Research point 3.1

This research point requires me explore the work of other artists and make links between their work and my own which is something I am yet to start to do.  I understand the principles and ideas and through my art history studies have previously seen that many artists would copy or be influenced by the work of others and if necessary make the copied idea their own through their own interpretations – I personally look further back than Picasso who is mentioned in the course material as I have great personal interest in Artemisia Gentileschi of the Baroque period.  Artemisia is one of many artists who was greatly influenced and copied the techniques of Caravaggio who was a contemporary of her father, Orazio, and hence this copying of ideas goes back many centuries – without common grounds and similarities many artists would not have developed their own styles and hence I fully appreciate the point of this research.   I have always been wary of copying someone else’s ideas – it is drilled in to you at school that this was cheating when in reality another student’s work is merely influencing your own if you make it your own style through your personal interpretation.

The first artist the course material asks me to research is that of Polly Binns whose work I immediately liked – she lives on the Norfolk coast and I grew up in part on the Lincolnshire coast.

Polly Binns. Untitled. 1992. Black cotton with coloured thread in a smocking technique. 50 x 45 x 5 cm

The first piece I simply like because of the use of the coloured thread with the smocking – it adds a secondary element to the strong patterns created and draws the eye to look closer.

Polly Binns. Study 1. 1996. 27 x 28 cm. Collection of Pamela Johnson

The second piece for me immediately reminds me of the sand dunes and water channels of the coast line – it is pared down to the absolute minimal in terms of line and form the threads add texture reminiscent of the grasses on the dunes.

Polly Binns. Sand Surface and Shadows. Winter 1996. Artist canvas, acrylic paint, thread, surface treatments. 7 panels. 280 x 210 cm

The third piece I just love despite not being a fan of minimalism – the simplicity of the lines, colours and threads work together to create an image of a memory that needs no further explanation than the title of the piece.

Polly Binns. Serial Shimmers and Shades. 1996. Acrylic paint and thread on linen canvas. 185 x 125 cm. Collection of Nottingham Castle Museum.

This final image is probably my least liked pieces of the artist’s work although I do feel that if I saw it in person I would perhaps feel differently.  I like the shimmering nature of the piece and how the paint and threads work together to create an image reminiscent of the shore with the glistening sand and textures.

I really like this artist’s work – it is based very much on place and also personal experience as she takes a walk every day on the same stretch of shoreline before she starts any work at all.  The shore and the landscape is the inspiration for her pieces and she observes with all her senses as she walks – it seems that she literally absorbs herself in her surrounds taking in everything before she works with memories.

I am particularly intrigued by the fact she originally worked with clay before moving onto weaving as she explored the characteristics of cloth before moving onto artist’s canvas’s and the manipulation of cloth.

If I am to look at comparing Polly Binn’s work and my own I must consider the influence of place and experience because I am starting to realise how strongly these themes will affect my own work but also I am very much interested in weaving, although currently using a cardboard loom for small pieces, as it is teaching me about the differing qualities of a handmade cloth and how it can be used.  I also love fabric manipulation and have done a little smocking but this artist is showing me how it can be used to create minimalist and abstract pieces of work that I find affect me on an emotional level – perhaps this is because the pieces are inspired by the shoreline and the sea and coast are very much a part of my soul (I was born in Plymouth within half a mile from the coast so the sounds and smells of the sea were a part of my senses from the moment I was born).


Selecting pieces of work of Tracey Emin that inspire or challenge me has proved a little interesting as she is know to be controversial, confessional and autobiographical with some artworks a little too controversial or blunt for my personal taste but others speak volumes in differing ways.

Tracey Emin. Sexy in high heels. 2000. Monoprint

The first piece I chose for the year as it was an eventful year for me personally and this piece probably sums up how I would like to have felt that year …. the monoprint is simplistic in line and form but it still has a strong narrative and demonstrates how you do not need to have much detail to tell your story.

Tracey Emin. More Love. 2009. Monoprint on paper. 11 x 9.9 cm

The second piece speaks of a mother’s love with again a simplicity of line and detail – the story is told with the simple but almost unnecessary words.

Tracey Emin. Fur and Ears. 2008. Monoprint on paper. 10.4 x 14.7 cm

An expected find is this delightful monoprint of a clearly much loved pet – the marks are softer and more gentle with a childlike quality that speaks of a memory or direct experience.

