Note/Thought - Thought Dump by Ally McGinn

I keep three repositories of thoughts and notes, physical sketchbooks (which are used/turned into an edited sketchbook) voice memo’s (which are typed up and amalgamated into relevant writings - statements, presentations, reflections, research etc) and an online document that I can edit anywhere.

The following notes/statements are taken from the online document. Titled ‘Reflective Thoughts’ I usually make some form of note once a day. These thoughts are important to the practice, and in understanding the effects research is having on my thinking.

I could separate these into separate blog posts, and for the purposes of accurately recording the dates of theory, I plan to in future. For now, a selected grouping of recent interesting thoughts, with links to research and reflective thinking.


10th November

Objects in time.

The object is a constant where time is motion. The object pauses the moment?


12th November

Revealing thought through process.


16th November

The limits of knowledge.

We know something by first defining its edges, its limits.


17th November

Writing what I know.

I write things down, and then I know them.


My practice shows that art is a way of looking in that the practice is a form of perception, that is subverted to form new conversations.
This perceptual practice becomes a lot closer to the way a viewer interacts with the work. I see something and ask how it is art, or how I can define it as such.
An example of this is an idea i had to include a ‘For Sale’ sign in my space (an idea I’m not sure ill act upon). The inspiration for this came from driving home, I saw a for sale sign that had fallen over in the road and I wondered what it would mean to bring that into my work. That inspiration was incidental to my functional drive.
This is another example of the ways we notice things that are abnormal. And in this case an object whose function has been altered, it's purpose undone.

Reflection - often when I find I'm stuck in the studio, a natural part of the daily rhythm, I drive home and think about the work and the world and I find new things I want to explore, new questions I want to ask.



20th November

Bit of a bad night again, I'm exhausted and ill. It's not a good mix.

If I aim for progress too much I'll jump right over the point.


Idea - the title and description are shown on the wall, with the images of the artworks (with no other information) reproduced in a catalogue.


A Kierkegaard quote that I need to look into more is that people tend to be “subjective with themselves and objective with others” where we should be striving for the opposite. That is the state of despair that Kierkegaard suggests that we all live in. One of the main types of despair that people fall into, according to Kierkegaard, is one where you tie your sense of yourself, of the value of yourself, into something external that we have no true control over. Which is really interesting.


Analysis Paralysis - fantastic title name.


21st November

Expansion and contraction seem to be key terms in the practice, that recur in theory. The balance of the two is key to a sustainable practice.


22nd November

Descriptions, opinions and interpretations.


An idea - ‘Art in the 22nd century’ - then there is nothing on the wall. The inevitable future of art?


23rd November

The threads on the wall. Because there are 14 it becomes about the screws, and their location in relation to one another, more than about the canvas string.

The inclusion of frames is because it is about framing and the way we frame art in different ways.

Maybe these are two works of art.


28th November

The act of occupying space


The act of organisation makes things smaller, makes them fit. (Glove fitting into pocket)


29th November

Installation implies a single whole but I think my work can be compartmentalised into individual pieces.


Potentiality is by definition, transitory. It is forever in the future, and can never be guaranteed.


Communicative transactions.

Artist and viewer cooperate in a mutually beneficial transaction.


What do they think I'm doing? Where do they think I'm coming from? To try to figure that out I need to try to see things from their shoes, to take a step back from the work and understand where they think I'm coming from. With my kind of work, that is a big consideration. People trying to understand what I'm thinking.


Maybe my method is reflection and perception.


30th November

Art cannot be contained within words.

Art shows us ways to see everything as images, decipherable and beautiful for their complexity.


If we can go as far as we can see, and understand as far as we can see, then what really matters in the case of movement and development, is a change in perspective.


2nd December

We should not think of the past as fact that cannot be changed. It is changed, everything we continue to do builds upon and alters the context of, what has come before. So the past can be changed by actions, and perceptions of the present.


3rd December

Life in Context: Context in Life.

