Reflection: Real and Illusory Spaces

Looking at illusory spaces, temporary art and using the environment as a large part of an installation has been refreshing. It’s taken me further away again from my previous thinking of ‘what is art’?

I’ve enjoyed this research and been stimulated by considering the questions asked in this project.

Moving forward to the exercise I am asked ‘whether or how your findings might affect or inform your own practice?’.

All of the artists I’ve researched use a large, non-art space such as the natural world as the starting point for their ideas. The natural environment becomes their studio; informing the artists work, decisions and placing these within the landscape rather than on a canvas. During my work on Objects and Images to produce ‘Nature Combined’ I felt that this particular tree and the close surrounds became my focus and interest.

Where as a studio based artist would have their materials to hand, the outdoor artist is able to utilise their environment to give them what they need, Goldsworthy is an excellent example of how to use natural products to their full potential. Kaikkonen uses man made objects which are found and mixes them with the natural environment. Although all working with different materials within the natural world the process is creating and using media is very similar to that of an artist with a canvas.

Focusing on art within non-art spaces draws me to the fact that these works of art focus on the beauty of the natural world, all that encompasses, even when recorded within photography, there is a multi dimensional sense.

As I reflect on my work so far for assignment 5 I have focused on the natural form of the tree, the shape and its textural qualities within ‘Nature Combined’. In my last exercise I focused on feelings, changes both internally and externally, again based on a natural process. My diorama ‘Unspoken Journey’ seeks to draw on the inner feelings, movements, changes and put these into a physical piece of art, I had to draw on my inner senses and make decisions around the appropriate media to convey these. Goldsworthy does the same, he draws on the environment and what lies beneath, choosing sticks and leaves to create his art. The thought of working with the natural world is exciting.


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Research: Real and Illusory Spaces and Places

What is a ‘work of art’?

As I delve deeper into the Mixed Media course the research and exercises seem so far away from what I have previously known and studied throughout Painting 1 and Exploring Concepts. This course takes me further from the and I feel I visualise within a different manner, feeling, responding, building relationships with work as well as seeing.

This has triggered questions throughout the assignments, as to what constitutes a work of art? Why do I like particular art and not others? What is too distant for me to connect to?

Prior to this course I was content to paint, work on a flat and single plane to create something that is representational, beautiful and though provoking – this is what I would have called art. This is still art in some respects and in my personal work I enjoy becoming inspired and painting with freedom and vigour. However I now see this is only a small part of art, in particular fairly abstract installations such as object paintings, combines would not have drawn my attention. But in essence these works are just as expressive in other ways and I feel a new found sense of appreciation for the visualisation which occurs outside of the box. When I view work, in which ever form it presents itself, there is now a process behind it which enters my head – Concept/idea, how this has been researched and explored, the presentation of the idea into a form, why has the artist chosen this form? and finally the information entering the viewer – what is triggered? is this how the artist wants the piece to be viewed or have they left it to interpretation? A circle of information processed when viewing a piece of art is intriguing and clever, to me this achieves success. This is what art is all about.

Where is the work of art?

The work of art can be anywhere the artist feels is appropriate to the work. The location of art work can completely change the expression and perception, if the work is moved into a gallery or eventually framed, is this taking away any information from its original location? We are so used to seeing works of art in galleries, online and in books, this has become almost expected. If the art work was originally created elsewhere in a location appropriate to its being (not a studio as such) then aren’t we going to miss something? The place could have been the inspiration for the work and could have directly informed the work, at the same time if this were to happen, the art would remain only with the artist and subsequently a limited circle of information passed through documentation. Again more questions, surely this is the decision of the artist and their inspiration behind the work?

Once the original work is gone, can a copy (its likeness or image) replace it?

Given the nature of this research and the temporary factor, no I don’t believe it can. As in the folder, work can be documented, discussed, photographed or reproduced, if the work is time or environment sensitive then documenting is important to capture but this cannot be seen in the same form as the viewer itself, particularly in cases of Andrew Goldsworthy and his outdoor, environmental temporary art works.

If all art works had a temporary nature, where would art be today? It would be far less exciting for the viewers as documentation would become the majority of art, even though the temporary pieces are intriguing and inviting, reading and viewing photographs of them could only reach a certain point in comparison to stepping close to a physical work.

What is the art work is not documented? The work would only remain with the artist themselves, if this is the case? Then how can the circle of information possibly happen? It can’t, there is no viewer that is not the artist therefore there can be no other interpretation, leaving the artist stuck in their own thoughts and ideas and essentially a finished work but viewed in a blinkered fashion due to them being the creator. This raised the question – is the viewer essential to the art process? I believe so, or would art be a purely egotistic work? There are so many questions here and it is all down to personal perception and preference…

I believe so and I am sure many would disagree, but part of the circle of information is to foresee how this works information will be processed by the viewer and what this will trigger? Isn’t this part of the excitement of creating? For the artist and those that view the work?

Andrew Goldsworthy (1929 – 2001) a British sculptor and photographer producing art work which is site-specific (within its own environment – an environmental artist). Goldsworthy created sculptures and land art in natural and urban settings, constantly working with the temporary image requires a certain attitude of thought and insight into the world and there is not doubt that Goldsworthy epitomises this.

In the Guardian Goldsworthy was interviewed and was asked ‘You must be an optimist to make art that vanishes?’ He replied ‘Working with change is to also work with the future. The work doesn’t necessarily predict what will happen but does embrace change whether it be growth or decay. This is an act of optimism.’ Rather than implying he is an optimist he talks about his work being optimistic.

Looking deeper into the inspiration of Goldsworthy:

‘I want to get under the surface. When I work with a leaf, rock or stick, it’s not just that material itself, it is an opening into the processes of life within and around it. When I leave it, the process continues.’

Reading the words of Goldsworthy underpins his excitement of working with his chosen materials and in conjunction with the rhythm and flow of everything. He clearly understands time, change, growth and development in an alternative way to other artists. Allowing his work to develop naturally, including the possibility of disintegration over time takes an insightful mind.

As discussed above, he records his work through visual images, he does not require words or permanency to convey his work and its development – photography is his record.

