Project 8 Refine and Review: Exercise 5.1 Review part 1

For me this is where the whole course will come together and the new research methodology will come into its own in order to produce a new body of work.

I start by reviewing all the work completed thus far – I chose to do this in part by reviewing my blogs and also by considering the sketchbooks one part at a time.

It is only when you gather together all the work when you realise the sheer quantity that you have done – I have learnt to work one part of the course at a time on my desk with the sketchbooks kept on a shelf but due to my tiny house they are in a separate room.  I have been aware of what aspects of the course have really excited me, (crochet and felting in particular), and what aspects I could happily leave as I felt they are my weak points – the latter involving the use of single words or action words but also some of the verbs in part 3 which were translated into fabric manipulation samples.

As I reviewed the work I first of all considered the questions suggested in the course material as a framework in which to reflect on the various samples across all the exercises and feel the questions are ones that I should keep to hand for further reflective exercises:

  • Of all the work facing you, which excites you the most?  Which really works for you? I felt I barely had to look at my sketchbook to understand that Parts 3 and 4 I found really exciting and interesting with a particular emphasis on the experimental crochet and also using felting for the first time.  I also felt that the use of mind maps, colour palettes and theme boards really suited the way my mind seems to work  as preparatory exercises for further work – I understand now my mind can be slightly chaotic so the mind maps work as essentially an organisational tool that enables me to get all my ideas and thoughts down on paper and can be pinned up and added to over time.    The crochet work was unexpectedly exciting and produced some interesting results when I used more experimental ‘yarns’ such as wires and plastic bags – the wires for me at this stage are impractical to take forward with actual crochet but can be used to give substance and form if woven through samples made with the aforesaid bags or other yarns.  Needle felting is completely new to me and that technique is something I want to use further – I have since purchased a book on felting which includes instructions on a variety of techniques including wet felting and nuno felting which I have yet to try but do interest me greatly.
  • Which body of work do you empathise with most? I am split between 3 – the work on identity, place and personal experience as I feel these could combine to produce a set of work that has elements from each influencing and bouncing off one another.  There is no question that the work on place is of huge interest and I would consider this theme to be the answer to the question – I am finding my local environment is a growing influence on my work as I seek to explore and learn not just my locality but the art and textile techniques that I can develop based on the textures, forms, lines or colours that I see.  Personal experience and identity are also growing in influence on my work and I now understand how these two ‘themes’ can produce some strong narrative work – identity was a particularly interesting body of work due to the fact I worked the exercise around the time of my Asperger’s diagnosis and hence it enabled me to explore my own identity as I was coming to terms with a new label and also understanding who I am perhaps for the first time.  There is a fourth body of work that I really find myself being drawn to – the work that was based on poetry, prose and lyrics as I have always loved calligraphy since art O level and hence this gave me the opportunity to explore using that skill combined with interpreting a chosen piece of prose in a drawing.
  • Which process exciting you the most?  as mentioned above the textile processes would be crochet and felting but methodology process would be the new research methodology from part 4.  Crochet and felting I do feel are textile techniques I want to explore much further but I also want to bring in fabric manipulation despite struggling with interpreting the verbs in exercise 3.2 – I am curious as to how fabric manipulation can be combined with other techniques.  At this point I am aware I have not paid attention to the weaving techniques and constructing a cloth – I find weaving on small looms can produce unexpected results depending on yarn used and like the fabric manipulation am intrigued to combine it with different techniques which result in new exploratory cloths.
