Malaika is a young, tall, slim and beautiful woman. A unique composition of Ethiopian, Masai and Tanzanianian genes has made her body perfect and her face original, exotic looking and absolutely stunning.
She is a single mother of two and has no permanent residence. One daughter has a disability. She has no contact with the other child. Due to her turbulent upbringing, she received no education and is now struggling with basic reading and writing skills. She has no realistic chances of getting any meaningful employment. To survive, she has few options: the most lucrative is to marry a rich foreigner, the other other choices are less appealing.
Her life has been filled with pain, abuse and hardship. A long chain of continuous disasters and predicaments has started to affect the “perfect” look. At 33, her outstanding natural beauty is vanishing rapidly while making her future more and more uncertain.
I am very excited about my recent invitation by Atolye, Dubai’s Creative Hub, to join an online presentation by Dr. Joana Casaca Lemos. She is a designer, researcher and educator, who specialises in interdisciplinary work. Her current engagements include her involvement in an independent run consultancy that supports organisations with research and writing a book titled: ‘When Research is Mesearch.’ She has worked with organisations such as Daimler, Sustainable Oceans Alliance, Business Council for Sustainability, Forum for the Future, among others. Joana is a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts UK and holds a PhD from Central Saint Martins College of Art in London.
The aim of Joana’s presentation was to provide a space for creative professionals to reflect and assess their personal growth with reference to their practice. She proposed to question the value of work experiences, which are transformative? The other deliberations were concerned with looking at what makes us feel uncomfortable and, therefore, challenged our understanding of the world.
Joana started by sharing her journey and reflective practice to introduce a framework drawn from her experience as a design researcher. Subsequently, all participants were guided through a collaborative activity, which enabled them to reflect on their practice and articulate their own ‘me-search’.
Joana’s intellectual provocation was very inspiring, as follows:
“As curious creatives we often draw inspiration from the world around us – but what might happen if we look into the world within?“
Leen Sadder, the organiser, explained the broader concept, which underpins the new series of presentations and stated in her invitation that:
“Insight Out is a brand new guest series hosted by ATÖLYE Dubai, featuring creative seekers, whose inward explorations have positively impacted the work they put out into the world. Once a month, we welcome you into the inner world of a designer, artist or maker to learn about the practices and experiences that have shaped their creative output.”
Despite questioning Joana’s spiritual perspective, which may have distorted and skewed her ability to critically analyse her research findings, I found this video conference very inspiring and thought provoking. Her travel experiences have a substantial impact on her thinking and this key element is also echoed in my own creative practice and exploration.
Thank you Atolye for your invitation and another remarkable cultural and professional experience.
Jonathan presented my 5 minute video to the group yesterday. I received a broad range of opinions, questions and suggestions. I was inspired by a constructive dialogue and several intriguing interpretations of my work. I would like to respond to the main comments as follows:
Matt – is the Venetian mask making its way into paintings too or are the sequences of youwearing the mask in this video taken from a piece in itself – where did it come from? I’m curious.
Yes, it will be a part of a future painting. My intention was to create a sensation of an outsider, alien like character, who observes and comments on the nature of the human condition from ‘out there’.
Alexis – you have mentioned that the voice in the narration is as though an alien, it is another and not you. What do you see is the relationship between the voice of the narrator, the text and yourself?
The alien like voice creates a clash between my observations and those of an outsider, who is trying to formulate an objective and detached analysis of the situation and predicaments.
Danielle – I’m interested to know whether/how hypnotic repetition is embedded into your painting process?
Using a washing machine as a creative tool is repetitive in its own right. Watching the spinning of the drum has hypnotic qualities. The slow and very precise process of portrait painting is also monotonous and mind-numbing. It is passive and based on observing the process of destruction without any possibilities for intervention and influence.
Aristotle – Do you see your artistic identity as an alter-ego?
Not at alter ego. The intention is to initiate a dialogue by introducing another perspective, an angle, which is unbiased.
Matt – This is something, which I remain interested in – I asked similar questions during our group tutorial at low residency in terms of the point at which a painting becomes fixed, concluded, or left, and the cycle is broken – is this point at which it becomes a story?
My work is based on an evolving and sequential dialogue, a commentary on the human condition in the context of predicaments of daily survival and turbulence of existence. It is not an object of craft, which forces a question about the work being completed. It is not a piece of embroidery – you do it and than, it is done.
