Group crit reflection

Having just had our group crit session, which took a sum total of 8 hours, I can only say that I currently feel completely dejected and exhausted.

Going in to the session, I felt reasonably confident, having had a tutorial with Ingrid the week prior in which I came out feeling very positive, with the idea of creating a set of pewter medals which will be embedded into the cover of handmade books, each book with illustrations depicting something of the history or experience of that object. However this week when discussing the same ideas, I felt as if the reception was resoundingly negative, with many more problems being flagged up by Ingrid herself than when discussing it the week before. While she was addressing points which I need to develop upon, (how many pages will the books have, what objects will I be focussing upon) these came across less as a constructive piece of advice of what needs to be refined, and more as a criticism of my ideas which at this point in the project is extremely demotivating. Whereas last week I came out of the tutorial feeling as if I had a positive path forward, and felt confident in investing into the idea of making books, I now feel full of doubt and uncertainty, and lacking in conviction in what I’m doing. Despite this, I am trying to take the appropriate response of working through these doubts by trying to create a more concrete plan where there are fewer uncertainties. However I am finding it very difficult to move forward and make decisions with certainty when it feels as if every decision I make is then immediately undermined and thrown into doubt. Rather than being told that I have a good basis for an idea which needs much more exploration and development, the impression I have come away with is that I am simply incapable of making these decisions and those which I have made aren’t of value. While I know this isn’t the case, and I will of course endeavour to make my project and my work as strong as it can be, I am finding it increasingly difficult to answer these questions with any confidence as it feels that any idea I have are quickly found to have holes in it, such as in the past week.

However, I am of course aware that the only way in which I will feel more confident about the project and the purpose of pointing out these holes is for me to find answers to these questions. This takes me back into the research stage of the project, where hopefully I will be able to find both inspiration and information to help push this project to completion.

 

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Worries and concerns

Having come back from the Christmas break, I am finding myself feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the reality of how little time we have left in university. Graduation aside, which is in 6 months from now, our timeframe for completing our work is realistically only the next two months, possibly three at a push, before we have to direct the majority of our energy to planning and assembling our degree show.

While this is an achievable deadline, what concerns me most is that I do not feel I know where I am now going with my project after having had my feedback from my formative assessment before Christmas. While the tutors seem to like the medal I have produced so far, and the idea of the set, they do not feel that it is enough work to constitute a degree show which requires a “body of work”. This is a fair point, which I had not previously considered, not knowing precisely what is expected of a degree show and thinking more in terms of having a final piece than an entire body of work. The tutors seemed most interested in the notion of the medals stacking, and working together as a set, and suggested that I create several more series of stacked medals which tell a narrative. However, they did not seem to want me to continue in the direction of personal narrative, as I have been looking at in my current set of medals. They noted the fact that the message I am expressing may not be apparent to everyone when looking at my medals, giving the example “I could look at these and just think that this was a person who was just very interested in keys”. While this is true, as I have written previously I do not think that the message is entirely obtuse to those who are willing to try and ‘read’ the imagery, and that keys are identifiable in their function which is then tied to their significance. While it is true that these objects hold a particular significance and meaning to me, which they will not necessarily hold for others, I would argue that that this is true for many artworks and that there is always the risk that viewers will not understand, or frankly care about your work or message.

When asking if perhaps what they were suggesting with creating several other bodies of work in relation to my medals, was expanding on or reinforcing the message of the main set to perhaps make it clearer or provide context to the objects (keys), their response was a definite no. They were clear that rather than being related to my personal narrative, they should be a response to narrative as a whole, and specifically not related to me. From my perspective, I can’t help but feel that this completely undermines and detracts from what I consider to be my ‘main set’ of medals. This then tells me that discussing my own experiences is not as worthwhile a topic as I had initially thought (despite the fact it was not something I was originally considering, but was convinced of its value by other member of academic staff), which is very disheartening as I have spent a lot of time and energy labouring over the theme and concept to get it to what I thought was a reasonably robust point. It also seems counterintuitive to me to create an additional body of work that does not reflect the tone or message of the main piece, that I do not feel connected or engaged with and I do not feel works cohesively to strengthen my work as a whole. Perhaps this is not the case, and it is by nature my challenge to take the suggestions I am given and work with them in a way that does enhance my work, but currently I am having difficulty in seeing the value of the exercise other than simply to produce more objects.

