Sunday, 27 September 2020

More theories about drawing

On page 151 of the book, The Comics of Chris Ware: Drawing as a way of Thinking, Shawn Gilmore uses Thierry Groensteen's concept of 'braiding' to show how Ware uses visual simultaneity to effect meaning. I have long been a believer in the power of comic books to deliver complex ideas and theory seems to have now come to terms with this too and has accepted that what was once seen as a low brow or low class art form, can now be regarded as just as important an art form as any other.
So how can you use these theories to open out ideas related to art history as a whole?

I wasn't totally convinced by Scott McCloud's triangle of abstraction but it helps to resolve several issues surrounding levels of reality and can help us to rethink Plato's old 'Theory of Forms' that suggested that the reality we experience is only a shadow of true reality which is in fact a Realm of Forms, which are abstract, time transcending, perfect concepts or ideals. As we move through McCloud's triangle, we get a sense of moving between different levels of realism and this is in itself very interesting.

I'm not sure about the three points of the triangle, having one as reality, another language and a third as the picture plane is awkward because these are very different concepts. Even so it sort of works and I can see clearly what he is getting at. The dotted line that separates the emoji from the word is an interesting one, but if he had been Chinese perhaps a more subtle line could have been drawn. 

The concept in the top left speech balloon stating that, "Things can be themselves" is a philosophically interesting one and one that needs unpicking a little. The fact that artists such as Paul Klee began to explore the various abstract elements used to make drawn images, such as point, line and plane, doesn't automatically make these things in 'themselves' or things in their own right. They can instead be read as categorisations of language, a product of our ability to atomise or break down things into smaller parts. We are looking at a type of process here rather than a set of things. 
This reminds me of how Scott McCloud wrote about the 'gutter' between two images in a comic book sequence. Yes, you can point to the gutter but what you cant point to is how the brain is processing its encounter. Someone has to be able to take two unconnected images and mentally construct them into an idea that in some way 'fills the gap' by projecting an invented narrative into it. 
According to Moszkowicz, who uses Ricoeur's ideas to develop a 'gutter' concept, it’s the observer who “simultaneously takes the story outside itself and yet holds it within himself”. This is about keeping a distance at the same time as inviting closeness, suggesting that sense-making and imagination can take place everywhere: within, between, alongside, on top of, next to, across and in the edges between things, as in Deridda's concept of the parergon. The central idea here being that it is the passage between an inner and outer reality that is more important than any fixed thing. The various stages that we set out between reality and fiction, or the art object and the world are important as they can reflect or mirror what goes on between ourselves and the world. Sometimes we hold within one image several approaches at the same time, which is similar to how when we perceive the world we simultaneously mix inner and outer approaches, imagination and perception fusing. In El Greco's wonderful painting of The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, he has constructed the top half of the image as a flight of religious fantasy, whilst the bottom half represents the reality of what was then contemporary Spain. The division between the two halves is occupied by the assumption into heaven of the count's deceased soul in the form of an "ethereal" baby.

El Greco: The Burial of the Count of Orgaz
If we now place an image of the El Greco painting on top of Scott McCloud's diagram we can begin to see another idea emerging, one that can relate Plato's ideas of perfect forms to everyday reality and which uses Derrida's idea of the parergon as a form of sliding divide between reality and fiction. In this case the frame as an edge between the artwork and the world, now enters inside the work itself, in El Greco's case it could be argued that the division between heaven and earth occupied by the space above the collected heads of the Spanish grandees being the edge of the frame. The ideal forms that inhabit the picture plane being in this case the ideal forms inhabiting a Catholic vision of heaven.
The two images of my own above are both related in that they are from the same sequence of drawings, but I have put them together missing out several other images from the sequence. What interests me is how I can still develop a narrative simply because of their close relationship to the gutter between them. It might be a bit of a struggle, but I can feel my brain seeking out some sort of story, some sort of imagined series of events that could make the one image become linked to the other. One implication of this is that I could regard a series of images in an exhibition in exactly the same way. The gap or gutter between images can be adjusted and made narrower or wider, which could imply a closer or further relationship between each image. The 'meaning' or 'communication' coming from the images is now though also entangled in how we read an image within a frame and how we read 'between frames'. 