Kelda – is (your project) about discovery? With the travels. With your artwork? You have been experimenting with process like using the washing of your artwork…
My research is focused on an attempt to develop a deeper understanding in order to establish and analyse the discrepancy between what is on the surface and what is really going on underneath the facade. The process is metaphorically important. The underpinning thinking is of primary significance, as always.
Alexis – The washing of the canvases is clearly an important element in your process, howdoes it function in the concept of hypnotic repetition and does it have a personal significance?
The spinning motion of a drum of a washing machine has hypnotic qualities. Its metaphorical function is to confirm and reinforce my observations about the repetitive nature of peoples’ lives and the entire structure of their existence. There is no escape from this entrapment. The destination of every attempt to break free from this cycle is failure. It becomes consumed by it and integral to the entire existence.
Danielle – (hypnotic repetition is embedded into life in its entirety) through habits?
I am not talking about rituals and acquired habits. My project explores the essence of being and its overwhelming impact on the most basic form of existence – dealing with life without thinking about it – getting on with perseverance.
Ben – I find it interesting that the washing, really does not wash away anything. Merely smears and alters the original image into something new.
It is very much a part of an uncontrollable, uncertain and unpredictable creative process.
Jonathan – the washing process is obviously connected to washing and cleansing but in this case it is also very destructive, as it removes large amounts of the painted surface, how much of this is about your giving up control or giving over control to the washing machine in this case, is it in any way an empathetic action with the stories of come of those you have met?
Yes, it is in a way, because there is a bizarre similarity, a parallel between the nature of my process and the lives of the people I paint.
Kelda – It is also retelling the story (of the painting, or the people whose stories you are seeking out), the ‘truth’ is distorted with every telling.
Absolutely, it is twisted and distorted, just like their lives and existence – nothing is certain.
Leah – Regarding “new normality”. I have a question about this. What is the difference between the new normality and the old normality? What on earth can completely change our inherent state? If it is only changes slowly over time. So can it be said that “change” is what we call “normality”?
The key point is that everyone has a different normality and a unique perspective on life and existence. My work reinforces this concept and celebrates this thinking.
Matt – There is a great richness and depth to your storytelling in conversation. Pav – maybe the layers of paint form a mask that invites inspection without the spoken word?
Yes, possibly, but the narrative is very important and forms another layer to the understanding of my perspective and research findings.
AxAsh – just sharing my personal opinion，I feel there might be some violence element in your work Pav. I meant,did you attempt to make it or it is just a random result？An interesting saying is that art making is another form of crime. Some film directors have the same explanation. This can be a way to heal their trauma？How do you think?
The character is not violent, may appear to be sinister. This is, however, a part of a bias and interpretation from the observer and depends on his own insecurities. It is designed to draw attention to the situation.
Friederike – [It is also retelling the story (of the painting, or the people whose stories you are seeking out), the ‘truth’ is distorted with every telling] Yes, exactly and therefore is very well in tune with concept of the mask, which can hide identity but also retells a story like in theatre.
Repetition stops you from thinking and analysing your own life, ambitions, dreams and aspirations. You hypnotically and simple ‘get on with it’!
In response to my discussion with Jonathan, I have prepared all the necessary text and narratives for 14 paintings and 7 videos. I have also added Ravens and Crows piece to the collection. I have made this decision for two reasons:
I wanted to balance and even out the design of the frontal page of my exhibition.
The Ravens and Crows painting is developed as a response to myself, my inner feelings, fears and longings. I felt that my display would be more complete and provide the ultimate visual appraisal of people, who I have met during my research journey. This concept will be also juxtapositioned against my self-analysis.
The new design proposal and the text are below:
Painting 1: Three Haitian Girls in Red.
This painting portrays three young girls in a village in Haiti. They are immaculately dressed in red in preparation for a Voodoo ceremony.
My main focus here is to create a sense of being “suspended in a vacuum”, while waiting for change. This develops a form of tension and drama. The colour is dynamic and full of expressive turbulence. The faces of the girls are somehow twisted and deformed. The logo element of underlay and the text add a sense of unreality by making the composition ambiguous and opened to interpretation. The flowers, symbolic of celebration, can be used as a reward for acting as a change agent, giving hope and enabling positive prospects in life.