Watching videos of Goldsworthy creating, altering and ‘understanding the land with his hands’ enable me to understand the work and his processes further. I am pleased that he has made these recordings as well as his photographs.


Red Maple Leaves


Francisco Infante- Arana (1943) was one of the leaders of Russian Kinetic art. The Russian artist, made work which uses mirrors in the landscape, the mirrors have a transformative effect. In particular he used geometric shapes with his objects in line with his influence by constructivism. Infante-Arana foresees the natural environment and the surrounds, similar to that of Goldsworthy, this allows him to create sculptural land art which with the use of the mirror is able to reflection the natural features restructured the land.

The mirrors are installed in the landscape and the resulting image/art is documented using the form of photographs, this allows the viewer to see the large scale art and its effects on the landscape.



The Moment of Eternity No1, 1974






Walter de Maria (1935-2013) An artist connected with minimal, conceptual and land art.

The Lightning Field

This piece is created by the careful placement of 400 steel rods within the New Mexico desert. The rods were placed during 1977.

The result was captured by a photograph in which the sky is vibrantly illuminated by the electricity drawn down into the field to the rods. De Maria’s aim was to find a new way to express nature in an impressive manor. De Maria accomplishes this, the light flows over the field lighting the sky and its surrounds showing beauty in an alternative way whilst capturing nature in essence which is rarely seen.

Kaarina Kaikkonen a Finnish Installation artist.



Kaikkonen works on large installation pieces and has taken part in numerous private and group exhibitions in Finland and internationally.

Kaikkonen takes used clothing from the mountains of rags residing in Prato’s hangars and uses this as her artistic material for her public installations. The clothes are hung from elements of the environment such as windows, displayed on the stone walls, draped on cords strung between walls or over water. There is interesting contrast between the old, empty rags which have been found and the vivid colours that they still portray. The clothing is connected to one another at the sleeve, appearing flat and as we would recognise it. At a glance the clothing gives the impression of small figures holding hands, unity and continuity is created.

The transformation of clothing to art is mesmerising and interesting. Kaikkonen’s work is vibrant, textural, temporary and based on environment. She brings the remnants of one environment, recycles them, places in another and uses photography to effectively capture her installations. Her work is about more than this, the way in which the clothing is positioned gives emphasis on unity and relationships.

More research added

Julie Brook, 1961, enjoys working in extreme conditions in hospitable conditions. Sees her art as a response to her environment, as well as expressing the environments affect on her.

Brook has used film to record her experiences and process as well as photography. Also draws and sculpts on the land and paints on the paper.

Located of the island of Jura, W Scotland, concerned with making rhythm and marking time by using elements of stone, water and fire.

Such dedication to creating the stacks, fuelling then and lighting them while battling the freezing cold weather conditions and strong sea.

But the reflections of the flames on the surface of the sea are so worth it. The sea quickly reclaims its status. Reminding me of how powerful nature are and how they work together to resolve their normality.

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Exercise: Planning a Diorama

Exploring the work of artists creating Three-Dimensional Tableaux, Dioramas and optical art it is clear all of the above are based around creating illusions in different ways.

Illusion in art can be added in many different ways, from subtle perspectives allowing play on the subject matter to distorted shapes continually stimulating the viewer drawing them into a web of optical pattern. Shadow play, distorting mirrors, obscurities and perspective are all ways in which illusion can be incorporated into art to create a Diorama.

Drawing on the research completed on various artists I cast my eye over each one of them, I feel there is a personal element to their work, by this I mean that the work create provokes strong personal points of view and feelings from the viewers. The Chapman brothers used commercial companies and ethics to draw this from there viewer, this subject could touch many given the well known characters used.

Roubaud uses world events, in a cut throat manner, making it impossible for a viewer not to relate on an emotional level.

Riley and Kidner strip this all back and approach the viewer differently, reaching out to them in a purely visual sense, provoking a different emotional response which could be more personal? Less fuelled by the scene set by the artist.

The common factor here is the emotion and personal response by drawing in the viewer to what would seem a ‘personal viewing’. My piece needs to have this affect and as researched, there are many ways in which to do this.

My starting point for this exercise was my own personal experience I have had recently during the physical and emotional changes of pregnancy, something that affects a large amount of the population, in terms of new life – everyone. Everyone can relate to this subject in one way or another, so why not look deeper and embed this within a diorama?

Physically what I see and feel is different, it is unique and it has had a profound affect on daily life. Emotions are high and low and with that comes the movement from within, new beginnings being created and grown, there are so many elements to this subject which I am experiencing first hand. This can be a positive and negative story for some, but how do I respond this this idea?

Looking back on the artists I have research, none of which give direct inspiration for the idea. So I looked deeper, there are artists which I immediately draw on for inspiration in recent exhibitions; Dragomir Misina, Peter Dickinson and David Moxon, contemporary artists who explore texture, colour, mark making and the process of painting itself. They work with a balance of chaos and order, creating layers and marks which allow the viewer to open gateways when viewing their work.

In particular Misina bases his paintings on a narrative, which informs the course of his paintings. However, during the process of painting, he uses marks and layers to escape from the world of this particular narrative, to allow the viewer to observed them for what they are rather than what they should mean.

I want to tell a story and open up a private world, exploring abstract layers, marks with an element of figure due to the nature of the story, ensuring a certain amount of distance is kept between the story and the diorama allows viewers to connect on an emotional and personal level.

The previous exercise was a very open piece in its physical structure and meaning, therefore to work on a private piece will allow further exploration in terms of structure. Private elements which can be explored within this piece are other dimensions which may have been experienced through memory, sound or through different levels of consciousness. All of these are private to the artist but are open to the viewer for interpretation and experience.

I began by capturing my private experience on paper, drawing and painting. Capturing something of the experience I have had and the journey I continue to have.

This consisted of mixed media sketches, a wire drawing of a figure entwined in the flowers and further wire and mixed media ideas incorporating a figure.

Hints of figures captured in pencil and then using watercolour to layer marks and texture on top.


Watercolour allows for the pure essence of the figure to show but allows for further work to appear. Watercolour is not a medium I have utilised fully within this course, it has subtle but powerful qualities which reflect my experiences within this exercise.


Not concerned with the colour palette at this stage, focusing on the media and figure, shapes and marks.

