Posts Tagged ‘Artist Research’

Mary P Williams "Explosion"

Mary P Williams "Explosion"

I have assembled 17 tiny canvasses which will be seen in a pattern of explosion. The basic question of this painting is “How far can the bonds holding a society together be stretched before they come apart and the whole fabric of society pulls apart?” No answers … a question only.

My hope is the viewer will see how the bonds between groups are being broken. The media, the politicians, the barrage of vitriolic ads by the candidates running for president of the U.S., and by the political parties themselves, divide the population more and more until it is hard to find common bonds among the citizens of towns and cities, of states and counties. Judging from the number of citizens who vote based on religion it seems that religious bonds are stronger than any other group bonds yet the scorn various religions heap on each other further divides the people. Another institution with strong bonds is the University … higher education requires years of study and dedication and loyalty to the concept of research.

When I finished the “explosion” painting  I managed to get a “consult” with two faculty members. I needed a double-check on whether the concept was still viable. One had an interesting idea … He said: “What would the painting look like on a gray background?”  I mulled this over and decided to paint the wall gray.  Here is a photo of the original on white …

Mary P Williams, "Explosion" on White

Mary P Williams, "Explosion" on White

and one of the painting on gray.

Mary P Williams "Explosion" on gray

Mary P Williams "Explosion" on gray

The other said,”Why not turn it upside down to indicate the energy of the explosion is being directed downward instead of upward?”

He also remarked that the original painting is too cheerful/happy in the choice of color … in other words the yellows do not reflect the somber reality of society descending into chaos … I turned that thought around and around and then said to myself: “Perhaps it is a good thing for the old fabric of society to tear apart providing an opportunity for the young, fresh, generations to build a different society. I would be in favor of a more humane society.” Change is not a bad thing … stagnation is.  Now I have 4 variations on this painting. One with a white background, pointing skyward. One on a white background pointing into the earth. One with gray background shooting skyward and one with gray background pointing into the earth.

Well, it does explore the possibilities! I am in favor of white, cheerful, up-lifting explosions with the hope of an improved society permitting closer relationship between people and countries.

Consider the two aspects of this painting … One is a tearing apart of social bonds and the subsequent unraveling of the society with great distress and suffering. This is represented in the canvasses being hung on a gray wall and exploding downward. The other aspect of the painting, using a white, upward-thrusting explosion is that perhaps the tearing apart of the old society will allow new generations of people to form a better, more humane society, which is a positive thing.  A vibrant 21st century renaissance!  The upheaval in the Middle East might promote a more tolerant view of the role of women in this century … and a fairer distribution of wealth.  Which brings us back to our own country which is experiencing its own upheaval regarding wealth, fairness, and separation of Church and State.

So what is a social bond? The 21st century habit is to go to Wikipedia on the Internet. Here is the answer they provide:
Social Bond —- “The rather INTANGIBLE link between individuals and the society of which they are a part. The social bond is created through the process of socialization.” O.K. That is a beginning …

Next is the idea of social cohesion. “Social cohesion is the capacity of a society to ensure the well-being of ALL its members minimizing disparities and avoiding marginalization.”  (Report of the High Level Task Force on social cohesion in the 21st century) Council of Europe – 2011

Referring back to research, here is a quote from The Predictioneer’s Game by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita : “… science is a method, not a subject.  It is a method that relies on logical arguments and experimental evidence to figure out how the world of people – and things – works.”  The above painting/project is a logical exploration of form and direction for everyone to view and respond to … Research works in my Lithography class. I am recording the time it takes to etch a stone … a new stone which is an unknown quantity … 5 minutes? 8 minutes? … we need enough trials (prints) to ascertain how this particular stone reacts to the nitric acid. Yes, this qualifies as research.

The concept is harder to apply to an oil painting.  Here the research becomes the depth of the artist’s knowledge of the subject matter.  How much do I know about an oak tree? … about the sky over the Rio Grande Valley?  about the relationships of the local people to their delicate, desert environment? All this information takes time to acquire … and the desire to learn it.

