Craig Oates: Articles https://www.craigoates.net/articles The blog/articles section of craigoates.net xml-emitter en-gb Craig Oates: Articles https://www.craigoates.net/images/logo https://www.craigoates.net/articles Joel Meyerowitz with Fallen Man https://www.craigoates.net/article/view/meyerowitz-with-fallen-man This post is part of a series of blog posts called "Noteworthy Artists and Artworks". For more information about the series, please read *Series Breakdown: Noteworthy Artists and Artworks*. You can find the link at the end of this post. Joel Meyerowitz is an American street, portrait and landscape photographer. He was born in New York, New York on 6th March, 1938. Having exhibited all over the world he is often credited with being an early adopter of colour photography. In doing this, Meyerowitz helped weaken the resistance to the idea of colour photography not being a serious medium for street photography. Like the other artists I have highlighted in this series, Meyerowitz has created many pieces over his lifetime. For the sake of brevity, though, I will focus on just one. That one is a photograph called *Fallen Man* (fig. 1) which Meyerowitz took in Paris in 1967. <figure> <img src="/storage/view/craig/media/fallen-man" alt="Fallen Man"/> <figcaption>Figure 1: Fallen Man, Paris 1967 by Joel Meyerowitz</figcaption> </figcaption> </figure> *Fallen Man* (fig. 1) consists of a falling man &#x2013; in Paris, 1967. Of all the artists I tend to gravitate to, Meyerowitz seems to have the most descriptive titles. Nevertheless, what you see is a man on his back (having fallen), with a crowd watching and another man (holding a hammer) walking over him. There is a sense of drama and theatricality to it. However, an important note to make here is the narration has been coerced by Meyerowitz. The framing of the scene and the moment documented are choices made by Mayerowitz. To put it another way, this is Meyerowitz's account of the story. On top of this, the static nature of photography means we are left to conclude the before and after ourselves. We can do this, however, with the information Mayerowitz provides. What I have now come to learn from photographs like this is how to expose the ambiguities of the world we live in. Or, in other words, photography is really good at traversing the implicit and the explicit. When you view *Fallen Man* (fig. 1) you can assert that a man has fallen onto his back &#x2013; it is explicit. How he got there is implied. Thus, the actual reason why will sink into the vortex of mass opinion as more people attempt to provide an answer after the fact &#x2013; whilst never witnessing the moment first-hand. By being exposed to Meyerowitz’s work and others like his, my belief of letting things grow (nurturing) has been invigorated. The most notable reason is because of the implicit and explicit nature as mentioned previously. The concrete nature of a physical image that is offset by a lack of a "before" and "after" allows, and actively encourages, the image to grow in ways beyond the initial viewing of the piece. Mayerowitz does not show several frames at once, he shows one. And, regardless of how intentional it is of him, confronting work in this manner has left its mark and influence on how I think about my work. ## Links - [Series Breakdown of *Noteworthy Artists and Artworks*](/blog/view/series-breakdown-artists-and-artworks) - [Joel Meyerowitz's Website](https://www.joelmeyerowitz.com/) - [Phaidon article on *Fallen Man*](https://uk.phaidon.com/agenda/photography/articles/2014/september/03/why-joel-meyerowitz-thinks-this-is-his-best-photo/) �� Art Practice Thu, 23 Apr 2020 15:49:40 +0000 Lawrence Weiner with Taken From the Wind & Bolted to the Ground https://www.craigoates.net/article/view/weiner-and-taken-from-the-wind This post is part of a series of blog posts called *Noteworthy Artists and Artworks*. For more information about the series, please read *Series Breakdown: Noteworthy Artists and Artworks*. You can find the link at the end of this post. Lawrence Weiner is an American artist. He was born in the Bronx, New York on 10th February 1946, and currently resides in New York. Weiner is most recognised as a conceptual artist &#x2013; more specifically, the Post-Minimalist arm of conceptualism. The artwork I will be looking at today is called *Taken from The Wind & Bolted to The Ground* (fig. 1). It was part of the exhibition titled *Gyroscopically Speaking* and was held in Mariam Goodman gallery, New York – between December 2010 and January 2011. <figure> <img src="/storage/view/craig/media/taken-from-the-wind" alt="Taken from the Wind and Bolted to the Ground"/> <figcaption> Figure 1: Taken From the Wind & Bolted to The Ground, 2009 by Lawrence Weiner </figcaption> </figure> What is apparent with this piece is the conveying of information without a literal depiction of it. There is no wind or ground per se, but the image has taken a form. It does not even say what was taken, but you know what happened to it. For my next point, please consider the image below (fig. 2). Wiener has been able to suggest movement using static elements. The phrase “Taken from the Wind” is running upwards. We know to interpret it as such because of the left-to-right nature of the English language. Comprehending “Bolted to the Ground” is how we determine the proceeding movement is downward. And, the words “Taken” and “Bolted” help imply the movement was a strained one. Lastly, all of this movement is happening as you look at it, but none of it physically moves. <figure> <img src="/storage/view/craig/media/taken-from-the-wind-detail" alt="Taken from the Wind and Bolted to the Ground"/> <figcaption> Figure 2: The compositional narrative of the piece. </figcaption> </figure> Upon closer inspection, there are two "fragments" at play within the work. The first fragment we are presented with is a visual one, consisting of words and shapes. The second fragment, on the other hand, has no physical form at all. Over time, I have fallen into the habit of referring to the first fragment as the “immediate-visual” and the second one as the “conceptual-image”. I must, stress here, though, I tend to use them as informal terms. I say that because they have an asymmetric feel to them which I am, at the time of writing this, unsure on. I cannot decide whether I should embrace or discard it or let it hang loose as an artefact of the creation process. So, until I resolve my doubts, I will refrain from cementing them as actual working terms. Regardless of the validity, this observation has influenced my thoughts on art. This is most notable in how I think about making work. My artistic practice revolves around space as a starting point. It is here that I would like to highlight that “starting point” is used deliberately. This is because (amongst other things) I believe an artwork should grow over time, and Weiner has helped expand my understanding of what that means. During my earlier years, I had a strong preference for artworks with a strong cerebral grounding. Unfortunately, there was a nagging frustration underlying theses types of artworks &#x2013; which I could not understanding or shake-off. It took me a long time to recognise the cause of the frustration. What I have come to realise is, for my artwork to convey the points I wanted, the viewer needed to be primed with information outside of the pieces themselves. This more often than not led to anti-climactic and confusing experiences for the viewer. Weiner helped me come to understand this by bringing to my attention the importance of the "immediate-visual". The cerebral aspect I gravitated toward is – in my opinion – at its best when you give the viewer everything they need with the piece itself. Where they go after the initial encounter is up to them. And, wherever they decide to go, they will not be hindered by a lack of necessary external information on my (or my works) part. The conceptual/meta image that arises from *Taken from the Wind & Bolted to the Ground* (fig. 1)) is drawn from elements in the immediate-visual. The dependencies on external knowledge is kept to a minimum &#x2013; knowing English will help though. Which brings us back to the previous point about growth. For me, Weiner’s work feels like he has taken some seeds, planted them and watched them grow. He has put everything in place and let what comes after that develop of its own accord. What I mean by that is he has not strong armed me into viewing his work in a particular way, especially the meta-image. He has given the viewer some tools (I.E. visuals) and allowed him/her to do what they want with them. As you can see, the portrayal of Weiner "planting seeds" has been influential for me, with regards to me adopting the idea of a "starting point". Weiner has, also, strengthened my mental flexibility for making work in this fashion. This flexibility is a must because you need to remember what one person knows another might not. Thus, the amount of interpretations grows as more view the work. For extra insight into my thinking around utilising the concept of a starting point in my artistic practice please read another essay I have written, titled “What Do I Mean When I Say 'Starting Point'?" Link is below. ## Links - [Series Breakdown of *Noteworthy Artists and Artworks*](/blog/view/series-breakdown-artists-and-artworks)) - [Marian Goodman Gallery](https://www.mariangoodman.com/artists/70-lawrence-weiner/works/27773-lawrence-weiner-taken-from-the-wind-bolted-to-the/) - [What do I Mean When I Say "Starting Point"?](/blog/view/what-do-i-mean-when-say-starting-point) �������������������������������������� Art Practice Thu, 23 Apr 2020 15:25:22 +0000 Anish Kapoor with As if to Celebrate I Discovered a Mountain Blooming with Red Flowers and Barbara Hepworth with Oval Sculpture (No. 2) https://www.craigoates.net/article/view/hepworth-and-kapoor This post is part of a series of blog posts called *Noteworthy Artists and Artworks*. For more information about the series, please