Tonal figure study.



Choosing a subject which is more private than visual could make this exercise more difficult than it needs to be. However the artists dioramas did not inspire or provoke thoughts and I have to explore topics which are interesting and motivational to me.

Capturing the experience of energy, physical change and anxiety I used a wide range of media to put this within my sketchbook. Using cotton to create the outline of a figure, curves and knots were important to convey feelings of the change. Using hessian and wool to add texture, knitted elements and complex marks. The figure entwined in in marks, mixed media in a subtle manner.


Thread and wool to convey energy, feelings and emotions, exploring other media.


This subject inspired an oil painting, exploring the rich saturated colours, texture and many layers. A dreamy visual image, concentrating on the positive feelings and thoughts of the subject. An enriching time which explores new ventures and excitement, bright and bold colours enhance the positives and the mark making creates a base for the negative. Bringing the colour palette forward into my diorama, watercolour would be the preferred media due to its translucent qualities, visually allowing marks to move back and forth.


Moving to liquid watercolour rather than solid to improve saturation and contrast. I was focusing on the figure moving to a more abstract way of working. At this stage I have only explored media and ideas around marks and the abstract use of the figure.

The subject explored is extremely personal, in a less direct way than some of the artists I have looked at, I want to reflect this in how the work is presented. A closed and private form? The figure is used subtly and it would be interesting to use elements of the figure in a three dimensional abstract form within the piece as a way of drawing in the viewer to the private diorama.

Wanting the diorama to be fairly private the size of the piece should be fairly small, intimate and allow the viewer to just look into the world of the piece.


A small folded piece of cardboard – how can I use this to create a private viewing of my diorama? A box could close the small diorama off and prevent light and shadows which could add interest to the shape.

The final Diorama needs to present in a professional manner more so than within previous exercises, it needs to stand alone and have impact. Is cardboard the most emphatic material or could this be strengthened?

Working on watercolour paper would prove the most suitable base for the watercolours. Bending the paper around the three sides of card would create a curve appropriate to the piece, similar to the shape of the work of Roubaud.

Creating more curves of paper within the card could draw the viewer in more, moving the eye back and forth in and out of the diorama. The subject of the piece has many feelings as well as the physical aspects.

After sketching designs for the diorama I have naturally moved towards creating an overall curved piece, the card seems pointless and does not add anything of meaning. Looking at media used within my preliminary pieces I wonder if any of these elements could be used to strengthen or add to the piece externally?

I began to work on watercolour paper with a bold palette, strong, feminine and reflective of the subject of the piece. Using my life drawing figures I wanted them to become part of the painting but not to dominate the story, this piece is abstract with elements and hints of figure to indicate presence and to allow the viewer to determined their own emotional and visual link to the work.

Using mark making to find a solution to this exercise relating back and forth to my preliminary work and thoughts for guidance in creating this final piece: My experience, in myself, physically, emotionally and changes, another place in my consciousness, a private experience. Enclosed, looking in to, changes internally overpowering changes externally. Putting this into a piece in an abstract manner… So I decided to put together a reasonably small scale piece, plain on the outside, busy on the inside, allowing the viewer to peer in discreetly.

Mark making would create texture, movement and the hint of figures throughout the cylinder of painted walls. I wanted to reflect the outer changes of the experience by adding curves and movement. Moving further from my preliminary work I decided on wire, stronger than wool or thread, keeping its shape and more emphatic.

I wanted the paper to be encircled by the feeling of change, I wrapped the wire around the cylinder painting curving it, knotting it and allowing it to strengthen the overall piece by adding support.

Enjoying working with the wire, yet still allowing the outside of the diorama to appear fairly simple.

Whilst painting the inner areas I simply painted what I felt, marks, changing colours drifting into one another, some areas more overpowering than others, I was conscious not to create a piece with an ‘all over’ feel and stopped when I felt the image could easily become too complex and loose its way.

Neither did I want the piece to become too overwhelmed with figure image, as the physical has become slightly more abstracted.

I placed the piece onto mount card, however it seems empty at the bottom, this is far from what this work is all about, therefore I began to paint the bottom piece and attach this. A plain white base is not appropriate to the subject and drops away from the viewer instead of continuing the story.

Wrapping the final piece in white card, adding the bottom layer of colour and mark and allowing the wire to spill from the outside into the cylinder. After weeks of perseverance with this exercise here is the finished Diorama ‘Unspoken Journey’.

Achieving the following;

  • More complex on the outside then inside
  • Privacy – in size and shape chosen
  • Figurative element
  • Areas of rest for the viewers eye
  • Series of marks and media
  • Movement
  • Change – continuing story
  • External shape with wire

I will return to this exercise later and look at it with a fresh eye in regards to improvement and learning.

Exercise re-worked:

Arte Povera springs to mind when I look at this work, although upcycling daily objects for use within art interested me and will always continue to inspire me with the outcomes that can be created. I feel the finished painting requires attention, something is missing.

This piece is a personal painting in which the structure reflects privacy and intimacy. The wire and line is representational of changes and movement. When I look into the diorama, I almost feel disappointed…

The central area is empty.

Working with drawing, painting and maquettes as a 3 step process has worked will the past and allows for much more exploration. Making a small maquette to fit inside the diorama could give more meaning to the piece as well as draw the eye down into the diorama which would make it more successful.

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Research: Three-Dimensional Tableaux or Diorama

Learning about three-dimensional tableaux or diorama’s, it immediately poses questions; ‘Are three-dimensional scenes more engaging than painting scenes’? ‘What effects can the surrounds of a three-dimensional scene or diorama have on it? Such as lighting etc’?

Looking at the work of the artists mentioned and others there are very different outcomes, some artists were concerned with creating scenes and drawing in the viewer whilst others focused on the three-dimensional affect and form of the work. Here is the work of artists researched under these topics:

Franz Roubaud (1956 – 1929)

A Russian artist who focused on creating large, panoramic paintings, Roubaud would recreate scenes and paint onto a cylinder shape base.

The size of the paintings would be up to 115 metres in length and 15 metres wide, due to the size of the paintings they would need to be hung in specially built pavilions.