Painting 2: Haitian Girl with Butterflies
This is a portrait of a young, beautiful and idyllic-looking Haitian girl playing with butterflies. I met her during my travels through Haiti, where most people survive on less than 1$ per day.
She is totally oblivious of her origin.
She does not understand, why she is consistently ostracised and bullied. Her skin is white, and her eyes are baby blue. She definitively stands out!
She has never heard of Poland. Her home is on a little island called Petit Goave.
She is a descendent of Polish legionnaires, who were sent to Haiti by Napoleon to suppress an uprising of slaves. However, having realised the extent of exploration and abuse, the Poles changed sides and fought in support of the oppressed indigenous people. Subsequently, most of them were punished and slaughtered. A few lucky ones managed to disperse to the islands.
Painting 3: Disabled Palenque
This is a portrait of a young Haitian girl called Palenque. She is heavily disabled. Her arms are distorted and twisted. She is in constant pain.
Today, she is celebrating her 16th birthday. Her eyes are full of joy and spark of life, and she smiles beautifully.
She is totally overwhelmed by an unexpected present from a stranger – a mobile phone.
Painting 4: Fragile Little Dreams
I was on a totally overcrowded coach in Haiti. All seats were broken, ripped and absolutely filthy. I left early in the morning and with passing time, the refreshing sunrise breeze was replaced by a stinking stench of old sweat and … alcohol fumes. I was travelling from La Caye to an unpronounceable and mysterious road junction (as noted by a woman in my hotel) hoping to catch a connecting minibus to Jacmel. The day was extremely hot and humid. The bus was stuck in a traffic jam in scorching heat for over an hour. I kept looking through a dirty window to try to relax in this very claustrophobic and uncomfortable situation. My attention was drawn to a minibus on my right. There was a young girl staring at me through the window. She was expressionless, almost deadpan. The hot sun created an orange glare on the surface of the glass. Her face was somehow integrated with layers of reflections of the surrounding area – mainly bustling traffic.
She was sat there, waiting with patience, stone-faced and humble. I smiled and took a quick and discrete photo of the bus and her. My fellow travellers got really disturbed by this, annoyed and angry. They did not understand my intentions. They disapproved of a tourist photographing their hardship. I realised that by displaying an expensive mobile phone to take this supposedly meaningless photograph humiliated the locals. It created an unnecessary division between them and I. It also reinforced our differences and the diametrically opposite sides of life and the world. However, all this had made no impression on the girl whatsoever. She remained untouched and unmoved, with exactly the same expression on her face. I began to plan ideas for a painting. The same evening, I started to draw and make notes in my little pad. I really wanted to protect my memories from being forgotten, before I return to my studio and translate my observations into a painterly interpretation.
Painting 5: Dreaming about The Island Girl
Dear Island Girl,
I am sailing through the Sea of Celebes
Will you go beyond the horizon?
Where the oceans meet the sea.
Where the waters are immaculate.
And the adrenaline is high.
“Her messy hair a visible attribute of her stubborn spirit. As she shakes it free, she smiles knowing wild is her favourite colour.
She didn’t just walk on the wild side,
she lived there, dancing in the streets
and setting fire to its sky.” J. Iron Word
Painting 6: Waiting for a Cocktail Called Pornstar
This painting portrays Tamar, a very poor girl from Tbilisi, Georgia. Her special dream is to try an expensive cocktail called Pornstar. Her desires, ambitions and aspirations are formed by brutal and vulgar contrasts between the opulence and status of the privileged and the suffering of the starving underclasses. This powerful contrast is charged with a broad range of associated high-level emotions and feeling, such as jealousy, anger and a total lack of understanding of the reasons behind one’s faith.
Painting 7: Punhana
Punhane, in Azeri, means ‘secret’. I have got to know her quite well. She was diligent, perceptive and intuitive. She made a very positive impression on me. Her outgoing personality was enhanced by a very natural look, reserved and introvert personality and beautiful young face with long hair and no makeup.
Revealing her deepest secret could cost her life.
She is Armenian. Since the war, both countries are filled with hatred towards each other.
Video 1: Lockdown with The Wheel of Fortune Seller
Tumbling around with my thoughts – lockdown in a dark and claustrophobic chamber of an expanding pandemic – waiting for the end!
This video draws a parallel to the current global crisis. Isolation and fear are overwhelming. Everything appears to be suspended in waiting for the return to my former hypnotic repetition of daily routines and distractions!