read *Series Breakdown: Noteworthy Artists and Artworks*. You can find the link at the end of this page. For this post, I will focus on two artists: Barbara Hepworth and Anish Kapoor. The works I will spend my time discussing here are *Oval Sculpture (No. 2)* by Hepworth and *As if to Celebrate I Discovered a Mountain Blooming with Red Flowers* by Kapoor. Throughout this post, I will explain how my understanding of mass, volume, location, positioning, surface and traversing space have been influenced by them. Before continuing, I would like to add a quick note. At the time of writing, you will find only one sculpture in my body of work. This does not mean I do not think in sculptural terms. If given the opportunity, I would focus more of my time making sculptures. The reason I do not is because I do not have the space to do so (storage or work). What this means is there is a less immediate mapping between the works discussed and mine. Thus, my general thoughts and observations will be my main focus and not direct examples of the topics discussed in my work. <figure> <img src="/storage/view/craig/media/oval-sculpture-2" alt="Oval Sculpture (No. 2)"/> <figcaption> Figure 1: Oval Sculpture (No. 2), 1943 (cast in 1958) by Barbara Hepworth. </figcaption> </figure> I will begin by looking at *Oval Sculpture (No. 2)* (fig. 1), by Barbara Hepworth. If you are unfamiliar with her and this piece, here is a quick summary. She was born in Wakefield, U.K. on the 10th January, 1903 and died 20th May 1975. Hepworth was known most of all for her sculptural work, but she did work in other media. *Oval Sculpture (No. 2)* (fig. 1) was completed in 1943 and cast in 1958. Tate acquired it in 1967 and it has been part of its collection ever since. One of the most notable aspects of this sculpture is how shapely it is. Physically speaking, it appears solid and to be carrying a fair amount of weight. Upon closer inspection, the “holes” seem to be misleading. They appear to be as confident as the form itself. And, in a sort of contradicting manner, they act as non-physical physical members of the mass. One could argue, this is an effective example of negative space. The non–physical aspect of this piece has made it easier to pierce the surface and traverse within the solid matter – conceptually speaking. This is a nice visual and mental sensation in and of itself. With that said, I think the more important point here (for me at least) is it has helped train me to view mass/volume as a way to define space &#x2013; and not just consume it. A key feature of a surface is its ability to act as a barrier, separating the inside from the outside. With that said, what the empty space has done is force me to reconsider what I mean when I say/think “inside and outside”. Please consider the image below to help explain my point. <figure> <img src="/storage/view/craig/media/oval-sculpture-2-detail" alt="Oval Sculpture (No. 2) (detail)"/> <figcaption> Figure 2: Hepworth has managed to weave a duality between what is considered "inside" and "outside" the piece. </figcaption> </figure> What the image (fig. 2) highlights is how the empty space (A.K.A. negative space form) is part of the overall structure, regardless of its immaterial nature. Its lack of form is its form. It is both inside the overall form and outside the physical boundary of the sculpture itself. My last point on Hepworth’s *Oval Sculpture (No. 2)* (fig. 1) is how it has developed my understanding regarding how I traverse, locate and position myself within a relativity-type context. The most noticeable example being when I speak/think of things in a “that which is within this which is within that” manner. I will now move onto Anish Kapoor and his work: *As if to Celebrate I Discovered a Mountain Blooming with Red Flowers*. Kapoor was born in Bombay State, India on 12th November, 1954 and is based in London, UK. Kapoor is known for his sculptural work. *As if to Celebrate I Discovered a Mountain Blooming with Red Flowers* was completed in 1981 and is part of Tate's collection. It was acquired by them in 1983. <figure> <img src="/storage/view/craig/media/as-if-to-celebrate" alt="As if to Celebrate I Discovered a Mountain Blooming with Red Flowers"/> <figcaption> Figure 3: As if to Celebrate I Discovered a Mountain Blooming with Red Flowers, 1981 by Anish Kapoor </figcaption> </figure> Upon inspection of the image above (fig. 3) you will notice the powdered pigment covering each form and the immediate area around them. What this arrangement creates is a blurring between where the sculpture begins and ends. This is not the main point/observation I want to highlight, though. What I would like to do, instead, is talk about its surface and what I have come to think about when doing so. By blurring the boundary of a form, you are left in a state of doubt. How much of this is a lie? A façade? What you see on the surface can be a separate entity from the material beneath. This can lead to more questions: How solid is the underneath? Is it the same all the way through? Because the pigment is only covering the material underneath it, a different idea of negative space presents itself. With the laws of physics being the way they are, a three-dimensional framework/skeleton is requires for the pigment powders to rest on. Without it, the pigments could not take the forms they has. Therefore, the mass below maybe solid but it is only a means to an end. In other words, the material (underneath) as a whole is irrelevant, the fact it has the *property* of being solid is what we care about. In other words, whether its colour is blue or not is something we do not need to know. As a side note, the emphasis on certain properties of a material and not the material as a whole is something I find difficult to reconcile with &#x2013; especially with regards to sculpture. This is because I have a preference for celebrating a material as a whole. If you try to utilise a particular property at the expense of masking others I believe an opportunity has been missed. Also, if I am in a bit of a strop when this topic comes up, I would probably argue (complain really) the idea is too complicated and might be worth re-thinking. Having viewed *Oval Sculpture (No. 2)* (fig. 1) and *As if to Celebrate I Discovered a Mountain Blooming with Red Flowers* (fig. 3), it is clear both are concerned with surface, mass and volume. Nevertheless, both artists handle these concerns in their own way. When viewing *Oval Sculpture (No.2)* (fig. 1), you get a sense of solidity. This is caused, for the most part, by its emphasis on defining volume through mass. With *As if to Celebrate I Discovered a Mountain Blooming with Red Flowers* (fig. 3), Kapoor adopts a different approach. He defines volume by prioritising surface. When viewed together, the differences in each artists take of negative space emerges. This is the bit I find most interesting. *Oval Sculpture (No.2)* (fig. 1) defines a space using non-physical means. The prime examples being the “holes” within the form itself. Whereas, *As if to Celebrate I Discovered a Mountain Blooming with Red Flowers* (fig. 3) emphasises surface and suppresses the involvement of the space (I.E. volume) that lies beneath it. This, in turn, makes the negative space more apparent. By trying to hide it, it is brought to your attention. What both pieces have helped me do is move past the idea of a surface and into the mass itself &#x2013; in a mental capacity. I am much better at identifying the space within a volume as well as positioning and relocate myself within it. ## Links - [Series Breakdown of *Noteworthy Artists and Artworks*](/blog/view/series-breakdown-artists-and-artworks) - [The Hepworth Museum](https://hepworthwakefield.org/) - [Oval Sculpture (No. 2)](https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/hepworth-oval-sculpture-no-2-t00953) (Tate) - [Anish Kapoor's Website](https://anishkapoor.com/) - [As if to Celebrate I Discovered a Mountain Blooming with Red Flowers](https://anishkapoor.com/57/as-if-to-celebrate-i-discovered-a-mountain-blooming-with-red-flowers) (Detail page on Kapoor's website) ����������������������� Art Practice Wed, 22 Apr 2020 15:15:10 +0000 Piero Della Francessca with The Flagellation of Christ and Pablo Picasso with Woman at The Toilet https://www.craigoates.net/article/view/picasso-della-francesca This post is part of a series of blog posts called *Noteworthy Artists and Artworks*. For more information about the series, please read *Series Breakdown: Noteworthy Artists and Artworks*. You can find the link at the end of this post. The way Picasso and della Francesca have incorporated and utilise space in their work has affected and expanded my understanding of it. The most notable thing is their ability to depict space in two and three dimensions in the same image. And, it is this which I intend to focus on for the remainder of this post. Piero della Francesca was an Italian Renaissance painter. His birth is believed to have been around 1420 A.D. but it is not known where. He died in Sansepolero, Italy in 1492 A.D. Throughout his life, his peers knew him as a mathematician and geometer. These days, however, most know him as an artist. And, for the purpose of this post, that it the area I will focus on most. To be more precise, I will focus on one of his paintings: *The Flagellation of Christ* (fig. 1). It is currently on display at the Galleria Nazionale della Marche, Urbino. <figure> <img src="/storage/view/craig/media/the-flagellation" alt="The Flagellation of Christ"/> <figcaption> Figure 1: The Flagellation of Christ, probably 1468–1470 by Peiro della Francesca </figcaption> </figure> From a personal point-of-view, della Francesca's understanding of figurative and literal space is what I am most interested in. When I say "figurative", I mean the depiction aspect of the image (the buildings, people Etc.). The "literal" part is the act of splitting the painting surface in two (via the composition of the image). This, in-effect, leaves