Thoughts on Grayson Perry’s 2013 Reith Lectures

I listened to a couple of Grayson’s lectures, but I think I’ll do my best to make some comments on his lecture entitled ‘Beating the bounds’ in which he gives his definition of the boundary of art, trying to pin down what is art…

Here’s a link to the pod-cast:

I also found a link to a transcript of the lecture, which was incredibly helpful to read, as the lecture moves at  brisk pace and a lot of the references to art works or concepts were new to me.

Here’s a link to the transcript:

He suggests several boundary markers to help us define art and I’m just going to make a note of those which stood out to me and why.

Suggested Boundaries:

Is it in a gallery or an art context?

Grayson uses Duchamp’s Urinal as the example for this point, saying that in bringing the urinal into a gallery space and placing it on a plinth he’s put it in the context to be viewed as art. I agree with the idea that context helps us to interpret and understand the way to view something, in this case art.

But does it cease to be art once it’s on someone’s wall, what if Duchamp had placed the urinal in his hallway and photographed it? Would it be art then or simply an unusual decoration?

Is it made by an artist?

I think here the crux of the argument is about context, that to create art you need to be an artist because an artist understands the art world and therefore knows how to create in a manner which can be understood or misunderstood by those in that world. But it seems a little exclusive to say a non artist can’t make art.

We’re then in the realms of asking what makes an artist, is it training, skills, a unique view point, an education in art, a family background of artists, or is it being paid for making art?

The Limited Edition Test 

Here the implication is that art is perceived as art by way of something’s rarity, and perhaps it’s collectable nature. Is this straying into the idea that collectors or the wealthy decide the value of art or even if something is art when they decide to buy it??

The Computer Art Test

Essentially Grayson discusses what distinguishes computer art from an interesting web article. His conclusion is that computer art or any art for that matter should cause the viewer to stop and think, it should require reflection rather than an instant reaction or in the case of viewing on-line the click of a mouse onto the next thing.

Personally this made me consider what I find valuable in art is partly the idea that someone has created this from something, from a some place of internal deliberation or imagination or in response to something, it’s not random. I think I struggle to call something art if I can’t try and derive some meaning or some point of view being projected from it.

I’ll leave my thoughts there for now…

Project 1: Art and Ideas – Exercise 2 pt.1

What is art?

I think art has a very broad definition and as such it’s hard to pin down what it is because it can be so many things. I think simply, it’s something created or assembled or arranged with thought or meaning, it exists to challenge or stimulate or to console, or reflect on life. I think art is something that comes from a creative person, but I’m not sure it has to come from someone that has a formal background in ‘art’.

How do we know it is art?

I think context helps us to determine if is something is art, so often seeing something in a gallery or on someone’s wall at home, or in a restaurant or shop helps us to decide if that’s art. Obviously there are people who buy or display that art and they help us to decide.

I think the thought or the consideration behind the creator of the work helps us decide if it’s art or not, we struggle to believe something is art if it’s maker didn’t give any thought to how it was created or why it was made.

Who decides what is art?

The individual, the person who made it or assembled it or arranged it, the public, curators, the media. I think it’s very subjective, and based on an individual’s mindsets and beliefs, so one person’s art might be another persons junk, and I think that’s actually okay!

Is it enough just to display a found object and say ‘this is art’ because it’s in an art gallery?

Why not? That clearly causes and provokes a response from the viewer, perhaps its the intention of the work? It causes people to stop and consider and question. Sometimes I think that’s a good thing.

Duchamp said he wanted “to put art back in the service of the mind”. What do you think he meant by this?

I think he’s suggesting that art had become maybe too attached to emotion or eliciting emotion rather than being used to cause the mind to reflect or consider. I think he’s trying to say that art should come from a place of reason or be something considered intellectually not just practical.  That the start point of creativity or art should be conceptual, not merely practical or a ‘felt’ response to something.

Project 1: Art and Ideas- Exercise 2 pt.2

Is technical skill an important quality in artwork?

Sometimes, I think it really depends on the aim behind the artwork. I think we associate technical skill with a historical view of ‘good’ artwork. It’s also subjective, what I think is technically skilled or shows brilliant skill another might not.

Do you think art needs to move you emotionally?

Yes – but I don’t think that has to be it’s sole purpose or that art is bad if it doesn’t. I mean how do you as an artist predict what emotional response your work will get?

Does art have to be unique?