  • Look at elements like tone, texture, composition and line.  Do any of these elements suggest groupings or companion elements?  Do any of these elements recur in your body of work in a particular way?  Texture, colour and line are recurring themes with perhaps the strongest emphasis on texture which ironically is my weakest point in terms of mark making with drawing media.  I have struggled with portraying texture in any media and yet found myself producing marks in exercise 2.6 that I feel I can take forward due to thinking about how to produce the actual texture the word relates to i.e. rusty, weathered, crusty.  I also note that texture is a recurring theme of the fabric manipulation, weaving, felting and crochet samples – it is an element that is becoming more important perhaps due to having partial deafness which for me is now translating into tactile works forming a method of communication.    Colour/tone is also a strong theme throughout my work and colour remains one of my strengths and is certainly something I want to continue working on developing further.  Line again is a recurring theme and I note that I have a tendency towards strong lines albeit sometimes contrasting with softer more muted ones – I like the contrasts too of strong form against soft and maybe contrasts between elements and subjects is something that will suggest a variety of groupings.   Overall I feel my works have become more textural in actual feel and appearance with a stronger linear quality appearing and with that overriding use of colour to portray my narrative.   My weak area I still feel is composition and this is something to seriously consider in this final part of the course.
  • Is there a tendency towards a particular colour palette in the early work?  Did you stick with this in Part 3 exercises or did you try something different in response to your chosen theme?  Do you want to try a different colour palette?  My earlier work involved the colours that reflected the particular exercise or for fabric manipulation concentrated on a limited palette – for my work on personal experience this was the colours of my environment or for the work on poetry, prose and lyrics I chose the colours that I felt reflected the chosen poem but the palette evolved for Part 3 into two more defined colour schemes.  Refining and restricting my colour palettes helped me really focus on the particular theme rather than having the who range of colours and hence produces work which have more harmony and balance as well as a real sense of energy whether that is a calm energy or something more dynamic – sometimes I am finding a large range of colour now feels too chaotic and potentially looses energy.  I am unsure as to whether I want to try a different colour palette or whether I just want to refine it further – my choice of muted purples, ochres, greens I am happy with although I would tone down the blue to a more slate blue … I am thinking old theatre colours which are incredibly appealing at the moment.  I also however still have a desire to change the palette to one of vibrancy – hot pinks, deep rich purples and bright blues and oranges …. energy and life in joyous abandonment.  The two colour palettes that I am inclined towards are almost suggestive of two contrasts – one being full of life and one speaking of a life gone by so this is something to consider.
  • Can you see any relationships forming between some of the work in front of you? I do see a development in relations between textural elements and differing colour groups – there are contrasts and harmonious relationships forming which cross boundaries between different exercises.  The work on fabric manipulation I feel could work well with the work on texture as I explored my environment in exercise 2.6 and this could also encompass the crochet samples too.  I have come back to this question after putting my samples and work into different groupings and note that yes there are relationships forming between different textural samples and art work or between work which has involved more colour  – by grouping the samples together in different permutations or variations I started to see naturally occurring harmonious relationships which could be used in a variety of exercises and themes and this has been interesting to explore.
  • Do you want to revisit one of the themes from Part 1 that you perhaps decided against pursuing in Part 3? This I feel I have covered above in the second question – yes I would like to revisit the exercise on poetry, prose and lyrics but feel there is a possibility of combining this with place or personal experience.  Personal experience and identity are themes I have no doubt I will want to explore again in the future but if I ask myself the next question ‘Does one body of work stand out more than all the others for you?’ then I find myself still drawn to my work on place …. I feel there is unfinished work that I wish to continue to explore and investigate.  I feel the work on place has only just really begun with my investigation into my chosen theme of Beauty from Decay and hence this also answers the final question ‘Which work has the most potential for further development?’.    I have no question that the themes from Part One will be explored again in future work and the themes have been added to a notice board along with Richard Serra’s verb/word list to inspire me particularly in times of total artistic block!  I just feel very strongly that I am at the start of a an exploration into my chosen theme – I am also fascinated by the Japanese concept of Wabi Sabi which embraces imperfection in all its beauty and this forms part of my interest in beauty from or in decay because decay speaks of a past beauty and creates a new different beauty if only we look.