Derrida came up with the term ‘parergon’ when he was writing ‘The Truth in Painting’, using it to explain why when looking at a framed work of art, the frame is part of the wall but when looking at the wall it is part of the work. The frame existing as an idea between the two, as a separate entity. He stated, "neither inside nor outside, neither above nor below, it disconcerts any opposition but does not remain indeterminate and it gives rise to the work.”
The function of the parergon being to create a context for the process of framing.
The parergon being both a literal framing and a metaphysical concept.

Such stretches of the theoretical frame, may indeed break the rules of logic, but at times we need to break rules in order to arrive at a new framework of thinking. For many years the comic book world was excluded from consideration by fine art historians, but the reality is that we can use any discipline to give us insights into any other discipline. For instance death doulas exist as a profession to help individuals cross the divide between life and death. Images can exist in order to meditate on exactly the same thing, but perhaps it gets more interesting if we ask a death doula to help us reflect upon an image? Would we in doing so be using shamanic thought processes and if so does this take us back into engaging with pre-historical types of consciousness? 

We only stop perceiving the world when we die. Layers of reality are deeply interconnected and perhaps nowhere near as clearly organised as in McCloud's triangle. If we look at visual perception through the combined lenses of art and neuroscience, it should be possible to explain why the brain/body finds more meaning in incoming data than given by incoming signals alone. This on the one hand I would suggest is the mystery of the gutter and on the other the internalisation/externalisation of image processing. Imagination it would seem is inseparable from perception. 

The idea of externalising thoughts about the body is central to my work at the moment. Working with the ancient concept of votives, I'm exploring how people can be persuaded to take an internal concept, such as a pain in the foot, and transfer it into an external object. Images have a sort of direct feedback mechanism, in that observers 'echo' what they see. In the same way that we begin to reflect the body posture of someone we are talking to, we mimic both internally and externally the shape of an idea as an image. 

A object designed to be both seen and touched, made to reflect both the shape of a hand becoming a fist (to grab), as well as the idea of two humans clinging, (to clove to)

The object above was made in response to someone telling me that they were lonely. As an artist I wanted to both externalise the feeling tone that was at the centre of the inter human communication and to feed back into the making process both image and perceptual instigation. The feedback from the recipient of the small object I made was very encouraging and suggested that a 'real' communication had been effected. At the core of the idea was a visual narrative, a sort of graphic animation in the mind, which brings me back full circle to comic book ideas of how to abstract from reality. 
The image development process behind the making of the loneliness votive

If we return to Thierry Groensteen's concept of 'braiding' a concept that explores how uses of visual simultaneity can effect meaning, we can push it a little further and look at how imagination is inseparable from perception. The image of something and its perception become entangled, and the relationship could be thought of as that between braiding and knotting. When we braid we wrap threads around each other, as we do so we develop patterns based on how we have interconnected the threads. However without a knot tied around their ends the braids will quickly unravel. The image is that knot and the braids various perceptions. An image in effect holds things together, just long enough for the various effects of perceptions to be understood as to their potential for action, be this fight or flight or something much more subtle, such as how we appreciate a tree coming into bud or the flight pattern of a swallow. 


Ball, D. and Khlman, M. (2010) The Comics of Chris Ware: Drawing is a way of thinking University Press of Mississippi
McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding comics. New York: HarperPerennial.
Moszkowicz, J. (n.d.). Time, Narrative and the Gutter in Graphic Novels: how philosophical thinking can make something out of nothing. In: Cultural Expression and Formal Expression in the Graphic Novel. Inter-Disciplinary Press, UK, pp. 197-205. ISBN 978-1-84888-199-0  Accessed from 10. 09. 2019
See also:

A much more detailed post on Derrida's concept of the parergon related to ideas about edges. 

