All posts relating to the Visual Communications section of the Creative Arts Today course are below.
What is mass media?
My workbook asks me to consider a quote from the 1964 book Understanding Media by Marshall McLuhan; “the medium is the message”. Trying to consider this applied to visual communications rather than just aesthetics or art is interesting. I think the medium does have a large impact on our understanding or perhaps more importantly acceptance of the message. For instance I feel more at ease accepting something as fact coming from the BBC News website or article than I do from a gossip webpage or ‘fan-site’. Thinking about something like advertising, a billboard or poster in a container by a bus stop or even on a bus, says ‘this is an advert’, really ‘you should consider buying this’. In the digital age it’s interesting to see advertising coming through Vloggers – people who share they’re world or hobbies through video’s on-line/namely on YouTube. A lot of these video’s have become platforms for advertising, but I think the medium of an advert delivered by an ‘ordinary person’, in an informal manner has a disarming affect. For arguments sake here’s an example from a Vlogger whose YouTube channel is called ViviannaDoesMakeUp.
There are several reading points to this research, I want to start with an article about Marshall McLuhan seeing as we were asked to consider a quote by him. I’d not heard of or been introduced to McLuhan before and I’d be interested to read some of his works. I’m going to buy his book Understanding Media, simply because it seems to be regarded as an in-depth analysis of a variety of methods of communication, and that seems interesting/relevant. I wish I’d known about him when I’d done my previous module in Graphic Design.
Notes on Communication Theory, Whitney Davis:
In the article Davis, refers to Jakobson’s analysis of communications and introduced me to his six factors of communication – ‘the addresser, addressee, message, code, context and contact’. This model reminds me of Aristotle’s theories around plot development, mostly just in format. I think the article also brings to the forefront the issue of intention in communication. Intention seems fairly tricky – the addresser may have had a clear intention or hidden or subconscious intention which informed their method of communication or language use. The addressee also then has to be able to decipher that intention correctly. It seems to me that communication theory has to take in societal factors, physiological factors as well as semantics to come to some conclusions.
Notes on Design, Penny Sparke:
It was interesting to read the Design essay; it helped to put into historical context or sense some aspects of Design which had seemed a bit of a mystery to me. Particularly how the design process had been divided from the crafting of an object or work, leading to people who specialised entirely in the planning of and preparation of an item before it’s actual production. From a personal point of view I’m interested to find out more about the Arts and Crafts Movement, as a means to understanding where the resurgence of designer makers actually originated from. I can certainly identity with feeling that most people now feel they have a sense of what ‘good’ or ‘bad’ design is and advertisers have worked hard to introduce something as “designer made” to add a sense of value or luxury. But I feel sometimes this is fraudulent, can a mass produced item ever be truly luxury?
Notes on Visual Culture:
The idea of the study of Visual Culture, seems perfectly rational to me. But reading the article I became aware that for those of another generation who did not grow up alongside the growth of the internet or social media/communication or even the mass of television programmes today might find it an odd thing to look into. I also found it funny to read about the definition of high culture and low culture, I think these still exist today, but are diminishing in their power with time. One particular line stood out – “Culture is thus produced in complex networks of exchange through which meanings are co-created by members of a society or group”, I read that as a from of communication between different parties. In the second to last paragraph the importance of “the emergence of digital media and a networked society”, “images circulate today instantaneously. Media events are global”, rings true. I am reminded of images from the migrant crisis of a young boy who had tragically died, washed to shore, which seemed to fill Facebook pages for weeks.
Notes on Commercial art:
This article seemed to pay particular attention to naming artists or design houses which contributed to the emergence of commercial/graphic art. I wanted to make a note of those names here, but under the category of the country they came from. Purely just a quick reference point for me to come back to should I need to:
French Commercial artists:
- Jules Cheret
- Henri de Toulouse-Laurtrec
- Print Studio – Chaix & Compagnie
- Jean Carleu
British Commercial artists:
- Baynard Press England
- W.S.Crawford and Son
- The London Press exchange
- Tom Purvis
- Frank Newbould
- Ashley Havinden
- McKnight Kauffer
- Herbert Bayer
- Tom Eckersley
Dutch Commercial artists:
- Paul Schuitema
Swiss Commercial artists:
- ‘Swiss Graphics’
- Josef Muller-Brockman
Russian Commercial artists:
- Aleksandr Rodchenko
- El Lissitzky
Researching artists who worked with photo-montage or collage:
I’ve previously researched work by artists John Heartfield and Peter Kennard in my Graphic Design module so I know I need to research other artists for this exercise. So I’ve looked into the work of Hannah Hoch and Martha Rosler.