My project continues to change with a degree of unexpected persistency and without unnecessary overreliance on resources. This video piece reinforces that what really matters is the act of creation; whatever the circumstances.
My role as an artist is to comment on and respond to an ever-changing, dynamic and turbulent environment.
Therefore, my principal function is to observe the world with great sensitivity and translate my research findings into art, which communicates my thinking and reflections.
My work, in turn, acts as a beacon, pointing out at new possibilities of how to understand, digest and embrace the world!
I need to accept that my initial project ideas have been altered, distorted and, perhaps, contradicted in the light of the current, brutal and rapidly progressing events.
Video 2: Masquerade
This video piece covers a summary of the visual outcome of my research, practical experimentation and analysis. It was developed in consequence of my investigation into hypnotic repetition over the last few years.
In contradiction to logic, opportunities arise in life to break the mundane phenomenon of entrapment and never-changing routine.
Perhaps, with increased sensitivity of observation, we would be able to free ourselves from this ballast and seek other endeavours and experiences to continue to make progress, develop and flourish.
This crazy pirouette continues forever. One broken cycle leads to another entrapment. New becomes old almost instantly. One fulfilment unexpectantly turns into a disaster and we remain unsatisfied, while travelling on a piece of rock through space – paradoxically, entrapped in a hope that the final destination is anything but death!
However, with great and vulgar arrogance, we continue to refuse to accept that nothing lasts forever and everything will turn into dust.
Dust and darkness (sic!)
Video 3: Bye, Bye, Wheel of Fortune Seller
This is my recent attempt to respond to the current situation. My project has redefined itself several times during a very long and turbulent journey through nine countries. My observations and reflections have substantially changed their focus.
My initial interests were firmly placed on the uncertainties of tomorrow. The context for my investigation was mainly related to a range of economic disadvantages of people in the countries, which I visited. I was both: fascinated and terrified to learn how they deal with their daily lives. How inventive and creative they must become to survive.
Subsequently, I realised that everyone is waiting for a new pivotal occurrence. Something important to happen and bring about a significant and positive change. One way of dealing with this lengthy, stagnant and monotonous process is to get subjected by the conditioning of a hypnotic repetition.
My visual exploration of workers, who were suspended in the vacuum of that process, followed. I become intrigued by creating painterly responses based on analysis of workers in Asia.
Video 4: Bye, Bue, Burmese Monks
This video piece provides a documentary evidence of the process of washing of a painting titled: Three Burmese Monks. It is a metaphorical interpretation of the meaning of cleansing and removal of dirt and stains from the memory. The canvas is cut out from the stretcher and taken through a hot wash cycle. The outcome is unpredictable and the remains are disintegrated, sparse and fragile.
Video 5: Three Monks
The Three Burmese Monks were captured, while taking a break from their money collecting duties. They entertained themselves by playing with a large group of pigeons. My primary source for this piece originates from Yangon in Myanmar. I was undertaking some visual research by recording activities in a remote market area of the city.
There were large numbers of child monks present. Most of their days are spend extorting large amounts of cash from the hard working, fearful and deeply religious market community. They are immaculately dressed in pink robes and sarongs. Simultaneously, they walk bare foot to project an image of poverty and humbleness.
However, the truth is different. They have got daily targets to fill their metals trays with a mixture of coins and bank notes to satisfy the needs and expectations of their superiors.
Video 6: The Bathing of Perl Twink
Pearl Twink lives in Lagos, Nigeria. She is transsexual. She fears for her life and her sexuality is her biggest secret. She is a fashion icon. The piece tries to question the presumption within our prejudice and allows us to understand the contradictory point of view – the opposite perspective. Therefore, forcing us to confront and reflect on our own behaviour in the context of making judgements without thinking and appropriate analysis. We simply devalue the status of a person from a different culture. Labelling and categorising removes individuality and creates a climate for a lack of our responsibility towards them.
Heaven can only be with you in it.
Wherever you belong…
You are not the girl with long hair, oval eyes, luscious lips and perfect teeth.
You do not look like the girl on the magazine cover or runway,
Hell, you might even be straighter than an arrow.
But you are the most beautiful.
The way you love hard, laugh with abandon, push your glasses back to your face, wipe the sweat off your forehead, the way that crown dances on your head.
Sure, you are a queen,
Of hearts, of love, freedom, beauty, wisdom.