This not to mention the fact that I find this task of making two or three more sets of stacking objects incredibly daunting in itself. While I understand my tutor’s argument that the medals I am working on currently can by produced into bronze without a huge amount of difficulty, and that I should be more ambitious with my work. However the idea of designing from scratch two or three more sets of stacking objects (while it was suggested they do not have to be medals or take as much effort to construct, potentially coins for example), is not one I take lightly as I feel the nature of two sided objects, and in addition to this the stacking of them, is a relatively complex set of dynamics which is why I chose to work with it in the first place. This combined with the fact I have little sense of clear direction with this task to drive me, no anchor point to construct my work around other than “narrative” which is almost ubiquitous in nature, leaves me feeling incredibly uncertain and concerned for the completion of my project.

While I’ve no doubt that I will at least pass and complete the year, graduating from university, I understandably want my work to be as strong as possible and approved of by others (especially my tutors). Because of this I am left feeling shaken by my overwhelmingly average formative feedback, falling perfectly in the middle of the bracket “Satisfactory”, aside from context which was in the bottom of the bracket “Good” (2:2 and 2:1 respectively). While I did not anticipate getting a first, and I understand that this is formative feedback which forms a basis to improve your grade, it is disheartening to me to be told that your work is simply “satisfactory”, ‘it’ll do’. It makes me question whether or not I have any real skill for art, and whether I should pursue a career in the arts at all, let alone as ‘an artist’ producing and selling my work (not that I have any real concept of how to achieve that in the real world to begin with). It is a consistent feeling that I’ve had throughout my time at university, that there is something fundamental I just seem to be simply ‘not getting’. Something that I seem to be lacking that leaves me in this constant position of uncertainty and achieving only average grades, yet I can’t seem to grasp what it is that I’m missing. I come into university every day and work consistently, staying later than most (although certainly not as late as some) working for several nights in the week this past term. Trying to ensure my ideas are refined and robust, and when sculpting trying to make sure my technical skills are good and the objects are detailed. All in all simply trying to create work that I can be proud of and working hard. However this simply does not seem to be enough to even bring me within the bracket of “Good”, to get any indication at all that the work I’m doing is worthwhile and of any value.

Then there is the matter of what happens post-graduation. We are being made to look for post-graduate opportunities that we might engage with, form and idea of what it is we are going to do upon leaving university; a useful exercise in itself. Unfortunately I seem to be at a complete loss, hardly knowing where to begin, unsure of what to search for or what avenues might be available to me, any attempts I have made have come up largely at dead ends looking seemingly not relevant or not achievable for me. I am feeling an incredible sense of panic building in me at the realisation I have no plans in place for when I finish uni, and in fact no concrete place to live. While moving back home is realistically an option, and I am not expecting to have to live on the streets, it is certainly in my mind the absolute last option available which I would give almost anything to avoid, even if that means living on the sofas in friend’s houses. While I imagine many students sympathise with the notion of not wanting to move back into the family home after graduating university, for me it is a particularly pressing and important matter, and frankly the only goal that I have upon leaving university to never move back home again. This is why I feel it is very important to have a clear exit plan upon leaving uni, which would ideally involve some form of professional practice such as a residency or work experience as the tutors suggest, around which I could plan where I’m going to live, how I intend to make an income. This is also why I am finding it very distressing I do not have these matters in place, and in fact have very little clear idea of what it is I’m aiming for or how to achieve these goals, with the knowledge that graduation is coming ever nearer and these plans need to be put in place now at the latest, and ideally should have been done sooner (and certainly cannot be left until any later) yet I barely know where to begin and am certainly not in the finalising decisions stage. Any plans that I can envisage making such as residencies generally only last a couple of months at the most, which leads me to the question of “what then?”. Will a residency necessarily lead onto paid work, or to another opportunity? Most residencies provide some form of accommodation or housing over the course of the programme, but even assuming I find a residency which I am accepted onto, and can start soon after graduation, where do I live once it’s over? There are so many uncertainties and factors which I either can’t account for or have the potential to change so wildly, it seems impossible to be able to make concrete plan in which I can feel secure.

There is of course also the matter of the dissertation, which is due in three weeks from this point, although realistically it should be effectively completed within the next week in order to allow time for proof reading, getting it printed and bound, etc. Thankfully, at this current moment in time I am not too concerned about this, as I feel that the dissertation is in fact the one thing that is going positively at the moment, and I feel that it is an achievable goal to complete it within this next week as long as I push hard on it now and dedicate time to it. How I feel about it next week however, might be a completely different matter.