Thursday, 24 September 2020

The Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize is on tour

The Trinity Buoy Wharf drawing prize is on tour again, and interestingly as it does so, first year fine art students at the University of the Arts Leeds begin their first module with a drawing brief. Even in this time of media soaked information and constant Zoom meetings, drawing can still hold its own, and the fact that it can be done with very low and cheap forms of technology, ensures that it continues to be relevant. This year in particular the short listed artists demonstrate the continuing power of visual observation and how drawing can operate as a focus and a selector, picking out from the chaos of reality those moments that ensure that art can still reflect thoughtfully on the human condition. As well as all those other subjects and approaches, such as landscapes, buildings, abstracts, three dimensional drawings, performance drawing and gestural mark making, this year a strand of portrait drawing has emerged as one of the show's most powerful aspects, and its worth a closer look. 

Akash Bhatt

Akash Bhatt has interwoven text and image in his portrait, something that many of us aspire to do but rarely with the sensitivity that Bhatt demonstrates. All human beings have personal narratives and sometimes we can see these in their faces or in the way they sit, stand or move, and at other times it is in the stories they tell or the ones told about them by others. In this case tiny forehead worry lines, echo the horizontal lines of a sailor striped top, whilst foregrounded are hands used to hard work, all integrated and set into a field of reflective text. He has obviously honed his observational skills through the constant use of sketchbooks, something I've always warmed to as a way of keeping your eyes tuned to the many and various forms that make up our world. You can see him at work in this video. 

Akash Bhatt

Anna Barratt has a more surrealistic and emotional take on what it is to be human. Skin hangs 'flayed' away from the solidity of body mass and yet it still holds on to bodily functions. We are helpless sometimes in our emotional engagement with our bodies and its a useful reminder that you don't need a head in an image to make a portrait and that we have bottoms as well as tops. 

Anna Barratt

Barratt's work springs from unconscious tensions that come from the fact that the everyday is weird. Well sometimes it is and then its not, the toilet is boring, its function to support an everyday need, but our thoughts about this are often twisted and strange, such as why is that towel hung in that way and why is it so close to the cistern and who left that stain? 

Helena McGrath

Helena McGrath has an ideal technique for the locked in portrait. Her washes suggestive of a time marked out with the filling in of liquid tones, drips forming cage verticals that trap the image as it arrives. The figure in the background, (could it be the artist?) presenting to us the subject of the drawing, the home becomes the stage, which becomes the world within which the artist makes. This is a sort of self portrait as world maker, but the world is a domestic one, and who is to say that it is a smaller world than any of the others that we think exist? 

James Robert Morrison

James Robert Morrison

James Robert Morrison has pushed the fag joke to its limits. Rolling papers are waver thin, almost like Bible paper, with that tasty strip of glue, waiting to be licked and stuck to the other unglued paper edge. These are close ups, or as he puts it, 'there is never more than a fag paper between them', or in this case it takes about 60 fag papers to support this figure/ground relationship, all neatly stuck, licked dirty into the slick of graphite, touched carefully onto the surface of a Rizla dream. 

Lucy Anderson

Lucy Anderson makes large scale charcoal drawings. It's the light and surprising shadows that tell these stories, perhaps even more than what we think we see. Something is happening here, but we don't know what it is; a grey ghost shadow floats across the back wall, emerging from the old woman's head, perhaps an intimation of what's to come, whilst a strong young hand commands the foreground, alongside a half full glass of water. A question has been asked, of both the old woman and ourselves, but who will answer it?

Nancy Haslam

Nancy Haslam

Nancy Haslam gives us an insight into interwoven lives, lives of harsh reality, the ones that you know about, that you see statistics about, but don't really want to know about. Her line meanders, her touch is one of knowing unknowing, as she opens windows but in some ways closes them at the same time. There is no perspective, well not one we understand as such, this isn't one point or two point or three point, it's all points North, its being stuck in one place, one that you cant get far away enough from to see it in perspective. 