Your huge heart is large enough to hug all the children of the world.
you refuse to be undermined and wield your sword in the fight for truth.
‘WCW’ by Maryam Atoyebi
Video 7: Dialogue with Pearl Twink
This portrait is hypnotically hovering behind the text – emerging from the writing and vanishing again. The model is looking down with pride and confidence. She is emerging through the messages and remains deadpan – a distant observer.
The video instigates a sense of a dialogue between provocations and her responses to them. Despite the attention, she remains undisturbed.
The piece tries to question the presumption within our prejudice and allows us to understand the contradictory point of view – the opposite perspective. Therefore, forcing us to confront and reflect on our own behaviour in the context of making judgements without thinking and appropriate analysis. We simply devalue the status of a person from a different culture. Labelling and categorising removes individuality and creates a climate for a lack of our responsibility towards them.
The patterns and colours echo the culture of her native Nigeria. They are vibrant and dynamic, reflecting the power of pure Chroma highlighted by the tropical sun.
Painting 8: Flower Girl from Batumi
Beautiful girl with pink flowers
Like a secret garden
Soothing sadness and regret
Through the misty silver tears
I reach out my hands to them
Still whispering one sentence
Why did you go away?
Nothing pleases me today
When the dreams were over
Who will heal my heart?
And wipe the tears from my eyes
Smile at me
Maybe among the old memories
Regret will be lost
(Based on text by Janusz Popławski)
Painting 9: One-Legged Pool Player
The One-Legged Player is totally on the task. Her appearance looks frivolous and theatrical to distract from her determination and the fact that she cannot afford to miss any shots. Her outwards image portrays glamour and fame, but the reality is diametrically different.
The One-Legged Player is frozen in a stretched position, suspended in the vacuum of repetition. Every shot is executed in an identical stylised pose in a hope to attract attention and increase the stakes, hence maximise profits.
I am hesitant to come to conclusions that there is something repulsive about it. The first impressions of wonder and curiosity are replaced with laughter and astonishment. The performance continues regardless.
Painting 10: Thai Masseur
This is a portrait of a single mum of three. She originates from a poor village in the North. Her new life is in Pattaya. Before the pandemic, her days were very monotonous and repetitive. She used to work 17-hour long days as a masseur. Now, in lockdown, her shop is closed. She dreams about returning to her previous life and the former status quo.
Painting 11: Three Monks Begging
This new piece portrays three Burmese monks taking a break from their money collecting duties, while entertaining themselves with a large group of pigeons.
In the area, there were large numbers of child monks present. Most of their days are spend extorting large amounts of cash from the hard working, fearful and deeply religious market community.
They are immaculately dressed in pink robes and sarongs. Simultaneously, they walk bare foot to project an image of poverty and humbleness.
However, the truth is different. They have got daily targets to fill their metals trays with a mixture of coins and bank notes to satisfy the needs and expectations of their superiors.
Painting 12: Burmese Captain
This work portrays a Burmese captain in charge of a long boat. His job is to transport people and cargo from Ranong in Thailand to Kawthoung at the furthest southern point of Myanmar. His main clientele are poor illegal workers from Burma trying to earn a few baht in Thailand.
Following a long conversation with him, I become one of his passengers. To maximise income, he accepts as many people as possible. He even travels on the very front of the boat to save valuable space. This place is very uncomfortable and rocky. He is also fully exposed there to the power of the tropical sun. He tries to get some relief from the burning heat by hiding under a colourful umbrella.
The image is very clashing in colour – very kitsch. This is further enhanced by his crude and cramped body position. His ankle reveals a massive tumour.
There is a gigantic growth on his leg, perhaps caused by prolonged exposure to the sun and continued contact with polluted water in the port.
My creative intention was to portray him in his usual setting, while crossing the same water many times every day.
The focus is on him. The beautiful surroundings no longer matter. He cannot see the landscape. He is trapped in his daily routine.
The colour of his shirt blends in with the orange stripes of paint on the boat. The umbrella is feminine and looks absolutely ridiculous.
Painting 13: Coach to Myiek
This piece portrays a coach driver. He is preparing to leave Kawthoung for a 20-hour long journey to Myiek. The road is terrible and unpredictable. His old coach must be in a top condition before the passengers are allowed to board.
The driver looks very tired and substantially overweight. He spends his life driving his coach between those two distant cities in Myanmar.