While I of course intend to discuss this with the tutors, and any other relevant members of staff, my concern is that I will be met with the response of “well we can’t do it for you” and “go and research”, which are responses I’ve come across in the past. Although I do appreciate the sentiment behind these responses, certainly the tutors cannot be expected to do these things for me while I sit back and reap the rewards, and it is down to me as an adult and an independent person to research opportunities that are relevant to me, I do not think this is what I am asking of the tutors. I have never asked and certainly would not expect, anybody to do my work for me, or to hand me things on a plate, which seems to have been the impression people have gotten when I explain the difficulties I am having. I am simply aware that I am lost and clearly looking in the wrong places for information seeing as nothing I seem to be finding is of use, and am in need of some advice pointing me in the right direction or narrowing my search. This I feel is within the remit of the tutors, drawing on their experience in order to guide me in a clearer direction of search, which I then fully intend to act upon and research myself.

Hopefully, after a booked tutorial on Wednesday, and an appointment with Paul Fitzpatrick which I have requested, things should begin to look clearer and less uncertain. In the meantime I can at least put my energies into my dissertation while I work on a plan of action in regards to my project and post-graduation.


Medal design ideas – Keys as motif

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Due to what I feel is the success and the strength of my last sketch, it got me thinking that perhaps the strong point of these images is less about the hands, and tied into the set of keys which I am holding. It is after all the keys that show the representation of change in my life, that add the quality of subtlety in imagery to the piece.

keys now and then

Keys are objects which you always carry with you, and yet you never acknowledge. They are considered only upon the entering and leaving of the home, and are otherwise silent and inert objects. Unlike say a mobile phone, which is potentially carried on the person even more commonly than a set of keys, keys themselves have a very physical quality, a sense of permanence and importance about them. If we find an unknown key in the house, we cannot simply throw it away, what if we need that key some day, what if it unlocks something important? and so it is put in a drawer, forgotten about and silent, yet ever present and important. Not only do we always carry keys with us, the set of keys which we carry changes throughout our life, giving us access to new places, new opportunities, and are a physical representation of these changes. In this way, I think there are an excellent analogue for changes throughout life, as well as being something that is understandable and easily identified by the viewer, without being too heavy handed.

keys in stages

Over the past few years the set of keys which I have had has changed several times. I have gone from having simply the set of keys for my family home in the first year of university when I was living at home, to moving out in the second year and having a second set of keys (not represented in these sketches as I no longer have them to draw), and now in the third year having a new set of keys for my current flat. In the second year, although I had moved out of the family home I was still very closely tied to it, having to travel back there most days between trips to the hospital to visit my mother, and to walk the dog who was left alone in the house. Now in the third year, having moved in with two friends on the course I truly feel far more independent, and above all else in a very stable position, rather than the extremely vulnerable and isolated state I was in last year and constricted by my ties to the family home. This sense of independence, and the gradual lack of importance and distancing between myself and the family home is also reflected in the sets of keys I hold, with the family keys now being seen as simply one in a set of many keys, which is used infrequently. I have found it interesting to note by own behaviour when using my keys, in when I reach for my keys I automatically take hold of the flat key, even when I am visiting the family home, as I know I am returning “home” and my mind has classified the flat as where I feel most at home. In these sketches I have also looked at the use of key charms as markers in my lifetime, with charms such as my tesco clubcard representing a transition into a more adult life, and other charms such as the heart on a chain and the lion king having been given to me by men in my life.

keys and place on medal

After having had a presentation from a woman from the British Art Medal Society (BAMS) primarily to talk to the second year Makers about their BAMS brief for the year, it got me to consider the sense of scale and representation of place in a medal. Unfortunately I did not get any images or names of artists from the talk to reference, and I shall try and find these at a later point. This sense of scale could be very interesting when looking at the interplay between the two sides of the medal, perhaps with one face having an image relating to place, inherently seen at a more distant scale in order to view the place as a whole, and on the reverse then having a very close up image of the keys relating to that place. Scale could even be played with in terms of representing  my own feelings in relation to that place, for example the family home being seen much further in the distance, whereas the flat door would be seen much closer. keys on medal

In the same way that scale can be played with in terms of looking at place, perhaps incorporating place in relation to the keys.

While there are still many questions to answer, in terms of precisely what images I want to use, the relationship between the front and reverse of the medal, as well as between each medal in the set, I am feeling very strongly and positively about the use of keys as a motif. At the very least I now have a clear point from which to work from and to begin to distil the medal’s design.


