PDP 2015Posted: February 1, 2015
Research for my dissertation stemmed from my interest in using found natural objects in my work. I began by reading about Land Artist’s who work within the land and bring objects into the gallery from the landscape and then researched theories around museum display. I looked at the ways that stories can be told though objects, the effects that titling can have on the object and theories about the way that we see objects.
My working title was ‘How have artists transformed overlooked natural objects? I found the question to be too broad and decided to narrow my interest to the subject I am exploring in my work namely, geology. I changed my title many times throughout the writing process. I realised that I was trying to fit in too many ideas from my research however through a process of restructuring and review of the essay I found that it was my original question that worked well in the end.
If I was to undertake the process again I would make sure I had a clear idea of the specific area I wanted to look into before deciding what to read. I found that I read too widely and when it came to condensing the ideas into a cohesive piece, I struggled with what to include and not include. In retrospect I believe I should have thought more about the structure of the essay and the argument to be presented before starting writing it. I experienced further difficulty by deciding to add another strand to my research during the first term of this year, about how geological objects are transformed through drawing and within this I began to look at how artists have aided scientists to communicate their findings. However I found that when it came to bringing these strands together I couldn’t make them work as one piece and be able to go into enough depth. It felt like I was trying to combine two separate dissertations. Therefore I decided to cut the majority of this out allowing me to focus and expand on my original question.
I decided to structure my essay around four transformation processes. The idea to do this came from looking at Freud and realising the similarities between his theory about how dreams are created and some of the artworks I was talking about. I selected a few pieces of work because they seem to demonstrate many of the transformations that I talked about. This limited selection allowed greater depth in analysing these pieces in relation to the theories. However, the structuring of the essay to present each discrete transformative process in isolation proved problematical. I found that the processes had a fair amount of crossover therefore I was finding that I was being repetitive in each of the different sections. If I had realised this earlier I would have talked about the transformation processes as a whole and then related this to case studies. I found the continuous reading and editing towards the end of the process quite difficult as it was making me blind to the words and their meaning as well as repetitiveness within the essay.
This dissertation developed in a way that I couldn’t have anticipated. I started with a large area of interest and it has been narrowed down, expanded and narrowed again. The avenue I chose has allowed me to explore conceptual ideas, the written articulation of which I have found a challenge.
How this research relates to my practice:
The research into the theory surrounding how we see objects and placement will help me make more informed decisions about my work. I am interested in the area of the ‘in-between’ where the real gets turned into the surreal i.e. how artists play on the obscurities of nature to create stories that challenge the line between fact and fiction. Whilst this concept has been difficult to articulate in an essay and has made the writing of this dissertation difficult it is easier for me to visualise how it may influence my work.
I am working on an installation using rocks I have collected which contain holes. These strange objects were a mystery to me at first, and this was part of my initial attraction to them. I have since researched how the holes were created which has spurred on the narrative of my project. This process of wonderment and then knowledge is something that I want to explore, when to let the viewer in and how much to reveal so that they to can experience the feeling of curiosity surrounding these objects. I have explored the relationship between wonder and knowledge in my dissertation, which has informed my work as I continue to think about Brechtian dramatic devices used to influence the emotional response of the viewer. Should people be let in on the factual information early on or be left to their interpretation and allow the reality to be slowly revealed?
In my essay, I have looked at the effect that ‘displacement’ has on an object, which is extremely relevant to my work as I decide on the best way to steer the narrative of my work. I do not want to prescribe the story to the viewer but give hints and create an aesthetic that promotes wonder. I am thinking of creating a suspension piece after analysing the effects of Cornelia Parker’s work. I now have more ideas on the way I may suspend the rocks to maximise the aesthetics of the piece.
Looking at the effects that displacement, selection and the artist’s composition particularly in relation to museums has informed my views on the discipline of curating. This research coincided with my role of curating the ‘In Gallery’ My research for this dissertation has made me aware of some of the decision making processes that curators face and allowed me to employ them myself.
My interest in surrealism was an unexpected outcome of my research, in particular, how some of the pieces I have talked about propel these objects and the viewer into a ‘strange’ parallel world that accentuates oddity. This is something that I want to explore further in my work. I am going to try to create a piece that uses the versatile nature of rocks to play on many of the senses simultaneously, through use of the visual, texture and sound.
Furthermore by analysing the transformative process of ‘association’, I have learnt how certain elements stay with an object for example, where they have come from. This adds to the story of the piece. The journey to find the rocks and discover new places where I might find them is a part of creating the work that I particularly enjoy. I like the idea of the itinerant illustrator.
I have always been interested in collecting rocks and learning about geology but by researching the particular qualities that rocks have, I have discovered things about them that I did not know and how useful they are as an artist’s material for example some rocks can change colour through reacting with other natural elements. This change is ephemeral reflects the changing state of nature. I would never paint onto a rock as this permanent change goes against my instinct. For me as with antiques, the patina of a rock is of enormous value as this tells so much of its story.
Through writing about this I have discovered a specific new interest, Iconology. This is the study of traces and is part of palaeontology, the study of fossils. I want to explore this further and reflect it in my work as the story itself is formed from the traces left in the rocks but also the story will be projected to the viewer as a series of traces, i.e. signs that hint a narrative but do not spell it out. I will continue researching in this area from the perspective of science i.e. ‘iconology’ and how these element’s can become an even larger part of my work.
Finally, I am going to continue researching into how drawing has aided geology. This will inform the paintings I have been creating, which to date have been based on observational drawing but with the atmosphere accentuated through the use of colour.