Painting 14: Ravens and Crows Will Peck Us to Pieces
During my exercise yesterday, I managed to take this disturbing photograph. On the one hand, it reminded me of my primary source for Three Burmese Monks piece. On the other, the black crows drew references to a novel by a Polish writer Stefan Zeromski.
Ravens and Crows Will Peck Us to Pieces – is a relatively short book by a literature Nobel Price winner. It consists of three parts and has references to the atrocities of the partitions of Poland between Germany, Russia and Austria. These birds have also other common connotations. It is usually believed that that the crow is a symbol of bad luck and death. I am not superstitious, but this seen has terrified me.
Subsequently, I have developed an idea of using the crows as an overprinted pattern on my next piece. The idea is to compose a twin image to Three Burmese Monks and use our current pandemic predicament to create a painting about myself, while responding to the broader contexts of the crisis. I am waiting while working in isolation in front of my window.
Optimistically attempting to contradict Zeromski while waiting in a hope that ravens and crows will not peck us to pieces!
This is a holistic and conclusive summary and visual outcome of my research, practical experimentation and analysis, which I have develop in consequence to my investigation into hypnotic repetition over the last few years.
I have attempted to portray my research findings as unreal. In the context of the current crisis, my ability to travel appears to be nothing, but a distant memory. The seriousness of the situation is reflected in a ‘torture like’ visual metaphor, which is intentionally ambiguous. The title implies a false show or pretence. The opulence of the Venetian mask has an important function here. It depersonalises the character. We are all entrapped in the vacuum of hypnotic repetition, regardless of status, age and location. The yellow and gold tonation imply a form of celebration, perhaps a masked ball, which allows all participants to misbehave without any possibilities of being recognised and punished. It creates a feeling of safety and removes all unnecessary barriers and limitations.
The process of washing is also of significance here. Its aim is to cleanse, purify and remove a burden of recollections and reminders of the past. It is a perfect time to move on and embrace the new normality in the brave and contemporary post pandemic world.
The narrative has a purposefully confused and partially non-sequential timeline. The underpinning idea is to disorientate potential viewers and make them question the purpose of the existence through an interpretation of the meaning of my video.
The spinning cycle of the machine has hypnotic properties and enhances the overall feeling of absurd, repetition and induces a fatamorgana of safety and cosiness.
In contradiction to logic, opportunities arise in life in order to break the mundane phenomenon of entrapment and never-changing routine. Perhaps, with increased sensitivity of observation, we would be able to free ourselves from this ballast and seek other endeavours and experiences to continue to make progress, develop and flourish.
The masquerade of ‘head-spinning’ continues, while we are all waiting for something to change and happen.
This crazy pirouette continues forever. One broken cycle leads to another entrapment. New becomes old almost instantly. One fulfilment expectantly turns into a disaster and we remain unsatisfied, while travelling on a piece of rock through space – paradoxically, entrapped in a hope that the final destination is anything but death!
However, with great and vulgar arrogance, we continue to refuse to accept that nothing lasts forever and everything will turn into dust.
I have gone through a long process of consideration and reflection on my current painting. I was questioning how to make a radical progress with my current painting? On the one hand, the composition is intentionally balanced and scattered, on the other, the image lacks the desired level of depth and mood. My intention was to make it more dynamic and dramatic.
Currently, the skeletal silhouettes are quite rough and crude in execution. The idea is to echo the reality of my primary source – crows and ravens feasting on rotting seaweed, which is tumbled and mixed with rubbish, decomposing plastic and other organic matter, and surrounded by the most repelling possible stench. This analysis of my research findings describes and outlines both the source and the concept, while setting my work in a horrid, dark and depressing context.
Somewhere, in the centre of the compositional entrance, there is a portrait of myself. It is covered with an embedded text in Spanish. The fonts are almost impossible to decipher. My intention was to draw analogies to the final end and death of the most amazing and pure experiences in life. I wanted to question the purpose, sense, direction and destination, while embracing the most powerful existential thoughts and feelings.