Roubaud would explore the subject matter of famous battles, in particular he  ‘The Seige of Sevastopol’ (1854-1855) which can be viewed from a platform curving in unison with the painting, allowing it to be viewed at close range which works well given the size of the diorama. It becomes an interactive experience, looking closer at the diorama, you can see that Roubaud has used appropriate objects such as; cannon balls, cannons, logs, glass, fortifications and the actual painting sits behind. The angle in which Roubaud has chosen to paint is from a top view, looking down over the scene as a distant observer, it is similar to a photograph or scene you would expect to see on a documentary, as well as art, it could be seen as educational due to its depiction.


The Siege of Sevastopol


Panorama Museum

Jake and Dino Chapman, also known as the Chapman brothers are English born visual artists. Similar to the work of Roubaud, the Chapman brothers create shocking images, delivered in a way that it unlike any other. I personally find their work disturbing, they are blatant and unexpected, in this way their work can be seen to be in contrast to Roubaud’s, as he paints famous scenes of war and politics. The Chapman brothers touch on war and politics but add a contemporary twist and branch out to other themes such as religion, morality and the use of iconic symbols and characters.

An example of their unexpected work is a series of three-dimensional pieces titled ‘The Sum of All Evil’, these pieces are based on the well known food chain – McDonalds .

‘We’re making work that contradicts the idea that art is inherently good and based on idealism.’
Jake Chapman in conversation with Sarah Kent.

The works are miniature three-dimensional scenes, created with models of the famous chains icons and throwing them into a work which represents the affects of consumerism. Focusing on the negative impact the company has on the work and resources. The scenes are unmistakable, and the use of well recognised figures allows all viewers to relate on some level to the work. This series of work plays on the viewer, provoking feelings of controversy, hostility and moral with room for humour. It almost makes me think of a child’s bedroom with miniature characters involved in imagination play.



Jean-Pierre Vasarely (1934–2002)

Varsarely, known in the art world as Yvaral. Yvaral was a French artist who focused on Optical Art and Kinetic Art from 1954 onwards. His father also an artist – Victor Varsarely.

The above artists focus on three-dimensional and dioramas, whereas Yvaral focuses on planes using paint and optical illusions.

Yvaral studied Graphic Art and publicity in Paris, later beginning to experiment with geometrical abstract art. He produced paintings which would suggest movement using effects such as projection and recession.

Jean-Pierre Yvaral ‘Ambiguous Structure No.92’, 1969 © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2016

Ambiguous Structure No.92 – 1969

Julio Le Parc (1928)

Another artist who focuses on Optical and Kinetic Art and a significant figure within Argentinean modern art.  Le Parc was the founder of GRAV (Groupe de Recherche de l’Art Visuel). GRAV emerged during the 1960s in Paris, GRAV believed in anonymous and impersonal art, they rejected any form of self indulgence within art and therefore rejected abstract expressionism. The starting point was that art was not just visual but was also sociological. They sought to break down the distance between the art and the public, the movement brought the public closer to art, GRAVs intention to involve the viewer was successful and the public now felt a greater influence over exhibitions, participating within the art work more activity. As part of their plan to involve the public within the art world, Le Parc provided questionnaires to the public at his exhibitions, dropping the barriers of egotism and separation which they detested.

Julio Le Parc ‘Virtual Forms in Various Situations’, 1965 © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2016

Virtual Forms in Various Situations – 1965

Reaching this point in my research I can see that GRAV require less emotion response than the three-dimensional and Diorama works. Optical art requires an individual response whereas the work of the Chapman brothers ask for a rollercoaster of emotions whilst viewing their pieces.

Bridgette Riley (1931)

Riley developed her Optical Art during the 1960s, giving the viewer not only the colour and shape, but a visual effect to par take in when viewing her work. Their are many images of her work over time showing progressing and moving towards Op-Art, I find her journey interesting, as the start is so very far away from where she remains now.

Riley continues to explore the visual image for its qualities affecting sight. The visual disorientation of movement, dynamic interference and shimmer can be achieved by her black and white as well as her coloured paintings exemplifies this style. This is clear by viewing in books and online, her work can grow to a fairly large scale and I can only image viewing a piece in person can have an even stronger visual effect.

Bridget Riley ‘Elongated Triangles 5’, 1971 © Bridget Riley 2015. All rights reserved, courtesy Karsten Schubert, London

Elongated Triangles 5 1971

Bridget Riley ‘Fête’, 1989 © Bridget Riley 2015. All rights reserved, courtesy Karsten Schubert, London

Fete 1989

Michael Kidner (1917 – 2009)

‘Unless you read a painting as a feeling, then you don’t get anything at all’

-Michael Kinder

Kidner based his work on theory, numbers, shapes and distortion of his work in order to extract reactions from his viewers.

Michael Kidner ‘Four Colour Wave’, 1965 © The estate of Michael Kidner

Four Colour Wave – 1965


Michael Kidner ‘Rotational Circles’, 1960–4 © The estate of Michael Kidner

Rotational Circles 1960-4


Kidners and Riley’s use of geometric shapes within their work may appear similar, however there are different agendas behind their creations. Riley’s work is not based on theory, she works within this method because of the visual interest it creates and purely an optical way of thinking, whereas Kidner created optical art with a shape theory dictating the outcome. In contrast to this the earlier quote links them both into the same way of thinking within this method.


The quote underpins the difference between the abstract expressionists and the optical artists. On first viewing Op art you would presume the artists drive would be to create a visually stimulating and confusing art work, whereas following research this is not entirely their goal. Op artists broke away from the egotistic values of other artists and wanted the viewer to have an emotional response, this is just provoked within a different way. As artists create their work they are driven and influenced by many elements around them, some knowingly and others subconsciously, as well as life experiences, their personal interests and other art movements at that time or prior to their art career. Politics and world events creep in here, they influence everyone, change lives directly or in directly. Therefore whether the work is based on physical wars like Roubaud’s direct response,  commercial wars like the Chapman brothers or indirectly on art movements there are many influences around the different approached to the canvas.

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Exercise: Combining Objects and Images

This exercise asks that I produce a number of sketchbook/sample combines following my research of artists that work/worked with Combines. After gathering research from a range of artists, I have decided to use Rauschenberg’s combines and way of working as inspiration for this exercise. Throughout this course Rauschenberg and his explorative processes have been a large influence and inspiration over my own work. Rauschenberg developed a style of combines in keeping with his other works; visual interest, texture, layers, a range of techniques, mediums and an element of mystery.