I think it helps if art is unique, it feels more valuable because it’s different or rare. Does that mean you can’t take something mass produced and call it art? I think that art isn’t just the objects or things presented it’s also the context of presentation, so a mass produced object can become something else when presented or arranged in an unique way that helps you divorce it (in your mind) from it’s original purpose or use.


Project 1: Art and Ideas – Exercise 3

Notes below are all on reading the extract from ‘Art History: The Basics by Grant Pooke and Diana Newall, 2008, Abingdon:Routledge’.

New Words List:

Acquiescence – 

verb (used without object), acquiesced, acquiescing.

to assent tacitly; submit or comply silently or without protest; agree;consent:

to acquiesce halfheartedly in a business plan.

Duplicity – 

noun, plural duplicities for 2, 3.

deceitfulness in speech or conduct, as by speaking or acting in twodifferent ways to different people concerning the same matter; double-dealing.


an act or instance of such deceitfulness.

Arbitrary –



founded on or subject to personal whims, prejudices, etc; capricious

having only relative application or relevance; not absolute

(of a government, ruler, etc) despotic or dictatorial

‘The academy’? – 


Hegemonic – 


having hegemony, or dominance:

the ruling party’s hegemonic control of all facets of society.
Hegemony –
noun, plural hegemonies.

leadership or predominant influence exercised by one nation overothers, as in a confederation.

leadership; predominance.

(especially among smaller nations) aggression or expansionism by large nations in an effort to achieve world domination.

Theories or Concepts to research:

What is the ‘Institutional Theory of Art’?

A little bit of ‘research’, by that I mean googling, leads me to some websites, one a postgraduate research piece about ‘The Artworld and The Institutional Theory of Art: an Analytic Confrontation, by Massimiliano Lacertosa’, see link below:

And the other the Standford Encylopedia of Philosophy, see link below:

Both note two philosophers, Arthur Danto & George Dickie, as theorists of Art who offer more modern ideas on art. One Arthur Danto is the founder of Insitutional Art theories – seems to be concerned with how art institutions create a sense of culture which influences the work of artists.

I leave my research there because I’m not sure these are good sources or not! I’m going to buy the Tate Guide to Modern Art Terms and see if that helps…

Interesting to see the distinguishing of craft from art. Also to read that, that distinction was clearer in previous periods than now, where perhaps our definition of art has become so broad that it’s too encompassing and maybe we’ve lowered the standards.


Project 1: Exercise 4 – Looking at context

So I decided to have a little look for a different view of Damien Hirst’s piece, ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 1991‘. Simply because it’s really hard to get a good idea of what a piece is about when you’re looking at only one view of it in a small photo.

I found his own website and you can see a lengthways view of the piece, which I guess gives a slightly broader perspective, see link below:

Damien Hirst,The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 1991 - Image: Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2012

Damien Hirst,The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 1991 – Image: Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2012

First Reaction to piece:

Disturbing, Intriguing, am I supposed to feel sorry for the shark?

Emotional response:

Mixed, I guess I see the shark as a symbol of terror or fear. It’s associated with causing harm or death. I’m also slightly disturbed by seeing it in a large container of glass, it’s unnatural.

What do I think it’s about?

I think my answer would be different if I hadn’t known the title. Without the title, I guess I would’ve thought about why the shark is in a container, is it about dominance? Is it about demonstrating even powerful creatures succumb to man or to death? Is it about containing things that make us afraid?

What do I think about the title?

I think the title helps set the piece in a context, or gives it a frame of reference. It suggests that the piece is about confronting our view of death, that we struggle to face death head on and the piece is literally showing us death or the decaying process in action through the slow decay of the shark in the formaldehyde solution. Without the title it really does come down to how we view the shark and the structure.

Edwaert Collier Still Life:

Edwaert Collier,Still Life with a Volume of Wither’s ‘Emblemes’, 1696, Copyright Tate, London 2014.

Edwaert Collier,Still Life with a Volume of Wither’s ‘Emblemes’, 1696, Copyright Tate, London 2014.








First Reaction to piece:

It’s a technically good painting, has a moody feel, it’s a dimly light scene. I notice the skull in the background and some text underneath a vase – I wonder what this means? The cup and grapes reminds me of the bible story of Joseph and the cup bearer and how people would taste the kings wine to test for poison.

Emotional response:

Initially not much, slightly more sinister feeling once I noticed the skull in the background. I guess a sense of sorrow, everything feels sombre, still a bit lifeless.

