Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Keeping a Track of Important Ideas

Evertything, (detail)

I’m working a piece of research for an Honours year at Charles Sturt University in Fine Art which you may have already ascertained from previous pics at my studio there. I’ve come to a point in the research where I can’t avoid to journal it to trace the impact of the ideas I’m consuming are having on my projects.

I’m going to update this on my blog because that’s where the general progress in my practice is tracked and if I’m going to be exploring these issues why not share them with whoever wants to read them.

What you can expect to hear information on is about Art and Visual Perception, Portraiture, and the idea of the White Cube Gallery.

There are a number of parallels between these three ideas and they are mostly about the distinction between subjectivity and objectivity. So to bring you up to speed on the progress thus far, I’ve been working on a project called Everything, which I’ve been blogging previously. At the moment the work is a piece of internet art which animates as you move the mouse. This project is informed by a written dissertation about Art and Visual Perception as well as being informed by practices in contemporary portraiture.

Inside the White Cube by Brian Doherty has influenced this project profoundly by exploring the role of the exhibition context as an integral part of the work’s substance. In addition to this book I recently read Internet Art: The Clash of Culture and Commerce by Julian Stallabrass which outlined the history and use of internet in an art context. It outlined the internet as something other than a medium, but as a space for all media to be reproduced. I thought this was interesting because I was inspired to begin this work as an internet project where the html was as much medium as the drawings and paintings which constituted it. Having read Stallabrass and O’Doherty, I’ve really started scrutinizing the display of my work which I hadn’t really considered as being integral to the project.

Hence I have decided that the direction Everything will go in from now will be a work exploring Portraiture Since the White Cube. The white cube is a useful context for an inquiry into portraiture because it means that I won’t get bogged down in investigations of old portrait masterpieces that while beautiful don’t pertain to my broad interest of contemporary practices of depicting people, which can be informed by contemporary insights from science and philosophy about identity, subjectivity and peoples’ relationship to physical reality. To inform this project I’m looking at artists who produce art specifically in this contemporary context and focusing on these artists who make portraits in this context. Prominent players of both these criteria are Tracey Emin, Marlene Dumas, Elizabeth Peyton, Bill Viola, as well as some Australian artists including Del Kathryn Barton, Shaun Gladwell, and Ben Quilty (sometimes). Some other artists I’ll be looking at in regards to their use of the white cube are Olafur Eliasson, James Turrel, Marcel Duchamp, Ella Barclay, This is not an exhaustive list of artists whose work will be feature in the research but a good place to start.

Because I’ve made the choice of the white cube as a context or at least some kind of gallery type design inspired by research on the white cube I’ve been thinking about a Salon style of hanging which preceded the White Cube. The Salon style hang is the style of the old galleries where they hung paintings on every inch of the wall. I think it’d be interesting to do a portrait which has this style of hanging with hundreds of portraits of the same person by the same artist so it’s kind of like a salon but completely constructed or simulated from the white cube. I could involve a more nuanced installation among the work. This idea is very interesting to me at the moment.

With the research in visual perception, the key works I’ve been reading to kick start the project have been articles written by John Hyman as well as talks I found on iTunesU (a fantastic resource for passive learning) from MOMA, TATE, and hundreds of great art institutions around the world. The debate currently is very varied and nuanced around specific schools of visual perception theorists.

In order to get a good grip on the nitty gritty within the quarrels I went back in time and found a really obscure book from 1980, so obscure Amazon doesn’t have a picture of the cover AND they got the first name of the author wrong. The book is called Perceiving Artworks and is a collection of essays from epistemologists, psychologists, art historians, and philosophers who have something to say on the debates around visual perception. It had an essay by one of my favuorite perception psychologists so far, Rudolf Arnheim. I decided to give the other authors a try too.

I won’t evaluate the climate of perception theory up until 1980 but I will mention that none of the researchers explore studio practice or the practices of any contemporary artists in their exploration about perception. Perception has definitely been explored extensively if not invented by visual artists well before anyone else and this struck me as a little strange that they weren’t included among the experts.

Many of the authors dissected the notion of perception with visual examples from either historical art masterpieces or curious psychological illusions like the Muller-Lyer Illusion, they were talking about seeing as well as talking about talking about seeing. I know it was a book and a book is made of words but it’s odd that the weight of the book was devoted to the thoughts of people who make a living out of reading and writing as opposed to seeing and drawing, Ie where are the visual experts? It was sad to see there were more linguistic philosophers, like Wittgenstein or Chomsky, cited than philosophers of vision or optical scientists.

Visual experts are artists, designers, and architects and probably more. These professionals make a living out of training their visual skills to produce the most compelling visual experiences. Examples of these professionals who explore visual perception as a major part of their conceptual practice are: Olafur Eliasson, James Turrel, Bill Viola, Leonardo Da Vinci and a whole slab of Op Artists such as Bridget Riley, Victor Vasarely, Vigrinia Ross (a contemporary Australian Artist I came across in Jacqueline Miller’s Conceptual Beauty). The next steps in this exploration into visual perception are to explore the practices of these artists and find out who their conceptual influences are. I will also be looking specifically at the writings of Rudolf Arnheim and Ernst Gombrich (the godfathers of the art and perception query).

I’ll be posting more about all of this research under the Tag “Honours 2011”, so the reader will be able to target this research down the track. I wanted to keep it on the same blog because in 2009 I went on a blog binge and started more than were good for me, and it’s better to keep it all in one place. I’d also encourage anyone who would like me to elaborate on certain things I’ve discussed here I’m happy to answer any questions about this research as it’s an opportunity to concretize and rationalize bits of information that I come across, so feel free. So feel free to comment.

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