In the last assignment I worked on the play between sculpture and painting and bringing these two elements together, which has prepared me to a certain extent for this piece of work. However this piece feels considerably larger in ambition due to the outcome required being that of an installation piece.

I wanted to continue the ideas I began in the last exercise looking at the tree, using the environment and the structure of the tree to explore medium and alternative materials to create the fractured image. I feel there is more to explore in this area and during assignment 4 have only just touched the surface of this subject matter. Inspiring me to use this as my subject is the effect of one on the other, the contrast of the environment with the tree, as in their physical state – movement and stillness, coming together to two different elements and the qualities of these.

This exercise required the planning and creation of combines using any of the researched artists as inspiration.

My starting point was to explore the tree structure and surrounds within my sketchbook, firstly focusing on the painting part of the combine. Capturing sounds, colours and movement are my short videos of the tree, the sounds and movements.

Having these videos of the tree has enabled me to work both outside and inside, refreshing my mind of the subject whilst facing the blank pages of my sketchbooks. Playing the videos, listening, seeing and reflecting I started to put pen to paper and getting some ideas down in response to the sounds.

Listening to the videos I began to work in the sketchbook, making marks as responses to the sounds and colours. I experimented with ink, acrylic washes, paint and pen. Repeatedly playing the video, listening to the overall environment and again concentrating on one layer of noise at one time. Stripping back the different elements of the scene. In terms of verbal sounds and communication, there wasn’t much that could be picked up on my videos, I focused purely on the organic noises.

This stage took quite some time but it enabled me to think about the approach to this piece and connect with the subject. Given my past work tends to move towards abstract I wanted there to be a recognisable form within this combine, I started to explore the moving figure and the vehicles captured in the video. These two elements are visual representatives of the environmental world and explore movement which is constantly playing with the tree.

In my research of other artists who produce combines, I found that the object dominated the work, becoming the work and the painting as a compliment. I have focused on the painting and gathering information and ideas around how I can put this together, materiality of the mediums and appropriate images.

I now need to focus on the object itself and what would best express the environment and what I want to convey. I do not want to over work painting and ensure that visual restraint is apparent in this combine.

Working with actual wood and bark could add in the tree to the painting but in a literal way rather than using this within the painting and risking this becoming overly complex. Prior to this exercise the tree has been used to explore an abstract shape compiled of line and mark making, looking closer at the tree I dig deeper into the interest of this.

Noting Rauschenberg’s use of texture within his work; recreating snippets of this within the painting I want to use the bark itself.

Creating texture with ink acrylic whilst focusing on a closure up of a branch, I had the urge to use the bark further, painting it and using it as a printing tool to create further texture. Then again I took another step – fixing sections of painted bark to the page allowing me to view the colours and textures at close range, playing with the materiality of medium.

I want to add a figurative element into the painting as this represents movement and sound into the painting, which in turn creates an environment. Taking colours and textures from the tree paintings could work into the painting to instil further movement. The contrast of the stationary and strong tree and how it remains whilst others revolve around it is my interest in the tree and this needs to be portrayed within the combine.

Looking back over my preliminary work; chosen mediums and images, could these be more emphatic? Could I push them further? Can I allow Rauschenberg to influence my work further? – Yes!

Beginning work on the object…

Gathering branches of trees I began to draw them together, creating lines of the negative and positive shapes. Beyond the materials this piece is about seeing, listening, sounds, movement and the environment beyond the organic, still object – the tree. The contrast between the two in terms of movement, sound and organic and geometric shapes.

Creating a form which is not overly complex, still, strong and representative of the tree. Instead of using string or rope to tie the branches which may have looked discreet, I used a material which linked in with the theme. Man made netting, brightly coloured, taught and contrasts with the natural form and aging of the wood. Drawing in the environment of the tree, on to and surrounding the tree to keep it strong – this was my initial thought, however looking at the photographs the tree could be suffocating and restrained by the human surrounds. Maybe this could be a question provoked to the viewer?

Materials should enhance the meaning and story of the work. Given this I want to keep the branches as organic as possible in form and create geometric, strong, still shapes. A splash of colour will tie the tree to the painting, allowing the painting to expand beyond the paper, unlike Lily Van Der Stokker I do not want the colours within the painting to engulf the object or to be linked by the viewer purely by colour association. The textures of the bark create sounds alone.

Gathering found images for my painting, I began to assemble images which were reflective of the sounds and movement from my videos and observations of the tree environment. Car engines, car horns, birds, people walking, moving. Allowing Rauschenberg to influence me further in this exercise I used Rauschenberg’s transfer technique to compliment the collage.


The next stage was to select images and build these into the A2 card. Firstly I responded to the branches and environment by adding the texture of the bark as a starting point to the large blank area.


Trying to respond to the sounds captured on my video I worked to this, whilst keeping in mind composition, texture and being open with the mediums used. Pushing myself further away from the preliminary studies with the use of collage, charcoal and even sticking small areas of bark to the paper.

Using collage and paint in conjunction with each other, thinking about Rauschenberg’s combines and his balance of simplicity of block colour with the texture of collage and image. Working on the card, seeing what worked, knocking back the colours and images and adding others, with an aim to not over work the painting or create an ‘all over’ feel.


Images were found images from a variety of sources, chosen appropriately with the sounds and environment in mind.


By this stage I was pleased with the progress made on the painting, the images are not overworked and those I felt I could push back into the painting has been. Textures representing sounds have been created, more strongly so on the right side and the pen and charcoal adding line whilst listening to the different layers of sound. Avoidances for this piece were: Over working, ‘all over feel’, misty/cloudy layers, following exactly my preliminary ideas. Given this I feel this painting has been successful, translucency of layers of sound and image are clear as is space for the eye to rest – untouched areas of care and allowing the images to dominate without feeling the pull to over work. Adding the two segments of bark on the left side of the painting add a different layer of texture, depth and interest to the piece which is meaningful, rather than adding different papers or images for the sake of adding other elements.