Medal design ideas – Hands as a motif

I have written in my previous post about the very difficult and problematic issue of needing to find a continuing theme or point of reference to use as imagery across my medals. One idea which has come to mind, and which I feel reasonably positive about, is the use of hands. Hands are something I have always been drawn to, and are something which I have spent a lot of my time drawing over the years, my own hands in particular. What I always have enjoyed about drawing my own hands are the fact that they are always an interesting and complex thing to draw, that are always with me, and produce satisfying and attractive imagery. Hands were even in fact the main focus of my medal project last year, looking at the idea of intimacy and touch between two people.

Not only this, but there is the inherent nature of hands that they are very personal and intimate things, which are not just part of our bodies but arguably one of the part we use the most, to interact with the world outside of ourselves. They are renowned for being one of the most expressive parts of the body, ranging from clear exaggerated gestures to very slight and subtle movements and gestures which directly reflect a person’s mood, thoughts and opinions. There is also the matter of relatablility,  in that we all have hands and understand the nature of them, our expressions are not unique but hard wired into the nature of being human, and are common to us all. Because of this, I feel there is a strong potential for using hands as an analogue in my medals. The degree of subtlety in expression is something I feel very strongly about in my work.

With this in mind I drew some hands onto a couple of my medal tests in order to see how the scale would work in terms of the imagery

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I used a medium sized and a smaller medal, in order to get an idea of how the scale effects the image. While the larger size allows for a more prominent image, the smaller medal lead to a more simplistic line drawing. I was also attracted to the fact that with the smaller medal, the user was encouraged to hold it closer to their face in order to examine the image, which is a level of intimacy between object and person that I appreciate and would like to encourage. Even with this simple open palm image, which was not representational of any topic or idea, simply acting as an example of hand imagery on the medal, is very satisfying in itself.

hands holding

Thinking about using hands as a motif, and also of the idea of loss, I did some sketches to potentially represent it. A potent recent loss in my life is that of my dog, whom we had to give away to thankfully a loving home due to my mother having a debilitating stroke in the past year and being unable to adequately look after the dog, and I myself being unable to look after her due to not only due to the no pet policy of my flat, but the time and long term practicalities. While it may sound trite to say, I loved my dog very dearly and feel the void left in her absence quite profusely, and found the ordeal of having to re-home her very distressing. She was even the focus of my final major project on my foundation course where I painted a series of portraits of her illustrating the warm and loving relationship between myself and her.

Painting of my dog, acrylic on board

Painting of my dog, acrylic on board

In the sketches above, I am representing the transition between the state of having, and then subsequent loss, which is something which I would then look to repeat across the series of medals. This could be shown in a manner of ways, and would very heavily rely on the interplay between front and obverse sides as I have previously expressed is an important part of the medal design for me. Perhaps rather than having the subject, and loss, on the front and obverse of a single medal, it should instead transfer onto the next medal. This means that the set inherently has a reason to be viewed as part of a whole, as a continuing narrative, rather than simply a series of separate pieces which are made in a set. This is an idea I strongly feel has a lot of potential, and which I will likely look at developing.

Some of the issues I have with these designs however, is the question of subtlety. At the beginning of this post when talking about the initial idea in which to use hands as subject matter, I spoke of their strength in being able to very subtly show emotion and expression. However, when an object is thrown into the design, it forces the hand to become much more a matter of function in holding the object. While it can certainly be argued that the way in which we hold an object can indicate to an outsider your feelings about said object, the degree of care and tenderness you show towards an object it certainly is not coming across here. As it stands, the message currently strikes me as being extremely basic and limited, as “I had a dog and now I don’t and it is sad”. It is precisely what I do not want my work to be about, self indulgent pity which I spoke about in a previous post in relation to my life. This is the main issue with tackling the subject of loss, in doing so in terms of showing self development and change rather than self pity and attention seeking.

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Despite this I do still think there is potential for subtlety here, it is simply a matter of working on and refining my ideas and imagery. Here are some designs which I do feel have worked well, of my hand holding my set of keys. You may not notice upon first glance, but the set of keys which I am holding in each hand is slightly different. In the left hand I am holding the key for my family home, and on the reverse I am holding the same set of keys but with the key to the flat where I am living currently in my hand. I think this works very well, representing the change and separation in my life between myself and home, independence and growth.


Medal Designs – Problems with imagery/Lack of fixed themes

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.


