Reflections - Introduction / by Ally McGinn

Since starting the MA i've come to appreciate the distance between the research that drives the practice and the meaning in the work itself. The research i do, and have done, informs the work, but it does not seek to justify it in any way, nor does it encompass it. Ongoing research keeps the practice moving forward, it inspires the artworks and it can be used to examine them.

Seeing the research through this lens does not necessarily affect the artworks, it does however inspire a deeper investigation.

We were recently challenged to define five words that can describe our current concerns within the practice.

My first five words were far too general and i'm in the process of focussing down. Upon closer examination I've realised how many words I use to explore my practice. Too many.

Especially when trying to identify a focus for research.

I've narrowed things down to current concerns and contexts, many of which are related. As a reflective exercise I'm going to explore each in short detail. (Anywhere between 100-1000 words each) Some have been the subject of previous blog posts, some are new. Each will be explored in terms of my own practice, with the aim of working through these terms to understand their place and the way I'm using them both using language and objects.

There will be little referenced context, that will come in the next level of examination.

I believe that this will result in a deeper understanding of where i use these words. Rather than simply defining them as words that relate to my practice i hope to understand which are influences, methods, mediums, processes, concerns inherent in materials or space or even which are ancestors to current concerns.

Each will include a conclusion (of sorts) where I aim to critically examine each influence for it's honest function in my practice. Which may be quite separate from the context of the work.

This process will be followed by a series of reflections of the works themselves. This is to overcome any potential biases and missing connections that might be present in this list.

For the modules I am undertaking - this process will help me narrow the focus to my most important idioms. I can then research based on these ideas.

This is a vital process for the development of my work.

I am to be brief, to outline my reasons for using these terms, and decide which are focusses for research.


  1. Potentiality : Provisionality : Temporary Nomination

  2. Painting : Paint : Art : Traditional ideas and rules : Hirearchy

  3. Nomination : Choice : Decision : Intention

  4. Re-define : Re-purpose : Reconstruction

  5. Balance : Tension

  6. Function : Purpose : Use

  7. Unwanted : Overlooked : Less Apparent : Everyday : Studio

  8. Failure : Deskilling

  9. Incidental : Accidental : Chance : Control : Disassociation

  10. Inaesthetic : Aesthetic

  11. Documentation : Archive : Collection : Excess

  12. Narrative : Conversation

  13. Presence : Process : Materiality : Objectification of presence

  14. Artifice : Misleading

  15. Metaphor : Analogy : Misleading : Assumption : Illusion

  16. Meaning : Connections : Definition : Association : Semiotics : Interpretation

  17. Installation : Assemblage : Sculpture : Collage

  18. Expanded field of painting

  19. Representation : Illusion : Reality :Fiction : Myth

  20. Connections between subject and object

  21. Mediation : Placement : Adjustment

  22. Value : Commodity : Rubbish : Treasure : Consumption : Objectification

  23. Authorship : Ownership

  24. Frame : Context : Gallery display : Framing the (in)visible : Structure

  25. Perception

  26. Language : Words : Structure :

  27. Performativity : Practice as performance : Painting and performance : Ongoing

  28. Form

  29. Spatial : Location

  30. Audience : Embodiment

  31. Creation : Curation : Context

  32. Trace : Action

  33. Time

  34. Interchangeable : Temporary

  35. Juxtaposition : Contradiction : Relationship : Relational Aesthetics

  36. Organised Activity

  37. Duality

    1. Known : Unknown

    2. Active Perception

    3. Passive : Active

    4. Seeing : Being

    5. Unfinished : Overworked

    6. Representation : Re-presentation

Note : Even sitting and relating these words to one another has been an interesting exercise. Those that are alone, without synonym or apparent link would appear to be the most tangential, however i am not sure this is entirely true.