Viva Reflections and Feedback


Today I got my feedback for my viva mock presentation. I got told that I did really well so that has boosted my confidence. I tried to make the presentation interactive as this is what I am aiming to do with my work. I also want my work to appeal to the senses so I gave the tutors objects (a rock each) to hold while I was talking about them, which made it easier to communicate my ideas and allowed the tactile nature of the object to hopefully keep them engaged in my talk, which from my feedback today I have learnt seemed to work as I had hoped.

In the viva my ideas and research was well received and the discussion at the end allowed me focus my thoughts on what to develop in the final few months. It was decided that the book idea didn’t work as I had replicated a rock to create the cover and back. This was for the logistics of making the book however I missed the bigger picture, that by replicating the rock I lost the curiosity surrounding it as the marks were now made by me and not the sea creatures, however I enjoyed the process of replicating in clay as it allowed me to take a closer look at the object and in a way follow the path of the worm. An interesting conversation emerged in my viva about replicas and their place within museums. This is something that I have been thinking about since the viva. Although I am steering away from my previous idea of creating a cave structure and replicating rocks in clay for my degree show work, I still have an interest in the latter in particular, Henry Moore’s Wunderkammer juxtaposed his sculptures heavily inspired by natural objects next to the real objects themselves and I loved this effect as you could instantly see how they informed each other, although slightly differently Moore didn’t replicate but took inspiration from and maybe this is the key.

After having a few days away to reflect on the viva and seeing one of my favourite artist’s talk in Falmouth, I now feel refreshed and inspired to take the project forward. Next week I will have a space in order to create my latest installation idea however for this week I am preparing for this in making sure I have materials I need and measuring up the space. I have also decided to create more paintings, I have been meaning to do this for a while and as I have this week free to do this, I want to get back to painting. The paintings I have done so far have received good feedback and I am happy that they achieve my aim of taking the viewer into the worm’s world, therefore I thought I’d create a few more and delve even deeper into the world of the worm.

Although previously I have had many ideas about ways I can include the paintings in some way for the degree show, maybe not the physical originals, but in print in a book etc however in my viva we also discussed the paintings and how they as originals are more powerful than when they are replicated and reduced to be put in a book. I definitely agree with this as when I have printed off images of my paintings on a smaller scale, they lose a lot including their texture and detail. Therefore I was advised to not include images of my paintings in my book but instead make the book a separate creation, thinking more about the structure. I think I need to take a look back at my tutorial with Tom Martin a few weeks ago as he brought up some very interesting ideas about ways to push the idea of a book so that it becomes a sculpture in itself, where the form of the book reflects the narrative of my story ie: the worm travelling through the network inside the rock. How can this be portrayed? Cut out sections and thread to weave though it? Also what about creating a rock structure from the paper and having the thread going through?

Sound became a subject of major discussion in my viva. I introduced this as a way I am currently thinking to create atmosphere and add to the multi-sensory aspect of my work. I also love the idea of portraying the presence of the worm through sound, as I have steered clear of drawing the character throughout the project, this could be an effective and subtle way of enhancing the narrative.  It was also suggested that sound can go beyond creating atmosphere and create music. I’m unsure about this but if I was to invite people to make sounds with the rocks this would make the piece more interactive and the collected sounds could form a symphony of sounds that could be made into something… as the project continues….

My favourite moment of my viva was when it was jokingly suggested that I should.. BECOME THE WORM! Maybe I’ll dress up as a worm for my real viva! We’ll see… but thinking in a more serious way, in many ways I am already becoming the worm as I think how it would travel through the passages in the rock, what it would see, feel and hear to translate these sensory qualities into my work.

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Cornelia Parker talk – Falmouth 25/2/15

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Cornelia Parker – FSA Professional Lecture – 25/2/15

Since discovering Cornelia Parker’s work a few years ago, I have become increasingly hooked and she has become one of my favourite artists. My work has become heavily inspired by her thought processes and her chosen aesthetic particularly her suspension pieces. I looked at her piece ‘Edge of England’ in my dissertation and I have been waiting for the opportunity to hear her speak about her work and when my friend told me about this talk I decided I must go!

Parker’s talk focused on her major solo exhibition which reopened the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester earlier this month. Click on this link to see information about the exhibition on the Whitworth Gallery website:

Parker took us through the exhibition which contains some of her most famous works and new works. To begin she talked about the drawing wall where drawings from throughout her career are displayed. Some being the ‘Red Hot Poker Drawings’ These are interesting to me as she is challenging what a drawing is. She is using an object to create the drawings and I find this idea of the trace left behind by the object extremely interesting. ‘Traces’ is a theme forming throughout my practice.

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I enjoyed hearing her talk about her interest in the small details such as cracks in a wall. Just like the borings in the rocks collected they are a sign of the objects past.  She notices these small details and makes them into her work. The cracks resemble in her words ‘abstract expressionist paintings’ and I like this effect, how one can question the original source of these paintings as they become abstracts and are non identifiable as a known object.

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She expressed how she enjoys playing with linguistic ideas. ‘Cloud Burst’ is named for effect, however as she revealed it is actually a bit of rust. She said how she is playing on the ‘Jerusalem syndrome’ where we look at stones and see the face of Jesus, it is abut seeing things in other things and this she prompts the viewer to do through her titling and use of language.

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Inhaling and exhaling has become in her words ‘quite a motif’ in her work. many of her pieces show her metaphorically killing an object and rebirthing it in another way. For example with one piece she dissolved a gun in acid so that it is a pile of rust and therefore precipitates the gun.