Tracey Emin. The Passion of Your Smile. 2013. Neon. 83.3 cm x 190 cm

My favourite works by Tracey are her neon art works including this one – the wording of the phrase in the red of passion contrasting with the blue of the lines needs no other marks, forms or other artistic techniques and its execution in neon lights just makes me smile.

I have researched Tracey Emin before in Part 1 of this course and much of her work is done initially through sketches which can be on the back of envelopes through to the wall of a hotel room with some being developed into works of art and some of those rough sketches become the works of art.  Like the work of Polly Binns I find the fact that much of Tracey’s work, or indeed all of it, is based on personal experience is something that I am realising I am starting to mirror as I start to understand the importance of how it can affect my work.

Tracey’s works cover a variety of media including monoprint, neon lighting, painting and sketching and I question whether this is due to an enquiring mind or due to a restless mind – I am also someone who likes to mix media in part due to finding one singular form of media can get a little boring after a while!


The first artist who I am not entirely sure whether I like his work or not – he is certainly imaginative and intriguing and potentially influential in terms of a demonstration of mixed media work that really does cross boundaries and genres almost to the extreme.

Hew Locke. Cardboard Palace. 2002. dimensions variable according to location. Cardboard, acrylic, marker pen, wood, found objects

I have never seen cardboard being used in this way before and the fact that he uses it in this way and indeed on this scale is inspiring – there is a mix of cultures and heritages of differing countries through the architectural styles and this for me is the over riding appeal.

Hew Locke. Rose Hall. 2014. 127 x 164 cm. Painted photographs – acrylic paint and ink on c-type photographs

Hew Locke is known for a his use of a wide variety of media in his work as a visual artist and sculpture and I particularly his love his painted photograph series – he seems to have over-painted some images with acrylic ink and paint to create a different emotional or physical atmosphere.

Hew Locke. Sienna Cathedral. 1993. 31 x 24 cm. Pencil on paper

This is an incredibly detailed sketch of Sienna Cathedral that for me gives an insight into the working process of this artist – there are a variety of lines and marks that are expressive and unrestrained which create a feeling of realism without being overly realistic as he has drawn what he sees and his impression is of the scene.

Hew Locke. Adrift. 2012 & 2013. Boat approx’ 4.7 x 5.7 x 1.2 m. Plinth 1.5 x 1.8 x 5.3 m. Wood, metal, artificial foliage, fairy lights and fabric. Day of the Dead version in Old Vic Waterloo Tunnels, UK

This is a piece of sculptural art that evokes images of a final journey akin to that of Egyptian funerary barques or with pennies over the eyes or simply that of a lone traveler with the boat abandoned and reclaimed by a forest – its appeal lies in the fact it is a boat (remember I was born in Plymouth!) and also the sense of abandonment to the elements and the decay as the shores reclaim the wood and materials of which it is made.

Have I changed my mind about this artist since I wrote my first paragraph?  yes I think I have because although I am not ‘into’ globalised art I do like the exploration of cultures and heritages that are a focus of Hew Locke’s work along with his exploration of colonial and post-colonial powers or the exploration of the identity of the cultures through the symbols of authority.  In part I feel that this artist works very much with the theme of identity but it is clear personal experience and place also have their bearing as he was born in Edinburgh but his early years were in Guyana which is where his father was from.

It seems his ideas develop through drawings and sketches taken from a wide variety of sources and these he develops into his sculptures and works of art in an equally wide range of media which also includes fabric, casting, painting in addition to sculpture, drawing and photography which are mentioned above and using a mixture of found objects as well as my own nemesis of collage.

I think the artist I really I cannot compare myself too other than the fact I like his use of identity and experience and also his use of photography in his work … as I write I realise I have done some work  using photographs as applique pieces in my final project for ACA so although that use is in a totally different technique a small comparison can be made.  I do like the use of cardboard to create sculptures including vast rooms which remind me of the work of willow artist Laura Ellen Bacon and her installation at Derby Museum which was literally a room made of willow inside the room of the museum and really affected me emotionally due to its cocoon like atmosphere – I find these cardboard installations the most challenging and certainly the most inspiring even if I never follow his route!


Matthew Harris. Echo Cartoon 4. 40 x 25 cm Mixed media on paper, bound with waxed thread.