Sally Wood

Sally Wood

Sally Wood

Sally Wood shows us a new generation emerging. These are the portraits of those who will inhabit our future, as yet unframed, their futures still emerging, not yet boxed in by convention and society's will to power. Fresh, open and direct, these portraits are a healthy reminder of a future time when the virus is gone and we return to being able to see each other in the flesh and meet ourselves on our own terms and not those imposed upon us by a government that has forgotten what people look like. 

The Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize 2020 exhibition will tour to the following venues:

Drawing Projects UK in Trowbridge, Wiltshire: 2 to 31 October 2020 
Cooper Gallery at the University of Dundee: 13 November to 19 December 2020 
Trinity Buoy Wharf in London: from 9 January to 22 January 2021  
The Gallery at Arts University Bournemouth: from February 2021

See also:

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Sustainability Resources

Ruth Wallen

As students return to the university and to education institutions throughout the world, how will all these places take on board what has happened recently? I'm of course very aware of the dangers of Covid19 and the worries that students have about moving into working in studios even with social distancing, but the virus is only one of a complex series of issues that we need to keep aware of if as artists we are going to respond to one of the most threatening situations humans have ever faced. 

I realise it's hard to prioritise but my own feeling is that the most important thing we need to be looking at is the environment. As a species we are in danger of eliminating ourselves by destroying the very spaces we live in. Global warming is already causing massive environmental damage, from the forest fires of the Western USA to the huge glacier melts of Greenland. Globally our wildlife species are rapidly dying out, and here in the UK alone more than two-fifths of our wildlife have seen significant declines in recent decades, insects in particular have been decimated by the use of chemicals on our farming land. The problem is very much to do with the fact that humans have seen the world as a series of resources to mine, rather than a system within which we are an integral part. 

Covid19 is itself a result of our using animals as food and keeping them in such conditions that the chance of interspecies viral transmission is heightened. We need to change our ways or we will become extinct too. The first responsibility of all educators is to help with the process of growing self awareness and at the root of so many of our problems, be it 'Black Lives Matter', global warming, deforestation, pandemics and the lack of spiritual wellbeing that seems to have resulted in the fact that so many of us suffer from depression, is a feeling of unconnectedness and a sense that what we are doing doesn't matter. If we see other people or anything that is not us as in effect 'alien' and different, we will abuse that person or thing and treat it as an object that can simply be used, in reality we are deeply interconnected to everything. 

If we can begin, step by step to rebuild a sense of that interconnectedness with everything, we can I believe gradually heal both ourselves and the world, but we have to start somewhere. Therefore this, my first post of the academic year, is simply devoted to setting out some connections to resources that I think are interesting. Some are connections to individual artists that are working with sustainability issues and others to organisations that I think have information that could be useful. I hope you will find at least one starting point that might help you develop a way forward during what are both exciting and distressing times. 

Some of you may want to use these thoughts as a way of redirecting your art practice so that it responds to these issues and others may decide to keep your art practice separate from concerns that derive from the development of your individual moral and social responsibility. Whether or not to make art about these issues is not that important, what is important is that as human beings we all take a good look at ourselves and try to take some responsibility for rebuilding what we have broken. As Suzanna Clarke put it when speaking about her recent novel, 'Piranesi', "...the divide is between people who see the world for what they can use it for, and the idea that the world is important because it is not human, it's something we might be part of a community with, rather than just a resource".  

(Guardian Review interview, Sat. 12th Sept 2020)


Soil City A good place to start if like me you think soil is vitally important to a sustainable future.


Invisible Dust Lots of links to both artists and scientists   


Creative Carbon Scotland Lots of supportive information on what you can do


Centre for contemporary art and the natural world Exploring new understandings of our place within nature.


