So, it has been a while! And I’m not entirely sure why! I suppose life has been pretty busy. Returning to the studio and the course after Christmas means facing up to assessment. To be honest, I enjoyed the process- despite the stresses. No matter how prepared I am, I will always be stressed and I will always feel like I haven’t done enough; I think the reason for this is that as an artist our work is never finished!! There is always the next thing. And so in a way the assessment is very similar to an exhibition- a pause, a declaration of where I am at this precise moment in time.
This module was about finding our position as a practitioner, and I think this was a very valuable process to go through. I found preparing for the Viva particularly valuable. In order to communicate my position and my practise in 12-15 mins I had to really know my practise; really be connected to the core. Having to sit down and ask myself some serious questions meant that I was able to step back from what had been produced over the semester, and I was able to strip back my practise to know exactly what it is that drives my thinking conceptually. To be able to do this is a valuable practise because it means that you are able to not only reassess what it is that drives you, but also what are the weak points. What have I missed / overlooked. Where are the contradictions in my practise.
Having to sum up my practise, I realised that there are 3 main elements that are important to me.
- The corporeal body.
- The liminal body.
- The abject body.
I see the body as something that never remains still or unchanged. It is continuously changing and is therefore visually temporary. I am intrigued by the ageing process, the regeneration of cells and the decomposing and unravelling of the body. I am intrigued by the human nature to deny the functions of the body. The notion of what is appropriate or inappropriate to expose publicly. I find the anxiety associated with these notions fascinating.
I think this image seems to communicate the elements discussed above but also illustrates how by using my own body, issues surrounding the female body and feminist theory begin to take their place within my practise. I suppose through explorations of the margins of my body, I am trying to understand what taboos are present within our seemingly open-minded society.
I realise that I talk about the body when discussing my practise, yet the body is often absent in my work. I have given the absence of the body consideration throughout the semester; I feel that by creating a space for the body allows the viewer to fill the space with their own experience or thoughts. By using materials such as hair in my work I hope that the universal familiarity of the material means that the viewer is able to connect to their own body through the work. I am aware that we have evolved into intellectual beings and I feel that the presence of digital interaction within our contemporary landscape has meant that we are becoming detached from physical experience.
During the exhibition at The Bargehouse at the beginning of the semester, through the work Hand Stitched I learnt the potential power for works of this nature to bridge the gap between artwork and viewer. I enjoyed watching the physical reaction as the viewer became hyperaware of their own body. They seemed to have some sort of perceived physical experience. I realised it was this reaction I wanted to provoke through my work.
This experience that I witnessed in people’s reactions seemed so powerful to me that I have begun to research to better understand and therefore better articulate this experience. I have only just begun researching, but what I have read so far has fascinated me. I read an essay in Carnal Aesthetics about the research in the field of neuroaesthetics and the role of Mirror Neurons in simulation Theory. It claimed that witnessing certain actions triggered these mirror neutrons in the same way as if the viewer was carrying the actions out themselves. This brought to mind the reaction I witnessed with my work. I realised that I was seeking a connection between both artwork and viewer, and mind and body through the empathic experience of embodied simulation.
Looking at the work of Tabitha Kyoto Moses and Poppy Jackson also taught me how the directness of material was the key factor in my work. Looking at Kyoto Moses’ work I felt frustrated. She used materials to imitate the look of skin in her embroideries which explore the emotional experience of skin conditions such as Eczema; I couldn’t help but wonder if the work would have had more of an impact had she incorporated skin into the work. With Poppy Jackson’s work I felt the immediate directness of the material amplified the work. i felt much more excited by it- I was in awe of her bravery. This lead me to challenge the gouache works I had been working on. I realised that it was not only the boundaries of the viewer I was challenging but also my own.
Whilst I say the directness of materials is important to me I realise that this is where there is some contradiction within my work and also the works I am interested in. This work by Kiki Smith seems to satisfy the 3 elements I discussed at the beginning , but it is made of wax. I think maybe it is because of the visceral qualities. Also, I recognise that maybe this would not be possible to react in real life in a public space- or it would be very difficult. I recognise that it I were to say to myself that I can only use materials directly of the body that this would put limitations on the way of where I could show my work. I suppose there are times / works where the literal use of materials is not always necessary. Maybe it also puts a barrier between the work and the viewer.
I have realised through reflection over this past semester and thought this assessment that there are issues that have been raised through my exploration which, when addressing them, will drive my work forward into the next module. These were discussed in my feedback with André Stitt- course leader. I was thrilled to be awarded a distinction at this early stage of the course, but this now makes me feel driven to be ambitious with my research- I want to keep pushing and challenging myself.
Moving forward I realise that I need to research more in depth on feminist theory- and then develop specifics in relation to my own practise. I need to continue to research artists such as Poppy Jackson to really understand and interrogate the position of the practise of contemporary females today. Andre suggested contacting Jackson to generate a dialogue which will benefit this research. I don’t know why but I have never considered this direct communication with an artist I am inspired by- but it totally makes sense. I would much prefer hearing direct from the artist opposed to reading secondary commentary on the artist. I also need to really give consideration to the materials I use, and how they contribute to the work.
I am feeling excited, energised, (and proud) moving into this next module- ‘Exploration’. Time is passing so fast that I really want to embrace all that this opportunity provides. I need to try to let go of my inhibitions and be as brave as the artists I admire!