Thinking through Art

Thinking through art with Emma Drye

If Arlene has taken the trouble to organise it, it is definitely worth going. It is always an interesting day at the London Art Group.

When the flyer came through the topics were;

An introduction to research

Different perspectives

Personal key words

Resources and strategies

Discussion and Reflection

You had to bring a piece of research something to write on and some coloured pens, what no sketchbook? I was quite sceptical, how can you think through art without a sketchbook? As it turned out you could.

There were twelve of us on the course, with Emma that made thirteen. Emma spoke for a while about research and then tasked us to read an article from a book as a group of three. Emma, Steve and I read Unidentified Foreign Objects which was basically the transcript of an interview between Elizabeth Fischer and the artist Phyllida Barlow.

It was Steve’s job to summarise the text, Emma’s job to summarise the way we went about the research and mine to come up with the killer quote.

I have never read a book at the same time as another person since I was at infant school. There was the obvious problem of the speed of each other’s reading, which after the first two pages wasn’t such a problem as we adjusted comfortably to each other’s reading speeds by some form of group telepathy.

The way we went about our research was by having a group discussion after each two pages read which meant you instantly got two different points of view of what the last two pages were about from people with differing life experiences that of your own. This in itself was highly illuminating, comparing my male impressions of the text with the ladies’ feminist approach, particularly so because the article was one woman interviewing another.  We then had to give a presentation to the whole group of our findings. It would take too long here to summarise the article suffice it to say that the killer quote was that “A painting is an approximation of something that could be even better.”

The next exercise was writing, I hardly do any hand writing anymore, longer than a post it note, so it was interesting in itself to write for fifteen minutes without stopping about what I was researching. It was a sort of surrealist game and surreally I wrote it in the back of my neatly typed research.

In fifteen minutes I wrote three sides of A4, which more than surprised me, about carrier bags, dolphins recycling and how since the carrier bag charge, people have old dirty unhygienic plastic bags, there may be less of them but now, we are gifting the dolphins plastic bags with germs that could possibly kill more dolphins than our previously clean ones.

I think that the writing has made my research a bit more practical, and less bookish, hopefully that will show through in my work. I do have a thing about people having dirty carrier bags, but until performing this exercise I never considered the effect that dirty carrier bags could have on dolphins.

It is an excellent technique that allows your mind to wander around the thing you are researching, I will definitely use it again. Perhaps it is a normal research technique that helps more people reach their eureka moment while researching, if it is not then it should be.

The next step was to underline the 15 minutes writing with four colours to indicate whether the words used were material, visual, process or ideas. I was pleased that visual and ideas were the predominant highlights of my unconscious mind.

This is entirely consistent with the research I have been doing into Post Studio Art, where the material, where do you acquire a dead shark? and the process, how do you preserve it in formaldehyde? are less important than the visualisation of the original idea of a shark in a vitrine and the impact that it would have as an artwork.

The remainder of the day was spent listening to each other’s research into the various topics that were being researched by members of the group as part of their own studies. What was interesting for me hearing these was that my own research was in two separate boxes, the bookish type and the practical type. I learned from listening that it is possible for these two boxes to become one so that the bookish research can provoke new materials and processes to realise new ideas and visions to inform my creativity.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable day regardless of the absence of sketchbooks, Art is not always about drawing, sometimes you have to think more than you draw. Thank you again to Emma and the rest of the London Group for advancing my understanding.

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