Year 1: Reflections

In this first year of my MA Fine Art (January to December 2011), I feel we covered a huge amount of ground. Much of the research I conducted is still relevant for my current practice and the direction in which I am focusing. The research actually predicts some of my current working methods and techniques, slightly more so than the other work actually created. I entered this MA programme in order to focus my practice and receive critical and contextual support for the direction in which to focus. This year I also attempted to “blow off the doors” and leave everything open to question. This includes questioning what media and type of work I “should” be making.

“Map of My Territory” was a surprising difficult assignment. It grew very complex, which isn’t surprising as I have tendency to create complexity. I approached the assignment in a manner I feel very strongly about, by first focusing on how I can make the best, most authentic art for me. The ideas and influences remain relevant even now after year one.

Moving into sculpture and working with casting and mold making techniques and materials for the first time was another challenge I took on this year.

There were times during the year I felt overwhelmed, and looking back on the volume of work and the project accomplished, that feeling is understandable. Taking on the (e)merge Art Fair project resulted in the equivalent of two months of work. Then for my final project I ambitiously decided to move forward with some ideas around sculpture which grew out of making the 200 small netsuke for Give & Take. Working with sculpture was important as a next step. Likewise, this year I make my first stop motion video animations. These were very simple, but I believe they were very successful and I intend to make more.  Not have a studio was difficult this year. I did all of the work in my apartment and mostly in my kitchen. I will be looking for a studio in the new year.

In summary I would say that this year was about reaching broadly and being very ambitious in terms of scope and productivity. This had advantages and disadvantages. One disadvantage was that I did not explore some of the ideas as thoroughly as I would like. However, as I focus the vision for my practice, these ideas may remain relevant to work through in the future. This includes the idea of creating a “magazine” for my Give & Take product photographs.

What I will do differently next year is to narrow down my scope of production. I want to explore how to fit painting into my practice, if indeed it does fit. I still believe myself to be basically both a painter and a photographer. I also need to consider this new step into participatory installation. This could be an entirely new direction, or it could fit with my other interests. The level of critical and aesthetic discourse varies quite a bit depending on the academic background and personality of each student. I hope this will become more even in the next few years. I also feel that not having met the tutors and the other students in person is a disadvantage. We have had some students drop out of the program and I am now the only student outside of the UK, and remain the only student in North America. I will be looking to finance the trip to Barnsley for the workshop to kick off our second year in February 2012.

A final and important revelation from this year is about finding the balance between planning and organically letting work develop. For me this is related to not designing the exact outcome ahead of time. This has the result of providing “space” for the work to have metaphor and not be literal. I’ve learned that the best work has this intangible and hard-to-describe quality. When my work has been less successful in the past it is because it is too literal in it’s attempt to deliver or impart some information or story. This understanding will definitely influence all of my work and my process going forward.

Themes in my work and practice:

  • Product photography
  • Consumerism/Consumption
  • Stop frame sequential photography – progressive photography
  • Private moments of gesture and contemplation, decision making
  • Participation in the artwork
  • Sequential photography as animation
  • Conflation of forms through expansion – sculpture, photography and painting
  • Expanded photography
  • Repetition

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