us with two images in one. To help explain my point, please consider the image below (fig. 2 ). As you can see, the image has a clear divide about halfway along the horizontal axis. This has caused the image to split into two sections. He has traversed the panel (I.E. canvas) in a literal sense (horizontally). On top of that, he has managed to portray a sense of three-dimensional depth on a two-dimensional plane via perspective projection (A.K.A. perspective drawing). You should find an additional image (fig. 3) below to help demonstrate this point. <figure> <img src="/storage/view/craig/media/the-flagellation-split" alt="The Flagellation of Christ"/> <figcaption> Figure 2: della Francesca has split the image into two sections along the horizontal axis. </figcaption> </figure> <figure> <img src="/storage/view/craig/media/the-flagellation-perspective" alt="The Flagellation of Christ"/> <figcaption> Figure 3: With the application of perspective projection, the image has a three-dimensional quality to it. </figcaption> </figure> The next image I will focus on is called *Women at The Toilet* (fig. 4 ) by Pablo Picasso. For those unfamiliar with Picasso, he was a Spanish artist know most of all as one of the founding fathers of *Cubism*. He was born 25th October 1881 A.D. in Málaga, Spain and died 8th April 1973 A.D. in Mougins, France. *Women at The Toilet* is part of the collection at Musée National Picasso, Paris. <figure> <img src="/storage/view/craig/media/women-at-the-toilet" alt="Women at The Toilet"/> <figcaption> Figure 4: Women at The Toilet, 1956 by Pablo Picasso </figcaption> </figure> When looking at pieces like *Women at The Toilet* (fig. 4), you get a sense of movement and positioning through Picasso's cubist exploits. What is impressive (to me at least) is he has achieved it in a static environment. For example, if you look at the woman on the right, there is an expectation for her hands to move. You expect the comb to run through her hair and an odd sensation arises when it does not. Her hands, the comb and hair all remain fixed in place. This is were your mind starts to fill in the gaps and applies the movement itself. The same thing occurs with the woman on the left. You anticipate her body to turn but it never does. Things become more complicated when your mind starts to make her turn towards and away from you at the same time. Of course, this is just one approach to addressing such concerns. But, it was Picasso and this piece (amongst others) which piqued my curiosity. After coming across work like this, my understanding of movement and positioning began to change. This was especially true in two-dimensional contexts. If I may, I would now like to end with an aside. It does not relate to what I said above in an exact manner but it is in keeping with the spirit of it. As a maker, I am intrigued in movement, location and positioning (in space). How things are perceived has a dependency on where they are viewed. This can be said for both parties: the artist and the artwork. # Links - [Series Breakdown of *Noteworthy Artists and Artworks*](/blog/view/series-breakdown-artists-and-artworks) - [National Gallery of The Marche](http://www.gallerianazionalemarche.it/en/the-museum/) (*The Flagellation of Christ*) - [Wikipedia article for Piero della Francesca](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piero_della_Francesca) - [Wikipedia article for *The Flagellation of Christ*](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flagellation_of_Christ_(Piero_della_Francesca)) - [Musee Picasso](http://www.museepicassoparis.fr/en/) (*Women at The Toilet*) - [Wikipedia article for Pablo Picasso](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pablo_Picasso) ���� Art Practice Mon, 06 Apr 2020 22:16:40 +0000 Sol Lewitt and Wall Drawing #164 https://www.craigoates.net/article/view/sol-lewitt-and-wall-drawing-164 This post is part of a series of blog posts called *Noteworthy Artists and Artworks*. For more information about the series, please read *Series Breakdown: Noteworthy Artists and Artworks*. You can find the link at the end of this post. Sol Lewitt was an American artist and he was born in Hartford, Connecticut, 9th September, 1928 A.D. Unfortunately, Lewitt died on the 8th April, 2007 A.D. in New York. His work involved a wide range of disciplines including drawing, print making, photography, painting and sculpture. Although, he preferred the term “structures” for his three-dimensional work. He was mostly linked to the Conceptual and Minimalism art movements. Lewitt made many artworks throughout his life. But, in keeping with wanting to produce a piece of text that is of reasonable length, I will mention only one: *Wall Drawing 164*. It is currently on show at Massachusetts Museum of Modern Art (MMoA), as part of an ongoing exhibition called *Sol Lewitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective*. For those not familiar with Lewitt's work, he would provide, on a regular basis, instructions for people to follow when creating his pieces. I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but hopefully the instructions provided for *Wall Drawing 164* by MMoA will give you a sense for how Lewitt approached this aspect of his work. They are as follows, > “A black outlined square with a red horizontal line centred on the axis > between the midpoint of the left side and the midpoint of the right side and a > red diagonal line centred on the axis between the lower left and upper right > corners.” <figure> <img src="/storage/view/craig/media/wall-drawing-164" alt="Wall Drawing 164"> <figcaption> Figure 1: Wall Drawing 164, by Sol Lewitt </figcaption> </figure> *Wall Drawing 164* (figure 1) consists of a black outlined square and two red lines with it. This is a rather simple and clean image but its use of line is the influential part for me. It is also worth noting, my tendency for using lines as an element/building block is encouraged by works like this. Lewitt has helped instil the notion of lines having conceptual and physical attributes. Each line is an element with its own identity but it/they can operate within a group which strives for something beyond itself. This next observation can be associated with other artists (as well), but Lewitt is a strong example of how it is used in action. The defining of constraints or frameworks to operate within is a tactic I employ regularly. Usually, I call them "rulesets" and have them operate in a similar fashion to Lewitt's instructions. The idea of creating a framework to operate in is arguably one of the cornerstones of my work. The devising and applying of one is to intentionally restrict or constrain. Although, applying "unable to operate beyond an arbitrary threshold" to produce work is done with the intention of nurturing an artwork into existence. It is not an act of negative suppression. What I mean by that is all self-applied restrictions are kept relatively simple and intended to keep me focused and committed to my belief of “One piece. One idea”. They are not there to make the task needlessly difficult. So, to sum up, Sol Lewitt was an American artist, born in 1928 and died in 2007. He worked in various mediums and was most commonly known as a conceptual artist. The areas he has influenced me the most are my aesthetic persuasion for minimum usage of line and my understanding of the line as an individual element, as well as part of a collective. Also, Lewitt’s use of instructions has informed my understanding of constraints within the art-making process. # Links - [Series Breakdown of *Noteworthy Artists and Artworks*](/blog/view/series-breakdown-artists-and-artworks) - [Sol Lewitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective](https://massmoca.org/sol-lewitt/) (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) - [Wall Drawing 164](https://massmoca.org/event/walldrawing164/) (detail page of Retrospective website) ���������������� Art Practice Thu, 26 Mar 2020 20:24:39 +0000 Series Breakdown: Noteworthy Artists and Artworks https://www.craigoates.net/article/view/series-breakdown-artists-and-artworks When discussing a piece of work, in relation to others, there is a risk of causing &#x2013; or adding in some cases &#x2013; confusion. Particular associations can emphasise aspects which diminish a viewing experience whilst others enhance a bland one. Thus, the following series of posts is one I tread over with care. I have called this series *Noteworthy Artists and Artworks*; And, it consists of six sections (posts). The names of the six posts are as follows: 1. Series Breakdown of *Noteworthy Artists and Artworks* (this one) 2. [Sol Lewitt and *Wall Drawing 164*](/blog/view/sol-lewitt-and-wall-drawing-164) 3. [Piero Della Francessca with *The Flagellation of Christ* and Pablo Picasso with *Woman at the Toilet*](/blog/view/picasso-della-francesca) 4. [Anish Kapoor with *As if to Celebrate I Discovered a Mountain Blooming with Red Flowers* and Barbara Hepworth with *Oval Sculpture (No. 2)*](/blog/view/hepworth-and-kapoor) 5. [Lawrence Weiner with *Taken From the Wind & Bolted to the Ground*](/blog/view/weiner-and-taken-from-the-wind) 6. [Joel Meyerowitz with *Fallen Man*](/blog/view/meyerowitz-with-fallen-man) When I say "Artist", I do so in the general sense. The reason why is because artists tend to produce large and varied bodies of work, and it is fair to say not everything they do will resonate or be useful (to me). And, identifying the appropriate works is crucial and sometimes difficult to do. On top of that, by knowing that, and taking it in to account, I have found it becomes even harder when trying to separate the wheat from the chaff with regards to experiencing the work as a *viewer* and a *practitioner*. That is because there are artworks I like to view but have no immediate relevance to my practice and the artwork I tend to produce and vice versa. The task of separating the artist from their work can fall one of two ways, which are: 1. The underlying pinning of an