Deveron Projects A place to see how a single town has embraced art and climate change awareness


Arts Catalyst A commissioning body that specialises in arts and the environment

Adam Lowe and Jerry Brotton, Factum ArteTerra Forming: Engineering the Sublime

FICTILIS, Timothy Furstnau and Andrea Steves, the 'True cost market'

CLUI (Center for Land Use Interpretation)

Livin Studio, Katharina Unger and Julia Kasinger, 

Green Arts web

Individual artists: Olafur Eliasson,  Kim AbelesJeff HongLillian BallSubhankar BanerjeeIain Baxter&Bobbe BesoldCape FarewellMary Ellen Carroll (Precipice Alliance), Brian CollierXavier CortadaGayle CritesAgnes DenesSteven DeoRebecca DiDomenicoFuture Farmers (Amy Franceschini and Michael Swaine), Bill Gilbert, Isabella Gonzales, Green Fabrication (via Rick Sommerfeld, University of Colorado, College of Architecture and Planning), Newton Harrison & Helen Mayer HarrisonJudit HerskoLynne Hull, Pierre HuygheBasia IrlandPatricia JohansonChris JordanMarguerite Kahrl, Janet Koenig & Greg SholetteEve Andrée LaraméeLearning Site (Cecilia Wendt and Rikke Luther), Ellen LevyIñigo Manglano-OvallePatrick MaroldNatasha MayersJane McMahanMary MissJoan MyersBeverly NaidusChrissie OrrMelanie Walker & George PetersAndrea Polli, Marjetica PotrcAviva Rahmani, Rapid ResponseBuster SimpsonJoel SternfeldMierle Laderman UkelesRuth WallenSherry WigginsThe Yes Men, and Shai Zakai. 


Suzi Gablik: The Reenchantment of Art

Sacha Kagan: Art and Sustainability: Connecting Patterns for a Culture of Complexity

Mike Berners-Lee: There Is No Planet B: A Handbook for the Make or Break Years 

Mike Berners-Lee: How Bad are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything

Anna Lowenhaupt TsingNils BubandtElaine Gan: Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene

Lovelock, J. (2016) Gaia Oxford: OUP

Donna Haraway: Staying with the Trouble

Barad, K (2007) Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning New York: Duke University Press 

Bennett, J (2010) Vibrant Matter: A political ecology of things New York: Duke University Press

Bogost, I. (2012). Alien Phenomenology. Ann Arbor, MI: Open Humanities Press

Harman, G. (2011). The Quadruple Object. United Kingdom: Zero Books

Latour, B (2017) Facing Gaia London: Polity Press
Latour, B. (1999) Pandora’s Hope Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Press

Morton, T. (2013) Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

Previous posts related to sustainability

Sustainability 1

Sustainability 2

Drawing and the 12 Principles of Permaculture 

Pollution, art and making pigments

Drawing and politics

Object orientated ontology 



Thursday, 10 September 2020

Drawing for site specific proposals Part two

Christo: Wrapped Trees: 1997 Proposal drawing
Pencil, fabric, twine, pastel, charcoal, wax crayon, topographical map and fabric sample

My last post on drawing for site specific work focused on the work of Krzysztof Wodiczko, an internationally recognised artist who has a very powerful practice and who has for many years used the city as a background to his work. This type of high-octane work can though feel a bit daunting and when you look at what he achieves, it would have been impossible without the considerable expenditure behind what has been done, both in putting these ideas together and maintaining them once they are live. Not that that should put you off, some artists really enjoy the challenge of raising money and make drawings that can be sold as a fundraising method, think of Christo, but we all have to start somewhere. So I have decided to put a post up about a much more modest venture of my own, especially as I have just installed some ceramics for an installation at Harlow Carr Gardens in Harrogate and the process is still fresh in my mind. 

Because most of my work begins in drawing, drawing is an obvious way for me to think about an externally sited project. I have also put work into a public garden before and therefore have a certain amount of experience in terms of what might go wrong and of how to communicate with the important people on site. 

Drawing for York City Art Gallery Garden exhibition 'Tree Listening'

The image above was one of the drawings I made for an exhibition in York, these 'illustrational' drawings enabled me to get the idea across to the head gardener, the art gallery staff probably had a pretty good idea of the concept already, as one of them had seen some previous work of mine. However the head gardener wanted to know things like how I would safely attach giant ears to their trees and how the installation would work in relation to people walking through the space. 

