Leeds College Portfolio Notes

At present, I have produced a large body of work which puts me in a favorable position for progression. However, a number of issues were identified as cause for concern.
1. Tutors raised the point that I was pursuing avenues that I enjoyed, (which is fine) but had tenuous relationships with basic ideas identified in my project brief.
2. As a result, the ideas presented did not seem fully formed.
3. The major issue was the question of how other people would read what I had done, and whether they could come to the same conclusions as I did about my work. At present, the work is not very accessible (and not as personal as it could be).

Their advice was to concentrate on a particular aspect and stay with it, research it and start to build a basis for making work on a similar theme, rather than hopping from one thing to another, superficially identifying concepts. This way, work could be produced with a more accessible nature, having been fully investigated. My starting point (again), is to identify an area that I genuinely find interesting and personal to me. This implies a necessary reframing of my starting point.

I now feel the best method of doing this is to simply express a series of thoughts as starting points.

“…identify an area that I genuinely find interesting and personal…”

There is nothing I find genuinely interesting that I would like to share.
Directing interest away from ‘I’ and nearer to anything outside of ‘I’ is ultimately a more rational decision because ‘I’ is no more than an imagined entity, an unreasoned symptom of our existence.

‘What I find interesting’ is like asking ‘What am I?’
The answer is either ‘I don’t know’, or ‘I find it hard to communicate what I am because I am concerned as to what I am worth’

If I am so bad, freedom of expression is not something I can afford.
If I am so worthless, freedom of expression is not a rational option!

Q: Why should an artist be ‘genuine/sincere/exposed’?
A: Because he is comfortable with himself and his worth.

I could take on a more subservient role – producing art for someone, for a cause in mind, closing off my personal opinion of that cause. I prefer this because it is based on others desires/opinions, so it avoids the ‘what is it worth?’ questions by finding it’s origins in others people’s conceptions – I simply realize those conceptions.

What confirmed my newfound view was a passage in a book I found by chance:

“The stereotype of the artist working in the European tradition brings to mind an ego-driven individualist. In actuality, ego plays varying roles in the articulation of an artistic ‘self’. One variable involves the degree of self-involvement. Egocentric artists are self-centered; egotistical artists are significantly egocentric; egomaniacal artists are extremely egocentric. But, it is also possible to construct their ‘selves’ without relying on the perspective of the first person singular. An altruistic ego, for example, sacrifices personal comfort, health and security to perform public service. ‘Wego’ is a term invented to indicate a plural version of ‘ego’. It is activated when an artist’s individuality is replaced with some collective identity such as an African American eco-feminist, or a homosexual male intellectual. The term ‘Wego’ also applies to artists who choose to conform to a predecessor or a historic style instead of asserting their individual wills. It is equally applicable to artists who collaborate or form collectives. But it is also possible to expunge both individual ego and communal forms of ego from art. This occurs when ‘selves’ embody the universal essence of humanity. The ‘Wego’ artists often submit to mystical or godly sources of inspiration. Finally, an alter ego, or an alternative ego, or alternative ego, is a double, the counterpart of the ego. It provides another ‘self’. Meanwhile, artists who rely on their superegos preserve cultural models of behavior.”
– Linda Weintraub, How Today’s Artists Think and Work, 2003

For me, this passage encompasses (in a loose way) the nature of everything I have done so far in my specialist area. Everything I have done, good and bad, was and continued to be a genuine product of my personality. And although I have changed what I have chosen to concentrate on, every piece of investigation comes from the same origin of assessing personality, ego and identity.

How can this ‘dispassionate art practice’ be realized?

The ultimate subservient role for the artist is one in which he is a laborer, serving the advertising needs of a political body, or state-funded institutions.

“Progress requires human souls. Artists are engineers of the soul”
– Joseph Stalin

The idea of artists working as laborers for the needs of a political institution is the antithesis of our current culture, where every artist is allowed freedom to find personal expression. The act of limiting expression by limiting creative responsibility is an ironic act in the context of our culture.

Progress is a modernist idea: what other cause could propaganda possibly be produced for?
This is work that does not conform to our cultural values…

It is optimistic, oppressive, utopian, and idealistic.
We are pessimistic, cynical, but enjoy freedom.

