Artist Research

Research - Andy Warhol by Ally McGinn

Considered one of the most glamorous figures in contemporary art. Warhol was an eccentric figure, he became infamous for his eccentric way of seeing and experiencing the world. As I find is often the case, Duchamp said it best - “What's interesting is not that somebody would want to paint twenty-seven soup cans.  What’s interesting is the mind that would conceive of painting twenty-seven soup cans.” (Tompkins, 2013)

Fascinated with commerce and celebrity Warhol bridged the gap between the art world and the art market. (Warhol, 2007)

One of the basic tenants of commercialism is the wanting of something more. The purpose of advertising and other marketing strategies are to convince the viewer that they want something they don’t have, and that they must work hard to get it. This constant desire for more lies at the heart of our materialistic society.

For Warhol, this idea was something utterly fascinating. Working both against and with the idea of commercialism, Warhol worked with everyday materials as a way of showing that the things around us are worthy of as much respect, admiration and time as those we are taught to desire more. (Warhol, 2007) The things we already have can be as interesting as the things we don’t have, and therefore want.

The most famous example would be the soup can series. (Warhol, 2007) Highlighting the simple form, elegant design, and purposeful existence.

Andy Warhol (1964)  'Campbell's Soup Can' . Synthetic polymer paint on canvas. 50.8 x 40.6 cm. 

Andy Warhol (1964) 'Campbell's Soup Can'. Synthetic polymer paint on canvas. 50.8 x 40.6 cm. 

In 1964 Warhol produced ‘Brillo Box (soap pads).' (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) An accurate reproduction of a commercially available product, the boxes show his interest in the everyday commercialist world we live in.

What I find most interesting about the work is that it is the container for the commercial object that has been reproduced. The ‘viewer,' or buyer, in this case, see the cardboard ancestor of this artwork not when they are buying or using it, but when it is being shipped to the shop for them to purchase.

Acknowledging mass production, both in the making of the box and the meaning of it, the work was criticised for “capitulating to consumerism, ” (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) but that certainly wasn’t the prevailing opinion.  

Arthur Danto, an influential art critic, found Warhol’s Brillo boxes intriguing and wrote about them in an essay ‘Beyond the Brillo Box.' (Danto, 1998) In it, he surmised that it was Warhol, as the artist, that made these boxes anything more than what they were. Calling them “pretty good pieces of carpentry” (Danto, 1998) Danto speaks about them being indistinguishable from commercial brillo boxes, the only difference in them is the declaration from Warhol that they are art.

Warhol himself was a believer that anything an artist did was art, once they had become an artist. (Warhol, 2007)

It was this examination of the Brillo Boxes that led Danto to conclude; that it is the intervention of the artist and the invocation of artistic context that defines an artwork. This invocation of artistic context is what he termed, ‘The Artworld,' without which the artwork could not exist. (Danto, 1998)

Works like the box reproductions (Brillo pads were not the only source of influence in the 100 strong series that Warhol worked on) (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) blur the lines on authorship, primarily because of the way Warhol ran his practice.

Andy Warhol (1964) ' Brillo Box (Soap Pads)'.  Synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on wood. 43.3 x 43.2 x 36.5 cm.

Andy Warhol (1964) 'Brillo Box (Soap Pads)'. Synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on wood. 43.3 x 43.2 x 36.5 cm.

Working with a team, Warhol often delegated tasks, creating a near conveyer belt for artists and technicians, all working as part of a collaborative authorship.

In the first retrospective of his work in 1968 the entrance of the gallery was filled with 500 Brillo boxes, (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) but which boxes did Warhol work on himself, or even touch? And does that even matter? The art now exists and has become an autonomous entity in its own right, with inbuilt, ever-evolving meaning and message.

Warhol often gave plans of work to be made to the manufacturer's (in this case meaning individuals) who would work away from the originator of the idea. This reproduction, authorised as it was, can be considered a controversial topic.

In answer to the above questions – aside from the point made – is that in this case none of the boxes were made by Warhol, and none of them we even made of wood. In 2007 it was revealed, by someone linked to the exhibition, that there were no wooden boxes in the show.  Short on time and money someone (an unknown entity) purchased 500 cardboard boxes, directly from the factory in New York, which were shipped to Stockholm and displayed. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010)

I have to note here that Warhol would probably love the fact that his work has been increasing in value at a higher inflation rate than gold, (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) considered the most glamorous and valuable of commodities. In 1994 they sold for £3,700 each, by 2000 one sold for £50,000, in 2006 one reached £120,000. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010)

There has since been an air of controversy surrounding the authenticity of the boxes. It is the authentication board of the Andy Warhol Foundation, which has the final say on what is and isn’t authentic. Any work authenticated by the board achieves artistic fame, and a catalogue number, those that don’t make it through the process are crudely stamped with the word ‘denied’ in red ink, defining and marking it as unwanted and useless.

The controversy over the Brillo Boxes in the 1968 exhibition has since been explained. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) A rather entrepreneurial curator Pontus Hulten, twisted in the controversy throughout, had claimed to make the boxes at Warhol's request before the retrospective. It has since come to light that the fabrication of the boxes was done in 1990, three years after Warhol died.  His reasons for this have been argued and defended. A staunch critic of the consumerist art market Hulten did not need the money involved in a fraud like this. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) I hesitate to use the term fraud. As an art student, I feel a sense of freedom to speak about this controversy regarding what it means for art.

Regardless of the financial or moral implications of a ‘fraud’ like this, it brings up more questions about authenticity, providence and the falsity of the art market.

In fact, this ‘fraud’ could more accurately be considered a piece of performance art itself.

As Thomas Anderberg, a Swedish art critic, said: “I believe Hulten decided to show up the entire Warhol industry.” (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010)

The fact that the authenticity of Warhol's works is so complicated questions the validity of the entire process. In 2003 a print was denied by the foundation, even though its provenance was solid and it even had Warhols signature on the work. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) The defence for this rejection was that Warhol didn’t make the work, he only signed it. A disappointing response considering the way Warhol worked.

Who is the artist? What is the art? Does the artist have to touch the art? If the works are a series of reproductions why does it matter which one Warhol touched? The notion of artistic genius is at the forefront of the argument once more. The authentication board has defended itself by stating that its purpose is to clarify the distinctions between what he did make and what he didn’t make. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010) Personally, I think the more important consideration is why there is a difference in value between the two.

Sadly the integrity of the Warhol authenticity board has been called into question, and it faces an extended period of uncertainty. (Levy and Scott-Clark, 2010)

It doesn’t, however, negate the totality of Warhol's work; it only questions some of it.