Matthew Harris is another new artist for me and one whose work I really do find inspiring as he seeks to translate drawn marks onto cloth from his paper cartoons by dyeing, cutting and hand-stitching his abstract imagery.   Frustratingly though I can only find one or two images of the collaboration of the artist with the composer Howard Skempton.  The collaboration is exciting to consider due to the fact the composer takes a crafted approached to his work by hand drawing his scores out using vellum paper and a rotary pen and his scores are known to be sparse and minimalist or enigmatic in sound – having a musical background his music of great personal interest.  The two artists collaborated together due to an interest in graphic scores, old maps and crucially the work of Cornelius Cardew with his graphic score titled Treatise.

I have chosen 5 images instead of 4 with the first concentrating on the work of Matthew Harris before finally I have found one from the collaboration.

This first image above is of one of the cartoons that precede the cloth art works and I find I like the linear emphasis along with the tonal qualities of the ink or paint that the artist has used which give an impression of form or texture.

Matthew Harris. Lantern Cloth 1. 170 x 99 cm. Dyed, cut and hand-stitched cloth.

This second image demonstrates the second stage in the process as the imagery from the paper cartoons is transferred to cloth using a combination of dye, cutting and layering and hand-stitching and I particularly love the simple use of colour and shapes combined with stitch to produce the imagery – I can see in this piece an influence of Japanese culture and aware of the fact that the artist has exhibited in Japan as well as potentially teaching beside or knowing the Japanese artist Takumasa Ono at West Dean College.

Matthew Harris. Crumb Cloth No. III. 162 x 90 cm. Dyed, cut and hand-stitched cloth.

I am not entirely sure what a crumb cloth is but I love the imagery that is reminiscent of boats and the shore lines – the shapes and simplicity of colours defy the knowledge and techniques which have been used to create these pieces of art work.

Studies after Crumb. 70 x 36 cm. Ink on pleated paper.

I can only presume from the title of this piece that this is one of the drawn artworks that has been done after the completion of a stitched cloth piece and that these almost post-cartoons are done in order to develop ideas further.  I like the use of the pleated paper and use of ink in which further imagery is developing and you can detect an ongoing artistic process.

Matthew Harris. 2013. The New Peeces

This fifth image is relating to the collaboration between Matthew Harris and Howard Skempton and I like it because of the fact you can really see the influence of the old maps and the fragmentation of the music of the composer.

I have never been a fan of abstract works but am being increasingly drawn to them particularly if I can detect any influence of shorelines or Japanese culture and even if not intentional and direct for me there is a hint of both in the work of this artist.  Matthew Harris seeks to explore line as it is disrupted or broken across a piece of work but also of pattern and repetition and I can relate to that exploration in my own work even if I am only just beginning to realise it.

I really like that Matthew Harris has a starting point that is purely to do with the ritual or making and unmaking – he starts with the basic process as he explores his materials, the imagery and just that making ritual and that is going to be something I really want to pay attention to as all textile artists simply enjoy the process of making something in stitch and fabric.  Fabric and stitch are tactile and have abilities to be manipulated in a variety of ways to change the texture, colour or form and Matthew Harris uses the abilities and qualities to explore his techniques and inspirations as he starts with drawings on papers with ink before translating his ideas into his finished pieces.  However it appears part of this artist’s process is also to take further inspiration from finished pieces and develop them further with the use of ‘post-cartoon’ works that will no doubt be transformed into other stitched works – his process and art works evolve as they appear to provide ongoing inspiration and this is very much something I want to take forward.

Matthew Harris and Howard Skempton. Sketchbooks and early processes of a collaboration

If I think about the work of the collaboration between the composer and the artist I find I am fascinated by the fact that they both had that interest with graphic scores and also found the textures of some of the very thin sheets of the maps or the vellum which undulated on the table surface.  I note the starting point of the creative process was very much of observation and then sketches on the fragmented fields that are reminiscent of the fragmented nature of the musical style of the Howard Skempton.  As the translation into fabric began Matthew Harris dispensed with his usual edges of a board to contain the folded, layered, stitched and cut works and he let the created images have their own shapes in much the same way as composer’s musical scores have no definitive edges or boundaries.  I had not come across graphic scores before this research but now can understand the fascination of the two artists particularly when I discover the fact that Howard Skempton has a brother who is an architect and who encouraged his hand-drawing of his own scores.  The graphic scores are art works in their own right and effectively force the musician to respond to them intuitively.

I fully admit now the collaboration of these two artists in different disciplines has seriously fascinated me due to the collaboration between music and textiles but in a unique and intriguing way – the fragmentation  yet harmonious style of the textile artist meets the fragmentation of the musical scores which still have overlaying harmonies and both are experimental and exciting.  I have mentioned previously in this learning log I am not a huge fan of abstract art and have certainly never particularly liked experimental music particularly when it is of the classical genre but there is something about the work of Howard Skempton that gives me goosebumps and the combination of both artists seriously excites me.