artist's practice can be more useful than any/all artwork produced from it. And; 2. (usually a single) work produced by an artist contains elements which are more interesting/relevant but are by-products of the artist's practice than the result of the practice. To reduce the chances of this series becoming a reading-list endurance test, I have created a total of six posts (including this one). Hopefully, this is small enough for people to work through in a reasonable time and long enough for it to give a well-rounded approximation of my practice. I say this because the artists and artworks included here are not my entire range of reference points. If I ever did include every one and thing, even I would not want to read it. With that said, I hope you find the balance to be just right. As I start to bring this post to a close, I would like to clarify a previous point. This series is not an exhaustive list nor I have crystallised in any way. The intent here is to provide a foundation or approximation of where I think my work grows out from. They (my works) are not islands unto themselves and, hopefully after reading this, you will agree &#x2013; perhaps even enjoy them (more). Last of all, for the largest gain to be had from this series, I recommend reading my previous posts. This should give you a solid grounding in my work and the building blocks upon which I have built this series on top of. Art Practice Wed, 25 Mar 2020 19:56:43 +0000 Notes on My Workflow https://www.craigoates.net/article/view/notes-on-my-workflow For this post, I intend to walk you through my workflow. I do not intend to list a set of tasks, from one piece to the next. Instead, I aim to present the mechanics of how I work from a relatively high level. My hope is you will walk away with a good approximation in what my workflow involves and how I think about making artwork. I have two prominent habits which affect how I go about making work &#x2013; from inception to creation. The first is: I take a really long time to reach conclusions. The second is: I spend a lot of time iterating on a multitude of variations for one piece. The following diagram should help explain what I mean. <figure> <img src="/storage/view/craig/media/my-workflow-basic" alt="My Workflow (basic)"> <figcaption> Figure 1: My Workflow (Basic). </figcaption> </figure> As alluded to in the previous paragraph, I would describe myself as an iterative worker. For me, the entry and exit points between inception and creation are where I spend the least amount of time. The bulk of my time is spent in the feedback loop (Figure 1). Which is, at times,the cause of some difficulties for me. The most notable ones are knowing when to stop and identifying when a piece has branched off into a new idea. I would like to now switch topics and talk about practical methods for a moment. These tend to be more consistent but not always. When I note down ideas, I use loose pieces of paper. Working in a sketch book is something I tend not to do. The use of separate sheets of paper allows me to see the bigger picture, literally in some cases. This is because I am able to spread them out over an entire desk or wall. This act is not the most revolutionary of approaches but keeping things in a sketchbook increases the chance of me losing something of interest. I am not one to regularly go through old sketchbooks, and I think I have developed a hatred for spines in every sketchbook ever made. Therefore, I usually buy a ream of cartridge paper and use that when needed. This makes it easy to separate out my ideas on a project-by-project basis. <figure> <img src="/storage/view/craig/media/workflow-studio-1" alt="Workflow Studio 1"> <figcaption> Figure 2: Ideas on seperate pieces of loose paper. </figcaption> </figure> <figure> <img src="/storage/view/craig/media/workflow-studio-2" alt="Workflow Studio 2"> <figcaption> Figure 3: Projects are separated into folders. </figcaption> </figure> <figure> <img src="/storage/view/craig/media/workflow-studio-3" alt="Workflow Studio 3"> <figcaption> Figure 4: Projects are then grouped together into bigger folders (I'm all about folder apparently). </figcaption> </figure> When an idea begins to gain momentum, I usually enter some form of feedback loop. Building out mock-ups and seeing how they react (with each iteration and other artworks I have made). I have, also, become more comfortable (with age) with taking this part slow and not rushing it. Which was not always the case -- as that last sentence implies. Knowing how long I hang around in the feedback loop depends on the piece, there is no hard or fast rule. I simply have to play it by ear and rely on judgement -- which increases with each new piece I make. A by-product of this is I usually end up with a collection of pieces which can easily be edited into a series. Identifying a group of artworks as potential for being displayed as a series is also another task that has a reliance on judgement. To help me decide what the final piece(s) is, I stop making and form a shortlist with the current crop of variations. From there, I leave them displayed in my studio and see if they can stand up to being on constant display. The time limit for the artwork(s) to be on show can vary quite dramatically. To give you an example, sometimes it has been a week and other times it has been a few months. If the works in the current shortlist don’t seem right, I return to the start of the loop. Here, I create new work and do so with the insight gleaned from the pieces of the previous loop(s). I repeat this process until I make something which feels appropriate or deem the piece a lost cause. When I feel I have something, I leave the loop and begin thinking about giving the piece a title. The naming process is just as process driven as the making of the artwork itself. I jot down potential names and draw up a shortlist. From there, I let the piece sit with the name. If none of the varieties fit I return to creating new names and re-draw a shortlist. I repeat the process until a name is found. The following diagram is a bit more involved than the loop described above. Hopefully, it will help clarify any issues or questions you have about the process. <figure> <img src="/storage/view/craig/media/my-workflow-detail" alt="My Workflow (detail)"> <figcaption> Figure 5: My Workflow (Detail). </figcaption> </figure> Toward the end of the diagram, the Review box has three options: yes, no and maybe. Hopefully, you get the general idea of what it means. But, for the sake of clarity, it is here were I decide whether or not to drop or keep working on the artwork – or declare it done and date it. I have mentioned very little about abandoning an idea/artwork, but it does happen. The reason why most of works do not become abandoned is because of two major factors. The first one is because I am slow to transition from jotting down ideas (on single sheets of paper) to iterating and developing it into the final piece. A by-product of this slowness is that I have time to gather my thoughts before proceeding. The second one is that most pieces tend to morph into something else before it hits a dead-end. Whether you call that a dead-end or not, I’m always left with something to work on. --- When explaining where my ideas come from, it is quite easy to talk a lot and not say much. The reason why is because, when describing the process of reacting to external stimuli, the answer seems vague. Although, the fact of the matter is I am simply reacting to external stimuli. For example, as I walk down the street, I am greeted with the Doppler Effect as cars travel past. Or, a passage in a book can describe a scene in such a way that I am virtually there. When presented like this, it is hard to see how or, perhaps more interestingly, *when* they fit in to the creation process from the outside. The difficulty with defining the how or the when to the outsider comes from the lack of consistency regarding the application of said stimuli. It is almost a case-by-case basis. ������ Art Practice Tue, 24 Mar 2020 22:00:25 +0000 Upon Completion https://www.craigoates.net/article/view/upon-completion ## Foreword On more than one occasion, I've spoken to a person whom feels like they are having a nice conversation with me. But, from my point of view I would've said it was more akin to someone rambling at me. And, this projectile ramble has a tendency to come at me with a fast and hard enthusiasm. Which can force me to leave the lights on whilst I slip out the back door, if you know what I mean... That doesn't mean to say, every conversation like this is a total train wreck. Sometimes, there are moments of real insight into a person or subject when you keep quiet. Sometimes, it's can be beneficial to just observe. So, having said the above, I ask you to adopt a observational mind-set for the rest of this text. The reason why is because this is going to be a ramble. The rambling will be on three topics. The first one will be about declaring an artwork as done. The second one is about dating artworks and the last is about titling them. And, due to the nature of this piece of writing, there's no standard structure. Instead, I've broken it down into the topics already listed and mused over them a little. All three don't have a traditional beginning, middle or end. But, each one does aim to have a logical flow. Although, I guess you'll be the judge of that. ## Declared as Done Declaring an artwork as "finished" is a difficult task. Although, the reason why is easy to explain. It's because you never know with absolute certainty if it's "done". An artwork can appear finished for years for it to then dawn on you: No it's not. And, how you handle the situation will vary -- adding to your woes. Is the hypothetical artwork on display in a temporary exhibition? Is it in a permanent or private collection? Is it still in the studio? Has it been in any publications? If the artwork requires a change, some scenarios are easier than others for the artist to apply it. On top