Warhol was someone who believed that the world could work in a better way and that the way to do that was through the clever manipulation of the truth and our understanding of the way we see the world. (Warhol, 2007)

Rather than have a studio he called his space a factory. A contradicting conversation between art and production, Warhol argued that the two are inextricably linked. (Warhol, 2007) The lesson he saw in the factory is that we can produce things, things called art, in a different way than history would suggest. Traditionally, and in general terms, art is something that is created by an individual and enjoyed by an individual. The creation of 'Art' happens on massive scales, but the commercial side of the art world means that the final position for each piece is most often eventually either disposed of or owned by a single individual.

For Warhol a way around this was reproduction.  Which explains his interest in soup cans, screen printing, and Brillo boxes.

After reading that Picasso had made 4000 masterpieces in his lifetime, Warhol decided that he would create 4000 in one day. A goal he quickly failed, he did make 500 in a month, a feat Picasso probably didn’t achieve. (Warhol, 2007) (Although that does beg the question – what is a masterpiece?)

Warhol wanted to apply the notions of commercialism and mass-production to the ‘good’ things in life. (Warhol, 2007) Things he saw as necessary to the continued development (as opposed to the current stagnation) of the human race. The issue that is in evidence through his attempted record-breaking printmaking goals, as well as other aspects of his life, is that art remains partitioned from mass production. (Warhol, 2007) That the art market exists and is the foundation for the continued existence of art is common knowledge, although still argued tremendously, it is a very different creature from mass-market commercialism, which Warhol arguably edged towards.

Warhol was interested in large-scale impact. He could be argued to be one of the most prolific artists when it came to trying different things. He tried drawing, painting, printing, audio recording, photography, sculpture, magazine editing, clothing manufacturing, advertising, band management, directing, he even planned a chat show. (Warhol, 2007)

Warhol’s legacy challenges future artists to change the world, in a mass populist way, through the medium (or message) of art.  


The implications of Warhol's work, and perspective are far-reaching, including into my own practice.

I am a maker at heart, and it is through that production that I can question our assumptions about art and process, and hopefully inspire those questions in the viewer.

Warhol did this, extremely successfully, in his own, unique way, I can only hope to do it in mine.


Danto, A C. (1998) Beyond the Brillo Box: The visual arts in post-historical perspective. California: The university of California press.

Levy, A. and Scott-Clark, C. (2010) ‘Warhol’s box of tricks.’ The Guardian. [Online] Available from: [Accessed - 20.11.17].

Tompkins, C. (2013) Marcel Duchamp: The afternoon interviews. Brooklyn: Badlands Unlimited.

Warhol, A (2007) The Philosophy of Andy Warhol : From A and B and Back Again. St Ives : Penguin Books.


Research Methodologies - Lectures by Ally McGinn

As part of the Research Methodology module, we have been part of a lecture series. I have made extensive notes from each lecture, which have not, for the most part, formed pages on this blog. However that they have been influential is impossible to deny.

The most influential session was today's, and as a nod to the series as a whole, and this individual session, I'm going to summaries some of the most important points here.

Please note - the following writing comes from notes made in the lecture and my own summation and reflection post-lecture.

Andrew Southall

One of the staff at Bath Spa University, head of the MA in visual culture. Works with a primarily photographic practice, and is interested in the nature of representation in photography. (Southall, 2017)

Andrew Southall (2016)  Turned Timber.  Bromide Print. 50.17 x 58.42 cm.

Andrew Southall (2016) Turned Timber. Bromide Print. 50.17 x 58.42 cm.

Andrew described his practice through a series of works that have explored the making and creation of pieces of Shaker furniture. The exploration of these works is through a dynamic process of representation and presentation. He describes being driven by a sense of the thing itself and the fleeting nature of that representation.
(Southall, 2017) He enjoys the associations that come through the work, including the dynamic between truth and fiction, aesthetics and commercialism, function and purpose.

Andrew works with a knowledge of traditional conventions, to better understand ways those traditions shape the assumptions that come through adherence to those traditions. (Southall, 2017)

I think that Andrews talk, and particularly his interest in the play of truth and fiction for aesthetic purposes, seem to imply that aesthetics are for consumption. Given my growing interest in the impact of capitalism this is a question that I find very interesting.

Andrew describes his practice in terms of an interest in ‘calibration’. Calibrating our experience through imagery. He began to make works that explored the idea of calibration, and different forms of measuring things in life - often things that don’t need measuring.
(Southall, 2017)

This includes a wonderful piece that measures the weight of a stone (and arbitrary stone, that relates to the English unit of measurement) and defines the weight of that stone as ‘1’. This piece is visually and contextually arresting and reminds me of the subversive language of Amikam Toren.

Andrew finds the history of measurements quite fascinating, and admittedly, he has passed that interest onto me.

Other works have begun to explore the idea of representation in the present, creating artworks that I want to see in person. These works contain small ‘calibrated’ moments, often employing film and traditional photographic methods, with a unique twist.

An interesting point raised through the lecture was the nature of drawing. Andrew presented drawing as a representation of an initial idea (which it often is in the process of artists and makers). Which then shifts drawing as a representation of an original into an interesting dynamic. (Southall, 2017) In Andrew’s case, this is seen in the drawings that he uses as guides to make the pieces of furniture, but this notion has relevance for other uses of drawing. Especially considering my growing inclusion of drawing in my studio practice.

From this process, of recreating a piece of furniture from a drawing, Andrew has noted the prevalence of time, as a factor of the research, but also in the process itself. (Southall, 2017) This can be seen as another link, or response, to capitalism, in which we arguably take very little time in the making of things, and far more in the act of choosing them.

(Note added later - It's worth noting, and interrupting the flow to say, that I listened to the capitalism podcast in the morning and wrote a post on Marxism and capitalism throughout the day, so it's likely that I saw that link above others due to that thought occupying my mind. There are many other readings of this observation. For example, the link to the idea of the art object as unique due to the time taken, by a skilled individual, to make it. OR time as a reference to presence in the studio, which is a far more relevant association to my work.)

Once Andrew had finished building the wooden settee he took it to a forest, and photographed it in the landscape, which included the types of trees the wood in the chair came from. Represented in this way, in a picturesque landscape, shows the work in a new perspective. We are more used to thinking about the means of representation as the ‘thing’ that is contemplated, not the landscape itself. (Southall, 2017) This idea relates profoundly to my investigations of the studio and gallery, and the space of display.

This piece, and the relating series are planned as a form of ‘chain reaction’. Andrew has wonderful plans to take the pieces of furniture into various places, conducting interviews with various people. Documents of those interviews, and subjects of future interviews will form the backbone of the work. Andrew won't plan interviews beyond the first few, allowing suggestions for other interviewees coming from the interview themselves. (Southall, 2017)

With a focus on the lived experience Andrews process relies on a process of reproduction and representation, challenging normalised assumptions. We tell ourselves that something is real, and interact with it in ‘real’ ways, however the study of it, and the ‘truth’ of that reality is something far different.

