Medal Designs – Problems with imagery/Lack of fixed themesPosted: November 25, 2015
As mentioned in many previous posts, I have been having a lot of trouble when it comes to what imagery to use on my medals. I have previously thought about using flowers, reflecting the common use of flower print in ceramic blue and white ware. However since deciding that using ceramics in my medal is no longer relevant and deciding to stick purely to using bronze, I have lost the only tangible link to using flowers as imagery in my work. While it would still be feasible and there is a long history of using flowers in art, I still feel that this is not a strong enough link to the message I am trying to express to the viewer, of self development, and that it doesn’t inherently speak of human experience. I worry that when looking at images of flowers upon my medal, the viewer will be drawn more to ideas about nature than of the human. While this is not to say it could not be achieved, it is not a medium that speaks to me personally as I have no particular interest in flowers. Not only this but there still lies the matter of all the questions raised when I first thought about using flowers as a motif, such as which flowers do I use to represent the self, and why? Would it be based on British folklore, or depictions of flowers in classical paintings? These issues certainly seem to be outweighing the positives which consist of “it could potentially be used as an effective analogue”, when arguably almost anything has the potential to be used as an effective metaphor when used in a sensitive and considered manner by the artist, and ideally I would like a stronger starting point than this for the center point of my medals.
Another early idea of imagery that I considered was using rope or thread. While this does have the potential of being a sensitive representation of different states of being, looking at the notion of strength versus fragility, of a winding and changing narrative, there is something about it which doesn’t sit entirely well with me. Although I cannot put my finger on precisely what this is, the fact that I am not looking at this idea and feeling confident or enthusiastic about it, even in the early stages of conception, is a red flag for me that it is not the strongest or most fitting imagery that I could use. Not only that, but the fact that I distinctly have no excitement or enthusiasm for the subject matter means that it is not the correct imagery to be using, as if I am to continue with this project successfully I want to have at least some degree of interest and investment in what I am creating, other than wanting to pass the year. On reflection, without the link into ceramic blue and white ware the idea of using rope or thread is most likely stronger and more fitting than that of using flowers, however at this point I have effectively ruled out both of these as ideas, although I may keep the idea of rope/thread in the back of my mind as a backup plan for lack of having any better ideas.
While I am looking at expressing the notion of the development of self and reflecting upon different stages and experiences throughout life, this has to be ultimately based on my own experience, as I by nature have never experienced the world through the eyes of anyone other than myself. Although I can attempt to extrapolate my own experience in a way that is applicable to the human experience in general, and therefore broadly fit the everyman, I can only do this from the viewpoint of my own life. Because of this, I feel it is important that the medal does also speak of me, and to myself and my experiences in some respect.
With this in mind I tried to think of imagery that not only was relevant to my life, but given that it is going to be the motif used across the set of medals: the constant in the midst of change, it should be something that has remained constant throughout my own changing life. However, there are very few things in my life which have remained unchanged, which was in fact the original basis for the concept behind my medals. There are a few things that have remained “fixed” in some sense, are not areas I wish to explore or make the focus of the medals.
The first of these “fixed” points is the fact that I have always lived in Cardiff. There are many problems with this concept, first and foremost is that I do not want my medals to speak primarily of place. While place may be relevant in specific circumstances, and with certain links in my life, especially the notion of “home”, Cardiff as a whole does not feel particularly relevant to me. Unlike some, I do not feel a strong tie or bond to the city I have grown up with, and while I have a fondness and familiarity, it is also a place I wish to escape from and am beginning to feel trapped by. This in itself could be an interesting topic for an artist to explore, but does not strongly tie (for me personally) in to the topic of growth and self development, and my anxiety about my ties to Cardiff relate largely to my relationship with my mother. Not only do I feel exploration of “Cardiff” is not relevant conceptually to my piece, I feel the imagery does not lend to the piece either. When looking at the notion of the city, I quite naturally begin to think on a broader scale; iconic buildings such as the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff Castle, objects on an architectural scale. This completely contradicts the notion I am looking at which is of the personal, the interpersonal and the phenomenological, and as with many of the other ideas which I have refuted using in my piece, I feel detracts from the strength of the message. Although I could use place on a much smaller scale, perhaps in relating to the home (family home, streets in the village I grew up in, bedroom, where I am living now and have lived in the past year, new streets travelled) if the theme is “Cardiff” there is little to know way of indicating that all of these images are in fact in Cardiff, and could just as easily be anywhere in Britain or elsewhere. Without prior information, the reader would be unable to make any clear reading of these images and their significance or relation to myself. Not only this, but it then is likely to make the medals unrelatable to the viewer as they not only have no context, but these places are clearly unrelated to themselves. Rather than being able to view each, or the set of medals as the experience of another (as discussed previously, I can ultimately only express my own world view) which they can then use as a point of reference to understand, to connect with personally and to reflect on, it is likely that it will be purely identified as “the other” (i.e. “doesn’t relate to me”) and dismissed. And so in terms of both context and imagery, Cardiff is an unsuitable motif.
The second “fixed” part of my life, is my mother. The reason I use the term “fixed”, rather than simply saying fixed, is because while my mother has always been present in my life our relationship has been an erratic and tumultuous one and she is not the pillar in my life that may be expected. Although this has certainly been a driving and determining factor in my life, which has dictated much of my experience and I am sure my outlook on the world, I do not think it is my defining factor of “self”. I would certainly like to think that I am more than simply a product of my negative experiences, and certainly do not take the woe-is-me attitude of the suffering artist; rather that these are simply aspects of my life, along with many others, all of which I have used as a platform to grow and develop. Because of this, I explicitly do not want my piece to be centered around my relationship with my mother, not to mention I have no idea how this would tie into a visual motif that would remain consistent across the medals.
Other than these things, nothing else comes to mind that has been a constant in my life. There is no one object I have carried with me, very few interests that I have kept throughout my life into the present day except perhaps my love of the Pokemon franchise. While part of me does think it would certainly be very amusing and enjoyable at the least to have a professional piece of work featuring Pokemon, in realistic terms it is not suitable to my piece in any sense. While there have been artists who use Pokemon and video games in their work, usually the earlier games produced in the 90s, to talk about culture, nostalgia and childhood, these are not themes that I want to be the focus of my work; although I am not ruling them out as subject matter that may be touched upon in the set. My enjoyment and passion for art is another running theme throughout my life, but I can’t see a way in which that itself becomes the imagery used to represent states of being and experience, rather than being the subject matter itself.
This problem of finding a fixed factor in my life which I can then use as a narrative carrier in the form of continuing imagery is the main problem I am facing with the project currently, and if I do not overcome it soon I could be in real trouble. Without a clear idea of imagery, it is becoming increasingly difficult to work with designs as there are certain limits to working in hypotheticals as I have been doing up until this point. Not only this, but the motif will surely inform the nature of the design, with certain formats and elements perhaps being more suited to particular motifs than others. I aim to dedicate all of my time in the coming week to resolving this issue.