Mary P Williams "Explosion" detail

Mary P Williams "Explosion" detail

Mary P Williams "Explosion" detail

Mary P Williams "Explosion" detail

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December, 2011

Having been out of the academic loop for over 25 years an assessment is in order. Has the role of “artist” changed? If it has changed, how has it changed? I was thrilled to come back to painting … I was challenged … and what do I find?  The emphasis is no longer on the act of producing a painting, a sculpture, a film, or a performance! No indeed … the new buzz words are RESEARCH, INNOVATION, and INFORMED … it is not about product (actually painting a picture?) .. .no, it is about rationalizing and explaining your “concept”. Should the viewer be allowed to form their own opinion of the painting? Should the painter attempt to communicate non-verbally (visually) with the viewer?

In 1983 I graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute. It is instructive to think about where the European Art Academies are headed. As a returning student to the MFA program at University of Texas, Edinburg, I have a different overview of art education. One of the unusual events at UTPA was our introduction to Mark Cloet, a visiting artist/scholar from Belgium. The question: Why is he here in Texas? Having attended two of his lectures and reading  “Art and Research – A Journal of Ideas, Contexts, and Methods 2” by Dieter Lesage a glimmer of where the art world is headed pointed me in the following direction.

On the Internet you can go to Wikipedia and type “Research” and you will be given a definition of the word.

Research is “defined as the search for knowledge, or as any systemic investigation, with an open mind, to establish novel facts, solve new or existing problems, prove new ideas, or develop new theories.”

On the Wikipedia page we are given a brief rundown of the three sub-categories.  Number 1 is Scientific Research. Number 2 is Research in the Humanities.  We all have ideas about what these categories are about. Then Number 3, which is Artistic Research, and what a mind-boggling category that turns out to be !

“Artistic Research, also seen as practice-based research, can take form when CREATIVE works are considered both the RESEARCH and the OBJECT of research itself.  It is the debatable body of thought which offers an alternative to purely scientific methods in research in its search for knowledge and truth.” The key word here is “debatable.”

So … what does this mean for the working artist? Are we to strive to match the scientific community with their repeatable experiments? Where does Creativity enter this equation? Or does it enter the equation?

To proceed, we see under the heading  CONTENTS  a list of subjects including #10, Artistic Research. Click on that and LO! up comes a description as follows :

“The controversial trend of artistic teaching becoming more academic-oriented is leading to artistic research being accepted as the PRIMARY MODE OF ENQUIRY IN ART as in the case of other disciplines.”

Read this explanation if you wish and then go down to item 17.  “Who’s Afraid of Artistic Research? On measuring artistic research output.” by Dieter Lesage in ART and RESEARCH – A Journal of Ideas, Contexts, and Methods 2 retrieved August 14-2011. At last! The crux of all this verbiage … Who controls the money? The funding, the grants, the scholarships?

Again Dieter Lesage enlightens us with “A Portrait of the Artist as a Researcher”  in which his fictitious artist explains the way universities and public authorities are trying to “get a grip” (his words, not mine) on the emerging field of artistic research.”  He gives us the ideology involved.   One item is “Our society is not only a ‘society of control’ as Foucault wrote, it is a ‘quality control society’.  so … we must have some criteria for quality control agencies.

The participants of The Bologna Process are willing to set up the controls. Without boring you … what has happened is that the European Union participants have formed The Bologna Process.  This process “is supposed to lead to the establishment of a European Higher Education Area in 2010 … which should … contribute to establishing  the EU as the world’s biggest knowledge economy from that same year on.”

There are cogent arguments for and against this emerging field of artistic research.

My response: Dear God!! What would have happened to Vincent Van Gogh under this system?? Or Dali? Or O’Keeffe?

The political implications are vast! Any person interested in attending college in the Arts or attaining a Masters degree, or a PhD would be advised to study these papers.

All quotes are from the Wikipedia definition of “research”.
As for me … I will give it a whirl. I will try to do “research” and see if that leads me to unusual and exciting places within myself. It might!

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