Lydia Halcrow

Lydia is currently studying her PhD at Bath Spa. She came to speak to us about her practice, which is extremely interesting and i would highly recommend looking into.
Her PhD work is ‘An investigation of abandoned places through contemporary painting and mark making’. With more of a focus on mark making as things have progressed.
(Halcrow, 2017)

Lydia Halcrow (Unknown)  The Black Ground IV.  Ink, Graphite and Gesso on OS Map 139. Size unspecified.

Lydia Halcrow (Unknown) The Black Ground IV. Ink, Graphite and Gesso on OS Map 139. Size unspecified.

Lydia’s practice is based on the process of walking, through specific landscapes, and recording and responding to that landscape. During the walks she uses various processes to record marks, and map the walks. In the research she is exploring the history of the landscapes,academically and through personal experience, of herself and her grandmother. (Halcrow, 2017)

Dealing with the fleeting nature of memory and the materiality of place, Lydia’s work is creative and conceptually representational.

Lydia describes walking as a method of unpicking the reality of an unreliable, changeable, source. Investigating what's under the surface, in place and in memory.

Using painterly and drawing methods of mapping her work returns to the notion of the grid, in various ways. She makes small ‘things’ (metal scraped against her shoes and the floor, clay pressed against the hull of an abandoned ship) which form larger grids, growing as the work progresses. She also takes maps (of the location) on the walks. She creates rubbings, paintings, and drawings on top of these papers to create paintings that explore the reality of the landscape, and the act of walking, in different ways.(Halcrow, 2017)

She explores the experience of being in the location in line with an exploration of the context of the place. Lydia sometimes includes written records and observations of the walks she takes in layers of the work. Something she mentions wanting to explore in more detail as her PhD continues.
(Halcrow, 2017)

For me this re-iterates an idea i have had recently. To add reflections, and potentially some of these blog posts, into the work itself. Probably in pencil.

Lydia quotes the grids of John Virtue as a source of inspiration. These are amalgamations of small drawings and paintings that give a snapshot of an ongoing narrative.
While walking our attention is in a state of constant shift, this method of presentation works with those ideas. The viewer's eye is drawn around the space in varying ways, and for varying reasons. Like the experience of being in the place, each experience would be slightly different.

She also noted that when you repeat a walk you are then influenced by the previous walk. This is another important idea, the influence of repeated activity, that i would like to come back to in the future. (Halcrow, 2017)

Mapping is an important part of her practice, including notions of scale. Lydia notes that maps are seen as an accurate representation of information, but that information is tailored, and far from total. (Halcrow, 2017) It is also worth noting that the fact that maps are generally created by humans, or by machines made by humans, adds a layer of fallibility to them.

The ‘maps’ made by Lydia are no less important for the difference in information exchanged. Which maps are more accurate? An aerial view, or a more in depth exploration, as we see in her works. Why do we map certain things and not others. Why not map things 1:1.

Lydia mentioned a hidden layer in painting, the ghost layer. Which is something i must look into in more detail (Halcrow, 2017).

Lydia’s work deals with layers, scale, erasure and multiple viewpoints. Echoes of decay and entropy are evident in the output. She renders clear something that was unnavigable.

Her process developed through a walking methodology. Capturing visual motifs that are distinct to that place. It is a phenomenological practice. Exploring image and material. She spoke of the importance materiality is to the practice, the textures she is walking over and observing directly. Letting that point the direction the work takes. (Examples being the use of clay taken from the estuary and salt in Porlock) (Halcrow, 2017)

These are her own series of maps. Time spent in the place develops a familiarity with it. From that familiarity there comes an unfamiliarity, because you look again. In a similar way to the effect of a familiar word over and over again, changing the perceptions of it.

Working In the coast brings the issue of tidal changes, which washes away the immediate history. Bringing a sense of urgency to her practice. (Halcrow, 2017)

Lydia brought up an interesting point and one that fits with my current passions - presence. The more you are present the more you see.

She is certainly a processed led artist. Once you answer one question you find many more. Through presence and process, you find more and more, into a nearly endless process.

She describes not being fixated on the final object or output but instead allowing the process and materials to shape the nature of the work.


The reason I have included this lecture over others was the combination of two lectures describing practices that seemed to fit with the methodology of my own experimentation.

While the subject matter is vastly different, and these are not the only lecture we have had, there are the lectures about practice-led-research that have come after my recent shift in the studio and research. Therefore I believe I have found these two speakers particularly inspiring both because they are brilliantly questioning practices, and because I feel more confident in where I am and what I am doing, and so ready to see those practices more in-line with my own rather than something in the far distance that I hope to aspire to. (For my own sake I must clarify - this is not to say that I believe I have reached a similar ‘level’ if such a thing exists, but that I can see the potential for what I'm doing now. Which has altered the way I perceive these practices.)


Whiting, M. Southall, A. Halcrow, L. (2017) Research Methodology Lecture Series. Bath Spa University. 5th December 2017.

Research - Arte Povera by Ally McGinn

An Italian art movement, prominent in the late 60’s and 70’s that reaffirmed that anything could and should be used as art. Characterised by the subversion of process and non-traditional everyday materials. Translated as ‘poor art,’ (Lumley, 2004) the term describes a step away from traditional materials into those considered ‘poor’ including soil, rubbish, and twigs. (Lumley, 2004) The use of materials considered traditionally non-art disrupts the commercial system of the art market found in the contemporary gallery.

Germano Celant, an Italian art critic, and curator coined the term in 1967. To him, the term doesn’t refer to cheap materials, but a break from tradition. He wrote a series of tests and curated exhibitions that established a collective identity that began in cities across Italy as it was seized in the grip of economic instability. (Lumley, 2004)

Works of Arte Povera vary in scale and media but were united in context. The use of ‘poor’ materials was a direct contrast to our increasing dependence on and habitual use of technology. (Lumley, 2004)

Jannis Kounellis (1968)  Untitled.  Wood and wool. 

Jannis Kounellis (1968) Untitled. Wood and wool. 

The primary period of production for Arte Povera was between 1967 and 1972. (Christov-Bakargiev, 2005) It has been called Italy’s contribution to conceptual art. (Christov-Bakargiev, 2005) The influence of Arte Povera has continued to current trends, I can certainly say I am following a similar thread.

In the late 60’s sculptors began emphasising the process of making and materials natural properties. (Christov-Bakargiev, 2005) Developing from the Modernists definition of the purity of media this can be seen as a natural progression in the collective exploration of the nature of art. The use of everyday materials continued, they were often malleable, volatile or elastic and the artists allow the materials to act as they would when certain circumstances are applied. (ie; gravity, electricity and magnetism) (Christov-Bakargiev, 2005)

In this way, Arte Povera artworks are marked by evidence of their own making.

