Field Summary

I have found the field module this year has provided me with a great opportunity to grow as a practitioner and an individual, teaching me a number of transferable skills that I will definitely be able to draw on in the future of my practice. I was able to recognise the importance of both networking and independence in my practice, understanding the importance of sitting outside my comfort zone and mixing with new environments and ideas that I would otherwise shy away from.

Art and the Conscious Mind challenged my ability to interact with a rich range of subjects, theories, questions and ideas that I would perhaps otherwise overlook in the subject matter of my art,  such as quantum physics and psychology and the philosophical implications of discoveries in these fields. I can recognise how exploring such a wide range of topics has really broadened my practice – the more that I am learning about subjects that I would usually overlook, the more questions  I am asking, and the more ideas I am gathering. The module really enriched the places and subjects that I consider looking to for inspiration in my art, and I can see already how this is allowing me to create much more informed work. I grew in the knowledge of the debates and ideas surrounding the subject of ‘art and the conscious mind’ which has helped me to broaden my points of reference, but perhaps more significantly, I was able to see the real ability that art has to express nuances  and experiences that perhaps are otherwise inaccessible through data and writing. It has challenged me as an artist to consider my position in the conversation that is happening between art, science, psychology and philosophy, recognising the significant role that art can have within this.

The second module of Field, ‘Tipping Point’, was also a hugely helpful opportunity. It provided me with practical experience of working within  a more professional environment, whilst also prompting me to consider the significance that we as individuals can have on creating positive changes. Working closely with a climate change organisation, coupled with what this project has taught me about the wide and lasting impact that even small changes can have, has encouraged me to consider the environmental impact of my practice, and how  I can live and work in a much more sustainable way. This is not something that I intend to directly tackle as a theme in my artwork, but it has really inspired me to consider the way that empathy and a view beyond my immediate environment can be involved in future practice. This sensitivity to social and environmental sustainability is an incredibly important aspect of art practice, and this project has really encouraged me to  consider the importance of how we support and engage with one another in a working environment and  also the significance that our work as artists and designers can have in a wider context.

 

 

Art and the Conscious Mind – Field Module 1 Reflection

I was really fortunate that a lot of the content throughout this project fed quite directly into my subject work. In Subject, I was considering the relationship we have with meaning and exploring how we look to find rationality even in disorder. In our initial lecture I found the discussions surrounding visual indeterminacy very helpful and taught me about new perspectives that I hadn’t previously considered. For example the role of the brain and perception, which was very interesting to consider, particularly the way malfunctions in the brain affect perception and how this teaches us about the relationship between sight and reality. Following this lecture, inspired by the work of Rob Pepperell, I began to experiment with the different ways people would make sense of the same set of formless marks. This experiment was also influenced by a workshop that took place as part of this project, the workshop delivered by Theo Humphries, was about surrealism and the use of surrealist games to explore consciousness/subconsciousness. I was interested in how this playful approach could be used to explore such an in depth and complex subject. I began to explore the way in which automatism could be used as a tool, and then following this, in the form of ‘squiggle games’, looked at our relationship with meaning by investigating our ability to create images or narratives from formless marks. Although there was no particular ‘final outcome’ that we were specifically asked to make in response to this module, I consider this ‘squiggle game’ experiment to be one of the main works that I created in response to these lectures and workshops. It was a piece that enabled me to consider the considerably unique ways in which people perceive. I gave the same set of marks to a group of people, and asked them to make sense of the marks (the marks were just automatic scribbles that I had generated), I then collected all of the drawings back up at the variety of images and narratives that were unfolding in the set of drawings. It was amazing to consider the results in relation to what I had learnt in the lectures and workshops – and was a really helpful experiment that helped me to see in  a practical way, the relationship between the conscious mind, perception and meaning. Below are a selection of photographs of the outcomes created in this experiment.

As well as this quite direct relationship between the  project and the content of my subject practice, I can recognise one workshop that has really influenced the way I think about my practice in a broader sense. A workshop delivered by Craig Thomas, about the interaction between the audience and the artwork – and the intention that the artist has for the audience, was incredibly influential in challenging my approach to producing art. Craig’s work (which we had the opportunity to participate in), was  focused on challenging the audience’s sense of self and was very intentional in this. I have since felt challenged to look a lot more intentionally at opening up more of a dialogue and relationship between my work and its audience.