Everything can be described as knowledge. Context is knowledge (specified). Everything has context.

Context is even at the heart of the nature: nurture debate. The two cannot be undone or separated because they are together. Both exist in a single person, who we are, and cannot be distanced.

Context is at the heart of what it means to be human. It can be said that to be human is to contextualise. We cannot ‘be’ without something to ‘be’ in. The thing we are ‘beings’ in, is our context and is therefore indiscriminate from ‘being’ itself.


The Experiential Turn.

Shows that one of the purposes of art can be a grounding into the experiential moment, for the distanced person that is the modern human.

Everyday life distances is from the things we really want to be doing and the people that we really are.


6th December

Art is always relational and contextual, we cannot get away from those things


Artists refuse to take anything for granted.


Bringing something into focus so that you can then go on to talk about it - as a description of art?


7th December

Relational sentences.

Further impetus for the idea of sentence structure as maths - Once you put two things together they speak to each other.


Philosophy and art are intrinsically related and yet vastly different.


“Often wrong but never in doubt” an old, anecdotal, military saying. It means that once you have decided on the best logical decision you shouldn’t doubt yourself and should continue with purpose.


They are philosophical works, I haven't really noted that enough. That is part of what they do - a philosophical exploration.


They create opportunities to explore.


Note/Thought - Attention by Ally McGinn

When something isn't the way we expect it to be we pay more attention to it. This can be seen in many aspects of our lives.  So the things we expect to see become almost background noise.


It was a lamppost that inspired this thought. Normally we ignore them, but when one is bent it becomes obvious. Is this where the phrase “sticks out like a sore thumb” originates? The idea that something that looks different sticks out?


Note/Thought - Future research highlighted by Ally McGinn

Something I need to spend some time thinking about and begin to articulate is the painterly language in the work.

I have not explored this in length with language. Arguably this is evident in the work itself but I feel it's something I could think about in the coming month. To this end, a focused aim for research could be to explore painterly language. I feel as though I have the ability to use installation as a thinking tool now, in that when I actively perceive ‘things’ I can apply the perspective of object-in-space to that ‘thing’. So, I an able to explore the history and theory of painterly language without becoming re-immersed in painting entirely. I have moved away from painting in its traditional form and can return to it as a subject in more detail.

I have begun this with the text on gesture, which I found very engaging.

Agamben, G. (2000) ‘Notes on Gesture’. In: Agamben, G. Means Without End: Notes on Politics. London: University of Minnesota Press. Avaliable from:  [Accessed 12.11.17].

Agamben, G. (2000) ‘Notes on Gesture’. In: Agamben, G. Means Without End: Notes on Politics. London: University of Minnesota Press. Avaliable from: [Accessed 12.11.17].

Note/Thought - Implied Competence by Ally McGinn

A phrase to remember - implied competence - relates to the trust a viewer places in an artwork and the time they give to the exchange.

I was thinking about driving, which has an implied competence level (a driving license) which is not always accurate.

Maybe someone else has already coined this term but it would appear that the implied competence level of an artwork is very reliant on its location, or where it is being shown. Our trust in the implied competence gives us the freedom to look at artworks with a different eye and allows anything to be art.


Note/Thought - Meaning and intention by Ally McGinn

It's important for me to remember that the things I am interested in can be very distinct from the meaning in the pieces I create.  The things I am interested in can lead to the pieces because the process of making art is also a form of research.

This would be an argument inline with ‘The Intentional Fallacy’ in which the artists meaning becomes irrelevant when the viewer is introduced to the work, because that introduction brings a new set of paradigms and perspectives are introduced, so the meaning becomes something else anyway.

In practical terms, and very relevant to the moment, this shows the importance of being in the studio, working, and not getting too obsessed with what it all means.

Meaning (as imposed by the viewer) and context (as imposed by me) can be two very distinct things.

Note/Thought - Primary and secondary qualities by Ally McGinn

Using branches brings the art of the natural world into the gallery and my work, without referencing a single element of it.  Covering those elements and referencing the natural world itself? Removing associations? And yet we still know what it is.