Works that speak about materials in this way distort ideas about traditional value in art. Many changed appearance when shown in different galleries or would need to be remade each time. (Christov-Bakargiev, 2005) These works became interlinked with their immediate surroundings, drawing the viewers attention to the architecture of the gallery and the space of the work.

Changing physical states typify the work, (Christov-Bakargiev, 2005) not trying to represent anything other than themselves and their transformations.

"What was interesting about Arte Povera was that there was an international network of artists immediately speaking to each other, who could understand that in the turmoil of the late 60s the ways in which art-making could be transformed was something that they shared and were united in questioning," said Matthew Gale, head of displays at the Tate about a long-term exhibition of Arte Povera at Tate Modern. (Walker, 2009)

The interrogation of what art is, through a challenge of its boundaries, is still ongoing in contemporary explorations. Questioning the nature of art can be seen as the foundation of all contemporary art.

In a Guardian article about the exhibition at Tate, the writer describes Arte Povera works as “appear[ing] just the sort of thing, if included in a modern Turner prize shortlist, to set off a fresh outbreak of "is this art?" consternation in the press.” (Walker, 2009)

Michelangelo Pistoletto (1967, 1974)  Venus of the Rags.  Marble and textiles.

Michelangelo Pistoletto (1967, 1974) Venus of the Rags. Marble and textiles.

A similar form can be seen in Lynda Benglis’s ‘Quartered Meteor’ from 1969. (Christov-Bakargiev, 2005)

Linda Benglis ( 1969, cast 1975)  Quartered Meteor.  Lead and steel on steel base.

Linda Benglis ( 1969, cast 1975) Quartered Meteor. Lead and steel on steel base.


These artists continued to develop the use of the everyday, into a challenging form that questioned our assumptions and preconceptions about these materials. The use of ‘poor’ or unwanted materials the artworks questions, transforms and extends their purpose.


Christov-Bakargiev, C. ed. (2005) Arte Povera. London : Phaidon.

Lumley, R. (2004) Arte Povera. London : Tate Publishing.

Walker, P. (2009) ‘Rich vein of poor art - Tate Modern revisits influence of Arte Povera’, ‘The Guardian’, [Online] Avaialible from: [Accessed 03.12.17].


Research - Amikam Toren by Ally McGinn

Toren first worked as a stage designer before moving to London in 1968, moving to art after receiving a grant to study at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Some of the departments within the company seemed ridiculous to the Israeli born artist. (Baker, 2013)

Toren is drawn to conceptual art but felt that he wanted to create something that could be touched, something I can relate to in many ways. (Baker, 2013)

He created a series of large-scale paintings, each containing an abstracted letter formed with paint made from pulping an issue of the London times. (Jessica Silverman Gallery, Undated) This makes the materials hidden because without hearing or reading that story the origin of the materials is unclear. This incorporation of a hidden context within the materials is an interesting mix of conceptual and material.

Amikam Toren (1992)  Of the Times - Thursday April 16th, 1992.  Pulped newspaper and PVA on canvas, paper and card. 234 x 219 cm.

Amikam Toren (1992) Of the Times - Thursday April 16th, 1992. Pulped newspaper and PVA on canvas, paper and card. 234 x 219 cm.

A continuation of this idea, which makes me happy in a way I cannot articulate, is what Toren calls a ‘pidgin’ painting, (Baker, 2013) (Jessica Silverman Gallery, Undated) which is a stretched canvas with removed sections of the fabric, the removed parts are turned into a form of paint (using a coffee grinder) which covers the remainder of the surface. This relational and dependant narrative is a beautifully executed idea.

Amikam Toren (2002)  Pidgin Painting (Yessss).  Pulped canvas, PVA and pencil. 71 x 59 Inches.

Amikam Toren (2002) Pidgin Painting (Yessss). Pulped canvas, PVA and pencil. 71 x 59 Inches.

In the early 1970’s Toren became obsessed with fragments, an obsession he claims continues to this day as a foundation for his work. (Baker, 2013)

Amikam Toren (1975)  Simple Fraction III.  Glass, araldite, shelf, drawing. 36 x 64 x 9 cm.

Amikam Toren (1975) Simple Fraction III. Glass, araldite, shelf, drawing. 36 x 64 x 9 cm.

In the Simple Fraction series, he takes an object that has been broken and would be regarded as useless (or pre-use regarding recycling) in this case a broken milk bottle.  (Jessica Silverman Gallery, Undated) Painstakingly reassembled the reformed object is displayed next to a drawing of the cracks formed. This series is an example of the multiple links found in his work. Like a fractal, the work speaks more the more the viewer looks at it. The white paper, the focus on the lines and marks in the drawing, the white shelf the bottle sits on, and the simplistic wooden frame all speak about links and meaning in the work.

Amikam Toren (1979)  Neither a Teapot nor a Painting.  Installation, mixed media. 179 x 15 x 2 cm. 

Amikam Toren (1979) Neither a Teapot nor a Painting. Installation, mixed media. 179 x 15 x 2 cm. 

In 1979 he created ‘Neither a teapot nor a painting’ a piece invoking Magritte’s ‘this is not a pipe.' (Artsy, Undated) I now find myself stuck between which piece is my favourite depiction of this idea. Magritte for its originality and impact and Toren’s for the attention to materiality in the concept. Toren turned a teapot into the paint which he then used to paint an image of the teapot that no longer exists. The painting is displayed alongside one of the unwanted fragments of the teapot, placed in a pigment jar.  To me, at the moment, this idea and presentation are quite simply perfect.

"The drive," Toren said, "was simply to reverse the notion that in representation, the subject is excluded from its representation." (Baker, 2013)

Toren had no formal art education, instead, he worked as an assistant to another artist for a few years. (Baker, 2013) The artist, Peter Hesse, opposed the commercial side of the artworld, an opinion that stuck with Toren throughout his career.  Toren's work contains a dry humour which he saw as inevitable given that his work is about the deconstruction of the human condition.