Using these questions as a starting point I note that I have a really strong pull towards my chosen theme of Beauty from/in Decay  but also want to explore further 2 or 3 other themes   and wonder how they will each influence further work.  I am finding I am really wanting now to explore a mixed media approach to develop a variety of concepts – there are different elements or techniques from the exercises that I can take out and combine with each other to produce potentially stronger works or ideas that are open to further refinement or development.  It has taken a long time to find work that has really exciting possibilities – something that excites me at a different level and makes me want to really free up my thoughts and working processes in order to explore different paths to create works that really speak to the view or have a strong narrative and I can fully see this in both my current theme and also those aforementioned 2 or 3 other themes with particular emphasis on the use of words in poetry or prose and also my identity which may in fact both encompass the theme of personal experience.  This course at this point I feel has given me the tools and methodology as well as themes that will no doubt prove to be the foundation for future work and it is only now on reviewing the work just how important this course has been to me.

Moving on to the next stage of this exercise the course material suggestions grouping the samples and exercises in groups that relate or go naturally together or perhaps basing the groups upon contrast or juxtaposition (‘juxtaposition’ meaning two things being close together with contrasting effect …. a word for some reason I have struggled to get my head to understand and hence why I note it here).   Apparently the key is to look for samples and work that when placed together are exciting and stimulating – as I discovered this was much easier said than done in a couple of cases whilst in others it seemed to happen naturally.

The couple of days this past week I chose to do this I was suffering from unusually bad headaches but this may have worked in my favour as I now realise – I was having to concentrate a little more than usual and really focus my energy on the task in hand and although I was not happy at the time I now consider the groupings I put together successful and could each generate new ideas if looked at in terms of each theme.

The first grouping occurred the most naturally as it concentrating on the vibrant colours in my work and hence was full of energy and strong lines and textures.  I feel this grouping has the potential particular in terms of identity or personal experience but could also be used to develop ideas based on music depending on the chosen piece (I feel the music of La La Land would be particular appropriate and fun to work with).

The second grouping immediately contrasted with the first in terms of texture and colour as I discovered my work was almost split down the middle in terms of both – half of my work seems to concentrate on the vibrant colours and half seems to focus more on softer muted colours and the same goes for texture.  This grouping I wanted to look at the softer lines, colours, forms or texture that seem to naturally occur within my work and which I feel naturally drawn to …. it almost feels like this is a very feminine softer side to me although one which I sometimes keep more hidden.

Heavy textures both in marks and textile and ‘firm’ or strong colours suggestive of an urban environment which work together to really strengthen the theme of personal experience which was based on my local area originally – this grouping could also be suggestive of the theme of place or if a locality is part of someone’s identity it could be encompassed into that theme too which for me, at this moment, my locality has indeed formed part of who I am because if were not for my current locality then these words would not be being typed!

Crunchy, hard, rough, decayed, distressed …. a small grouping but one that is suggestive of individual words or actions.  This grouping feels isolated but also could be incorporated into different themes – I see exploratory projects in textiles exploring the two-dimensional works further whilst also adding further stitched investigations into other naturally occurring patterns and textures.

I started at this point to look for contrasts in texture and colour and juxtaposed these two groups – one side is soft pastel colours and softly textured samples and the other harsher textures suggestive of weathering and decay.  The hessian fabric is the only material which seems to cross the boundaries as it can be used to depict something softer and gentler or something much harsher and reminiscent of the rough hessian used for some clothing in past centuries.  I like the contrasts in this grouping but am unsure where it could lead in designs at this point – this is one to be kept to hand and considered carefully

This is the second softer textured and coloured group and one I am really really drawn to – it is romantic and feminine and for me is suggestive of candlelit dinners and walks in the country or by beautiful rivers with a loved one.  My identity is directly included here with my hearing aid very intentionally as I seek to listen to the softer sounds I only hear with the help of the aid.  The colours are for me ice-cream colours or the colours of faded French castles or reminiscent of small lanes or avenues in towns filled with hanging baskets and tubs of soft and delicate flowers – the colours are almost a watercolour painting waiting or calling to be done.  This group could very easily develop my romantic theme board and yes there is potential for development – free reign on soft feminine and seriously romantic ideas which is very appealing but at this moment, right now, it is one to save perhaps for when I can afford to go hunting for antique lace and silk ribbons or fabrics with a view to taking forward with clothing or accessories … I am thinking crazy quilting and delicate embroidered details or some kind of room decor or accessory reminiscent of the French boudoirs of a bygone era.

This is another grouping with contrasting textures, patterns and colours – this is one I really had to think about and focus on due to my severe headache but one I feel is successful as it is perhaps suggestive of urban decay or the contrast between city or town and country or coast lines.  There is one  textile piece and a collage piece between the two groupings that acts as bridges and could be part of either side of the juxtaposing samples and in addition blur the boundaries and separation of the two opposing groups.  Although I struggled with this particular grouping it now seems natural with a mix of a real feeling of calm and peace contrasting with dynamic energy – the image is exciting  to me in terms of textures, colour and to an extent line or patterns and there is definite potential with ideas as I consider personal experience, identity or place but there is nothing definitive that jumps out at me and grabs my attention either at this point in time.

This is another grouping consisting of contrasts between texture and colours as I started thinking about my theme of beauty from decay – there are softer textures of woodland combined with darker colours seen in decaying flowers such as roses contrasting against heavily textured marks and textiles which for me are starting to create a feeling of the point where decay is just beginning … on the cusp of decay but before the distressing of the plant or tree has really begun but the weathering is starting to be seen.