What do I think it’s about?

Without the title to reference – I would’ve said some kind of collection, maybe a particular persons interests, or passions. Maybe there’s some political nod to the times, perhaps death, I say this simply because in the shadows of the painting there lurks a skull. Maybe the fleeting nature of life?  Perhaps the connection between the music and the skull is to do with time, a piece has a set duration and then it’s finished, just as a human is mortal, living only a certain amount of time?

What do I think about the title?

I honestly am not sure what the word ‘Emblemes’ means. It suggests a persons belongings, is ‘Wither’ a person?

Project 2: Exercise 1 – The Fourth Dimension

Thoughts about Time

I guess I’ve thought about time before but not in relation to art work or the art world. I think culturally my generation or perhaps the generation that followed mine has a preoccupation with making the most of time, the phrase ‘Yolo’ (you only live once) is used as mantra by lots of people for living in the moment. I think that sometimes sneaks into motivating Modern Art’s more extreme or bold works.

It’s hard to imagine a world outside of time. We are constrained in many ways by time, night and day, as measures of time. There are times when time can’t seem to go fast enough, or we wish time was slower looking back on a good period of our lives. There are periods of my life that I look at and feel like I was aged by them significantly, but the reality is I only aged a year based on my birthday.

I’m sure I’ve seen art based on time but of the top of my head I couldn’t think of it, so I had a look at the ‘Tate Guide to Modern Art Terms’, by Simon Wilson and Jessica Lack and made mention of Bruce Nauman as an artist in the 1960’s who made use of time-based media.

I found a couple of links to articles talking about his installation of corridors in galleries and filming of people travelling down these corridors. I’m really not sure how to write about them or what they say about time to be honest…


Project 2: Case Study – Longplayer

Initial Reaction to the piece:

Intrigue, how does it work? Do the audience participate in making the sound and therefore completing the art work?

Site Specific Art:

‘Refers to a work of art designed specifically for a  particular location and that has an interrelationship  with the location. If removed from the location it would loose all or a substantial part of its meaning. Site-specific is often used to describe installation works, and Land art is site specific almost by definition’  page 199 The Tate Guide to Modern Art Terms, Simon Wilson and Jessica Lack, Tate Publishing 2008.

Continue reading

Project 2: Formalism

Notes on reading chapter 2 of Art History: The Basics:

New terms:

Naturalism, Semi-figurative, Semi-abstract, total abstraction.

“Looking carefully at these abstract examples and attempting to describe what hits our retina, helps us to understand how these works were made and what aesthetic effects they produce. Regardless of what other meanings or connotations they may have, when we first encounter entirely abstract works of art, we primarily rely upon our visual response to the juxtaposition of forms and colours…” p.42 Art History: the basics, Pooke & Newall 2008.

I found the following quote helpful to me as a reminder that use of materials can provide a basis for looking into contextual issues or statements about the age we lived in etc…

“Close attention to the particularities of any aesthetic object provides an initial point from which we might discuss broader issues of context, meaning and value.” p.47 Art History: the basics, Pooke & Newall 2008.

Formalism leads to Modernism, a movement or theory largely promoted by critic named Greenberg. But he seemed to want to divorce art from any sense of context, political or social, and as we entered the 1960’s/1970’s the form of art seemed to shift and critics began to propose a new movement in art ‘post-modernism’.

I found reading the chapter interesting but it’s hard to keep up with the breadth of artists, or commentator’s it discusses, particularly when many of these names are new to me!


Project 2: Exercise 2- Interpreting video art

Notes on Sam Taylor-Wood’s Still Life:

Initial response after first viewing:

I think it’s interesting she’s taken a theme or arrangement we’re used to seeing in a painted medium. I think by putting real fruit before us and filming it’s decay you start to reconsider how well painting captures life or death. There’s something in the medium used, film which allows the viewer to go beyond first presentation of an arrangement to see the effect of time.

The title is really in juxtaposition to the piece – it’s not a ‘Still Life’ in the sense that the fruit appears to be moving and harbouring growth (mould) even in its decay. The film itself has a duration, it’s not still.

I also wonder is the pen significant? It seems to be the object least affected by a process of decay, or it certainly takes awhile for any mould or dust to touch it. It seems like the only ‘modern’ or mass produced object in the arrangement, why?