Michael Brennand-Wood. New World Spells. 2015. 91 cm diameter x 5 cm deep. Hand and machine embroidery, interlacing, fabric, collage, animated text braids, wire, resin, blocks, acrylic, wood base

This is another new textile artist to me and I find his work immediately appealing particularly as he combines contemporary and historical sources in his work.

I was immediately drawn to this piece due to the almost architectural qualities which appear due to the intricate interlacing.

Michael Brennand-Wood. Lace the final frontier. 1992. Metal discs, acrylic paint. 2.5 m diameter

This is a piece that immediately inspires me and also reminds me not of lace but of the red and white quilts that were traditional in the USA – the intricacies of the design are challenging and speak of a mathematical and logical mind that makes me curious about the artist behind the piece.

Michael Brennand-Wood. Sweet Jain. Machine embroidery, wire, pencils, copper, resin, fabric, thread. 90 cm diameter x 60 cm deep. Photo: Peter Mennim

Michael Brennand-Wood is fascinated with exploring structure, pattern and three dimensional line and this can clearly be seen in this piece which I just really love due to its almost sculptural qualities combined with vibrant use of colour … I am still being drawn to vibrancy in art particularly if the colour wheel feels like it has been tossed aside so that rules are not followed and the artist allows himself to work freely.

Michael Brennand-Wood. White Lace Flag. Machine embroidery, thread, toy soldiers, fabric, resin. 85 x 85 x 10 cm. Photo: Peter Mennim

I am not even sure if I can give a specific reason as to why I have chosen this piece – colour, texture, use of toy soldiers or just the pure randomness feel of the work which somehow also feels co-ordinated and harmonious rather than disjointed. It is challenging and has many layers of stitch and layers that create a sense of depth and illusion.

I am happy I chose not to read about the background of this artist before choosing the works I found inspiring or challenging because it allowed me to respond intuitively and emotionally – I put my art history background to one side which worked well.  If I look at the course material and consider the questions I have been asking myself throughout this research piece I find myself feeling that there are no specific themes that I share with this artist but rather a common developing interest in the combining of historical and contemporary sources into my own work.  I am also intrigued by the fact that this artist’s grandfather was an engineer as my own was – grandpa, Leonard John Murdock, whose specialism was concrete and well respected in his field and who I mention because his son, my Dad, was also a keen woodworker as was this artist’s grandfather in his spare time.  I can detect similarities in our backgrounds although I do not recall my grandmother being interested in textiles my late Mum was and  I have a developing interest in the tactile nature of my chosen field and can relate to the fact that Michael Brennand-Wood describes touching textiles being similar to reading braille.  The artist develops his ideas through sketching initially whether with a traditional pencil and paper or through digital technology and then with the use of a computerized sewing machine – the digital technology appears necessary in his exploration of two and three dimensional space which creates the sculptural-like pieces that are the result.


This is first artist I have really come across where I can honestly say I am not keen on her work and have struggled somewhat to find pieces that I do find challenging or inspiring although as I have looked again at each piece individually I am able to do just that.

Louise Bourgeois. Maman. Bronze, stainless steel and marble. Tuileries Garden, Paris 2008. 30 foot high x 33 foot wide

I think this is where I drop the academic writing and write purely as myself – this piece challenges me in that I actually like spiders but a 30 foot high one could be an entirely different matter!  The challenge or the inspiration from this spider could be derived from the sheer monumental structure and the making of it with its spindly legs and marble eggs that hang beneath the body – and also from the fact that I would love to put this in a wood with just a single light on it which would then bring a completely different atmosphere to it!  It turns out that the reason this piece was entitled Maman was that the artist portrayed her life through her work and her mother was often the spider!

Louise Bourgeois. Destruction of the Father. 1974

This piece lays bear the artists feelings of her father as it is reminiscent of both a bed where he betrayed her mother and a table suggestive of the artist wanting to eat her father to stop his behaviour affecting anyone else but at the same time wanting to keep him close.  I find this piece disturbing and abhorrent in its execution because it lays bear deeply routed feelings in a destructive manner but if art is meant to cause an emotional reaction then this installation does what it intends to do.

