hers she had as a child. In this dream, she would be stood in a field of flowers, and would pick just one daisy, which would trigger the whole world to explode. The subject is asleep in the drawing, representing her dreaming state. The flowers collaged behind her were printed in negative to signify the confusing and ‘off’ feeling of having a dream. The one daisy towards the bottom right was printed in colour to stand for the single daisy in her dream which would trigger the explosion. What interested me specifically about this dream was the potential of what it could mean for her unconscious, and her regular waking life. The idea of her picking just one flower, a relatively harmless act, could trigger the end of the world is frightening, and could represent her fear.

I intend to add more flowers at the bottom to create more dimension and better close off the edges of the piece. I am also very interested in expanding the piece by adding more flowers, with imagery representing the destruction and act of the explosion.48366644_2011740345586804_4639259970460712960_n

Olivia Plender

I started looking at the work of Olivia Plender after a dissertation tutorial with Jon, after discussing my interest in comics and sequential narrative.
Plender uses videos, performance, architectural installations and comics to explore social movements. What struck me in particular was her use of comics and drawing, to piece together narratives. In an interview with The Guardian, she describes drawing as a ‘necessary part of the process’ for her, despite her work usually ending up in performances and installations. Her comparison of comics to film, and ‘cinematic visual language’ is an idea I had been researching for my dissertation, and one of my key points, as I delve into the visual language of comics. She says,

“One of my first influences was the work of Öyvind Fahlström, a Swedish artist who died in the early 1970s. He used comic book imagery, because he wanted to make artwork that everyone could understand. I am interested in this idea – most people do understand the imagery and the basic repertoire of signs and symbols used in comic books.”

I agree with this definition, although I cannot yet relate it to my work, it’s a way of thinking I have been exploring, and would therefore like to remember this for my future artwork.

The combination and variety drawing styles is something I would like to note as a reminder to myself: everything does not have to look as “perfect” as I’d like.

Artes Mundi 8:

Stepping into the room in Cardiff museum, we were greeted with walls of colour and large artworks which filled the eye with ideas of what seemed to be a playground of artwork. This was Anna Boghiguian’s piece, A meteor fell from the sky.

This is a mixed media piece compiled of drawings, paintings, steel cutouts to explore the history behind steel harvesting, and its affect on communities up to the present day, to its production and connection to Port Talbot.

The collation of several images in different formats strengthens the notion of exploration in this large piece, with plenty of visual stimuli to keep the narrative engaging. The use of such vastly mixed media creates an atmosphere with a clear progression of a journey into the timeline of the steel industry. From this piece, I was inspired to expand the ways in which I use my work to record ideas. I should never limit myself to one medium, as another could hold more relevant weight to me.

This piece as a collation of small artworks is a style I have been interested in working in myself, and it was extremely helpful for me to see so much artwork presented this way. The differences in pieces show the broad thoughts and ideas which go into the compilation of the piece, which in turn gives me the same impressions as a large piece of writing including a vast array of source material.