One of her new works that takes up a whole room in the Whitworth is ‘War Room’ which is a giant tent made out of poppy negatives from the poppy factory in Richmond. Each is an empty ‘poppy void’ that I feel really expresses the loss of life in war.

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She talked about her suspension works which is what I was hoping for. They make you feel disorientated which she expressed is a bit like vertigo. She said that in her work she is making something that’s in her peripheral vision in the mind into something more tangible. This is an example of her fears coming out within her work and her in a way trying to controlling her fear. For example the cliff fall that inspired her piece ‘Edge of England’. There is a fear surrounding nature because of it’s unpredictability and in this piece she suspends the fallen pieces of chalk as a means to try to control it.

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The ‘gun’ and ‘bullets’ has become an object that she has involved in many works. She has used bullets but used the bullet to create drawings therefore exploring the object and the anti object. The theme of positives and negatives is present throughout her practice also where she has used shavings from engravings. She often challenges what the object is and used the waste from the making process to form her piece and in a way she makes this become the object.

Finally Parker talked about the opening night of the exhibition. For this an event took place which all started from a tiny substance called graphine –  small part of graphite. Apparently graphine could be the answer to the future of energy. Parker worked with a scientist and challenged him to create this substance from a Turner or a Constable. To do this, he took flakes of graphite from these paintings. the next challenge was how would it be made visual as this substance is so tiny. He expressed that even a breath would cause a chemical reaction that he could harness to create a spark. their aim was to create this on a massive scale for the opening night. Parker harnessed the curiosity of this event and had a sign made that expressed that a meteor had fallen on the site. Meteors and space is another theme that I notice through some of her work especially the suspension pieces which create the aesthetic of floatation as if they are meteorites floating in space.

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After much anticipation and therefore a lot of pressure, the opening went of with a bang. Literally! See pic below:

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Parker was asked at the end how she creates work and the thought process behind it. She expressed how her work relies hugely on her intuitions. Another theme in her work is Archeology, the uncovering of something and the intuition that once you have found a bit of something, you know where to dig further. In her words “You have a hunch that something is there and you dig more”. This was the case with the poppies. She has been working with negative space for so long that she went by her intuition. She knew that where there were poppies in the store (paper ones made to be worn in remembrance) there must be a negative of this from the production process.

She was also asked does she ever stop thinking about creating her work and she said no as her work acts as a catalyst and is a way of looking at the world. She said to her art and creating work is a way of life therefore the thinking never stops.





Perspectives ITV – Rene Magritte – The Man in the Hat

I was lucky enough to come across this program on Rene Magritte last night. After touching upon surrealism and looking at this artist in my dissertation, I want to push the surrealist elements of my work. Magritte-The-Man-In-The-Hat-Cover Magritte-The-Man-In-The-Hat-Screen3

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To watch again:

“I want to breathe new life into the way we look at the ordinary things around us.” Rene Magritte

PDP 2015

PDP 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.

Geological Time Spiral

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The time spiral – The spiral represents the evolving Earth over 4,500 million years. The rocks of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site cover the whole of the Mesozoic Era – the whole of the reptiles, dinosaurs and mammals. Illustration by David Scammel. (Taken from the book The Jurassic Coast: An Aerial View through time, Coastal Publishing, 2011)


I have been looking into the geological history of the earth to learn more about the way that geologists have plotted the earth’s history. Rocks are a great mystery to many because of their continued existence, far beyond our own.

Geological history has been plotted by geologists as a way of interpreting and understanding the world’s roots. It is expressed in a four tiered system called the geologic time scale (GTS). This contains eon’s which are made of era’s that are broken down into period’s, that are then sub-divided into epoch’s. Each sub-division enables a more in depth look at the geological history of that period. The illustration shows a simpler version of this with just the Era’s and Periods.

Dating Rocks:

Leonardo Da Vinchi was one of the first to spot curious clues that indicated the date of rocks. In one of his many notebooks he questioned: Why do we find the bones of great fishes and oysters and corals and various other shells and sea-snail on the high summits of mountains by the sea, just as we find them in low seas? The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci, Vol II (Jean Paul Richter, ed.), Dover Publications, Inc.: New York, 1975, p. 217 taken from

Leonardo seemed to grasp what became known as the ‘law of superposition’.

Other ways to date rocks:

  • faunal succession – looking at the fossil content
  • ‘radiocarbon dating’ which was invented in 1960. This examines a chemical process of the nuclear decay of radioactive isotopes in the rock. This process is able to give an absolute dating of rocks.

It was interesting to research into the science of geology. The GTS is something I was aware of but never fully took the time to grasp however now I feel that I know more about the make up of rocks. Although some of the mystery is taken away with this knowledge, the initial mystery followed by knowledge is a process that I enjoy. I am drawn to an object because I do not know much about it and then I want to find out more.

The image above is from a book about the Jurassic Coast. This is an area on the south coast of Britain that stretches from East Devon(Exmouth) to Dorset(Swanage). The area has been given the status of a World Heritage Site because of its unique and varied geology. The coastline rapidly changes as you walk along it as this small area covers a whole geological era. The era when dinosaurs and the first mammals roamed, hence the name ‘Jurassic’ coast. Records of this past life is recorded in fossils, which are a common find in this area. It is the combination of all of these facts that makes this area so interesting to me, it is somewhere that I never get bored of visiting. I am recording rock textures for my installation and this is an area that I will no doubt visit again soon to carry on my collection.

Geology and Art

When researching about how geology and art have collaborated over time I came across this blog: . Geologist Andrea Baucon explores how art and geology cross over which was very useful in helping research this for my dissertation but is also interesting for my practice to gain inspiration.

Continuing writing my dissertation aided by a very helpful cat!