Firstly let me start by saying how difficult it is to find images of Hoch’s work on-line. I’ve found it hard to find original works rather than imitation or work inspired by her work. I found some initial articles explaining Hannah Hoch’s work as connected to or part of the Dada, anti-art movement emerging from Germany following the first world war. Hannah Hoch was a German artist [1889-1978], whose work often featured montages of images, cut or collected from magazines, newspapers, posters. Her work often sought to promote women, and to give notion to the ideal of feminism and shifting attitudes towards the roles of women within society from the 1920s onwards.
I read an interesting article in the Telegraph written by Mark Hudson, around the same time as the Whitechapel Gallery presented the first major UK exhibition of the artists work. I found a link to Daniel Herman one of the curators of the exhibition discussing the exhibition with examples of work in a YouTube video:
He describes her work as abstract, concerned with challenging notions of beauty and addressing the fragmentation of society through the use of fragmented pieces of imagery (collage).
In another clip, this time from the MoMA online resources, a piece by Hannah Hoch is discussed:
There are a limited number of images of Hoch’s work here on the MoMA site. Unfortunately I cannot reproduced any of the images here for copyright reasons. Another website called The Weird Show – a concern on collage and beyond posted some examples of her work, but didn’t identify any names, dates or information with the pieces.
Is an female artist born in America in 1943. Her work takes many forms; video, photography, text, installation. Theme’s within her work include exploring everyday life, feminism, the link between war and home, national security and climate change. Most of her work is created for public display or for use in public forums. Like Hoch she uses photomontage and collage to challenge stereotypes and society, often juxtaposing images of home life/domesticity with imagery of war or chaos or decay. This is particularly apparent in her series House Beautiful:Bringing the War Home. A series which she revisited in 2004-2008 around the years of the Iraq War.
Unlike Hoch’s collages Rosler’s work is much cleaner in terms of arrangement. The work appears less fragmented and I think this aids her concept of brining the war home. It is still clear the two different kinds of imagery jar and conflict with each other but there is an odd sense of the two meshing together in her work.
Further examples of Rosler’s work can be seen at the MoMA artists page.
Re-contextualising a current news story: The Panama Tax Havens Leak
The big story of the past few days has been a massive information/data leak of details from Mossack Fonseca which enables clients to launder money and avoid tax. Many names have emerged in the documents, among whom Russian leader Vladimir Putin and more recently links to David Cameron’s family through assets belonging to his late father. Unsurprisingly Downing Street say this is a private matter. I decided to take this ironic twist in events and pull out David Cameron and Vladimir Putin, supposedly opposites in morals and ideologies together in a image depicting panama. This is obviously me stretching things and being a bit tongue in cheek!
I found some images an image of David Cameron with his hands up – in a pose that suggests ‘I’m not involved in this’ and a photo of Vladimir Putin winking – to signify perhaps wry involvement and making fun of Cameron’s involvement. I then stuck these images onto bikini clad or beach clad women to fit with the Panama beach setting. I found a background from a fashion magazine of a coastal region (I think Cannes to be precise) and used this as a back drop. I then found a rather comedy looking set of bags with dollar signs on to represent stole or perhaps illicitly kept cash. I then combined these images in a black and white arrangement using Photoshop:
The image on the left is the non text version of the collage. I decided to keep all the elements black and white using Photoshop because the real colours of the cut out images were too broad a mix of colours. The colours didn’t sit well together. I noticed that in most of Hannah Hoch or Rosler’s design a limited colour palette helped the elements sit side by side without too much competition for attention.
