Presence in Absence


A retrospective look at Module 1
A long gap with no input into my website, despite good intentions.

I started the MA at Hereford College of Arts in September last year and was lucky enough to find myself studying with a wonderful group of very talented and like-minded artists. MA students are also blessed with the best studios in the college with large individual spaces, a small project/display room, some large accessible walls for pinning up canvases/large sheets of paper to work on, the all-important sink area and even access to a kitchen area. I felt very blessed to be a part of it.

We had to propose a direction for our first Module, PGRP Research Practice, which had to be approved before we could continue and this in itself proved a challenge. After much thought, I decided to make mine about exploring the essence of objects, an extension of some of the thinking related to my BA work. My module was entitled, 'A search for ‘essence’, informed by an exploration of Object-Oriented Ontology and Bennett’s concept of ‘Thing Power’ through contemporary art practice' and relied mainly on still lifes of self-selected objects.

I found this investigation fascinating and, while I didn't manage to prove the existence of essence in objects(!), I certainly felt it. I also became aware of the importance of the relationship between objects, the way that the placing reflects how they 'talk to' each other and how one can impact on the character of another. This brought about an increased awareness of the vital part that negative space plays in the interactions and the way we read the subject matter. I also found it increasingly important to lose the edges of the support that can trap the subject and stop the viewer's eye from continuing to read it outside the picture frame.

Many artists inspired my work, particularly the extraordinary Juan Sánchez Cotán, so ahead of his time somehow with his beautiful hanging still life paintings, and Giorgio Morandi, with his wonderfully eloquent and mysterious still lifes and his quoted and extraordinary ability to "paint silence". There is such beauty, presence and quietude in his paintings. Morandi trained as a monk and I feel that something of that spiritual intensity is evident in his work. Thinkers who informed my work were Jane Bennett, particularly in her brilliant i]Vibrant Matter: Maurice Merleau-Ponty with the Phenomenology of Perception and other work; proponents of Object Oriented Ontology (OOO), such as Graham Harman and Dylan Kerr and many others. Also useful when contemplating the possible inner life of objects were writings about Wabi-Sabi, Junichiro Tanizaki's, In Praise of Shadows, Sherry Turkle's Evocative Objects and writing about Relational Aesthetics by Nicolas Bourriaud and others.

Selected work from this module can be seen in the Module 1 Gallery

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