Louise Bourgeois. Rejection. 2001. Fabric, steel and lead

This piece was done during a period when the artist portrayed the emotional effects of old age with the faces crying out in pain. Its appeal for me lies in the honesty as it does not seek to glorify or soften how we age but shows the raw emotions as our bodies wear out and become painful and the artist herself was 89 at the time she made this.

Louise Bourgeois. Untitled from the series The Insomnia Drawings. 1994. Ink on music paper

The rhythms of music were important to this artist as they represented reliability and this is something that was missing or elusive in herself and these insomnia drawings are representative of her deep rooted feelings.  I really like the use of the musical score with the rhythmic patterns that the artist has doodled during bouts of insomnia which reminds me of the work of one of my fellow students who also has insomnia and sketches overnight.

I have found it very difficult to like the works of this particular artist and have found it easier to write from a less academic point of view with an emotional response which at times has almost bordered on the physical.  I find the work of this artist challenging due to some of the more controversial pieces that are reminiscent of Tracey Emin’s autobiographical confessional works and this is in part due to the personal nature of her work – the work is to do with personal experience and identity which are very strong themes and very powerful.

Louise Bourgeois worked from drawings which she continuously developed into a wide variety of artistic pieces that ranged from sculpture to fabric pieces to paintings or any other media that she felt appropriate with her inspiration coming from the events that had effected and shaped her life.  Do I share any themes with this artist?  only that I am realising how I can use my own life as inspiration for my art whether in fragmented bits to more involved and more extensive works.

For the final part of this exercise I am asked to select an artist who inspires me and who I feel is similar to my way of thinking and creating so I decided to look specifically for someone who shares my love of colour and as a consequence discovered the quilt artist Velda Newman.

Velda Newman. Foxglove. quilt. 2005

Velda’s primary focus when looking for inspiration for a new piece of work is colour which I feel is one of my strengths and also my greatest love and I was firstly drawn to her work due to his vibrantly coloured quilt of foxgloves.  Velda normally looks to nature for inspiration with its colours, shapes and textures with the focus of  design of each large scale quilt being on those elements in that order – first comes the colour, then the shapes and finally the textures and this to me makes total sense and in fact was the order in which I worked the collage for Exercise 2.6 of Part 2.

As Velda starts to concentrate on the shapes she breaks each one down in order to simplify them into individual units – this I can understand through my knowledge of quilting which is also part of my background.  From this point she then works in what I would describe as a painterly fashion as she works with the shapes to create a composition that has balance, colour, perspective and scale – again this makes total sense to me both in terms of the lessons of composition and sketching I have thus far done during the course of my studies and in terms of my quilting knowledge and personal love of art quilts.

Velda Newman. Sea Shells. 2002. Quilt. 142 inches x 60 inches.

Reading about the process of making these quilts it is interesting to note the sketching of the cartoon which is then projected onto a design wall so that it becomes full size – this cartoon will have had its roots in sketches on graph paper.  From there Velda normally uses a collage technique in order to literally stitch each element together without the need for a background fabric which you would have if using an applique technique – maybe my somewhat basic love/hate relationship with collage may yet be of use!

What does really interest me is the use of colour as I love the simple black and white shells in the Sea Shells quilt as they really punch out at the viewer as they contrast with the muted softer tones but they are also not ‘in your face’ either or feel that they do not have their place in the quilt – they provide a focus that lift the more orange and pink tones of the background shells which are also given emphasis by the blue of the sea.

Velda Newman. Heron quilt.

I am really inspired by the fact that Velda is prepared to take photographs of flowers or her subjects such as this heron and use artistic license to enlarge or change the scale or colour to create an impact as she is not looking for absolute realism but rather to create an impression and capture the essence of her subject.  One of Velda’s own sources of inspiration is the textile artist Kaffe Fassett who I have been a long term lover of myself due to my late Mum being a fan during my teen years and beyond.

With regards to media I note that Velda uses a wide range including pencils, water based reists and colour removes as well as ink and paint and also hand dyes all of fabrics in order to create the colours and effects that she desires for each piece of work.  As I write I am making a bag developed from my final design for A Creative Approach and have hand dyed all of my own fabrics so again I find myself sharing techniques and also being further inspired by this quilt artist – I am really fascinated by all of the techniques that she uses and can now see that she is going to be a major influence on my own work.   I am fully aware that I want to work without colour and I also love shapes in nature with textural qualities being the third dimension for me and seeing the work of this artist will give me the confidence to go forward with my strengths without seeing my weaknesses as something that will hold me back.


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