The image on the right is a version of the collage with text. I added the text to help the viewer understand the context for all the elements. Perhaps the need to add text reveals my choice of imagery wasn’t effective enough. I’m not 100% sure either way. I find text often helps set a visual in it’s correct place. Personally I think the image needs the text because without colour it may not be initially clear to the viewer that the flag in the background is the Panama flag. Adding in the name of the country to the slogan helps make it clear what is being made reference to – at least I think it helps make it clearer.
In the previous exercise I researched some Artists who worked with photomontage or collage for a more political or social commentary. Whilst I think Art that challenges or causes us to question decision makers or inequalities is good and often necessary sometimes it’s good to see a more positive perspective.
Whilst researching collage I came across the blog of Hallmark studios, think.make.share, which is full of lots of examples of hallmark artists doing workshops to inspire their creativity. I personally find the sight really exciting and love seeing the different approaches to creativity.
Searching through the blog I came across the work of Hallmark Artist, Lynn Giunta, who specialising in creating through collages. She led a session on creating paper cut collages for the Hallmark Artists which was written about on the blog. There is also an artist spotlight piece on her work. A simple video about her process is below:
Her work is vastly different to that of Hannah Hoch or Martha Rosler, and is also for commercial means (i.e. cards to be sold). But I enjoy her more free and organic approach, and the use of colours and textures. Her work has a liveliness to it, and is uplifting. Really I just wanted to make a note of her work as an example of collage that I preferred personally.
I’m excited to have the opportunity to talk about a recent favourite animated film, Ernest & Celestine. The animation is based on the famous children’s book series featuring Ernest & Celestine by Gabrielle Vincent. It explores the unlikely friendship between bear Ernest and mouse Celestine and their Bonnie and Clyde like adventures.
For the purposes of this exercise I will be considering how typography, colour, image and composition are used to reflect the nature of the film in it’s film poster and trailer.
I wasn’t entirely sure how best to begin this exercise. So I began with a broad spectrum of search ideas and then refined down what I wanted to explore. For this exercise I needed to use images of apples as a start point for considering what the image of an apple could represent or signify. I could chose to explore apple images from art history or commercial visual communication. I started my search looking into both categories and have decided to narrow it down to the field of commercial visual communication.
I’ve been meaning to write about this visit for some time, it was our (myself and my husbands) first visit to The Hepworth Wakefield gallery and first time at a fair dedicated to printmaking. I will admit two things to begin with, firstly that I had never seen any work by the famous sculptor Barbara Hepworth prior to the visit. Secondly that I was not prepared for the somewhat dismal day we arrived at the gallery. Anyway we had intended to come see the print fair and to hear Printmaker Angie Lewin in Conversation with Senior Curator of Prints at the V&A, Gill Saunders.
In the process of researching for projects for degree work I often come across artists, designers, illustrators that I find fascinating. I don’t always make the time to comment on or collate examples of these. Often Pinterest is my chosen place of visual collation – I have boards where I digitally collect images in several different categories. I wanted to take the time to reflect on the work of two illustrators whose work I’ve discovered recently; Owen Gent & Marina Muun.
In this exercise I am going to explore semiotics, by doing a semiotic analysis on the picture opposite. I will first describe the literal elements of the print, the denotation. Then I will consider its implied meaning, and try to work out whether these connotation were accidental or deliberate.
In approaching this project, and more specifically this exercise I realised something. Okay I realised a couple of things; one that I’m not massively aware of what is new or now in visual/contemporary culture, two that I needed to figure out how to find out what is new or now. Cue frantic online searching of various illustration, contemporary visual culture magazines. I came across one magazine, Wrap, that I liked the look of which professed to be interested in contemporary illustration. I also began looking into the websites and magazines listed in my course guidance.
This is perhaps one of the stranger exercises I’ve had to do for Uni work. In this exercise I’ve been asked to research contemporary and historical examples of where and how knitted items have been represented. I began with a mind map of my own instant thoughts on knitting and it’s associations.
In this exercise I needed to;
find examples of different visual conventions used to convey time/or place/space – frame by frame storytelling, handling of perspective, use of speech bubbles – from different time periods.
I also needed to use the exercise to develop research skills through the use of OCA online resources, websites, or visiting local libraries.