Painting these things in a uniform grey removes the primary qualities of them as objects.

NOTE - As defined by philosopher John Locke the primary qualities of an object are its inherent qualities, and the secondary qualities are our subjective experience of it. 

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio shot. 15.11.17

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio shot. 15.11.17

Note/Thought - Meaning and Influence by Ally McGinn

Something i've only recently come to be able to articulate is the distance, although still connected, between the research i do (which informs and influences my work) and the meaning found in the work i create. The two are inextricably linked, but remain distinct from one another.

This is an important factor, as in previous years i have struggled to attempt to contain the research done in the context of the work, which can be detrimental to the creation of the work itself. To put it simply - there is a reason the two are different, and that reason separates the context of both, and it should be separate.

Note/Thought - Personal definitions by Ally McGinn

In addition to the standard, agreed upon, definitions of elements of our lives we all apply our own personal adjustments to things.

E.g. My definitions of days are slightly different to the normal calendar. Because I stay up past midnight and work most evenings I class any work done before I sleep as part of the preceding day (even if it occurs after midnight).

Note/Thought - It is Art! by Ally McGinn




This document is long! 2470!!



That number is a lie! 2476



I need to sleep 2482






Blog posts as art.



I've been thinking more about formatting, and the visual look of small thoughts. (Like the one above) Is that not art?


Context nominated through aesthetics.











Is it art because I nominate it as such? (And arguably I've spent the last 72 hours focussed on researching and thinking about artistic context so I am most definitely an artist at the moment) or is it not art because I'm bloody tired? Or is it that I simply can't stop thinking?



I think it's the last one.












I have assimilated the knowledge of the definitions of epistemology and ontology. (That's a very long sentence!) I can call on them at will. I remember them.












I should definitely put the phone down now












I've decided it is art































Note - this is a section taken from a document i keep on my phone titled 'reflective throughts'. I try to write in the document at least once a day, but sometimes its more often.

Note/Thought - Ongoing - Related Words by Ally McGinn

This is a post that will (Hopefully) continue to be updated as time progresses. This is a place for related words, that don't necessarily have anywhere else to go, but their interrelation is interesting nonetheless. 

Aesthetic - Anaesthetic

Universe - Univesity

Reception - Perception

Research - Re-search

Description - Deconstruction

Interface - intervention - interest  

context - creation - curation 

write - right

undo - redo

Decode - decide

Intent - interpretation (one before, the other after. But what is the thing in the middle? The artwork? Artist? Context? Experience?)

Ally McGinn (2017) [Studio documentation] Balance

Ally McGinn (2017) [Studio documentation] Balance

Note/Thought - Beauty by Ally McGinn

Beauty is a complex term in art, especially in art schools. Ive got a blog post on the go that will speak more about beauty (and taste) but for now a short note. 

Beauty adds, or can add, a level of accessibility to the work. Beauty is a cultural construct that is part of the artists toolkit. 


Note/Thought - Getting lost by Ally McGinn

My work is progressing into an area that I'm unsure is entirely clarified, but in a tutorial yesterday with Andrea she affirmed that often we inhabit the area around where we want to be, looking for the way in.

In a lovely coincidence, or through the law of large numbers, this visual metaphor was repeated by Tim Davies (paint technician and artist) yesterday afternoon when talking about his own work.

This is a reminder not to worry about the end result or finding a single piece of context that describes the work. That clarity will come with time, for now, I need to work through the ideas, the final idea and context will be defined through the amalgamation and inspiration of ideas coming out now.

This is similar to the way I research. I send out my interest in areas around, what will be, my core interest. Later that core interest can be fully defined and the information gathered can be applied or amalgamated into an essay or other presented findings.

This is how I worked on my dissertation, which ended up being an extremely enjoyable, if not challenging, task.  In retrospect, it seems to be the only way I can work, although it's hard to see sometimes when inside it - it is an anxious place.