of that, each artist will have their own opinion on changing an artwork. Some artists will be okay with altering a piece and others won't. That doesn't mean it's a yes or no game, though. There are quite a few bits in the middle to play with. For example, the "mistakes" can become part of the artworks history and, in-turn, its identity. Thus, removing the "accident" can neuter it. Trying to plan for these "post-production-edits", though, is fool-hardy. By definition, they're mistakes and reflect on the artist in a negative light more often than not. So, the appropriate action to take is to try minimising them. But, if they do crop-up, deal with them there and then, on a case-by-case basis. The easiest way to avoid these mishaps is to know when the artwork is "finished". Simple, right? That way the artist will have corrected the mistakes and mishaps. But, how does the artist know when to the declare the piece as complete? When does the artist know when the artwork is ready? ## Dating Habits The date assigned to each artwork I've finished doesn't mark the time I applied the last "stroke" to it. Instead, it marks the time I declared the piece as finished. And, the time between the last stroke and the declaration is indeterminate. For example, I've taken up to two years in some instances. The most notable one, which comes to mind, is the drawings<sup>1</sup> I did of Nicola Ellis'<sup>2</sup> sculptures. I drew them in the summer of 2014 but it took me until late 2016 to call them completed. For me to declare an artwork as finished, I must have a title for it. But, my declaration isn't made straight away -- once I have one. It still needs to pass my "liveability" test. The test is comes in the form of a question and it is a simple one: Can I live with the artwork on a daily basis? To conduct the test, I leave it out in plain view. If I don't get bored of it or see an oversight after a fair amount of time, I mark it as done. I do this by marking the date on the back of the drawing. The fair amount I mentioned above varies from piece to piece. But, I don't recall going any shorter than two weeks with any piece I've made. ## Naming Things Naming an artwork is a difficult task. The biggest hurdle the artist needs to overcome is balancing the trade-off. That trade-off being the difference between being too vague and too explicit. The reason why is because you can hinder the viewing experience. If the title is too vague, the viewer can feel like they are looking at a "black box". And, if the title is too explicit, the viewer can feel like they have been strong-armed. They can't help but feel like they should interpret the piece in a particualar way. And, this is regardless of their own opinion. More often than not, I like my titles somewhere in-between the two extremes. So, to help me achieve my goals of creating titles which are neither too vague or specific, I tend to follow a pattern. Which involves me focusing on the artworks immediate visuals. I, also, try to minimise the reliance on external content and context. Although, none of the above is something I adhere to with absolute devotion. It's more of a rule-of-thumb. <figure> <video controls="" loop="" autoplay=""> <source src="/blob/craig/artworks/light-blue-planes" type="video/mp4"> <source src="/blob/craig/artworks/light-blue-planes" type="video/ogg"> Your browser does not support the video tag. </video> <figcaption>Light Blue Planes, 2012</figcaption> </figure> To show my point, please consider the example above. The animation name is "Light Blue Planes". It's a title which is descriptive but it's not explicit about how to interpret it. ## Referenced Links 1. [A drawing of Nicola Ellis' sculptures](/art/view/a-schizophrenic-rock) (This is just one of several) 2. [Nicolaellis.com](http://www.nicolaellis.com) Art Practice Mon, 23 Mar 2020 16:39:48 +0000 Practice Statement 2018 https://www.craigoates.net/article/view/practice-statement-2018 ## The Statement Craig creates work that has a minimal aesthetic. He also uses space as a starting point. The types of work he makes consists of animations, drawings, photography and prints. ## Extra Information Craig has many artistic influences. To give you an idea of what type of artists he gravitates towards here is a list, in no particular order: - Pablo Picasso - Eva Hesse - Phyllida Barlow - Sol LeWitt - Piero Della Francesca - Anish Kapoor - Joel Meyerowitz - Barbara Hepworth He also has a soft spot for Japanese watercolours. As stated above, Craig's work consists of animation, drawings, photography and prints. The materials he uses most to make such works are pen and ink, watercolours and marker pens. On top of that, Craig also employs various digital technologies. Such as, DSLR cameras, computers and printers. Craigs Practice Thu, 19 Apr 2018 16:37:31 +0000 The Practicalities of Material Selection https://www.craigoates.net/article/view/the-practicalities-of-material-selection Imagine you are going about your business and an idea starts to trickle to the forefront of your mind. It's an idea for a new artwork. You decide to not rush it just in case it swans off like a cat. Whilst you try to entice it, another part of you begins to explore where this little dance will end. You begin to envision the final outcome, the feeling of accomplishment and pride. A few minutes pass, though, and the moment of glory starts to subside. You move on to considering the practicalities. How do I make it? What will I make it out of? Can I actually make it? It's these types of questions that will be the foundation for this piece of writing. Building on top of that will be the main focus which is the material selection aspect of said-questions. Having made a few pieces of art, I have noticed several things along the way. And, I would like to take this time to share some of them with you. The first one is sometimes choices are forced. The second one is restrictions can be a good thing. The third one is upbringing is relevant. And, the fourth one is too much choice leads to the paradox-of-choice. Starting us off is observation number one: Choices are sometimes forced upon you. When you stumble across an idea and decide to act on it, you need to answer some questions. An important one being can I actually act on it? What's frustrating about it, though, is it's a relative answer more often than not. Answers such as "not right now" and "only if I do that first" are quite common. When these types of answers start to surface, compromises start entering the conversation. For example, you end up making the piece in a material that wasn't your first choice. If the compromise is too severe, though, you must be ready to accept defeat. Sometimes it's better to not make something if it will be a shadow of its potential. Although, I believe most things are salvageable and repurposed into something else. In general, I have found that it is best to roll with the situation instead of pushing back. The second observation is restrictions can lead to positive, and sometimes unexpected, outcomes. When you have an idea but not the means to make it, you're forced down a different path. This detour is easy to grasp but can be difficult to accept. For example, when you are in the heat of the making-moment your heart can be set on a particular part being a certain way. It's non-negotiable. What's important to remember here, though, is you can express most ideas in more than one form. And, exploring the different ways you can express an idea can lead to a greater understanding of it. I came to understand this when I began adopting text into my work. This happened when I decided it wasn't practical to make sculptures<sup>i</sup>. It was frustrating at first but a positive side-effect came with the fallout of this shift. My ability to differentiate between the idea and the medium used to express it improved. The reason why is because I was thinking about them in new ways. This made them malleable and I became open to expressing them in different mediums. The most notable being text. Because of this change in attitude, pieces like *The Drum*<sup>1</sup> surfaced. The next observation is the third one. Which is how you're brought up informs your skills and choices. Whilst growing up, I was able to teach myself several computer programs. They all had one thing in common which was they were all based on two-dimensional thinking. For instance, I learned how to use word processors and photo editing software. I didn't have access to any three-dimensional programs. This meant I didn't learn how to do things like build three-dimensional models. Due to my lack of skills in this area, I ended up making *Amazing Animal Alphabet*<sup>2</sup> the way you see it today. I made it using Unity 3D which is a game engine. The folks at Unity designed it be a three-dimensional based engine to begin with, hence the "3D" in its name. Over time though, it has developed the capability to make two-dimensional games, as well. This meant I had an opportunity to make it anyway I wanted. Because of this, you may find it disappointing to see me sticking with two-dimensions. I did it because I felt comfortable in that domain and I am more productive in it. This meant I ended up using pen and paper for the design work and (2D) image editing apps to make the games visuals. The last observation revolves around the freedom of choice. More often than not, when you have the freedom to take an idea in any direction you want, you usually end up stuck. The reason why is because too many options usually leads to a paradox-of-choice forming. It often leaves people feeling like they made the wrong decision. And, finding an answer to the problem is difficult as there is no clear path to follow. The only comfort I have found with this paradox is I now understand "**a**" and "**the**" a lot better. For instance, the difference between "a way to do something" and "the way to do something" is as big as night and day. A paradox-of-choice occurs when the chooser becomes unable to make a choice. This