Media & Form of the piece:

The medium here seems an essential part of telling or creating a narrative – the speeding up of the process of decay is made possible by using this technology. We are provide an overview of the process rather than being forced to endure it’s natural length. It’s interesting to think about what this piece would’ve been like as an installation in a real gallery space, the viewer watching as it gradually decayed, it’s not nearly as dramatic.

The composition of the piece – the fruit bowl in a large dominant shape in the centre, draws the eye. But it’s interrupted visually by the ball point pen in the  right hand corner of the piece. So your attention feels a little divided between the objects.

Light & Shadow – falling on the objects, gives a sense of time passing, without which it would be less apparent.

Contextual Information:

Initial thoughts before research into Sam Taylor Wood’s other work or work of a similar theme:

  • use of medium of film or photography – interesting in an age where we view so many things on screens or through film/TV. I think we find it easier as a younger generation to engage with this because it’s so familiar.
  • The arrangement of a cluster of objects centrally, and the mottled background, and strong shadows underneath objects is a visual reminder of the vanitas paintings of the 1800’s.


  • filmed over 9 weeks with a 16mm film camera.
  • she referenced Caravaggio’s still life with a basket of fruit – for arranging the composition.
  • Pen added as a visual link to it being a modern piece, or a piece of this age rather than being a piece that is too heavily linked to the renaissance.
  • Sam Taylor Woods own personal battles with Cancer – these seem to have marked her work with a fascination with mortality.
  • Pieta – another work by Taylor-Wood in 2001, again makes use of a renaissance motif or image which she recreates with a modern muse or character (Robert Downy Jr.)

I watched part of an Artist-talk she did at the Tate and it helped to expand on the theme’s she explores.


293 words Describing my personal understanding of the piece:

In Sam Taylor-Wood’s piece Still Life we find ourselves watching a carefully arranged bowl of fruit decaying rapidly, over the course of 3-4 minutes. Initially I was struck by how we can only face the reality of decay by this medium. The use of time lapse filming enables the viewer to engage with a process that actually happened over 9 weeks. Taylor-Wood has confronted us with a visual that could be a metaphor for life, the gradual decay of the human body, over the course of years. Perhaps a process that we are unaware of until a certain stage of life, perhaps it’s somewhat cruel to force us to consider this process whilst its effects are not so severe. Or perhaps it’s a cautionary tale, that life is fleeting, energy is fleeting, live well whilst you can.

I find it hard now to divorce the content of the film from knowledge of Taylor-Wood’s own battle with Cancer, before the making of this piece. Cancer as a thing which like mould spreads throughout the body, if left unchecked or untamed. So you see my problem, I now see the piece as a strange visual projection of the effect of Cancer on the human body.

I think it would be foolish also not to acknowledge some of the clear references the piece makes to other artists work. The arrangement of the bowl of fruit, seems so careful and deliberate, it’s positioning centrally, the light and the shadows which fall across it. All these things seem to point to Caravaggio’s Still Life with a Basket of Fruit. I find it interesting then that she does include a very clear visual to give the work a sense of placement in the modern era, a ball point pen.

Project 3: Place in art – Exercise 1


Notes on reading academic text:

On my first read through of the text I attempted to make notes, in a broad sense in my sketchbook. I actually found this harder than expected. So after a short time abandoned this to just allow myself space to just read the text. You can see some of my initial notes below:

Notes on place essay 1






notes on place essay pt2








I found the second read through of the text easier as I already felt somewhat familiar with the trajectory of the essay. However it is still an essay which seems to have a broad scope, it covers the dark ages to the present day in a very small space, throwing out the names of many Philosophers, Scientists, and Artists that I am unfamiliar with. I found it hard to actually understand the subject being referred to when I’m not familiar with those thinkers or writers being mentioned. I also wonder how long it would take me to actually research those names in order to get a better sense of context.

Here’s my summary of the text:

Place is difficult to define, and people have wrestled with it’s definition over the ages. Today we seem preoccupied with the idea of place as an unseen space or perhaps a sense, we talk about ‘everything having or being it’s correct place’ and that can apply to ordering of physical items or ordering of emotions. Scientists tried to define place within the broader sense of ‘space’ and as such tried to limit it to things that could be measured by man, and removed any consideration of the value of place, beauty or human experience of place. Artists began to consider how we project ourselves and our sense our value onto places around us, and as such attributed emotional connotations or memories to place. This suggests that place can be experienced differently by each individual and is as much to do with human perception as it is to do with physical land masses, or land features e.g. rivers, etc. It finishes with suggesting that art and place are strongly linked, “… to make art (which is also to think about it) is to make place”.