So this exercise feels like an bit of an odd end to part three of this module. It’s about considering and finding examples of new forms of media, can be games, video, other interactive media, which I consider cutting edge or inventive forms of visual media.
I’d like to take a moment to say I am not massively cutting edge – I still think Instagram and Twitter feel like fairly new versions of media, they haven’t really existed for that long now have they!?
For this assignment we have been asked to identify an example of re-appropriation within visual communication. I have chosen to consider a re-appropriation of Johannes Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring. The re-appropriation is a digital creation by Vienna based artist Dorothee Golz. In the post that follows I consider both images and collate notes ready for the assignment, a 1,00 word essay reflecting on questions from the workbook…
I realise I often don’t give the time/space to reflect on my tutor’s feedback on an assignment before diving straight into the next one. Her feedback was lengthy but helpful. There’s a few things I want to pick up on as room for improvement following her feedback:
- I need to make sure when I read recommended texts for the course I do the following things;
a) Make notes on my responses, thoughts, questions that arise on my blog as I read – this isn’t something I’ve done so far.
b) Make space/schedule time for reading these texts – I’ve given a large proportion of the time allocated to study to working on the exercises and assignment but haven’t set aside an amount of time for reading to support or supplement my studies. In all honesty I’m not sure how best to do this! Should I set aside an afternoon a week to read textbooks? Or a couple of hours a week?
2. Learn from previous mistakes:
For the next section on Photography, I’ve gone ahead and bought the texts my tutor recommended; Ian Jeffrey Photography: A Concise History, Susan Sontag On Photography, Graham Clarke The Photograph: A Visual History, Charlotte Cotton The Photography as Contemporary Art.
3. Recommended Essays or Documentaries;
My tutor mentioned Walter Benjamin’s 1936 Essay, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, as an important essay exploring mass communication. I found a version of it online, here.
She also recommended I watch John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, series of programmes made in 1972. I have also found a link to these on YouTube and will begin watching those and making some reflections in my learning log.
I gave an initial response to my tutor’s feedback on assignment 3 here. I have since then spent some time reworking and re-writing elements of the essay to try and make improvements or fill in gaps that my tutor had a highlighted.
One of the main things my tutor highlighted was ‘the need to work on integrating relevant ‘theory’ with your solid analysis’. I read Walter Benjamin’s essay, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction some time ago, but recently read Ways of Seeing by John Berger. I found within Berger’s book (which draws heavily on many of the arguments Benjamin’s essay made), much more accessible. I also found that Berger’s arguments were relevant to the assignment, particularly the issue of the distinctness of an original and the notion of a ‘language of images’. I’ve tried to incorporate these arguments in my revised essay.
My tutor also noted that Golz work (the artist whose re-appropriation I studied in my essay), was postmodernist. I had manged to get part way through reading Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction by Christopher Butler, so I carried on reading, and discovered that Golz work was a good example of postmodernism in it’s obsession with using elements from art of the past, and in it’s bid to force viewers or audiences to question art by taking elements of past movements and re-working them. Golz work also has a feminist slant to, and I found Berger and Butler both useful in explaining her effort to address the representation of women in society at the time of Vermeer and in today’s postmodernist society. I’m aware that I still don’t have a comprehensive understanding of Postmodernism but I feel like at least I’ve tried to grasp some key concepts and refer to them in a way that’s appropriate to the subject of the essay.
My tutor also noted that Golz had drawn on elements in her re-appropriation that were similar to elements seen in typical Vermeer paintings, again this highlighted to me the need for further research. I found a book in my library dedicated to Vermeer; A view of Delft Vermeer then and now, by Anthony Bailey, which me to uncover how The Girl with The Pearl Earring would’ve been seen by an audience at the time. I used this to help improve my semiotic analysis of the original. Which leads to my final point of improvement – I was encouraged to be more deliberate in my semiotic analysis, so I decided to make that the initial starting point of my re-written essay, beginning with the denotation and then moving on to the connotation of the original.
I think (at least hope), these changes and further research have made my essay much more informed. I’ve certainly tried to incorporate wider themes, refer to key course textbooks in the revised essay.