Research – Journal artists

Not only have I been having trouble with imagery, but I have also had difficulties in finding relevant artists to research. While I have looking at other art medallists, in terms of their use of the medal as an object, of front and obverse, but this does not speak of the actual subject matter of my work which I am trying to tackle; of personal narrative, growth, loss, change and development over time. I have found it very difficult to find artists relating to these topics, as when researching on the internet using these search terms doesn’t yield many relevant results, and I’ve found that most artists while they may have their work online, is largely presented purely as a set of images and titles with no explanation or context as you might get in a gallery. Because of this, while there are likely many artists who are relevant to look at in relation to my work, I am struggling to find them as I have no point of reference in which to search them by. On the advice of a tutor, I took myself into the library and looked through a variety of journals for the day.

This piece is a series of everyday hand held objects, all of which are linked to techonology (remotes, a modern day mobile phone) are carved from stone to create these beautiful, dead objects. The way in which they are half formed, eroded, yet still recognisable and clearly designed for the human hand, and yet are also from nature. To me this piece speaks of loss, and there is no other word I can use to describe these objects other than “dead”, inert. In their very nature is a heaviness and they are cold to the touch, they are no longer extensions of ourselves, but broken and their only purpose is to be disregarded and abandoned. I am unsure how I would tie this into my own work, and I certainly do not want my pieces to speak so profoundly of loss, but I found these pieces very striking nonetheless. Perhaps the weight and coldness of the bronze is something I could factor into my design in this manner.

"Each other" - Helen Carnac

“Each other” – Helen Carnac

Another piece that spoke to me was this series of bowls, or in particular the center bowl, by Helen Carnac. The use of patern, which is reminiscent of text, almost transcends being mere pattern and has an energy and expression of its own. The bowl itself seems to be merely a canvas with having little importance placed upon it, the white chipping off in large pieces around the rum, and having brown smudges across the white surface, the pattern is the focus here. Despite being the focus of the work, it does not lay where the viewer can easily observe it, on the rim or the inside of the bowl, but rather the lower two thirds, all the way to the underside of the piece and even seemingly spilling over onto the surface below. The pattern itself seems to have a sense of agency, its purpose is not to serve you and pander to your needs and desires. There is also the nature of the bowls being in a set, which is relevant to me as I am looking to create a set, although the other pieces in this set do not interest me so much.

"Hole from carrying wallet in pocket, number 1" - celia pym

“Hole from carrying wallet in pocket, number 1” – Celia Pym

"Norwegian sweater" - Celia Pym

“Norwegian sweater” – Celia Pym

Celia Pym’s work is something which really speaks to me of narrative. She is a textile arist who takes old and worn clothes, and brings them back to life by darning the holes with cotton. However, rather than using a colour which blends with the original piece of clothing, she chooses colours that are distinctly different and obvious. This creates a piece of clothing which is functional, and yet has been transformed in terms of narrative, and wears its history for all to see. The banal and ordinary, holes made socks and pockets through every day use are pulled into the foreground, made to be celebrated and witnessed, rather than an inconvenience to be discarded and forgotten about.

"Scotts Cumbrian Blues, Cow in a Medow" - Paul Scott - 2007

“Scotts Cumbrian Blues, Cow in a Medow” – Paul Scott – 2007

"Scotts Cumbrian Blues, Fukushima" - Paul Scott 2014

“Scotts Cumbrian Blues, Fukushima” – Paul Scott 2014

Paul Scott is an artist who subverts the classic blue and white ware imagery, often using willow pattern, and changing the context or meaning of the piece to something much more humorous. These always have a political and serious undertone to them, and yet the manner in which it is executed and presented with this play on classic imagery is inherently amusing, to see something being repurposed and recontextualised.

This reminds me of Banksy’s paintings in which he often takes a seemingly unremarkable, classic style painting, and adds elements into the background or foreground to completely change the context of the image

"Carwreck" - Banksy

“Carwreck” – Banksy

By doing this, these arists are changing the narrative and meaning of the piece you are looking at. It then has a sense of duality in that it still contains the original context and ideals behind it, but this has then been layered with a new meaning which has given the piece a completely new perspetive and message.