 

Draw what you see

Interested in the way that we make sense of what we see, I have begun to explore interpretation and narrative application to random and formless sets of marks. I gave the same set of marks to a group of people to explore the different responses that would be generated.

I found it really interesting to see that similar themes and images began to emerge, and it became quite easy to group the drawings into different categories. I was also aware that as I returned to the original automated marks, I was consciously aware that I could see the images created by the participants of the exercise.

What I also found to be an unexpected, but really valuable element to the exercise, was the conversation that grew around it. At one particular time, I asked around 10 people to complete the exercise at the same time (my only rule was that they weren’t allowed to look at each other’s drawings – as I didn’t want the narratives to be influenced by others), after they had all created their images I found it really exciting to hear the reactions that people had to each others drawings. The participants began to look at one another’s drawings and were attempting to recognise how the other person found the images that they did.

 

Conscious and Unconscious Mark Making

I have found the discussions in the field workshops helpful for my own practice surrounding my current subject brief. A lot of my work at the moment is exploring the relationship between impulsive mark making and decisive mark making, something that I see, reflecting particularly on the mindfulness workshop, to almost be an investigation into the relationship between subconsciousness and consciousness.

Drawing these images, I try to consciously be aware whilst making the squares – mostly attempting to draw them with precision and measurement. However, with the more organic marks, I try to turn my mind to other things and unconsciously generate the marks – without trying to apply to much control or direction. I am aware of the difficulties of being completely unconscious of the mark making process, but for me the images offer some kind of reflection on that relationship between consciousness and subconsciousness.

The Unseen

This was really fascinating workshop, and offered a very interesting angle on the understanding of consciousness. For me, it highlights the vulnerability of consciousness and perception to deception, that we are able to see and experience things that do not actually exist.

We discussed entopic imagery, imagery created from the body – for example, floaters. The work of Edvard Munch was given as an example – with some of his paintings depicting the blood clot that he had in one of his eyes.

We then discussed hypnagogic imagery, experienced when the brain produces its own stimuli. This can be easily triggered by depriving yourself of visual stimuli, for example if staring at an empty white space – the brain will begin to generate its own stimuli to counteract the lack of real stimuli.

Possible examples of historical hypnagogic imagery can be seen in Chamush Rock art in Santa Barbera, where it is possible that a lack of stimuli combined with the use of hallucinogenic substances meant that people living in caves were able to see and depict such vivid and distinct patterns.

We also looked at artists whose work responds to their own belief in their connection to different channels of spirituality or energy.
For example the work of Madge Gill, who draws as a way of communicating with a spirit that she believes she has been possessed by.

 

And the work of Guo Fengyi, who drawings are created in a trance like state, claiming that a spirit was draws through her.

During the second part of the workshop we were asked to respond visually to what we had been discussing, reflecting on something that we had heard during the lecture, or something we ourselves had experienced in our lives in relation to the discussed phenomena. I was surprised, as at the beginning of the lecture James asked us if we had ever hallucinated – my initial answer was no, but as we began to dig into what it mean to hallucinate, I began to realise that I actually had. It was this experience that I created my response to.

I was just waking up after having had a nap in the living room, when I went to sleep my Dad was in the chair opposite to me. As I began to wake up from my nap, I opened my eyes and glanced across the room and saw my Dad in the same place – a few seconds later, after waking up fully, I looked up and realised that he wasn’t actually there at all. I had definitely seen him sitting there, despite him not even being there.

 

 

Self Awareness and the Conscious Mind

In this lecture we discussed what it was to be self aware and how this relates to consciousness.

There is a particular step that children take in the development of self awareness, self awareness does not come from birth but tends to develop after 18 months. Before then, babies will not recognise themselves as themselves, but on seeing a reflection of themselves will look at it as though looking at a stranger.

As our awareness develops further, unlike all other animals, we begin to become aware of our own awareness. This poses the question – what is the self that is aware of itself?

For Descartes, his ability to doubt was proof that he could think, that his thinking was real and so he had a self. “I think, therefore I am”.