Research Point: Artists mentioned in Essay who use text to describe ‘place’:

Firstly from the Essay it was hard to know which Artists mentioned work included text, but there were a couple that seemed clearly to use text:

Ian Hamilton Finlay:

Finlay is described on the Tate website as a Concrete poet, a term I’d not heard of before. Looking at his work shortly it’s not heard to see why, there’s a prevalence of concrete sculptures inscribed in a serif fonts or Roman typefaces

I found this article in the Guardian helpful for a look at the life of the artist and to give me a sense of context when looking at his work.

The piece I looked at, in the form of a photograph on the Tate website is called, Monument, 1991.

I think this piece makes reference to place in a number of ways, firstly the watering cans, instantly bring the garden to mind. Without any sense of knowing the artists history, it seems a little strange. But when you consider ‘Little Sparta’ the garden and it’s sculptures curated and loved by Finlay as a Home then the watering cans seem more significant. They begin to seem like symbols of home, or symbols of those people’s names (on the watering cans) and tie those people to a place, to his world, to his universe as it were.

Douglas Huebler :

The Essay mentions Huebler’s series ‘Location’ – but I couldn’t find any images which allowed me to read the text in the piece, so I’ll make some comments on the piece below:

Duration Piece #6, 1968

In all honesty I have no initial idea how to analyse this piece, or make sense of it. But I’ll attempt to form some response to it. It’s interesting a time sensitive, site specific work, that is captured and frozen into a sense of place or time, by the description in the text and the polaroid images. The dust is subject to the space it’s presented in, although we don’t know whether the dust was moved by the artist, or the environment, effects of nature or effects of man. I can’t decide what significance if any to give to the location of the work. Did we need to know the specifics of the building and floor which it was placed on? Does that give us some sense of grounding or reality to a piece that seems to conceptual?

I’m not sure what to add and am unsure without further input from the artist how to see the piece, and maybe that’s the point the artist has already tried to frame our response to it, through photographs and descriptions that I’m not sure how to look at it with my own perspective.

Project 3: Exercise 2 Developing your research skills

Listening to Katie Paterson’s piece Vatnajokull I had a number on reactions. Firstly it’s fascinating to hear the sound of glaciers, thousands of miles away breaking apart. We find ourselves suddenly able to hear a sound from a place we might otherwise never encounter. The phone line provides a link to a place which most of us have little consideration or concept of. As I continued to listen the extract I noticed that after a few minutes it had become background noise. The sound itself is soothing, almost lulling to me, ironic when it’s the sound of glaciers melting, and all the chaos that climate change entails.

She explores the sense of place in creating a work which exists in multiple places, there’s the actual live recording happening in the Jökulsárlón lagoon, an outlet lagoon of the glacier Vatnajökull in Iceland. Then there’s the representation of place in a phone number, linking you to the physicality of the recording in the lagoon. But then it seems in some exhibitions, namely the Frieze exhibition in New York 2012, that the artist introduces further work to help viewers engage with the issue of place by including film footage of the glacier in Iceland.

I discovered that the piece seemed to evolve over time, the initial showing of the piece was in her MFA show at Slade in 2007, and viewers were faced with the Neon sign of the phone number, and presumably some explanatory text. But over the course of the exhibition added to the piece were records of all the numbers of people who had called the phone line in Iceland, 10,000 in total!

In considering Paterson’s use of text I wonder why she chose to use a Neon Sign to display the phone number? Neon as a medium has for me such strong associations with commercialism, advertising, attention seeking, perhaps it seemed a good medium to hold the viewers gaze and demand their interaction with the piece?

I found an article about the Artist in Vice Magazine online which helped me to see a range of Paterson’s work. In works like, ‘100 Billion Suns’ and ‘All the Dead Stars’  we see her preoccupation with capturing elements of space, or the universe and giving them a proximity, putting them into ‘a place’ in visible tangible art works for us to begin to try and capture a sense of what ‘space’ consists of. I found it all really fascinating and illuminating!

Exercise 3: Tate article ‘But is it installation art?’

Reading the article ‘But is it installation art?’ by Claire Bishop, ahead of going to see contemporary work at a Gallery might actually have been a smart idea. It caused me to stop and consider how I interact with installation works, or even what they are.