is due to the sheer volume of options offered and the situation lacking a definitive answer. It causes anxiety for the chooser and why when a person has too many choices they might as well have none at all. They both leave you in the same situation. One time I came face to face with this problem was when I was making several of my prints. They are *Everything In-between*<sup>3</sup>, *Up this way*<sup>4</sup>, *Here Now There*<sup>5</sup> and *Now Then*<sup>6</sup>. The outcome of these prints look simple but getting there wasn't. For these prints I wanted to project a sense of direction and location. And, when making them, I had two recurring thoughts. They were "I am here and not there" and "I am to the left/right of (x)". The open-ended nature of this subject matter allowed me to express it in several ways. The two main directions where depiction and conceptual. The depiction route meant painting and illustrating a scene. This led to needing to answer a particular set of questions. If I went the conceptual route though, I wouldn't need to answer them. Unfortunately, all that meant was I traded one set of questions for another. It's important to note I could have taken the work in any direction but not every direction. So, when you look at these prints you are looking at an outcome of thought and not the outcome. It's because of this that I remain unsure about them. To be fair though, I could say that about most, if not all, my work. All four observations have educated me about the making process in some way. The most notable change to my approach since my teenage years is the amount I have lightened up. I am now comfortable seeking the practical solution over the ideal one. This doesn't mean I've set this rule in stone, though. It's just a preference. I view practicalities as good things because sometimes having complete freedom can be debilitating. And, interesting outcomes can arise when you have limited choices. On top of that, I have found the practical answer, not the theoretical one, is what usually gets the job done. I often think about a quote when I'm thinking about materials and making. It is a photography quote and is often credited to *Chase Jarvis*<sup>7</sup>. The quote is "The best camera is the one that's with you". Whilst the subject matter isn't immediately relevant here, I believe the spirit of it is. Sometimes, it's best to make something with what you have to hand than with something you would like to have. ## End Notes i I decided it wasn't practical because I don’t have the storage space. It’s fine for working, though. ## Links 1. [The Drum](/art/view/the-drum) 1. [Amazing Animal Alphabet](/software/view/amazing-animal-alphabet) 1. [Everything In-between](/art/view/everything-in-between) 1. [Up this way](/art/view/up-this-way) 1. [Here Now There](/art/view/here-now-there) 1. [Now Then](/art/view/now-then) 1. [Chase Jarvis, 2009](https://www.amazon.com/Best-Camera-One-Thats-You/dp/0321684788) ���� Art Practice Fri, 04 Aug 2017 20:24:52 +0000 What do I Mean When I Say "Starting Point"? https://www.craigoates.net/article/view/what-do-i-mean-when-say-starting-point I have found artist's practice statement are usually framed in an over-arching theme. And, this tends to be a common strategy. I believe its popularity is due to the benefits gained when adopting this approach. For instance, it highlights the underpinnings and directions of an artist’s body of work. This makes your work more accessible to the public. With that said, there is a rigidity to it that I don't like. I'm convinced it hinders the growth of an artwork, especially after it's completed. And, because of reasons like this, I have decided to frame my practice within a starting point, instead. I have done this by declaring it in my practice statement<sup>1</sup>. From here on out, I intend to explain the rationale behind my decision to frame my practice as a starting point. And, by doing that, I intend to answer the main question in the process. (What do I mean when I say "starting point"?) My plan is to do this by answering four questions. The first one is why deviate from the norm? The second one is what did this change bring? The third one is why is the idea of growth important? And, the forth one is am I trying to mask any shortcomings? To answer the first question, I will begin by expanding on the earlier point about rigidity. I alluded to the idea of there being a rigidity that manifests when casting your work in a theme. What I mean by this is you set yourself a precedent that all your work will link to this theme somehow. This expectation can lead to artists shoehorning theory into their work. And, I believe the most common reason why is to please anticipating viewers. With that said, it would be unfair for me to say this behaviour happens all the time. It just doesn't. I do find this insight useful, though. The reason why is because I can now see a potential pitfall and act upon it. I must point out, though, I don't see this as a right or wrong scenario. There are benefits to having an audience with a particular expectation. For me, the reason why I chose to deviate from the norm is to minimise my chances of ending up in a situation I don't desire. That situation being the one where I feel pressured into shoehorning stuff into my work. I write this knowing I have no "anticipating viewers" and it's most likely going to remain that way as well. Feel free to insert a violin here. The second question asked “what does this change bring?” The simple answer is it brings a change in priorities. I have made the ideas of growth and change more prominent and receded the bridge that binds my work together. The third question asked “why is the idea of growth important?” The answer is because I believe it is an integral part of an artworks life and we should acknowledge it as such. And, gesturing toward the ideas of transition and growth, in my statement, is just one way of doing that. The reason why I view it as an integral part is because of the transformations I see most of my artworks go through. I have found that it's quite common for an artwork to start off as one thing and end up another. I have, also, come to realise it's ok for the original idea of a piece to lose its relevance. Even if I haven't finished it, I still think it's ok. It's just a case of pushing ahead in the new direction, instead. The reason why is because I think it creates an interesting context for experiencing art. I have come to associate timelines with each artwork. And, by being aware that you are seeing it at a certain time in its life opens up interesting possibilities. Sometimes they are technical questions like how will this pigment age? Other times, I just wonder how relevant a painting by Da Vinci will be to people way out in the future (200+ years). For me, I see this as an enhancement to the viewing experience. It, also, relieves some of the pressure from the making process. Just because something is on display it doesn't mean the artist can't take it back and work on it again. As an aside, I would like to add the following. When an artwork is born out of a thematic based practice, it might come with an unexpected side effect. The viewer will view the piece within a limited scope. And, They will do this regardless of how relaxed you are about such concerns. For example, when you tell someone a piece is about "x" they tend to dismiss the things that don't align with "x". This filtering usually happens regardless of how fun, informative and useful that offcut is. A painting can be a commentary on social injustice and an example of colour theory at the same time. Having said the above, I must stress the use of the word "unexpected". I have used that word on purpose. This kind of behaviour might be the desired one. Neither approach is right nor wrong here. The last question asked “am I trying to mask any shortcomings?” My answer here is maybe but it's not my intention. You could argue my thoughts presented so far are just deflections. I have shied away from making an absolute declaration about what my work is about. And, I have done this as an automatic defence to counter possible flaws in my thinking and skills. Another argument is good artists demonstrates their mastery over their materials and subject matter. They create artworks that communicate ideas where no misinterpretations occur. On top of that, artists dictate the subject matter and bend it to their will. It's not the other way around. This is what validates the use of the word "mastery". As a counter to these arguments, I will say I am concerned with different things. Whilst the above maybe true, I am more interested in the broader scope of an artworks lifespan. And, demonstrating my mastery of a subject and various materials just isn't as important. If I keep making, it will come as a by-product anyway. To focus my energies on it is a missed opportunity to explore something else in my opinion. The adoption of the starting point is just a personal preference. I see value in both (thematic and starting point) but each one is valuable in their own way. The moment I realised I enjoyed the journey aspect of an artworks life was an important one. And, it's something I want to embrace as a viewer and a maker. It, also, eases my maker’s anxiety due to the perceived extra flexibility. I don't want to feel like I can only work in one way and in one area. I am a greedy child in a sweetshop in that regard. On top of that, I believe pushing forward the idea of a starting point encourages growth. When an artwork is on show in a public setting it should morph into its next form with ease. The initial reception it receives has an important hold on its identity. And, to be frank, an artist is just a much a viewer as the person next to him/her when it's in the gallery. Shying away from that is doesn't make it go away. ## Links 1 [Craig's Practice Statement](/blog/view/practice-statement-2018) ���������������� Art Practice Sat, 29 Jul 2017 00:33:30 +0000 How Abstract Do I Make