This grouping came together very naturally as I sought to explore my theme of Beauty from Decay using a wider sample of my work …. there is a clear and definitive theme really coming through with this that has suggestions of ideas I can take forward.  Although I love the decaying flowers my sketchbooks in part 4 do not seem to be going anywhere that really excites me … there are lots of paintings or sketches of flowers, whether in full bloom or starting to decay, and rough sketches of my garden but something feels missing at this point … I simply don’t feel excited enough to take the theme forward in its current grouping or form at this stage, although the theme as it stands will certainly not be binned but rather filed for future reference and work.

This grouping is one I have seriously considered taking forward – my samples and work seemed to gravitate towards two definitive sets of ideas with a sea or coastal theme being one and the pull of a theme of decay being the second.  This particular coastal theme grouping cam together almost without thinking – maybe being a Plymouth and then Sutton-on-Sea girl really starts to come through in my choice of colours, materials and loving the softer romantic textures of the dunes and sunny or calmer days at the beach.  I do love really rough seas which is not apparent in this grouping – one of my favourite childhood memories was watching rough seas and storms and given the opportunity I would still do this but and this is a big ‘but’ I simply love, and long for desperately, quiet days at the beach and my favourite times when visiting my parents in Florida was when I used to get up a dawn on my own and sit on the beach in Daytona with a large mug of coffee just watching the sun rise with the delicate colours of a new day and this is what this grouping really suggests to me.  I could so easily take this grouping forward but have decided to save it for now because although it calls me strongly something tells me to wait to work on this theme as the ideas are just not there yet on how to take a group I find really exciting and stimulating in a calm, harmonious way forward into a new range of work – I am not sure how to explain the fact that there is a puzzle piece not quite in place yet perhaps in terms of technique or methodology that I feel this grouping needs.  Along with a couple of the other group pictures I am pinning this one up near my desk for future reference and inspiration.

Ignoring my toes in this image (!) this is the grouping that I am heavily drawn to although it is the least obvious – I realised I was being drawn towards the decay theme again with the muted colours of an old theatre or the colours and textures of decay I find in my locality in the woods of the old country houses.  The samples have been chosen to reflect the wide variety of textures, colours, lines and forms I am drawn to – thinking fungi, old decayed trees, moss and small delicate woodland flowers as well as the colours of small ponds reflecting the dappled light filtering through the trees or plants that surround and hide them.

I decided to expand this grouping further because this is my chosen grouping – I am definitely thinking fungi on living or decayed trees and toadstools in all their varying textures and colours plus soft moss or rough lichen which covers old trunks or rough stone walls and in addition the soft woodland flowers that grow in dappled light and shade.  I want to play with the textures in the mixed media as I mentioned before I started playing with the different groups – fabric manipulation, felting, painting on distressed fabrics, crochet to create the impression of the fungi or those decayed trees and hollowed out trunks.  With this theme I feel a sense of the life that was once seen in all its glory but through the decay will create new life or the fungi that grow opportunistically on living trees create a feeling of a living theatre – the trees are determined to cling on to life as if telling an audience their story.  A few days ago I was in the grounds of a local country house and the dying trees were creaking as if telling us to leave and it literally  felt like we were being spoken to and it felt that that one singular area was almost menacing in its atmosphere and reminiscent of the World War I battlefield trees due to their damage by lightening strikes and storms – this is seen over the whole estate but in particular this area for reasons we have yet to discover.   I felt the old trees in this one area were the old guard refusing to leave, the old actors who will not give way to the younger generation and let them have the stage …. the young generation can be seen in the fungi who penetrate some of the tall trees as they try and take their place on the stage or sap the nutrients of the tree to create a new form of their art through the new growth but with the fungi species, like the ancestral actors, having the foundations in the past.  Other areas of this country estate had a more welcoming feel despite fallen trunks which were full of wood worm or covered in moss and lichen – this particular estate feels that you could easily get lost or disorientated in amongst the faded glamour of what it once was and this I feel is seen in the colours of my samples of my final group above.  I want to capture the textures of the fallen trees, the shapes, colours and again textures of the fungi and toadstools including the ones not seen and perhaps use some ‘artistic licence’ to create the unseen or hidden ones that you know are there but like the actors/trees that no longer exist are hidden from view.  I just feel this theme of Beauty from Decay but in a new form creates a freedom of expression and excitement that I simply cannot resist.


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