I’m 25, and I can’t really remember a visit to a Gallery or exhibition where I didn’t encounter some form of installation art. In fact it seems fairly common place. So it was interesting to read an article talking about the origins of that medium. I find it helpful to consider what was it like first encountering work which challenged you as a viewer to see the space around, and presentation of a piece as part of the art work, rather than just a background to be ignored.

The article puts form to a thought I’ve had before when encountering installation works:

“In a recent issue of Artforum, James Meyer lamented the new trend for museums to endorse ‘an art of size’. He quoted critic Hal Foster on the Bilbao Guggenheim: ‘To make a big splash in the global pond of spectacle culture today, you have to have a big rock to drop.’ Big audiences are assumed to demand, and like, big works: wall-size video/film projections, oversize photographs and overwhelming sculptures. Rather than ‘inducing awareness and provoking thought’, wrote Meyer, this type of art is ‘marshalled to overwhelm and pacify’.”

I have found that often viewing installation works are overwhelming, they seem to leave me feeling drained, dull, rather than enlivened or provoked to thought or discussion. I’m not saying this is always the case, but certainly is how I feel when faced with something that fills a space or overwhelms the senses. I hadn’t ever considered this might be part of a response to cultural expectations or desires to put on a spectacle or performance to please a crowd.

The conclusion of the article is a good summary of perhaps what to look for when viewing installation art – it is a broad medium, but I agree with the sentiment that installation works should provoke thought rather than consumerism.

“Despite the dearth of a manifesto, one can nevertheless point to a persistence of certain ideas in the work of contemporary artists who continue its tradition. These values concern a desire to activate the viewer – as opposed to the passivity of mass-media consumption – and to induce a critical vigilance towards the environments in which we find ourselves. When the experience of going into a museum increasingly rivals that of walking into restaurants, shops, or clubs, works of art may no longer need to take the form of immersive, interactive experiences. Rather, the best installation art is marked by a sense of antagonism towards its environment, a friction with its context that resists organisational pressure and instead exerts its own terms of engagement.”


Exercise 3: Gallery Visit – Ikon Gallery Birmingham

I didn’t really have a good idea of what Galleries were in the area, that had a collection of contemporary art. I found this article in the Guardian on-line which recommended the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham. So I went along and found an exhibition by contemporary British Artist Fiona Banner.

‘Scroll Down And Keep Scrolling’ – by Fiona Barren at Ikon Gallery 10 October 2015- 17 January 2016

Continue reading

Research: Tate Artist Rooms – ‘Theme: Language’

I found the link had been re-worded on the Tate website, so I’ve included a link here just in case I lose track of it again…


Use of text as art work in it’s own right seen as controversial, birthed on the back of Duchamp’s ready-made’s and seems to go hand in hand with the movement of conceptual art. For me it’s interesting it see these artists in context. I’ve seen some of their work in galleries as I was growing up and not really been shocked by their use of text/language, for me text as art doesn’t seem shocking in and of itself. It’s how it’s used or the content of that text which provides any shock factor. Perhaps though that’s a result of growing up a consumer focused generation.

Artists whose work incorporates or explores text/language:

Sol LeWitt 1928-2007 – first coin’s term ‘conceptual art’ in article ‘Paragraphs on Conceptual Art 1967’.

Laurence Weiner – use of purely text in gallery spaces/walls, focuses on interaction between artwork and viewer or receiver. Work interested in interpretation of language.

Edward Ruscha – focuses on printed word found in mass media and advertising, associated with Pop Art movement. See words as shapes themselves, interested in their form as well as meaning.

Bruce Nauman – works often with Neon sculpture to create pieces which disturb or distort the meaning of everyday phrases.

Martin Creed – minimalist works, again making use of neon signs, but often on a large scale and on buildings rather than within gallery spaces.

Mario Merz – another artist making use of Neon text, but instead focussing on placing these in a juxtaposition with other everyday objects.

Jenny Holzer – first public work emerged 1977-79, described as an installation and conceptual artist. Works with variety of mediums and formats to portray language, from posters, billboards, LED signs, park benches…

Joseph Beuys 1921-1986 – a German artist, seen to use works as a from or activism or call for social reforms.

Richard Long – English sculptor, photographer, painter – associated with Land Art and used text to describe or capture walks and interaction with nature.

Ian Hamilton Finlay 1925-2006 – briefly already introduced to this artist – ‘the concrete poet’.