It? https://www.craigoates.net/article/view/how-abstract-do-i-make-it The text that accompanies an artwork has a lot of influence over how people interpret it. Knowing how much information to provide is a delicate balancing act. Do you provide a dense wall of information, that lists every step taken to make the piece? Do you keep it loose and imply things in a light-handed fashion? Or, should you say nothing at all and let the viewer interpret everything on their own? These types of questions appear to ask different things at first glance. With the second glance, though, you begin to see that they are all asking the same thing: How abstract do I make it? When confronted with texts that are long and dense I find that they tend to be narrative based. I will stress, here, that this is not the case every single time. With that said, it has happened enough for me to make this my default expectation. When I do come across it, they tell the story of how the piece came about and/or how the artist's practice was born. I refer to these types of texts as "procedural-based". The reason why is because of the similarities it has with procedural programming languages. The most notable being the procedural aspect itself. There is, also, a secondary point I would like to mention alongside that. Its place on the Abstraction Pyramid mimics the "low-level" nature of said languages. The Abstraction Pyramid is an aid I use to help position and name the type of abstraction a piece of writing uses; It’s an idea inspired by computer programming. I insist that you take the idea with a pinch of salt, though. It's there to offer a waypoint but it comes with the accuracy of marking out a distance with just your hands. The idea of abstraction layers is commonplace in software development. The gist of them is to bundle up a set of behaviours and commands into a succinct package/idea/layer. A trade-off comes with this act, though. The bundling hides away a fair amount of detail for efficient communication. A basic example would be a software program itself. Imagine you wanted your computer to register all the letters and numbers you typed. And, every time it registered a key it displayed it on the screen. Once you finished, it then stored that information in a file. Without going into any further detail, I think you can see what I'm describing is a word processor. By agreeing on the name "word processor" we can communicate at speed but we can only do so if we agree on the name. Otherwise, we are back to describing things in a step-by-step and procedural manner. Which is thorough and sometimes required but, most of the time, it's just time consuming. Today, there are many programming languages. They take many forms and operate in different ways. Each type has acquired a name over time. The three main varieties are procedural, object-orientated and functional. The procedural variation will be the one I will focus on from now on, though. The name "procedural" comes from the style championed by such languages. What that means is you are writing step-by-step instructions for the computer to follow. An example of this step-by-step nature would be: - Raise right hand two inches. - Rotate right hand ninety degrees. - Move right hand four inches forward. - Extend fingers to open. - Extend thumb to open. - Move right hand one inch. A by-product of this is the desired intent can sink deep into the verbosity of the program. The aim of the program above was to drink from the near-by cup. Even though I cut the example short, it’s clear that the desired intention is already obfuscated. To help speed up communicating the message you can raise the abstraction level. Instead of listing out every single instruction you can prioritise the important ones. Another way is to utilise common social conventions. To go back to the example above, I could have speeded things up a lot if I had said "grab the coffee on the table in front of you". This trade-off does come with consequences, though. The ambiguity in the message can cause the final outcome to miss the mark. For instance, it might be obvious to some but the actual goal is to grab the cup and not the coffee; If you don't want to burn your hand, that is. There is also a recursive nature to raising the abstraction layer. You can take the last example and exchange verbosity for efficiency again. This time I could just say "grab the coffee". I mentioned earlier that the Abstraction Pyramid is a visual aid. Its purpose is to help identify the type of abstraction a text uses and its position on it. Below is an example of it. <figure> <img src="/storage/view/craig/media/abstraction-pyramid" alt="The Abstraction Pyramid"> <figcaption>Figure1: The Abstraction Pyramid</figcaption> </figure> The pyramid indicates the amount of information given. If a text piece trades information for efficiency, it will be narrower and placed higher up the pyramid. The saturation of the colour represents the amount of information given, as well. The use of a single colour is to imply that each layer refers to the same source. One way to think about it is to slide up and down each layer like you would higher or lower the volume, on your music player. The Abstraction Pyramid came about through a cross-contamination of my art and programming interests. Moving up and down the abstraction layers is a common behaviour when I'm programming. There was a time when traversing the layers like this would have been an alien concept. The reason why is because the word "abstract" had a narrow definition in my younger years. This was due to university shaping my interpretation of the word. At that time, I viewed it as a word to differentiate figurative from non-figurative. And, if it wasn't for programming I still would. The overlapping of interests, though, has been beneficial. It has presented options I never knew I had. As my understanding of the word "abstract" expanded, new problems arose, whilst solving others. The area where this is most visible is in my practice statement. In the past, it felt inevitable that I would produce a back-story when writing about my work. I didn't realise I could abstract ideas, procedures and narrative details away. It didn't bother me that I might have included superfluous details when I was at university. I was naive and still trying to work things out. It never occurred to me that I have as much control over the amount of information I give as I do. That changed, though, when I decided to re-write my statement. What I didn't expect to find was that this new-found freedom actually made it harder. The reason why is because I was trying to answer a question I had never asked before. How much information is the right amount? As I began reading other people’s work, with my new eyes, I noticed something. It became clear to me each writer was offering varying amounts of information. The variation was not limited to writers but every single piece written between them. Some writings included intricate details of information and others gestured in a general direction. The most revealing thing that came out of this period was every writer must make a decision. Do they offer more or less information? The amount they do share, though, does not result in a correct or incorrect grading. It’s always a judgement call and I tend to view judgements as a gradient/spectrum. This made me envision the information’s total mass as a slider the writer moves up and down. The higher up you go the less information offered and the lower you go the more information offered. The idea of sliding up and down a scale and have that translate to an amount of information was insightful. It was also the basis for the Abstraction Pyramid. Whilst I was mulling over my observations, I started to envision a pyramid. It became a symbol that reflected the reduction in exposed information and has stuck with me. The tip was important because I viewed the reduction as a reduced essence. I never thought of it as an act of concealing. It was always an act of bringing the information into focus. I did it as if I was cropping a photograph with a loose composition. I felt like I had overcome a form of colour-blindness when I devised the Abstraction Pyramid. I could see more shades than ever before. For various reasons, I decided to re-write my practice statement after university. I didn't like the direction I was heading in and I thought it was time to start again. I threw out all my work I had made up to that point and took a minute to gather my thoughts. Over the course of ten to twelve months I pottered about with ideas and materials. I concocted drawings, prints and animations in that time. What seemed to recur in the collection was a particular topic. That topic was "space". The idea and meaning of the word was not limited to just one facet, thought. I also looked at its mass, location and mental constructs. With that said, the work started at "space" and ended up somewhere else on more than one occasion. In those instances, I viewed "space" as the starting point. This was an insightful and useful observation. So much so, I decided to take this observation and make it the foundation for future work (I.E. my practice). In the past I would have taken the phrase "space as a starting point" and buried it in a dense narrated back story. I would have done it with the tact of an untrained and tone-deaf piano player. The realisation of the Abstraction Pyramid has taught me to be cognizant of how much I reveal. This is important because I believe we should aim to make others around us welcome. Making my artwork as accessible as possible, via my writing, reflects basic human decency. I don't want viewers to feel stupid, intimidated or bored. I want an open discussion. Tailoring my writing to the situation helps us all get there. Rendering each paragraph as a thick forest and making them required reading hurts everyone. Having decided to not slide down to the pyramid base (I.E. produce a heavy statement), I needed to decide how high to go. After