When talking about humour, he said, "I don't seek it, because I don't want to be a kind of entertainer," he said. "But it matters to me to the extent it would have mattered to somebody like Chekhov, who wasn't a comedian, but there is a lot of humour in his plays because they deal with the human condition." (Baker, 2013)

In his piece, ‘One’ from 2014 a section of a primed canvas has been cut from the surface and stuck in reverse back onto the surface. Showing the reality of the object and its materials, a recurring theme in Toren's work. (Jessica Silverman Gallery, Undated)

Toren worked on a series he called ‘Armchair paintings’ from the 1980’s. The set is composed of paintings purchased from street markets, which Toren then works on top of.  Adding a simplistic text style, each piece, and the resulting increase in the value of the artworks, speaks about the authorship and value of the piece, and of the artwork itself. (Jessica Silverman Gallery, Undated)

Toren’s works as a tutor at City and Guilds of London.  On his staff page he says about his work; “Underlying my practice is the idea that representation is a tautology. (a chair would be made out of its own matter into a painting of itself). This position reverses the age-old maxim, which states that representation excludes its subject.” (City and Guilds, Undated)

His process combines a witty dialogue between accumulation and reduction, and I find I can look at it far longer than the work of some other artists. Each piece is a simple everyday object or idea, and the reduction and assemblage of information moves his work into a practice about language, meaning itself and our interpretations of it. 

Amikam Toren (2012)  A User's Guide to Married Life.  Screen-print on Eco Craft 600 micro paper. 27.5 x 63.2cm

Amikam Toren (2012) A User's Guide to Married Life. Screen-print on Eco Craft 600 micro paper. 27.5 x 63.2cm

A note has to be made about his piece  ‘A users guide to married life’. (Artsy, Undated) Reminiscent of the simple, yet very intelligent, connections Toren is brilliant at making, this edition can be enjoyed for its simplicity or as a tool to explore more profound meaning. Which is probably my favourite thing about Toren as an artist.

The meaning is visual and brought by the viewer, for the most part. They will read this in a way that adds an element of mirroring of their own life.  Simple pictorial clues will mean different things to different people depending on what affect and effect marriage has had on their experience.


It's obvious from the text how much I enjoy Toren’s work. The simple witticism of his work inspires me and is something I would like to capture, in my own way.

I've been inspired by Toren to disassemble canvas, physically. This began last year with fringing but I've begun to take it further with the aim of turning the material of canvas into a thick liquid that could be formed into a mold or reshaped.


Artsy (Undated) Amikam Toren : Neither a Teapot nor a Painting [Online] Available from: [Accessed 18.11.17].

Artsy (Undated) Amikam Toren : A User’s Guide to Married Life [Online] Available from: [Accessed 18.11.17].

Baker, K. (2013) Amikam Toren finally able to live by his art [Online] Available from: [Accessed 17.11.17].

City and Guilds (Undated) Amikam Toren : Fine Art Tutor [Online] Available from: [Accessed 17.11.17].

Jessica Silverman Gallery (Undated) Amikam Toren [Online] Available from: [Accessed 17.11.17].

Tate (Undated) Amikam Toren [Online] Available from: [Accessed 17.11.17].

Research- Exhibition Trip - Spike Island by Ally McGinn

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition]. Spike Island, Bristol. 30 September - 17 December 2017.

Visit: 26th November 2017

This exhibition was recommended to me by fellow students on the MA as they began to get to know my work. I went with my daughter, the perspective of a 6-year-old is extremely interesting, and it quickly overtook Jasper Johns as my favourite exhibition experience this year.

From the exhibition catalogue

Kim Yong-Ik is a Korean artist born in 1947 in Seoul. This is his first solo show in Europe and was preceded by an exhibition in Korea. He is known for his questioning nature and playful execution of works. Kim has remained firmly detached from any set art movement, a distance that allows him to subvert and challenge the practices of art institutions. This description fits the underlying nature of the works in this show.

A major turning point for Kim was the repression in his country in the 1980’s. At a time when he was writing a thesis about Duchamp, he was invited to take part in a show, the ‘Young Artists Biennial’. His works, which were paintings, were boxed, shipped and shown in the exhibition, still in their boxes. The boxes were stacked as a sculpture in the exhibition. This work serves as a response to the political upheaval and Modernist painting.

Kim is known for his uncertainty in his place in the art world, and the ‘role art should play in society’. His continuing practice pushed painting into sculpture, often working with the space of display within the work.  

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

A key piece in the exhibition, for me, was made in this time. Near an access door to the gallery at Spike Island, a fantastic placement for this work, is a pile of unwanted works, and packaging materials. The pile is left haphazardly and the viewer is left unsure whether the works are simply waiting to be cleared away. Due to the nature of the gallery, without titles on the walls, the only clue that this an artwork is found in the accompanying catalogue and exhibition guide.

This ambiguous work is utterly brilliant, it immediately forces the viewer to ask a question.
Kim said about the work that “it is also a metaphor for many of my parent’s generation who crossed the line of life and death based on their decision to be left wing or right wing.” A deeply personal and political message that the artist has found expression with through the work.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim's works interact with the space around them without becoming totally site-specific. They fit the space, without being reliant on it. Something I am attempting to achieve in my works. 

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

The title of the exhibition comes from writing on one of the works in the show. Writing is a key element of Kim’s practice. The stack of boxed paintings has a new addition for this exhibition. He has written ‘Spike Island’ and the date one each crate.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

The single most exciting feature of this exhibition, seen here as a whole, is the writing on the walls Kim has made to explain things about the work. These small additions are a site specific interaction with the presentation of an existing artwork. They are small, and light, and could easily be missed. Many require the viewer to sit on the floor to see them.
I took photos of a few, and they are brilliant additions to the work, and show the performative aspect of practice.

Kim returns to many artworks, seeing the process as ongoing, and enjoys allowing time and chance to affect the works.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

The final section of the exhibition, depending on how you move around the space, features recent works. These sit between painting and sculpture, paintings within sculptures. Kim has encased paintings inside coffin-like cases. Known as the ‘Coffin’ series these works are inscribed with various writings. An accompanying paper translates these for the viewer.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Many of the texts describe or somehow comment on the work, sometimes directly but often romantically or poetically. Some are simply documentary. The inclusion of these elements of text contextualises the work, within the work.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

This exhibition has been extremely influential, and I imagine it will only become more influential as I continue to review it, and hopefully visit once more before it closes.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.  The placement of this piece is intentionally challenging. Spike Island is a large open space, with a central section. This piece is against one of the walls of the central section, challenging the viewers perception of the narrative action of gallery space. 

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

The placement of this piece is intentionally challenging. Spike Island is a large open space, with a central section. This piece is against one of the walls of the central section, challenging the viewers perception of the narrative action of gallery space. 

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.  This combination of pieces transcends time, the element on the wall is a recent execution of an older idea. The repetition of marks and form brings the space into the work, while the different materials make us question the materials themselves. 

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

This combination of pieces transcends time, the element on the wall is a recent execution of an older idea. The repetition of marks and form brings the space into the work, while the different materials make us question the materials themselves. 


This exhibition has quickly become one of the most influential I have seen this year. The works are a combination of Kim's personal subject matter (including circles) and a questioning of art that is conceptually engaging. 
The works are carefully arranged, and full of surprises. His works and the context behind them have made me question, in the best possible way, my own practice and influences. 
It is really through this exhibition, and a subsequent reading of the accompanying material, that I have realised the links of my work to capitalism. A link later reiterated with the text The Experiential Turn. 

