‘The exploratory project is intended to encourage greater speculative and experimental approaches to visual research and making. This means more emphasis on risk taking, risks that are personal to you. Curiosity and suspension of your usual judgment are crucial. It is important that you reflect carefully and choose an area to explore that will challenge you, there is no point in choosing something that has success guaranteed. Of course you cannot predict what will happen and you may need to change your plan as you go along, but you do not give up too easily.’
This is our fourth task this year for the MFA and it’s a great one. This kind of task is, as I am discovering, exactly what I am most interested in doing in my art practice. I want to try new things and take risks and explore. In a previous blog I talked about the making day and subsequent experiments that I made in cardboard, painting and plasticine. In this current blog I would like to reflect on my process during this period of making; which will now go under the title of Task 4: Exploratory Project.
Here are some images of the work and how it developed throughout the task:
Here is how the collage began:
And here is the final piece:
After I began to work with painted cardboard some more it bagan to give me very specific ideas about how to finish this painting:
There are parts of this painting that are replicas of what I’d painted on scraps of cardboard and they even look like collage but they have been painted on.
The work with cardboard continued along side the painting:
I began by painting on larger scraps and then I started to cut the up and arrange them:
But I didn’t feel convinced about repeating the style of my first completed collage, so I started making simpler compositions like the one below:
This is a finished piece which I pinned onto the wall, I like the way it replicates an element from the painting. The white grid seems to represent a container, like a basket and this idea has emerged over and over again in my work for some reason.
I continued to make more simplistic compositions with the cardboard:
I felt like I’d taken the cardboard as far as I could for the moment and so I started my investigations into plasticine which I’ve seen used by various artists over the years, some as if it were paint and others as a way of working with colour as is the case with the artist Polly Apfelbaum. I’ve been very attracted to the material because of its texture and bright colour and I wanted to see what I could do with it:
I made these very small pieces (7cmx7cm approx) to start off with, I found the rolling them out and making them very flat caused them to resemble paint to some extent.
Then I tried to make slightly larger pieces:
This piece repeats the basket idea and makes me think of some asparagus strung up and placed in a basket. This was the image that came to my mind when I made it but it wasn’t intentional.
Here is the process for another piece:
Again there is something very figurative about this piece for some reason. I would like to continue to make pieces with this material, although they are very difficult to preserve, I’m very interested in how the work evolves and emerges, I feel like I’m at the material’s mercy as I really don’t know what I’m doing or how the pieces are going to turn out. This is very exciting to me.
Lastly I made some more pieces which I started to combine with the cardboard to see what would happen:
What went well and why?
I feel like I made a variety of new and exciting work through producing a series of experiments, I attribute this to the challenge of testing materials and learning a new technique which I found very freeing and inspiring. The materials were inexpensive and gave me a sense of freedom whilst working with them.
I was able to get over blocks related to trying to control the process too much and allow things to happen naturally, this happened as a result of paying attention to the properties of the materials and reacting to them; I had made up my mind to make collages using painted cardboard in a very specific way going on from the first collage I made, I felt very blocked about doing this for some reason and it was only when I stopped trying to impose this idea onto my process that I started to move through the block and make more interesting pieces based on constructing work from multiple parts.
Furthermore, I really enjoyed working in a more three dimensional way with colour through my cardboard work and plasticine.
What did not go so well and why?
There was a lot of stopping and starting as a result of fear; I could have explored each material a lot more; the scale of the work is very small in general. I don’t consider this to be negative per se but I’m aware that the reason for this comes from a lack of confidence and commitment to the risk taking process.
Comment on what you have learnt about:
Your making process
My main obstacle is fear of failure. Part of what I enjoy about my process is getting over these fears and creating a piece of work that is unpredictable and exciting. My making process includes: allowing things to happen without controlling the outcome, risk taking, avoiding recipes or formulas, emulating the work of others but using it as a jumping off point.
Your use of resources
I’ve learnt that I’m afraid of using new materials but that once I get over the fear I am capable of making the new material work in my favour. I’m good at quickly adapting to the qualities and properties of the new material and reacting to this in order to create a pleasing and interesting piece of work.
Your capacity to take risks
Risk taking is essential to my process and integral to making art. Staying safe is counterproductive, and does not inspire me. It’s very challenging to take risks, but it’s an inevitable part of making so I try to take risks as often as I can. To do this I employ the strategies I mentioned previously; working quickly and in short bursts.
How you cope with problems?
I take a break and look at other people’s work. Sometimes I just start something else for a while and wait until a solution presents itself. I try not to dedicate too much time to vexing about problems if I can. I find working in the studio on a regular basis is the best way of getting past things. I find I need to employ certain coping strategies to deal with my fear of failure which include working quickly and in short bursts, say an hour or two a day. I’ve found that making smaller work and using inexpensive materials also allows me to disconnect from this fear and take more risks during my process.
Comment on how you responded to challenges.
I feel quite pleased with how I’ve responded, I’ve noticed a change in my approach to my work over the last couple of years and I’m excited about where this new attitude may take me. I’m less worried about controlling the outcome of my work, I learn from everything I make, I no longer think in terms of masterpieces or perfection (most of the time). I did have a crisis during my making (through trying to dictate the process I was using with my cardboard work) but with time and a few spurts of courage I was able to push through I feel happy with the results.
How will you use what you have learnt in the future?
I can see how these works could continue to evolve and how they could inform my painting so they have led me towards new things. This is also exciting because I hadn’t considered that changing material could be this informative. I’m very excited about taking this work further; I’ve already started investigating other materials to continue in this way. I would like to make further colour investigations by expanding or limiting the range of colours or even making monochromatic pieces. I’ve found the colour experiments of Polly Apfelbaum very inspiring in this respect.