Movement is created mainly in the way the paint, pen and charcoal have been applied to the paper, enhanced by the image of the small figures. Sounds is created by the large sweeping motions and in contrast to the small more controlled pen marks. There is a feeling of movement both fast and slow dependant on the area of the painting, which is reflective of the changing environment studied.

There are many options for how the wood should sit with the painting, like Rauschenberg – this does not require over thinking, the link of the two can be made in many different ways be the viewer.


‘Nature Combined’ Object and Image.

This exercise has taken many weeks of looking, taking a step back and re-approaching the work to get to this stage. I have the urge to move further with the painting, amending and adding, but I know this will add complexity and potentially overwork the piece. This is a feeling I need to compress as I am not looking to achieve an aesthetically pleasing art work.

Moving around the painting with the branches, repositioning and photographing became interesting and I could have continued to do this, watching the play between the two. As this project has been about the influence of Rauschenberg and how he invites the viewer to engage in their own concept, I want to revisit this piece later, with a fresh eye, I wonder if other concepts and images will emerge?

Assignment Re-worked

Still really enjoying the movement and the natural element of the tree along side the use of artist mediums to create a number of outcomes, fresh in my mind is the woven piece of work I recently re-worked with the word ‘Maybe’. Using pastel in conjunction with the movement and light/shadow of the tree. This exercise was something new, fast paced and I found it motivational working with the unknown movements of the tree.

Above with this combine, the work is static, both in its outcome and in its process. The work of Klingenberg and his use of colour and liquid is exciting, colour and again working with the unknown, in terms of outcome.

Keeping this project close to nature I think about how to keep my art relevant:

  • Colour
  • Movement
  • Filming – process / changes
  • Liquid – paint / water / bold

Beginning to form an idea of how I would like to work with the tree… (see sketchbook for further ideas).

What is my enquiry?

To work closely with nature, allowing it to affect my work and place its mark on the canvas. Using gravity and environment to aid me in my instinctive mark and decision making.

Emotionally responding to the tree and all factors that come as part of this.

Art and nature working together to create a combine, working in an action painting manor to explore expression and work to the fullest of my physical being.

Each exercise film is at the forefront of my mind, it shows working, captures sounds and light. A large part of this piece is to work with nature, listening rather than seeing during the process of making combining nature.

Working within the environment is essential to capture the essence of the surround, how does this affect my work? The outcome? my feelings and mood when painting?

Beginning my painting as closely as possible to the wet outdoors and the tree; the original influence within many of my pieces, getting into the studio at 7am to capture the wet and wind. If I am working with nature and how this affects my work and takes control over it, I want a good wet day!

Using a palette similar to my original work, yet influenced by Klingenberg and his brighter tones, after revisiting research taking note of Stokker’s vibrancy too, after all this is bringing me back to what inspires me. Using the original cerulean and yellow ochre, mixed with a cadmium red and lemon yellow to move closer to that rainbow like palette of the ‘Baroque Worlds’ project.

Beginning in the studio I wanted to listen and work with the rain, the sounds and the movement that I saw outside, on the window panes and the nearby objects, working with the brush in a way that mirrors these motions and sounds. Unconcerned with final outcome, aiming for movement and partially the pleasure of working to such a fresh wet morning.

Listening and using my phone to record sounds, capturing anything else that may occur, a bird, a dog, cars… Although the camera was recording me working (this is purely to show the process) the recording is also to record sound. Rain, splashing, dripping, birds, background traffic noise, echoing. Sounds are repetitive, loud, soft, delicate, quick, some more clear and others indistinguishable. I here no people, there is no sense of human presence apart from my own, which is preoccupied with the movement of the brush, gathering sounds, the noise of the brush on the canvas, the feeling of excitement.

This work is responsive to the sounds, I play with moving my brush in the way that works in conjunction with the rain and the tree. Washing, lines and marks using acrylic, a medium which can be altered by water and retain its vibrancy. This is challenging as I am emotionally responding to my environment and therefore working instinctively, working to try and widen the ‘vocabulary’ in the palette and marks to respond to the changes in sound. Using a variety of brushes and paint textures supported me in doing this.

Finishing up in the studio I took to the tree, suspending the canvas on chains and string to allow movement with the weather and allowing rain to catch the canvas at different angles. I couldn’t help but remind myself of the delicate works by Goldsworthy and how he allows nature to take hold of his work, his masterpiece and make it even more brilliant. Suspending the canvas was allowing nature to take hold and complete my work. I let it remain for a number of days.

Straight after suspension of the canvas:

Working in the studio / outdoors / showing the painting working with nature:



How will this canvas become part of a combine?

I feel that using the chains as part of the combine would insinuate restraint and a harsh element to the work, which is not the case at all. How can I give the impression of the importance of nature within this piece?

Vines? Branches? If I were to display this work at home it could be left outdoors within the tree itself but this cannot happen.

The chains were the best choice to secure the canvas overnight but in terms of meaningfulness a more natural material would have been in keeping with the process of the canvas painting.

Canvas weathered by the rain, wind and the tree and other surrounds, removing it from the chains I felt like the canvas became one single element, where it began.

A combine could easily consist of the canvas and the chains… but how would this be interpreted? The painting needs to be linked with nature and the importance this has played within the final outcome.

Pushing forward I sliced the canvas.


Immediately this gives the painting the movement it needed, its original inspiration within the paint, the branches and Klingenbergs work.

Disappointed in the visual movement whilst working on this piece, unfortunately this was not captured within film, only in images following movement. Bringing this back through slicing the canvas and allowing free movement. Keeping the canvas on the stretcher allowing for wood to hang, I began to try settings for the canvas which allowed me to move closer to this piece as a combine.



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Research: Objects and Combines

A combine painting is a piece of work that includes both a painted canvas and objects, creating a mixture of painting and sculpture. A combine can include a variety of clothing, photographic images, newspaper clippings and other three dimensional objects.

Marcel Duchamp was probably the first artist to introduce the found object with his piece ‘Fountain’ which displayed a urinal signed ‘R Mutt 1917’, not surprisingly rejected from exhibitions.  Duchamp moved on to create further pieces with found objects within ‘The Large Glass’ within his kinetic series of work which was a combination of semi-sculptural objects on or within a flat surface, therefore combining sculpture and the visual image.

