Last week Friday, there was a critique session for the art students at the college. While the Trouble Tree group did not have to present work it was the 2nd year BFA students who had to step up to bat. Being a part of that session reminded me how being in that position felt, as well as indicated how much I have grown up in the Fine Arts program. As the title suggests, I’d like to share a few of my thoughts about the critique.
For anyone who has never been in this position, for many individuals, a critique is a far from comfortable experience. Not only do you feel the heat from being in the ‘spotlight’, you feel like almost everything you do/say is being scrutinized under a magnifying glass by the multiple eyes around you. Yes, it helps to rehearse and prepare but sometimes even the coolest/most confident characters feel the pressure when in a real life situation. Experience is perhaps the best way to develop a real sense of security when in a critique, but, we only gain this experience by being in critiques over and over again.
On Friday, the need to conceptualize and properly articulate one’s work seemed to be a sticking point. In the art world there appears to be a demand for work to have some sort of intellectual rigor in order for it to be top quality. Or so it appears to me. That said, however, there is a fine line between having a sound concept and having the work lost in a myriad of ideas. There is a need to speak about your work confidently and informatively but often too much discussion/explanation leads to confusion. This line was crossed not only on Friday but in other practicing artists’ talks and it begs the question why it occurs. Perhaps we are fully in the artistic climate where we feel ideas are more important than the actual work. Whatever the case, I feel that while a visual artist should fundamentally be able to articulate his/her own work well, what is said should act as a base while the artwork ‘does the talking’.
The other point which caught my attention on Friday was the issue of feedback. As artists we all open ourselves to criticism whenever we show work. It places us in a vulnerable state but it’s what comes with the territory. However, as much as we may not like to be criticized there is more often than not, some benefit to it. Good constructive criticism may cause us to rethink ideas or view them from angles we never even considered, and in those cases where we think the criticism is rubbish and unfounded we have a great opportunity to defend our work and prove its strength. That however, lies with the artist. In my experience in this institution, I will say it is better to receive honest, unbiased (even if a bit harsh at times) feedback than the ‘buttered up’ answers we wish to hear.
The video posted is a demonstration on one of the techniques used in finger knitting. I have begun experimenting with this as a technique to use in conjunction with the crotcheted pieces i have begun doing.
I find that this technique is easier to learn than traditional knitting. I believe that is because of the lack of knitting needles. So far i am enjoying the process. I’m still going to teach myself to do basic knitting as another experiment for my time project.
I would like to do a video or series of videos showing the making of and the unraveling of a crocheted piece to show what i believe would be the ‘deconstruction’ of time.
Hopefully i can post some trials for your viewing in my next blog.
On with the work.
The human body is simultaneously the easiest and most difficult subject for an artist to depict. It is easy because of its familiarity and availability, the nude has been one for the most important influences for some artists for a very long time. In one shape or another body may be universal, the human form is notoriously elusive to capture. This is why artists have studied the body with mathematical precision in search of the ideal form.
Different cultures have revered or reviled different parts of the body. Ideals include: the athletic male nude for the Greeks; the voluptuous female figure of the Woman from Willendorf; the head alone for people of Ife, West Africa; and maturity for the traditional Japanese female performers known as geisha.
Tattoos and more external modifications donned the body for many years in tribal societies. In recent years it has spread through all cultures and races resulting in this form of body art becoming as varied as the places it was – and continues to be- practiced. A big reason, of course, is self-expression and aesthetics along with a sense of permanency.
Body art isn’t an evolutionary progression, at least in terms of primitive to less primitive, if you look at the essence of body art, at what it’s meant to express – identity, gender, status – those things always remain the same. Hence, my work focuses less on the body as a whole and more the breaking down of these body parts and their social opinions and then going into a controlled examination and interpretation of these with my artwork.
In recent decades, the body has moved from being the subject of traditional portraiture to become an active presence in life and participatory events. Art’s historical, socio-political and cultural developments, from radical feminism in the 1970s to contemporary scientific breakthroughs, have all had a profound influence on artists’ attitudes to, and representations of, the human form. Through art, the body becomes a site for defining individual identity, constructing sex and gender ideals, negotiating power, and experimenting with the nature of representation itself. These aspects highly influence the creation and reading of my work and allow me a more flexible way of working with my imagery than just a purely 17th century aesthetic view.
In recent years I think we have begun to see digital technology as part of life, like electricity and the automobile is now a common asset of life. Digital technology now has deeply infested human culture and human life; for those who are fully integrated within digital culture, there is no possible extrication of computers from life. In art, as much as in any field, what once seemed radical quickly can become ossified into orthodoxy?
I use digital technology a lot in my work, although I didn’t initially start there it has been placed in front of me from the first stages of my life from television and video games; so it’s normal that art has taken a step in that direction for me and other artists of my generation.
Computers were originally devised to calculate. But they are increasingly used to create. As a tool, the computer has saved me a lot of time and effort. Where the struggle starts is to get an end product that’s doesn’t reflect the same ideals of the computer itself. The Computer has a stale aura around it and when artist generally think of art created on the computer they think of dead images made without much artistic importance and lacking all the subtlety and variegation of a handmade artifacts. Computers operate on what can happen from its computing power but the mystery exposed in art is that what happens at all and more than what is possible to the artist, questioning the artist ability and proficiency to create art at all and if the art is the software more so even.
Digital communication encourages a superficial relationship with the real world: if a friendship is not working or a process is boring, an alternative is one click away. Digital technology in general has thrown into question the very nature of the body and the brain. For me, computers have enabled a body that’s not the body and a body without parts. Computers have allowed us to, through a particular externalization, extinguish and replace the human body.
Computers have grown into a powerful medium for enjoying, sharing, and creating art, music, and film. We are also continually exploring and expanding the computer’s potential to generate new works, redefining the very idea of creativity and testing the boundaries of what it means to be an artist.
This video is made by recording the movement of play dough using photography, narrated by snippets of a political speech. Play dough was made by me using an online recipe and food dye. After sculpting my characters and writing a story board, I set my stage with tungsten lights and a white background. I recorded each small increment of movement using a digital camera set on a tripod. The sound comprises music put together in the program ‘garage band’ and a political speech cut up to narrate the animation. The statements are accompanied by comical visuals animated to add to these statements using everyday nature as puns. Words appear on screen and is highlighted by a bouncing ball reiterating the statements, adding a karaoke type of atmosphere that brings forth, to me, a sense of frivolity. This piece started the political satire aspect in my work.
The silhouette, named after French minister Etienne de Silhouette, usually refers to the representation of an object, person or scene as a solid singular shape of colour. The Egyptians and the Greeks both lay claim to this artform but two things agreed upon are: it originated in tracing lines around the human shadow and it was thought that accurate information about a person’s age and gender could be discerned from it.
Countless artists have utilized the silhouette in their work, but the artist who has influenced me with her use of the silhouette is Kara Walker. She has extended the idea of the silhouette to encompass race, social status and sexuality as well as gender and age. By presenting us with ‘simple’ cut outs and allowing them to interact with each other, Walker forces us to confront several issues.
Kara Walker 1994-1995 Series
In my own artwork, where I see sports as a microcosm of the greater society, the silhouette plays an important role as well. While Walker has made the outline a major strength of her work, I have instead decided to use the silhouette as a canvas and fill it with images. Therefore, the outline of the athlete acts as a container which I fill with the ideas and stereotypes we so often associate with them. It is far less of a silhouette of the athlete, but more a silhouette of society’s ideas about them. The images below are examples of my work along with the famous silhouettes of athletes.