"Eight Unsaid" - Louise Boscacci - 2007

“Eight Unsaid” – Louise Boscacci – 2007

This is a piece that is in fact very relevant to my work, which is a set of eight cups. Each of these are designed to be held in the hand, and are functional in their use, but also fit together as a set interchangeably. Despite these cups not sharing an image, they still work very clearly as a set. This may be due to the fact they are hand cups, without a ringed base to sit on and so cannot stand by themselves, so it is a more natural assumption to fit them together, rather than having them stand on their own in a row. Although they may not have a shared image, they do very clearly have a shared aesthetic, both in their form and decoration, and are very distinctly part of a set. The cups are interchangeable, and unlike my previous ideas do not in any way have images that fit or link together in some way. While this works very well for this piece, I’m not sure that this style of disjointed patterns or images set in the same aesthetic would work for my medals for several reasons. None of these pieces individually strike me as representing any particular thing, and seem more visually decorative than conceptual. While I have read that this piece is supposed to represent a sentence, and each cup a word in the sentence, this is not something I would have gotten from simply looking at them or even from interacting with them.

"Bowl for 264 species"

“Bowl for 264 species” – Louise Boscacci – 2007

Much of Boscacci’s work involves the use of text, but is often made unreadable and forms more of a scrawl than legible text, taking on a life of it’s own much as the pattern earlier in Helen Carnac’s piece “Each Other”. This very physical use of text is something I find very striking, and considering that text is often a significant feature of a medal could be something to investigate and potentially emulate or synthesise into my own pieces.

"Ven Guapo #1" - Todd Cero-Atl 2007

“Ven Guapo #1” – Todd Cero-Atl 2007

I was most struck by this piece by Todd Cero-Atl, which consists of a pair of teacups and saucers, which are held together by a halo of safety pins and pom-poms. This piece is truly personal, with what may seem to be innocent teacups to the viewer representing the discrimination that Cero-Atl’s lover who was suffering from AIDs faced in a cafe having seen the waitress throw away their teacups after the two having used them. He then sadly passed away, and this piece is part of Cero-Atl’s reconciling with his grief. The halo of safety pins represents his grief, piercing and yet enclosing, binding the two together.

It’s the holding together of the two separate objects that interests me here, the fragility and the tension between them, and this directly influenced me to try and incorporate this into my medals.

handheld medal stack

In order to be held together, it then makes sense for the medals to fit the hand, the fingers, in a way that makes them both intuitive and comfortable to hold. In this way the piece is also responding to the viewer in a physical sense, and that sense of compromise, of the object adapting itself to you in a very obvious and inoffensive manner encourages the forming of bonds and attachment to the object, a sense of warmth and engagement. As the medals are looking to express the states of being in the human experience, and act as a platform or as a mirror on which the viewer can reflect, this physical relationship with the object is key. The medals are then seen less as “the other” and more as an extension of the self, and the viewer willingly picks up, engages and invites the object into their own personal space. This is also an excellent use of the edge of the medal, learning from the previous year where I had given almost no consideration to the edge and then when the physical object was made found myself completely taken aback by it, and certainly an idea I am going to carry forward with the design.


Medal Process – Why no bronze for Formative

Initially when we were told at the beginning of the term that we will be having a formative assessment before we break up for the Christmas holidays, and that we will be expected to have a finished piece to show, when asked what I would be presenting my response was that I would have one medal finished by Christmas. I had decided from quite an early point in the project that I was aiming to create a set of medals for my final piece, most likely 5 (it is widely held that when creating multiples they work more effectively in groups of odd numbers), which would come together as a group to create the final piece but equally would stand on their merits as individual objects. Because of this, it made sense to aim to have one completed bronze medal out of the set prepared for Christmas.

However, I found that designing the medals took much longer than I had anticipated. Having done bronze casting in both the first and second year, especially last year during the BAMS project, I am very aware of what a long and involved process creating a bronze medal is, from conception to completion. Given that I have barely conceived a clear idea of the design of the final medals themselves, it seems over ambitious to aim to have a bronze medal for the Christmas assessment.

While I could potentially still get a bronze out for the Christmas assessment, it would take an awful lot of time and energy to be invested into the process, and I would need to start now which would mean working with a design that was nowhere near up to the standard I want it to be, and has the potential to change in almost every aspect by the time it gets to the final piece. Although I’m sure that having a bronze medal for Christmas would be of some use, especially in investigating the use of patination, it would be largely the same process I went through last year and so very little new would be learned from it.

In light of this, I feel that a much more achievable goal is to have a pewter cast of a medal for the Christmas assessment, as this only involves having a sculpted version of the medal (in wax or clay), then casting that into silicone and from that pouring in the pewter, which is a much more straight forward process. I will then have a physical and solid representation of the medal, which has more integrity and quiddity than simply a wax or an unglazed clay sculpted version.