However the term ‘combine’ is very much associated with the artist Robert Rauschenberg who used this term to describe his own work. Throughout this course I have looked and discussed the work of Rauschenberg and his transfer technique used mainly in his collages, enjoying his work I will firstly look at the work of Rauschenberg now as a Combine artist.

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008)

‘It is neither Art for Art, nor Art against Art. I am for Art, but for Art that has nothing to do with Art. Art has everything to do with life but it has nothing to do with Art.’ – Interview with Andre Parinaud, in the catalogue of the exhibition, Paris New York Paris, Pompidou Centre 1977.

Rauschenberg’s developed an individual style through his ‘Combines’ which play on the relationships between art (as we expect to see it traditionally) and the every day world (how we recognise it). Rauschenberg believed that neither art nor life can be made, this thought building the structure for his artworks that move between both of these realms. Rauschenberg had always played with the idea of – what is a work of art? and what is the role of an artist? This explains Rauschenberg’s historic use of varied techniques and materials throughout his artist carer and his adoption of the traditional media and found objects within his ‘Combines’.

Combining the two aspects give the viewer multiple planes as opposed to the traditional plane of a singular canvas hung on a wall. Rauschenberg opened up the artistic space into the gallery and off of the wall, as a consequence art became more accessible. ‘Off the wall’ became a phrase that was used within our language, as it is meant – quirky, alternative or unusual. Alongside the quirky outcomes of his ‘combines’ came the viewers interpretation of the work, Rauschenberg wanted the viewer to consider the work independent of the influence of the artist. To ensure his placement of the objects did not influence the viewer he would leave an element of chance when determining the placement and combinations within the art work. There were no hidden meanings behind the chosen images or objects.

Following the collages of Braque, Picasso and other artists associated with the Dada collage assemblages and taking influence from the Abstract Expressionists, Rauschenberg began to create his ‘combines’. Abstract Expressionists pushed artists to call for the ‘real in art’, Rauschenberg’s art brought the very real into art in literal way which demanded attention and secures a connection with the viewer.

‘Monogram’ 1955-59

An influence of Rauschenberg’s came from earlier artist Sari Dienes.

Sari Dienes (1898 – 1992)

Dienes was a Hungarian / American artist who had a long and successful career which utilised a wide range of media; paintings, drawings, sculptures, prints, ceramics, textiles as well at set and costume design, sound-art installations and mixed-media. Dienes work moved from Abstract Expressionism towards the combinations of environment, rubbings and exploration of outdoor textures.

During 1947, Dienes made a trip to the United States which altered her pathway, leading her onto new ways of working within her career. Prior to this visit she had solely concentrated on two-dimensional paintings, her experience of the American landscape alongside her personal interest in Zen Buddhism, caused her to reflect on art itself and how she interpreted her new surroundings. Dienes spoke about life changing experience ‘experiencing the natural formations as pieces of sculpture changed my whole attitude to life, to art.’ clear and honest words, and with this she began to explore the use of objects in her work using the method of assemblage.

Dienes’s work has been described as ‘…a touch of yeast in the cauldron of the avant-garde movement in America’, an exhibition of her work was on display at the Garner Arts Center during 2011.

Her work, ‘one way 2’ included wood, aluminium cans, a sign, discreet painted wording ‘holiness’ and ‘love’. These words link closely with a sense of self, deep and meaningful and again like Dienes herself – clear and honest.

“My life is an art. I have given it a form that I may understand what is happening in the world.” – Sari Dienes.


‘One Way 2’ Sari Dienes

Sol LeWitt (1928-2007)

LeWitt is an example of an artist who uses sculpture and image as a combine in his variations of incomplete Open Cubes, where these objects are expressed as small and simple sculptures which he photographed and drew onto walls.

When asked ‘What is the relationship between your wall drawings and your sculptures’ in an interview with Phyllis Rosenzweig, Sol LeWitt responded ‘I work with a woodworker and architects in Italy, to make complex structures of wood whilst the drawings and gouaches I do are of cube-like forms’.

Sol LeWitt took a more conceptual approach whereas Rauschenberg moved away from these within his Combines work.

In comparison to Rauschenberg the work of artist Martial Raysse appears less complex in terms of composition, the object element sitting directly on the face of the painting as an attachment rather than as a separate object within the vicinity of the painting.

Martial Raysse (1936)

A French artist which during the 1960s started expanding the canvas into three dimensional forms, he created assemblages that presented the world of glamour and consumerism. Unlike Rauschenberg, Raysee created his combines with a clear path as to how he wanted to portray his work and how he wanted the viewer to react to it. The outcome was a clear story or image. Using various every day objects such as powder puffs, peacock feathers, hats, high heels, scarves and artificial grapes. Raysse combined image icons from both art history and the present world, mainly female icons, with neon tubes and desirable objects such as jewellery, shoes and hats. Viewing the work of Raysse, in my opinion there is a large emphasis on image, reflection and high society.


Left: ‘Make Up’ 1962 Right: ‘Pamela Beach’ 1963

‘I’ve always thought that the purpose of art is to change lives. But the important thing today, it seems to me, is to change what surrounds us on all levels of human relationship. Some people think that life is copying. Others know it is inventing. You don’t quote Rimbaud, you live him.’ The words of Martial Raysse, printed within the ‘Monographic exhibition dedicated to French artist Martial Raysse’, curated by Caroline Bourgeois in collaboration with the artist.

Lily van der Stokker (1954)

A Dutch artist based in Amsterdam and New York, Van Der Stokker’s work examines the notion of femininity and usually takes the form of a decorative wall drawing.

Van Der Stokker found her main expression using the method of objects and combines within the 1980s/early 1990s, it was during this time she began to exhibit in larger exhibitions.

Her work begins with quick, preliminary compositions on paper with marker pens, coloured pencils and ink. These are then transposed onto the wall allowing them to expand and fill the space. Van Der Stokker developed a style she refers to as ‘nonshouting feminism’, using subjects she feels are not discussed or presented within art and included within that thought are the decorative, sentimental and nice.

Van Der Stokker’s work have a child-like innocence, playing on beauty, love, relationships, family and the everyday with excitement and energy.