The map drawing above was made by myself in order to agree with the gardener as to siting of the various pieces. 

A visiter engages with a giant ceramic ear

The final installation also included a walking tour led by myself, whereby I told stories about the various plants and histories of parts of the garden. The installation was meant to suggest nature was listening to people just as much as the people were being encouraged to listen to nature. There is still some information about the first incarnation of this installation available on the centre for ceramic art website

The drawings made in preparation for the Harlow Carr Gardens installation took a lot longer, as the deadline kept shifting because of the continuing impact of corona virus and various associated lockdown measures. Eventually the drawings began to take over as ideas in their own right, but they were very useful in relation to pre-installation publicity. 

Various sketchbook drawings of trees with imagined fish/birds

As the idea began to jell in my mind I did what I always do and walked through my local area and drew. This time I was thinking about trees and whether or not an 'invasive species' could land in them. A tall thin sketchbook also helped with selection, and the initial ideas were about putting these 'invasive species' into various trees. From the tiny drawings of species I then constructed larger drawings to clarify what I was thinking of and I then made a few brightly glazed fish/birds, and took one into the local woods to get an idea of how it would work in an actual tree. 

Initial ideas for bird/fish/animal/plant objects

One of the first ceramic pieces to be made

Testing in the woods using a bungie to attach the ceramic

As soon as an idea is firmed up as a made thing something else comes into play. The colour intensity was what now fascinated me and the basic problem of how to fit these 'creatures' into a tree, without damaging it. A new series of pen, ink and watercolour drawings were now made looking much more at the expressive potential of brightly coloured 'creatures' in dark trees, with attachments to hold them up. 

Pen, ink and watercolour drawings 

These drawings then led on to another series, thus time using much more intense colour and in pastel. These were very much drawing made in their own right as images in themselves, as I couldn't make ceramics until I had worked out how to get access to a kiln. Now that the project has ended, looking back, it may well be that it is the sequence of about 10 pastel drawings I did over a few days in July are the strongest elements of the project, but that's the value of a process that generates work in a variety of ways, if I had set out to make these drawings in the first place they wouldn't have just 'arrived' in the way they did. 

Pastel drawings

Just after the two dimensional ideas became more important, the early advance publicity for the event was going out, so I was able to make good use of the images. 

This was the text that went out as early pre-publicity and it was accompanied by selected 2D images: 

Like several of the members of the YSG Garry Barker has been working towards realising a proposal for the RHS Garden at Harlow Carr. The exhibition title, ‘Invasive Species’ was the stimulus for creating a new body of work about things that don’t fit in, in particular the old English phrase; ‘neither fish nor fowl’, became central to ideas about things that didn’t fit in.

The earliest known instance of the use of this phrase is from ‘Rede me and be nott wrothe for I saye no thynge but trothe’, a satire against Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (1474-1530) and the Roman Catholic clergy, written by William Roy and Jerome Barlow.

Who played the parte of Iudas?
The wholy bisshop of Saynct Asse
A poste of Satans iurisdiccion.
Whom they call Doctour standisshe
Wone that is nether flesshe nor fisshe
At all tymes a cōmen lyer.

The phrase began therefore as ‘neither flesh nor fish’ but over the years morphed into ‘neither fish nor fowl’. This suggested a hybrid form, something that at first sight might be one thing but then on closer inspection perhaps another. The first ideas were worked out as drawings and then once an idea began to emerge, trials were made in ceramics, in particular the bright colours you can get with earthenware firings were explored, ones that might suggest from a distance that a foreign invader such as a parrot had landed in the gardens. Gradually it became apparent that these ‘creatures’ were place dependent and that if they appeared in a tree they would seem as if they were birds, if in a stream as fish, or if on the ground perhaps a mammal or even a vegetable. They would of course be none of these things, but the idea was that we often tend to read others as being in the mental place that we stereotype them to be. Such as if it is a brightly coloured creature it must be a foreign bird, or in the case of a recent black Labour MP on entering parliament, she was mistaken for a cleaner.