Antonio Damasio argues that there are 2 types of selves, a ‘core self’ and an ‘autobiographical’ self. Both of which are integrated to create one sense of self.

The theory of phenomenology asserts that consciousness is located within the thought that is active/or conscious at a given time.

Shaun Gallagher puts forward the theory of ’embodiment’, arguing that we should not be looking to locate the mind in a single a part of the brain, but rather our ‘selves’ is our embodiment, allowing us to interact with the world – through our bodies.

There are many theorist writing around the theory of the ‘self’ – ranging from those who believe that we do have an existing ‘self’, to those who believe that our understanding of self is purely illusionary.

Trying to understand the notion of ‘self’ poses the logical dilemma – can you really think about yourself, thinking about yourself? A camera can’t take a photograph of itself, and so do we really have the capacity to think about ourselves thinking about ourselves?

The questions about self awareness brought up during this lecture, were then taken into the context of art. We began to ask, can a piece of art be self aware?
During the 17th Century a change occurred in art, artists began to turn their attentions to art as a depiction and awareness of itself – rather than as a depiction of real/imaginary events.

This piece by Johannes Gumpp (1646), illustrates this self awareness. The painting opens up layers of dialogue between artist and audience. Gumpp uses his painting to show his awareness of the audiences awareness.

Another interesting piece was Cornelis Gijsbrecht’s ‘Reverse of a Framed Painting’. A painting of the back of the painting, a highly detailed and realistic depiction of the back of the canvas it is painting of creates a sense of the painting knowing about itself.

Cornelis Norbert Gijscrechts, Reverse of a Framed Canvas

In the painting ‘Still Life with Violin’ by Georges Braque, we again see painting that exists as a form of self reflection. The pin at the top of the painting creates a new level to how we view the whole painting, it exists as THE painting but also as a painting of a painting.

Conceptual artists saw that the main purpose of art ought to be this self reflection. Art should not depict anything other than itself. It should be its own definition. As seen in this piece by Joseph Kosuth, ‘Clear square glass leaning’

 

Art and the Conscious Mind Workshop – Artists intentions and Audience Self Awareness

I found this such a helpful and interesting workshop, it really inspired me to consider a different approach to how I direct my work.

Our discussion began with the theory of embodiment, we are able to navigate and experience the world because we are made of the same material as the world. However, we are consciously aware of very little and a lot of our experience is processed subconsciously. The element of surprise often prompts our conscious awareness, for example seeing a chair on the floor, beside a table is most likely going to be processed by our subconscious as it is a ‘normal’ occurrence – however, if we were to walk into a room and see a chair on top of a table, with someone sat in it – our conscious mind is drawn to the unexpected event.

Artists have a lot to offer in the debate on consciousness and can generate ways to draw out the awareness of an audience.

Richard Serra is a good example of an artist who has worked specifically to create a sense of audience awareness within his work. His large metal sculptures draw the viewers attentions to their presence next to the large scale pieces – becoming dwarfed and aware of their vulnerability, they may also become aware of the softness and frailty of their bodies next to the hard, solid metal structures.

We also had the opportunity to experience our lecturer – Craig Thomas’s own installation work, which also looks to explore a new way of allowing an audience to experience their own presence.

Labyrinth-Bonington-330pixel

The work Labyrinth, exists as a maze of netted material, with projected lines of light shining through. Navigating through the piece was such a distinctive experience, the lines move up and down and generate a real feeling of being pushed down and lifted up. The space was disorientating, but created a real sense of awareness of your own presence within the space, almost in a way that was dreamlike – but very distinct from any other experience I’ve ever had.

This workshop was really enjoyable, and from it, I have begun to consider how I approach my own practice and what it is that I actually look to do with my work. Often my work looks to explore a theme or idea, in quite a metaphorical way – but I can see that I very rarely consider the actual audience experience of my work, it tends to instead be a reflective exercise. Following the discussion in this workshop I am beginning to consider how I can re-frame my intentions with my work, giving much more thought to the actual reaction or experience I want to give the audience. Instead of a passive act of reflection, I would like to start considering how I could create work that can create an experience.