Assignment 1 – Reflections

Family circumstances have made it difficult to have regular time for course work. I was keen not to lose momentum with the time that I had and decided on an approach of focusing on particular themes and artists that, for different reasons, have appealed to me. Whether this was the best approach I’m not sure but I felt I needed a way forward that would keep me motivated.

I have spent a lot of time over the past few years helping to look after elderly relations and, with deaths in the family, there have been houses to be cleared and all the accompanying emotions that go with that process. I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the things that we accumulate over the years, the objects we hold on to, what they have meant to us and may mean to future generations. So, these ideas were in my head when I started doing research for the course.

Research Topics

  • IconsResearch into icons has shown me the significance of the process when creating an icon and the elements that bring a sense of spirituality to the finished painting. Everything from choosing the subject, creating the composition, the colours and each stage of painting is designed to infuse the painting with the sense that it is a mirror of heaven, a means of communication within something larger than ourselves.
  • Medieval Figures – I was particularly interested in reading about the ways in which figures in the Medieval period were given a sense of identity. Due to decrees by the church, images and sculptures were created to standard formats and there was a move away from the more realistic depictions of the classical period. Instead artists identified figures through the use of attributes, objects and inscriptions. Despite the lack of realism artists managed to find ways to convey a wide range of emotions and, somehow, the individuality of figures.
  • Amedeo Modigliani – I remember looking at a wooden sculpture of the Virgin in the Burrell Collection in Glasgow and thinking that, with its elongated figure and pared down features, it reminded me of Modigliani’s paintings. While researching his work I have discovered that he studied, and was influenced by, the works of the Florentine, Venetian and Sienese schools of painting. The Sienese school was influenced by Gothic Art including work from Byzantium. Like these earlier traditions, Modigliani manages to create a sense of the individual he portrays despite, or perhaps because of, the distortion of the figure and minimising of facial features.
  • Gwen John – What appeals to me about Gwen John’s work is her ability to portray  an almost religious quality of contemplation, and this applies whether her subject is an individual or an empty room. Research has shown that her later work was more directly religious after her conversion to Catholicism, and part of a wider trend at the time of a new approach to religious art. However, earlier works show the same contemplative quality and perhaps it was her focus on the significance of a quiet, disciplined interior life, as much as any religious leaning, that creates the calm stillness within her work.
  • Exhibitions – Mark Ryden – A visit to a retrospective of Mark Ryden’s work threw up more connections with ideas of the self and reminded me of the medieval idea of assigning attributes or objects to more standard portrayals of an individual . One of the exhibits, Self-Portrait as a Dodecahedron got me thinking about how we portray ourselves. It doesn’t need to be a self-portrait as such. If you had to choose objects to represent your inner self, who you think you are, what would they be? Would other people think they were an accurate representation?

As well as considering some of the themes in this research there are a number of other areas to think about as I move onto the second unit of the course.

Research – I found that I spent a lot of time on research and hadn’t taken into account how long the practical exercises would take when I got to that stage. Somehow, I need to find a way to balance this out.

Research Points – I have notes and research on a number of the Research Points suggested in the unit including Turner and Dubuffet which I will write up for the blog.

Creative Practice – I have been working on an approach of doing research and then extracting elements of the research into a Project Book which also includes notes on exhibitions and annotations of artwork. My idea was that this would allow me to focus on elements of particular interest that would then inform Sketchbook work. In practice, I’ve found myself a bit swamped and there seems to be a lot of duplication in this approach. I think it possibly can work with a bit of streamlining but right now I think I need to be working smarter.

Sketchbooks – Time has been limited for sketchbook work so I need to find the time to really make this work.

Practical Exercises – I don’t feel that I have done the exercises justice, particularly in terms of working with pigments and the related processes. On a positive note I have had a chance to explore traditional techniques in relation to the application of paint. Again, as noted above, it is case of getting that balance between theoretical work and the time to put it into practice. There are some ideas, based on research, that I would like to experiment with further.

  • Creating paints from dry pigments
  • Looser working
  • Experimenting with a limited palette/tonal range
  • Reducing detail
  • Mixed media
  • Experimenting with oil paint.

Related Pages

Assignment 1 – Practical Exercises –