I havent written as much as I normally might about this exhibition, the experience shows more in the shift in practice that has come from the combination of this exhibition, studio research and contextual research in the past few weeks. 
I need to go back to the exhibition before it closes. I need another look and more time to think about these intricate implications.

Research - Robert Rauschenberg by Ally McGinn

American painter, sculptor, printmaker, photographer and performance artist who lived and worked in New York.  Rauschenberg didn't identify with the movements at the time, often acting against them. In the case of Abstract Expressionism, the significant art movement of the time in New York, he thought that to be a good Abstract Expressionist you had to have “time to feel sorry for yourself,” something he considered a waste of time. (McEwan, 2008)

Rauschenberg was an inventive figure, he constantly worked at the edge of thinking, working against the norms of the art world at the time. He described his practice as one of “bringing the outside in” (Manufacturing Intellect, 2016) a process that involved the use of found materials, images and objects. His practice can be described as re-presenting and re-contextualising the everyday, which could be an argument for what art itself is.

Rauschenberg is an extremely influential figure most famously known for his ‘combines’ created throughout the 1950’s, which as the name suggests combined painting and sculpture.

Robert Rauschenberg (1960)  Pilgrim . Combine: oil, graphite, paper, printed paper, and fabric on canvas with painted wood chair. 201.3 × 136.8 × 47.3 cm.

Robert Rauschenberg (1960) Pilgrim. Combine: oil, graphite, paper, printed paper, and fabric on canvas with painted wood chair. 201.3 × 136.8 × 47.3 cm.

Rauschenberg positioned his work in the spaces between. Talking about his work, he said, "Painting relates both to art and life. Neither can be made – I try to act in the gap between the two." (McEwan, 2008) Which can be applied to the mediums he explored, he bridged the gap between more than painting and sculpture. No medium was out of the reach of his curiosity, which he saw as one of the most important features an artist can have. (Manufacturing Intellect, 2016) Rauschenberg was a man who saw interest and beauty in all areas around him and worked with those ideas to form new conversations.

“I really feel sorry for people who think things like soap dishes or mirrors or Coke bottles are ugly,” he once said, “because they’re surrounded by things like that all day long, and it must make them miserable.” (Kimmelman, 2008)

These gaps are undefined areas, albeit more extensively explored now than in the 1950’s, and that lack of definition gave Rauschenberg the freedom to explore with a light-hearted intelligence that comes through in interviews.

Rauschenberg avoided over-contextualising his works, preferring to deal with the issue of making rather than prescribing meaning. (Manufacturing Intellect, 2016)

Rauschenberg studied under Josef Albers, who had previously taught at the Bauhaus. Albers had a firm view of where he stood in the artworld, and what art is, which was translated into a preliminary course that offered little in the way of freedom. This stable standpoint allowed Rauschenberg to push hard against those ideas, and while Albers might not be considered an artistic influence for Rauschenberg in the traditional sense, he informed the artist Rauschenberg would become. (Manufacturing Intellect, 2016) (McEwan, 2008) (Kimmelman, 2008)

While Rauschenberg didn't associate with any particular movement he has been linked with the Dadaists; His work was sometimes called Neo-Dadaist.  (Robert Rauschenberg, 2016)

When asked “what guides you?” he responded with the beautifully dry, “A lack of purpose.” Which highlights his belief in the function of art, which is to say that it has less to do with the artist than the art itself. As he put it “I have a sense that when I'm working well, I'm invisible.”(Manufacturing Intellect, 2016)

He had an endless sense of what art is, in that it could be anything. Rauschenberg was asked whether he had suffered from a form of writer's block, the only answer, “no,” because he would “just go do something else.” (Manufacturing Intellect, 2016)

Rauschenberg was an avid egalitarian, believing in the equality of materials, subjects, and people. There is an honesty in this inclusion, which can be seen in the work. He was a man who was unafraid of challenging the paradigm.

Rauschenberg was an artist inspired by his surroundings and the people he met on his journeys. Reading about him and, more importantly, watching interviews with him hint at the fascinating way he saw the world. His prolific practice becomes more understandable when his perspective is appreciated, to Rauschenberg anything could be art with the right artist to pull strings.

Rauschenberg saw the potential of the materials he was working with, but more importantly perhaps saw the reality of what they already are. He worked with a surface of coloured pages from newspapers so that the painting wouldn’t have a beginning. (Robert Rauschenberg, 2016) He already had a surface to work on.  He then added to what was already there. It could be argued that paints already do this to a degree. If you begin with the possibilities of the material, and you then let them do what they want to do.  The artist becomes a bystander.

Robert Rauschenberg (1954/55)  Collection.  Oil, paper, fabric, wood, and metal on canvas. 203.2 x 243.84 x 8.89 cm.

Robert Rauschenberg (1954/55) Collection. Oil, paper, fabric, wood, and metal on canvas. 203.2 x 243.84 x 8.89 cm.

In his combines, the hierarchy of the materials is questioned and challenged. The use of found objects in his work was far from a new idea (he was working 30 years after Duchamp's’ ‘Fountain’) and was being explored by other artists at the time, however unlike some of the other artists Rauschenberg recognised that it is the relationships of the images he uses that have the most meaning. (Robert Rauschenberg, 2016)

Equally inspiring for Rauschenberg was the work of dadaist Kurt Schwitters, whose collages contained rubbish collected off the streets. (Unnamed, 2013) Rauschenberg combined found objects (often found in his local neighbourhood in New York), with collage and painting. In this approach, he combined the reality of the objects represented against the illusionistic nature of painting. The medium became the representation of itself.

NASA invited Rauschenberg to watch the launch of Apollo 11 in 1969 (The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Undated) and was an artist working with developing technologies. In 1966 he launched ‘experiments in art and technology’ a non-profit organisation to promote work between artists and engineers. (Tate, Undated)

Robert Rauschenberg (1961)  This Is a Portrait of Iris Clert If I Say So.  Telegram with envelope. 44.8 x 22.5 cm.

Robert Rauschenberg (1961) This Is a Portrait of Iris Clert If I Say So. Telegram with envelope. 44.8 x 22.5 cm.

As an example that could be considered both condescending and enlightened Rauschenberg submitted a piece to the Galerie Iris Clert, for an exhibition where the subject was the owner herself. Rauschenberg’s offering was a short telegraph stating “This is a portrait of Iris Clert if I say so.” I have read a few opinions of this piece as one of the signs of the size of the artist's ego, but I think it can be taken to mean far more than that, echoing the opinion of ‘Fountain’ in its original form. Regardless of the artist's intentions, the fact remains, that art through nomination has precedent, and this ‘artwork’ is seen as one because of the very reason stated on it. (Lippard, 1997)

Robert Rauschenberg (1951)  White Painting [three   panel  ].  Latex paint on canvas. 182.88 x 174.32 cm.