Subsequently, I started to experiment with a range of glazes using alkyd paints. I wanted to drift away from the time typically used media in my studio: oil and encaustic media. Alkyd paints are thicker and stronger. They consist of thermoplastic polyester resins made by heating polyhydric alcohols with polybasic acids or their anhydrides. Their main function is to create protective coatings, which are resistant to ageing and general wear. This physical property of this toxic medium creates a significant clash with my need to protect the significance of the past. To experiment with the viscosity and luminosity of the glazes, I have diluted them with the best quality of extra virgin olive oil. The use of a top-of-the-range product, here again, is intentional and carefully thought out. The idea was to depart from commercial qualities of cheap and raw linseed oil. I wanted to replace them with a natural and silky translucency of an opulent food ingredient. It is like feeding the birds and, simultaneously, covering the essence of the subject matter of the under image with a preserving layer of indulgence, luxury and melancholia. The additional purpose of this is try to safe myself from the attack of the cruel and metaphorically important ravens and crows.
I have included below, two documentary photographs of the glaze alteration process. They illustrate a long cycle of the building of the layers. It consists of warming up and cooling down the compositional colour scheme. Ultimately, the developed image will be ‘touched up’ with oil bars in order to continue to increase the vibrancy of the tint and add another element to the piece – texture.
Looking back at the painting process, my inspiration came from both, observation of a primary source and digestion of a piece by Greta Alfaro. I saw her work on display at the Saatchi Gallery. Her 2009 piece called In Ictu Oculi, Single channel video (HDV, 16:9, colour, sound, duration: 10:37) The Latin title in translation means ‘in the brink of an eye’.
She uses birds in a Hitchcock-like, metaphorical way. However, the meaning of her piece is different. It focuses on questioning human desires and has a very dark side to it. I thought that quoting her video and learning from her use of analogies and suggestions was very relevant to my painterly explorations.
I have started to draft my final evaluation. My decision is to initially review my progress on the course. This summary will be refined and developed further through further drafts, progress maps and charts. Subsequently, I will attempt to assess the impact of the current pandemic on both my project and thinking. I will look at how lockdown, social distancing and isolation have redefined the meaning of some of the key concepts that I have been researching and analysing. Waiting in the context of hypnotic repetition has changed its depth, intensity and connotations. There is a significant clash between how we embrace these ideas in the post crisis world.
To take a break from the internet and my online existence, I have started to draw up some preliminary thoughts using pan and paper – how refreshing!
The cumulative part of this document will consider the relationship between my learning and growth and my personal and professional development in the post MA environment. I will attempt to go beyond composing an immediate action plan. Hopefully, I will be able to continue to evolve my focus and expand on my research base through the prearranged trip to Madagascar this summer.
I will also reflect on the opportunities, which were created by an unexpected shift from the physicality of a material exhibition to something, which is hidden in a digital space. I would like for my online show to be a metaphor for poetry and music. They are not permanent and do not have dimensions and weight. They exist in totally different spheres of our lives and existence. These are called consciousness and soul.
I have researched and tested a great number of possible platforms for the final show. Unfortunately, I have found them quite disappointing. The most common concept is to based on echoing a feeling of a physical gallery. Frequently, the software is very slow and clumsy in operation. Additionally, the overall effect is more focused on the look of the space rather than the work itself. Art becomes somehow secondary to the meaningless decorations and textures of walls, ceiling and the lighting.
Alternatively, I have considered using a website, which is similar in design to behance.net.
I really like the simplicity, effectiveness and freshness of the front page. There is a grid of large block images, which is inviting and very clear. This website is able to accommodate a broad range of artefacts, including gifs files and video work. Photography on display is relatively high resolution and organised with order and structure.
Our group meets in Zoom on a regular bases to discuss possibilities for arranging the exhibition. All students are very proud and would like to present their research projects to the best of the abilities. Likely, Aristotle, who is one of our students, has offered to help everyone and donated both, his time and the use of his original software.
In preparation for my exhibition, I have carefully considered a range of ideas. My main intention is to make sure that the way, in which my work is displays reinforces its meaning. I would like to avoid using any unnecessary gimmicks and distractions.
In these unprecedented times, it is quite strange for a painter to accept that the final exhibition will not have a physical dimension. Frankly, I am saddened and overwhelmed by a lack of reality it terms of the experience of true colour, texture and painterly mastery of strokes. However, an artist and creative individual needs to seek opportunities in overcoming obstacles. Therefore, my intention is to excel myself and make the online exhibition even better, more refined and sophisticated. I would like for this to be a new learning curve full of controlled happy accidents, experimentation and deep reflection of what is appropriate in term of visual communication – my chosen language of expression.