Our culture is so diverse, but the human condition always allows room for idealism and optimism to pervade culture, it is in our nature. Now we have had decades of postmodernism, utopian art less a taboo and more an attractive alternative.

Why have I chosen this topic out of the others?
The work should be able to be read as sincere expression. However, depending on the context in which it is placed it can become ironic. For example, the widespread hostility towards the American government, particularly in a student environment, invites a counter point of view.

…find it more attractive to make work which goes against the general opinion than to reinforce the general opinion.

…find it happier to go against what I really think and communicate someone else’s opinions, than to put across my own and have to answer for them.

The ‘sincere expression’ of propaganda in the contemporary context can therefore be alternatively read as an ironic gesture to the general opinion, a deliberate attempt to undermine the majority’s perception. This however, is not ‘petitioning’. Handing out leaflets in protest is to act for progress. If the art is to be read ironically, or if people are insulted by the art, it is painting for anti-progress. Its attitude is one of dispassion towards the world:
“I don’t care what I put out”.

Less crudely speaking…
Propaganda, in its blunt bias and characteristic visual language, portrays a perception of reality that people in power see fit. It therefore becomes something artistically shallow, despite the fact that it could be an exceptionally executed piece of painting or sculpture. Its shallowness comes from an unjustified subjective perception, which is communicated so plainly that anyone can understand the narrative.
The nature of propaganda is something futile: It is produced for the sake of utopia; a system in which culture and ideals are stationary. Yet, the nature of things being what they are, the notion of practically maintaining a stationary culture is impossible, for whatever circumstances.
With these two issues (small-minded triviality and futility) associated with propaganda in its most modernist and ideal sense, to devote oneself to it is to raise the point of its total worthlessness – which relates back to the heart of my thinking.

Where can research start?

Converting an ideology into a political style:
I have chosen to start with American politics because American culture has an easily identifiable sense of nationalism. Our political climate is blander and harder to convert into artistic expression.

What does America favour? What art expresses America’s ideals? How does America’s leadership structure influence its artistic motifs?

The Russian international artists Komar and Melamid did considerable research on the topic of making an ‘ideal’ picture. It is important to take note of the results from this survey because it is a reflection of people’s deals in a country where a large portion of the populous are nationalistically united with the government in terms of passionate ideals.

From: www.diacenter.org/km/

The survey was conducted by Marttila & Kiley, Inc. of Boston, between December 10 and December 21, 1993. 1001 adult Americas residing in the 48 contiguous states were interviewed by telephone by trained professionals. The typical interview took 24 minutes to complete. Respondents were selected from all American households using a random probability sampling procedure which included unlisted phone numbers. The sample was stratified according to state. Gender quotas were observed, so the final sample is 53 percent female and 47 percent male.
To a surprising extent, the public tends to agree on what it likes to see in a work of art. Americans generally tend to prefer, for instance, traditional styles over more modern designs; they also express a strong preference for paintings that depict landscapes or similar outdoor scenes. In addition, most Americans tend to favor artists known for a realistic style over those whose artworks are more abstract or modernistic.
Americans who take a more active interest in the visual arts tend to be less definitive in matters of taste, and to welcome a greater diversity of artistic styles. As a general rule, Americans who might be expected to have a more detailed knowledge of art – those who visit an art museum with some regularity, as well as those with a higher level of academic attainment and those who are more affluent – appear to be less set in their views about what constitutes “good art.” These Americans are, for instance, noticeably less likely to express a firm preference for a particular type of painting or school of art, and more likely to say that their opinion of a given artwork depends on more than one given factor.

Commission means being restricted by taste, setting dimensions, and other factors that are out of the artist’s control.

Investigation into popular tastes in art: Is there a formula to most accessible, easy to read and aesthetically pleasing to those without an educated knowledge of fine art?

Things we throw away can be accurately remade using other materials, thus blurring what is art and rubbish, and asking questions about the artifacts’ worth.