Robert Rauschenberg (1951) White Painting [three panel]. Latex paint on canvas. 182.88 x 174.32 cm.

In 1951 he created a series of ‘White Paintings.'  The antithesis of the emotional and colourful work being done by the Abstract Expressionists, this series has been said to have been a precursor to Minimalism, by a decade.

The works in the series are formed of groups of modular panels, each the same size, shape, and form. Their size is based on a simple mathematical formula; the width is half the length of the height. This is the limit of the prescribed control that the artist has, beyond which the works become something more. Conceptual paintings.

They were first shown in 1953, at which point they were not well received, but by the mid-1960’s, when Minimalism was a more accepted form, they were re-shown and regarded far more positively.  (SFMOMA, Undated)

Rauschenberg was friends with composer and artist John Cage, whose theories of chance were influential. (Painters painting, 1973) The ‘White Paintings’ have been compared to Cage’s musical piece 4”33’, in which the musician plays nothing, and the music is the ambient and other sounds in the space itself. The ‘White Paintings’ can be seen similarly, their uniform surface allows for an appreciation of the space in the gallery, and the shadows cast onto the paintings themselves become a focus, as opposed to any subject within the paintings themselves. These white panels reflect the light of the space and reflect the mute potential of a blank canvas while highlighting the features of the existing surface.

An interesting note, I thought, was that the surface of these works is more important than any historical integrity for them. If the surface were marred in any way then it would be repainted, something Rauschenberg confirmed in a 1999 interview, so they become something beyond nostalgia. These panels have been repainted by some of Rauschenberg’s artist friends, including Cy Twombly and Brice Marden. (SFMOMA, 1999)

In the same discussion, Rauschenberg referred to the works as clocks, a way, if you were a sensitive enough viewer, to read the details of the space around you, using the surface of the paintings, in this sense they are mirrors that encourage the viewer to see beyond the work, to the world around them.

Robert Rauschenberg (1957)    Factum I and Factum II . Combine painting: oil, ink, pencil, crayon, paper, fabric, newspaper, printed reproductions, and printed paper on canvas. 156 x 91 cm. 

Robert Rauschenberg (1957) Factum I and Factum II. Combine painting: oil, ink, pencil, crayon, paper, fabric, newspaper, printed reproductions, and printed paper on canvas. 156 x 91 cm. 

In 1957 he created a diptych, which was displayed at a recent exhibition at the Tate Modern. (Robert Rauschenberg, 2016) ‘Factum 1’ and ‘Factum 2’ are collages that are identical in size and near identical on the surface. After creating the first, the second was made as close to the ‘original’ as the materials, and the artist's hand would allow. The pieces highlight the importance of the chance elements in the work, the drips that could not be controlled entirely for example. These aspects of the incidental and uncontrolled form a pause of sorts between the two pieces, a visual stutter as the viewer attempts to unpick the differences between the works. The external visuals Rauschenberg has used are identical, but other paint marks are not, which opens an interesting dialogue about the nature of accidents.

Robert Rauschenberg (1953)    Erased de Kooning Drawing . Traces of drawing media on paper with label and gilded frame. 64.14 x 55.25 x 1.27 cm.

Robert Rauschenberg (1953) Erased de Kooning Drawing. Traces of drawing media on paper with label and gilded frame. 64.14 x 55.25 x 1.27 cm.

The more I look into Rauschenberg’s extensive works, the more I find of interest, but it remains relatively simple to articulate my favourite. ‘Erased de Kooning Drawing.’ Rauschenberg asked himself if there was a way to create something with an eraser.  When he realised that rubbing out one of his drawings was not wholly satisfying, he decided that what he needed was a drawing that was already a work of art.  Although initially reluctant De Kooning was convinced, although he proceeded to find a drawing with a combination of marks that would be difficult for Rauschenberg to erase, it took several weeks for him to complete the work.

The work has been compared to Duchamp’s LHOOQ, in which Duchamp drew a moustache on the Mona Lisa.

While the drawing is sometimes seen as a negative comment by Rauschenberg, the artist meant it as anything but.  Firstly it was done with Willem de Kooning’s consent and is often considered both a performative and collaborative work, the title contained within the frame was written by Jasper Johns. (Painters Painting, 1973)

For me, the work is important on various levels.  The fact that Rauschenberg chose De Kooning, who was possibly the most prominent Abstract Expressionist at the time, that he was able to create something with something normally used for destruction, that the result is minimal, that he is deleting a drawing (which was still and is still seen as the vital prelude to painting) and most importantly for me, that he is questioning what is art.  Was it art before he started??  Is it art now?? Whether both are true, or only one is, the comment and the process remain essential for our understanding of what art can be, and what artists can do.

Robert Rauschenberg was a man who responded to the world around him with clarity and confidence. His works are creative, challenging and deeply communicative. To Rauschenberg art doesn’t come from art, it comes from the world around us, and it should reflect that.

Attempting to quantify the influence of Rauschenberg on the artworld, and the world in general, would be incredibly difficult, and this short text barely touches the surface of a man I find endlessly fascinating, however, it shows a few of the ideas that Rauschenberg worked with and part of his perspective. (it might be better to say ‘the perspective he was’because everything I've read and seen of the man shows that his art was such a part of who he was that he became Art.)

A short note about the Tate Modern Exhibition (2016) made after my visit.

Robert Rauschenberg (1955-59)    Monument . Combine: oil, paper, fabric, printed paper, printed reproductions, metal, wood, rubber shoe heel, and tennis ball on canvas with oil and rubber tire on Angora goat on wood platform mounted on four casters. 106.7 x 160.7 x 163.8 cm.

Robert Rauschenberg (1955-59) Monument. Combine: oil, paper, fabric, printed paper, printed reproductions, metal, wood, rubber shoe heel, and tennis ball on canvas with oil and rubber tire on Angora goat on wood platform mounted on four casters. 106.7 x 160.7 x 163.8 cm.

Being able to see works I have only appreciated either digitally or in print remains indescribable. The rooms are varied, and occasionally the single link between the work is Rauschenberg himself. His prolific practice is explored, though apparently not fully experienced, through a brilliantly curated show, which retains a coherence that is a risk when investigating such a massive and varied archive of works.

This exhibition seems to epitomise the man rather than focus on any single aspect of his work. This exhibition showed the variety and accomplishment of this artist. Rauschenberg is hugely inspirational to me, regarding his fantastic work and the way he worked and lived.