The digital approach creates a new chance to experiment with a ‘space’, which supports and reinforces my messages in cohesion to deliver a holistic poetry about my painterly and video work.
Currently, I am planing for a long wall with three parallel and simultaneous video projections. This number can be possibly extended to four. I am in the process of working on a painting titled ‘Ravens and Crows Will Peck Us to Pieces’. It is quite likely that I will make sufficient progress to video another washing cycle. This image is different to portraiture. Therefore, I was relatively hesitant to include this image. However, on reflection, it summarises my overall responses to my research findings in a time of lockdown and social isolation. We are all subjected to mortality, vulnerable and fragile. The end of our journey is the only certainty in our lives. Death is the culmination of our waiting, while being suspended in the vacuum of hypnotic repetition.
The side walls of the gallery will be dedicated to the display of the actual paintings. I should be able to exhibit between 8 and 10 canvasses.
Day 2 was also extended to most of day 3. My team – 11B got very passionate about crating a holistic and xcohesive platform. Our concept was to bring people together in a time of crisis, social distancing and isolation.
We produced a very comprehernsive proposal for a range of ideas and supporting online platforms. I was selected by the team to present our proposal to the forum of 174 observes via Zoom videoconference. Our proposal was very well received and the team and I are awaiting further news on a range of possible developments.
I have gone through a long journey Exploration, trial and error with this piece. Initial observational and crude sketches of crows in hard pencil, were gradually transformed into dynamic and terrifying black silhouettes of individual birds in a herd. There is definitely something raw about this piece, which portrays a bizarre world with no source of light nor gravity. The mood is overpowering and depressing, perhaps overwhelmed by dirty browns and broken yellows. My painting echoes achievements of strange yet famous Munich grave painters, who limited their palette to the use of dirty colours and broken chroma. This was the main discovery of and I have decided to refer to their learning on the composition on my experimental composition.
Initially, I collaged a self portrait into the painterly space. I have carefully chosen this photo to make sure that it was personal Ly significant. Subsequently, I immersed myself in the creation of an arrangement, which contained energy and drama. Through scraping, glazing and overlaying, I managed to increase the element of a secret atmosphere, mood and, therefore, forced a reflection on a viewer.
The sipping light through the colour layers will later become subdued. I will use an overall glaze of a mixture of crimson Alizarin and Prussian blue. I will also consider using an oil based coat in order to ensure that there is an appropriate translucency and depth of the overlaying colour.
The final stage will be concerned with scrapping of the glaze and, perhaps, imprinting further textures into the existing layers to reveal a mysterious illusions of secrets underneath.
As a part of the process of development of my painting, I have decided to sidetrack it and experiment with digital possibilities and ideas. Yesterday, I devoted my time to drawing crows from observation using a pencil and paper. Subsequently, I moved on and transferred my source sketches onto the canvas using rough black marker pens. The next step was to consider a balanced and rhythmic composition. My creative intention was to achieve a sense of being overwhelmed and taken over by a herd of terrifying black birds. I started to increase the density of drawings, initially with small repetitive silhouettes and gradually increasing their sizes and numbers. My animation begins with a scan of a photograph of me. I have chosen this image carefully. It represents a personally significant moment of my life. In steps, it is replaced by some of my sketches, and than, moderately transforms itself into a black screen. This has some resemblance to the current crisis. It all started with just one mutation, which in turn has expanded enormously to create a global pandemic.
Crows and the use of black are of a metaphorical importance here. They symbolise emptiness, vacuum and nothing, but destruction and death.
I purposefully repeated this sequence and reversed its speed and direction. It grows and withers, reducing itself to a dead screen. This process is looped in order to create a feeling of entrapment and bizarre predictability. We all know, what is going to happen . The cycle has now been thoroughly researched and explored. The meaning of the world is created by a clash of the opposites and juxtaposition of contradictions. Life cannot be just one-sided. Life and death, growth and decline, light and darkness.
At this stage, the overall tonation of my painting is kept in ochre and dirty yellowish greens. In consequence to my digital experimentation, I plan to increase the amount of bright yellowish stains and bleeding patches, in order to over-glaze the entire surface with a deep wash of Alizarin and Prussian Blue. The aim is to enrich the depth of colour to enhance its impact on a viewer. Perhaps, removing parts of the over-layer will allow me to reveal some key elements of the space underneath.