‘Collaborative Work’

Cornelia Parker (1956)

Parker is a sculptor and installation artist who uses found objects in innovative ways.  In terms of medium Parker is particularly drawn to the use of metal, she hangs items on invisible lines to display  them so that the metal object becomes fundamental to the display.  Parker works with the materiality of the metal rather than the purpose and original state, the objects are flattened so that its original purpose becomes unrecognisable.

Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View 1991 by Cornelia Parker born 1956

‘Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View’ 1991

Jessica Stockholder (1959)

Stockholder is a sculptor and installation artist who has holds exhibitions in Europe and America. Stockholder uses plastic in a similar way to that of Parker, except that she uses plastic as opposed to metal and creates sculptures involving colour and form. The plastic objects are more recognizable but their environment is different. Her use of colour is bright, attractive and in a block like manor. Stockholder use of paint allows her to relates and connect one part of her work to another allowing the colour to take over the objects and engulf them.


Jessica Stockholder

Following the research of twentieth century and contemporary artists working with objects and combines to create a range of art with an ‘off the wall’ form, I conclude with the main points taken from this information.


Purely with this current level of understanding of course there is room for error in my interpretation. Where as the Abstract Expressionists gave primary focus to the action of painting and the importance lay within the stroke of each brush, expressing the emotions, the actions and the internal of the artists. Abstract expressionists were concerned with size as too were the artists who worked using objects and combines, again expanding beyond the or the wall. The scale and structure of the work almost draws the viewer into the entirety of the piece, by working in a range of dimensions. Moving from a canvas to the wall, the floor and the surrounding area, the environment of the painting then becomes part of the painting. This gives multiple meanings, experiences to the viewer, merging painting, sculpture and installation into one way of working and expressing.

Adding more to research – Looking at contemporary artists

The work pictured above is eclectic, however what else is out there? And can any of it resonate with me? Artists working with a combine in a alternative way? Nature?

Whilst reading about Combines I stumbled across Harold Klingenberg, a contemporary artist working with nature, in a very alternative way.

Klingenberg’s project ‘Baroque Worlds’ is the outcome of previous experiments that he continued to investigate, his first inspiration for the series; A book named “The Sensitive Chaos” from author Theodor Schwenk.

In it, he describes the formative forces of water and the interaction with elements that flow into it.

Klingenberg’s project:

Klingenberg’s thoughts…

‘The edge of this concept compared to others, is that in most art expressions, the artist has complete control over his work. On the contrary I wanted that chance also had its opportunity and that these creative forces of water could express themselves, restraining my contribution only to mixing pigments with oils and other different media, select a combination of colours, throwing them into the water tank and finally taking a photo of all that. And at last, choosing the few pictures that look good!’

-Harald Klingenberg

Not at all what you expect to see when you look at the work of an artist influenced by nature, not the obvious. He is also influenced by chance, movement and how natural materials can work with manmade materials to create art.

Capturing art which is created in a split second and then gone, the end result is a colourful abstract piece which on first view looks like a collection of materials and medium through texture and shape.

Is this work a combine?

I believe so, the canvas is the origin of the materials and the object captured is the photo is the dimensional form, the photo is the evidence of a combine, due to the nature of the work this is the only way we know what has happened and only the artist can view the actual work in motion.

Nature is so temporary and ever changing, using very contemporary materials of oil and water Klingenberg has been influenced by nature and its movement and its unpredictability.

Could this be filmed and ran alongside the photo so the viewer can get closer to the work and understanding it?

Goldsworthys work is temporary, due to the subject of natural elements and again we only witness this within photographs, however there is a slower disintegration of his work and photographed over time, allowing nature to evolve and ‘own’ the work as such. Goldsworthy’s handling of material is so delicate and sensitive to the subjects themselves to create such eye catching nature sculptures. In contrast Klingenberg’s work is fast moving, colourful and appears heavy handed, although both artists explore nature and the qualities of materials and use photography to display their work and exploration.

Looking back as some of my temporary images using photography and nature, for example the drip into the pond, I can see how adding another element or material could mix nature and manmade, influencing my forthcoming work.



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Looking deeper into Contemporary Art

Contemporary art is often about ideas and concerns, rather than solely the look of the work. Contemporary art is the work of artists who are living in the twenty-first century or creating working within my lifetime. There is such diversity within Contemporary art that there is no single way to define it.

Contemporary artists use whatever they think illustrates their idea most appropriately. Nowadays artists have many different methods and materials to convey their messages.

There are many different ways in which an idea can be explored and progressed, some methods I have used within Assignment 4: Drawing and making small sculptures as stepping stones towards the final piece of work. Contemporary art is therefore very varied.

The work of contemporary artists is a dynamic combination of materials, methods, concepts and subjects that challenge traditional boundaries. Some artists would say that the viewer contributes to the work by the experience of viewing the work in their personal reflections, experiences, opinions and interpretation.

To support my understanding of Contemporary art and trigger thought processes when viewing or creating it helps to keep a list of questions and prompts:

  • Are there any images, objects, materials or symbols that are important in the work?
  • Are there any clues hidden in the work?
  • Does the artist want you to interpret what is in the work?
  • Is there anything in the work that refers to other cultures?
  • Does the work have a title? and does this suggest or explain anything?
  • If there is no title why might this be?
  • Is colour important in the work and what colours have been used?
  • Does the colour create any effect or emotion? If so, can you describe it?
  • If different colours had been used would this matter?
  • Would it create a new meaning?
  • Does the work interact with the space it is in?
  • Is the presentation of the work important?
  • Does the environment have an impact on the work?
  • Could this work be put anywhere else?
  • Do you have to experience the work from a particular place or angle? Try looking at the work from different places.
  • Does it require a set time to look at the work?
  • How long do you think you need to spend with the work ,to see it properly?
  • Can you see more if you spend longer looking at something?
  • Does it change over time?
  • How has the work been made?
  • Describe the techniques the artist has used?
  • Do the materials used have any meaning or associations?
  • What does this tell you about the work?
  • What senses do the materials affect? (sight, smell etc)

Thinking about Contemporary art whilst in-between assessment allows me to think more clearly about the subject rather than in relation to a particular project or piece at the time.

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