Art that ultimately destroys itself epitomizes my irritating questioning of it’s own worth. The question can be decisively answered by an explosion or other method, or more subtly, where the viewer is not quite sure if the work is undergoing destruction via a slow chemical alteration.
How many ways can a piece of art commit suicide?

What should the picture be of?
What do most people think of when I say ‘art’?
Humanity’s version of ‘art’- Collect at least 100 answers.

Can it ever be an inherent quality that the work will have a limited life-span?

Q: What makes this different compared to any other piece of work which ultimately has a limited life-span?
A: This has been produced with the conscious decision that it will be destroyed by the creator. Other works of art are made without this suicidal quality, consciously decided in the creator.
Q: Would it make any difference if the work was destroyed by other people?
A: If the work is created by the creator, which simultaneously is a method which ensures it’s own limited life-span, he can work on it alone and from that solitary work the art’s fate is sealed. The idea is that there is irony in the creator also being the destroyer – a figure of control. That irony is no stranger to philosophy, religion, or any day to day activity in which our efforts produce something useful, pleasurable, but temporary, which eventually becomes useless to us: cooking for yourself, for example. It is a very widespread paradox.
Q: What if it was destroyed by means outside of any person’s control – like the weather?
A: That still relies on the maker putting it out in the weather, so creative responsibility still remains. I think it is more effective if it is treated like any other painting, going from studio to being displayed in a more public setting indoors, since this is a piece inspired by a proportion of the public’s idea of art.

Q: How will you make it so that you do not appear to protest against other’s ideas of art? How will it not seem like flag-burning?

Reducing art’s worth to nothing is one method, trying to epitomize nothingness is another. Art that cannot be seen, heard, touched, smelt or tasted, i.e. which does not seem to be there, can have great philosophical and mystical connotations. Art of this nature could play with ideas of materialism, imagination, or grammatical problems. The effects of this art could be recorded: a chemical reaction between gasses on a canvas, or an air-tight tube.

Leeds Foundation College has given me the opportunity and freedom to express ideas in a wider range of media and refine the process of developing ideas through evaluation. The course has made me more enthusiastic to continue onto a degree level and has broadened my view of what areas I should pursue.
Before studying at Leeds Foundation College, the majority of art that I produced consisted of oil paintings. Having been given the opportunity to widen my artistic practice, I enjoy the idea of embracing a variety of techniques for different means and jumping unpredictably between strongly contrasting methods. I believe an artist’s will to confront all working methods reflects our diverse culture. This is what my work is about; confronting culture: the world that people make for themselves.
However, my new outlook on artistic practice does not make painting skills redundant. I believe painting refines skills that can be carried through into other areas. Composition, a sense of depth (or uniformity) and a constant assessment of an image’s effect upon the viewer – to name three – are basic to visual practice in general.
I visit exhibitions whenever I can, in Britain and when on holiday. I have visited many galleries in Italy, as well as obvious cultural sites (such as the Sistine Chapel), and major galleries in Britain, such as the Baltic and Tate Galleries (I am a member of Young Tate).
I also try to include myself in exhibitions. Being a member of a local art group, C.S.A.G (Curiously Strong Art Group) has given me the opportunity to exhibit alongside more established local artists in prime exhibition sites. Although being included in exhibitions is good experience, I have done very little in the way of paid work relating to art. My most satisfying job was a single commission from the Police Accident Reconstruction Unit to design symbols in digitally recreating road incidents. It was enjoyable work that made use of graphic communication skills.
What I would like from a degree course is flexibility. I would like to be able to pursue projects in a wide variety of media. I am also interested in courses that encourage students to experience work within an industry or coordinate projects outside of university. Naturally, I am concerned as to what work I will enter into after my degree, so I am interested in courses which offer favourable job prospects.
My other main interest is music. I play the piano, guitar and I played the violin for the school orchestra, which performed regularly in and around Harrogate and had a major tour to Tuscany. I like to compose music in different styles and genres, from orchestral music to mixing by loop sampling. I also like to read when I can. Currently, I am reading Robert Safranski’s biography of Nietzsche, Richard Steinitz’s biography of Gyorgy Ligeti, novels by Chuck Palahuik, as well as a number of contemporary art writings.


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