Glaze tests have been done and now the hybrid creatures are being taken to places where they can be tested as to audience reaction. Some would hopefully go in trees and they have been constructed in such a way that a soft elastic ‘bungie’ fitting can be used around variable tree girths. 

I eventually solved the kiln access issue and was able to pay for access to East Street Arts kiln space, a Leeds based organisation that offers both studio space and access to artists' facilities. 

I had decided to keep colours bright and almost flag like, especially because the space they were going into was quite dark. If you are wondering where I got the glazes from I use CTM Potters Supplies in Doncaster.  

A stand of rhododendron trees at Harlow Carr Gardens

The pieces were to go into a stand of rhododendron trees, which were smaller in girth than I had envisaged and so that Harlow Carr knew what they were going to get I created a collage of some 'creatures' in the rhododendron trees. 

Photoshop collage of how the idea would look

The work eventually had to be installed. The best thing about that aspect was that the gardeners helped and 'planted' most of the ground embedded pieces themselves, realising immediately that they were meant to be like plants pushing their way out of the earth. I'm always happier if the people who will be onsite all the time 'get it', if so, there is a much higher chance the idea will be communicable. Tying the 'fish/birds' into the trees with elasticated rope was left to me, with help from Terry. 

Not perhaps the best outdoor piece I've been involved with, the loss of access to a kiln in the middle of the process meant that there was hardly any trial and error, which meant that several factors hadn't been considered, such as how the work would photograph, 
which is becoming more and more important in a time of the mobile phone; how possible ways to organise the 'collective' of creatures could have been done, the scale of pieces in relation to the audience distance, and types of and colour of fittings; all of which were I felt issues that had not been resolved properly, no mind the actual forms of the various 'creatures' and the final glazes. 


The images of proposed island surrounds by Christo above are of a massive scale public art project, rather than a small intervention in a garden, but even so, drawing as a central factor in the process of communicating an idea was vital.  In Christo's case he used drawings to both communicate his ideas and to raise money to get projects realised by selling them. In this case the drawing is combined with collage, but once again giving the observer a plan view as well as an illustration of what it would be expected to look like. I have a feeling that under the restrictions of lockdown the presentation of proposals for installations will become more and more important, especially for any students that want to develop and maintain a practice that is ambitious and targeted at raising public awareness of issues. 


Titling work is another interesting aspect of developing work for public exhibitions. You are usually given a very tight brief within which to work. In this case the title had to fit on the RHS designed title cards that were to be installed next to the various installations. ‘Neither fish nor fowl’, followed by 'A series of ceramic creatures, representing the need to accommodate differences and celebrate the contributions of what we sometimes call 'invasive species'; was just about the limit in terms of allowed space for text. Whether or not it managed to convey the idea behind the work is debatable, but a long way from 'Composition number 34', which is the type of title I well remember from my early visits to art galleries. 
It was Terry Atkinson that really alerted me to the importance of titles. I was in the same Hayward Annual exhibition 'British Drawing' as him in 1982, (as was Terry Hammill) Atkinson had had three drawings selected. The first, 'The black art of proletarian gob-eating 4: Private Pineapple-Romanoff, Wurtemburg infantryman, Nr. Amiens, July 1918', alerted me to the fact that I had done little work on my own title, simply snatching a line from the poet Yates. However Atkinson's next work had a four part title, beginning 'Non ideological camouflage, ideological sky', then (title part 2) ''Untitled', (title part 3) 'Shape drawing exercise - 'Clearly this artist has not been trained well in the fine art of drawing shapes' and (title part 4) Instruction from a bourgeois liberal spectator', this final forth part of the overall title going on to explain the instruction over 29 lines of text. Now that's a title. 

See also:

Some other thoughts on exhibitions I have been in

Dead fish exhibition Piscean Promises