all, a practice statement has no real boundaries. They can be as loose or exact as people on this planet can take them. With that in mind, I aimed for just above the halfway mark. The reason why is because I want to encourage further investigation, but in a light way. I believe the phrase "space as a starting point" is concrete enough for people to build a springboard on top of it. I'm hoping it encourages people to ask questions and not admit defeat, to the statement. ���������� Art Practice Fri, 28 Jul 2017 18:30:18 +0000 Tonal Delivery https://www.craigoates.net/article/view/tonal-delivery We all impress our ideas, feelings and desires on to others. Sometimes we receive them with welcoming arms and other times not so much. The tone we use to deliver our impressions influences how others receive them. It's this observation that this piece of writing will be focusing on. And, I will elaborate on it through the context of writing my artist's practice statement. I must admit though, I've written several over the years and talking about each one here is unnecessary. So, I will keep the time frame to the time I started university and a couple of years after. That'll place me in my early twenties and limit the scope to about three statements. So, how do you decide what tone to use when delivering your practice statement? Deciding how to deliver your expression can be difficult. And, when the amount of options available is large enough a paradox-of-choice can form. It hinders your ability to make a decision and paralyses you, rendering everything useless. I must stress, though, it's just quicksand. It's always an obstacle and never the final destination. Besides, the real issue here isn't setting the right tone it's making yourself credible. If Queen Elizabeth opened up her traditional Christmas speech with "Wha' up?" she would lose some credibility. There is nothing stopping her but the way we perceive her forces the tonal outcome. There is no freedom of choice here. I'm sure most people would chuckle, though. Whilst at university I got caught in this quicksand. It was when I was trying to write my practice statement. The reason I ended up stuck was due to me not realising I was dealing with a credibility problem. I didn't realise because of pre-conceived assumptions. I thought artists had more freedom than they actually have. And, I didn't know the difference between "practice" and "practise" either, which didn't help. One of the requirements to complete my course was to submit a practice statement, with my art work. This sounded reasonable but it did leave me exposed to the chicken and the egg problem. To put into words what I was doing I needed to know what I could do first. I spent a lot of time seeing what I could do and not enough time figuring out what I should do. This meant I couldn't provide a context for people, apart from "I'm just playing". When you don't have something concrete to say, how do you know how to say it? It's hard enough when you do have something. And, when you don't, the risk of losing credibility increases. At the time I didn't see it as a risk, though. My main concern was with making it sound "deep" and to help me overcome the challenge I used a thesaurus. Looking back, I can now see that I was trying to minimise rejection and the loss of credibility that came with it. I was trying to make what I was doing sound complicated so if I did fail it was because it was difficult. I was trying to force how people perceived me because I wanted acceptance. And, projecting a tone of complexity helped me achieve that goal. This has since turned out to be an act, an act I didn't realise I was putting on. Whilst in the act, I used my thesaurus to conjure a sentence not dissimilar to, > "My work explores the intersection that is diametrically opposed to political agency and metaphor". It sounds serious and professional but it means nothing. It's just a tactic I used to prop up my shortcomings. There was a lot of talk about professionalism and professional practice whilst at university. It scented the atmosphere around me and affected how I thought about art. A large part of academic institutions is to educate students and make them employable. This type of behaviour creates a professional-musk as a by-product. Due to my naivety, I associated "deep" with "professional". I faffed about with various ways of delivering my practice statement (E.G. ironic, abrasive...). The profession-musk was rife, though, and fogged my glasses. I didn't see myself as a "professional", I still don't, but it was hard for me to identify any other kind. If you are not a professional artist, you are not an artist. That was my thinking at the time. I thought I could mask my inadequacies by setting a professional tone. I did so believing I arrived at that conclusion on my own. It didn't occur to me that I went down this route because I didn't have a choice. The atmosphere around me took my hand and escorted me there. It appeared clear to me that I would have lost credibility if I didn't garner a professional tone. What was disconcerting about that was the outcome lurking in the background. If I wasn't careful, I wouldn't earn my degree or a receive a respectable mark at least. At that point, it didn't matter what my work was about. I just needed to make it sound intellectual and that meant professional. I was wary of practice statements after university. There never seemed to be a solid answer for what one should look like. It was a nebulous term and as I was now out in the wild my confusion was aggravated. I understood they defined an artist's practice. What I didn't understand was what an artist's practice is. This was, in part, due to me still not understanding the difference between "practice" and "practise". It made me, once again, question what an artist practice should look like. All I could find was more professional-musk. It was also nebulous-like and diametrically opposed to political agency and metaphor... Throwing my stuff away and starting again seemed a necessary idea at that time. My art work was beginning to feel like baggage. I made a lot of aimless stuff and gave little consideration to their life span. With that said, quite a bit did manage to tag along for a while. This made it harder to destroy them but, when the time finally arrived, disposing of them was easy. I was surprised by how easy it was at first but that began to subside as I started to feel liberated. Unfortunately, the liberation was short lived as I had to figure out what direction I wanted to go in. This meant a return to square one whilst still lacking satisfactory answers to fundamental problems. Rewriting my Practice Statement outside of a university environment helped highlight its sway. I didn't have a degree on the line this time. This made me believe I had more freedom than before. The reason why is because I though the outcome wasn't a foregone conclusion. I believed I could present myself in a way that wasn't professional this time. I could be "true to myself". Having the option to move away from trying to come across as a professional artist was useful to me. Although, it was only a perceived choice. The idea of operating in a professional manner felt restrictive to me. For me to be professional I believed I needed to show commitment and discipline. That meant I needed something to commit to. The problem was I didn't have something I believed in at that point -- sensing that I would change course in the not too distant future compounded the problem. I pondered a fair bit over the need to create a practice statement after finishing university. At the time I asked myself a question. What advantage would I have by possessing a practice statement? Especially, if I don't view myself as a professional artist. I expanded the question to include everyone. I began contemplating how hobbyists would approach writing theirs. Do they need one? What would they put in it? If I'm not a professional artist, does that make me a hobbyist? An amateur? Having considered the problem, I have come to accept something obvious. We are all different in some ways and the same in others. One of the similarities is we all strive for credibility although not all the time. When this deviation occurs we always end up dropping at least one of three traits. They are competence, politeness and respect. With that observation came a revelation. If you remove the financial aspect, they all reflect a part of the "professional". On top of that, they all add up to basic human decency. I now realise that it doesn't matter if I'm a professional artist, or not. I enjoy making art and sharing it. I also find comfort in people liking my work. So, for my work to have a chance at being considered, not even accepted, I must endeavour to set an appropriate tone. And, one way to do that is with a practice statement. Through it, I can set a tone built upon competence, politeness and respect. That is why including something like "Wha' up, bitches?" is not a good idea. Also, saying things like, > "My work explores the intersection that is diametrically opposed to political agency and metaphor", is something I would recommend against. The reason why is because it's mysticism. It makes the artwork less accessible for people to engage with and enjoy. Sure, there will be times when this amount of obscurity is appropriate but they are few are far between -- in my opinion. Having pondered over the above I have to come to realise there is no freedom of choice here. Or, at best, the options available are smaller than I thought earlier. With that said, there is a more startling, yet obvious, realisation. Being an artist is no different than being anything else in a civilised society. It doesn't matter what flavour of artist you are either. For a society to excel we all need to show competence, politeness and respect. What's funny yet frustrating about this is that I feel like I had the answer all along, just not the working out. Art Practice Sun, 07 May 2017 17:19:46 +0000