Cy Twombly 1928-2011 – American artist – painter, printmaker, sculptor, linked to action painting and Abstract expressionist movements. Incorporated a form of handwritten text into works.

Assignment 1: Part A – Reflective learning

At the beginning of Part One I was asked the question ‘What is art?’ Have my views changed or not, explain why. Explain how they’ve changed if this is the case:

I think my view of what art is has changed somewhat. At the start of the course I thought I was fairly open or liberal with my view of art was. But I discovered particularly through the Assignment piece that I did hold some quite traditional mind-sets about what art was. I think what enabled me to move past those mind-sets was a new understanding of form. I was able to approach pieces that took non-traditional form because I had a way to analyse them by their construction. I think at first I felt overwhelmed by the breadth of what we now call art, but now I feel I have more tools with which to analyse and understand it. I also have come to see that views that I thought were more cynical (e.g. successful artists court sponsors) have some grounding in truth. I hadn’t realised how commercial some parts of contemporary art were.

Reflections of what I’ve learnt in Part 1:

One thing that has perhaps cemented in me is the belief that art is subjective, I don’t have to like everything that is art to be an artist. That I don’t have to like the subject matter in order to appreciate the concept or skill with which an artist has approached a subject.

I’ve learnt to move further away from simply giving an initial emotional response to a piece of art work to being able to consider it from several angles. I’ve learnt to consider the form of the piece, the context, the view of critics and use that to come to a developed personal response. This is still something I’m practising!


Reflections on Learning Log:

I think some aspects of my learning log work well. Having a blog means that including links to any critics reviews or articles I read is simple, and I find it easier to make notes as I go by typing. I think that I am starting to develop the ability to use my learning log as a place to reflect more effectively, going beyond my initial response to pulling together arguments based on multiple viewpoints. However I do think that I need to increase the amount I visit exhibitions of contemporary art in my area. I didn’t have any idea of what was around until it was required by the course to visit a local gallery. I can see now how this could help inform my own practice. I found seeing Fiona Banner’s exhibition particularly interesting from a graphic design/typography creation stand point. She will be someone I look to reference in my own work. Namely as an example of someone working with the form of neon, for a conceptual idea rather than just a design or aesthetic appeal.

Assignment 1: Part B Jeremy Deller’s Battle of Ogreave

As I began to look into the piece I did get slightly confused as to what the piece was, was it the documentary, at 1 hour and 3 mins in length, was it the objects and timeline in an exhibit?

I ended up watching the documentary, thinking that was the piece itself only to then realise it was part of the piece alongside the exhibit. Anyhow I found it helpful to make some notes whilst I watched the documentary, I tried to make notes on the form of the piece and any way in which Deller’s piece raised themes such as time and place. I’ve scanned my notes so you can read them below:

Notes on assignment 1

Notes on assignment 1









Notes on assignment 1 pt.2

Notes on assignment 1 pt.2









Notes on assignment 1 pt.3

Notes on assignment 1 pt.3









I found the notes helped me to begin thinking about what would be the main part of my essay and also helped me think about how to introduce and conclude my arguments. I then set about reading the recommended information from the Tate website and the Critics reviews in the Frieze and the Guardian.

I have definitely found that reading the Critics reviews has provided a sort of sounding board for my own views, sometimes I agree with their views or they help me expand on my own, other times I disagreed but it helped me to consider why.

Reflection against assessment criteria:

Demonstration of subject based knowledge and understanding:

I think I’ve demonstrated some subject knowledge, probably mostly around what we learned about formalism, and used that knowledge to help form my arguments in the essay. I’m unsure of how successfully I used knowledge of the theme of place – as this felt like such a broad topic, so I only really touched upon it in the essay.

Demonstration of research skills:

The number of sources was limited for this assignment but I think I demonstrated good use of them, picking out references that enhanced my or explained my points throughout the essay. The sources were all digital sources though so in that sense fairly limited, I imagine this will change with following projects.

Demonstration of critical and evaluation skills:

I think in my essay you can see a clear attempt to begin to grapple with concepts and debates around Deller’s work, and some evidence of analysis of the form of his work. In my learning log there is reflection and some critical thinking although this could definitely be increased.


I tried to present the essay to the required standards, using double line spacing, the Harvard referencing system, good sentence structure. It’s been awhile since I’ve written essay’s so I think some of the flow of the piece is a little halted but I’ve tried to make use of basic essay writing principles, there’s a clear introduction, middle, conclusion.