As a retrospective, it is incredibly successful, in my opinion, as it balances the variety and development of his work without losing coherence or contact.

Rauschenberg was an incredibly inspirational man and artist, one who claimed to never experience writers block.  In his work the line between art and life is diminished, understanding the artist it becomes more evident that this line was reduced in his life as well as his studio. Art was his life, and he continued to do it whether feeling inspired and productive or depressed and drinking. A restless, curious, passionate, talented and inspirational artist and figure, the exhibition is one I am singularly glad I was able to go to.


Kimmelman, M. (2008) ‘Robert Rauschenberg, American Artist, dies at 82’, New York Times, [Online] New York Times. Avaliable from: [Accessed 18.11.18].

Lippard, L. ed (1997) Six years: the dematerialization of the art object from 1966 to 1972…. London: University of California Press.

Manufacturing Intellect (2016) Robert Rauschenberg Interview (1998) [Online Video] Avaliable from: [Accessed 17.11.17].

McEwan, J. (2008) ‘Robert Rauschenberg: Restlessly experimental artist whose career was a celebration of change’, Independent, [Online] Avaliable from: [Accessed 18.11.17].

Painters painting: a candid history of the modern art scene. (1973) [DVD] Emille de Antonio. USA: Arthouse films.

Robert Rauschenberg (2016) [Exhibition]. Tate Modern, London. 1 December 2016 - 2 April 2017.

SFMOMA (Undated) ‘Robert Rauschenberg, White Painting [three panel], 1951’ [Online] SFMOMA. Available from: [Accessed 17.11.17].

SFMOMA (1999) ‘Robert Rauschenberg, video interview by David A. Ross, Walter Hopps, Gary Garrels, and Peter Samis, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, May 6, 1999.’ [Online] Available from: [Accessed 17.11.17].

Tate (Undated) ‘Experiements in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) [Online] Available from: [Accessed 17.11.17].

The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation (Undated) ‘The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation’ [Online] Available from: [Accessed 17.11.17].

Unnamed (2013) ‘Kurt Schwitters, inspiration of Pop Art’, The Telegraph, [Online] Available from: [Accessed 18.11.17].

Research - Brief - Chance and Incident in Art by Ally McGinn

My current theoretical research is mainly focussed on philosophy around what art is, but it would be remiss of me to ignore totally one of the fundamental influences and sources of my work.

Researching about what art is, enables me to explore ways to subvert our understanding of art in practical terms. Using chance and incidental elements in the studio is an act of subversion in itself. Unwanted and discarded elements invoke notions of potentiality, purpose and the everyday.

Many of the materials I use are obtained through or are objects of, chance. However, their use is not due to an interest in chance as a subject, but rather through their disassociation from choice or intention and the resulting dissociation in the artwork.

I am well known in shared studios for collecting unwanted materials, rubbish and works. Using these in my work is an important part of my process. Working with objects, traces or unnoticed elements encourages me to look at things differently. Focussing on things that normally remain unnoticed feeds not only the material of my practice but often ideas within it.

Using materials that are considered incidental extends their potentiality past the purpose they have fulfilled. My practice often juxtaposes these extended materials with those that have had their potential halted, never achieving what they could be, instead being subverted into an artwork (which admittedly then becomes their purpose).

In this way, chance is deeply associated with purpose and function within my work.

I've been looking at artists who use chance and incident in their work and to illustrate the importance of this idea in my practice I plan to explore two of those here.

John Cage

John cage is an artist and composer, known for his work with chance. Cage worked at a time when Abstract Expressionism was a major focus in contemporary art, he had a close friendship with other artists like Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. (Brown, 2001)

In his work 4’33” (1952) he used the ambient noise of a recital hall to create the music. (Inversen, 2010) The performer came onstage, and sat in front of a grand piano. Hands poised he played nothing for 4 minutes and 33 seconds, after which he left without saying anything. The audience did not know what to expect during the first performance and it only highlighted the purpose of the piece. (Inversen, 2010) What he composed was nothing but silence, the composition heard at each performance was made by the audience, by their shuffling, sighing or other noises.  He created a situation rather than a piece of music.  In the same ways, many artists try to create an experience.

This piece highlights the chance nature of artistic materials (in this case sounds) in the world around us and argues the case for the potential inclusion of any chance occurrence in art.

I could easily write a few thousand words on Cage and the implications of his practical research into chance and the unconsidered in the everyday, however, it will do to note here that he created exhibitions, artworks, compositions and ‘happenings’ that embraced the ideas of chance and what those ideas mean.

I’ll end this short note on a brilliant man with my favourite quote about music theory - "Which is more musical: a truck passing by a factory or a truck passing by a music school?" (Cage, 1961)


Natasha Kidd

Natasha Kidd (2017) Documentary photo of 'Overspill'. Paint Workshop. Bath.

Natasha Kidd (2017) Documentary photo of 'Overspill'. Paint Workshop. Bath.

Kidd is an artist who we are lucky enough to have as a lecturer at Bath Spa University. Her work has been an inspiration and she is the person responsible for the biggest compliment I have ever received about my work - that it made her consider the space we are in differently.

Her work is primarily concerned with painting machines, and working with painting in new ways. The main piece I want to discuss here is ‘Overfill’ which is a series of machines that pump white paint into the space behind a canvas. (Kidd, 2017) This space fills and the paint overspills through small holes at the top of the canvas, before returning to a reservoir underneath each painting.

The painting machines are displayed working, and the results become almost iconic remnants of these industrial explorations of paint. These explorations deny any expressionist or emotional influence. They speak about paint in its purest form and allow the paint to speak for itself. The machines and the resulting canvases are paintings but at the same time they are sculptural forms, and they speak about paint far more than a traditional (or many contemporary paintings) can.

I have been lucky enough to see this work a few times over the last few years. The machines, now dried, are in a few offices around the campus. One of them is currently running in the paint workshop at the university. The small hardened drips that form over months on the canvas had been chipped off, so the machine has been set up once more to reform these chance elements.

In an exhibition in 2000 called ‘Microswitch’ the machines were hydraulic and dipped an entire canvas into white paint and then pulled it up again to allow the excess to drip back into the vat of white. Again and again, the canvas is dipped by the hydraulics, adding layers of paint, covering the old remnants with the new. The show ran for 6 weeks, with the dipping running throughout. (Healy, Undated)

As the layers dry the paint forms inconsistencies and unique forms that cannot be replicated or anticipated because they are true forms of chance.  Each time this work is shown the result is different, the differences might be minute but they are there. Using white paint further highlights these small yet extremely important differences.  Because these differences are only affected by the machine and the paint itself the resulting effects are aesthetically organic.

The viewers are experiencing the creation process, live. In this way, the pieces are performative, with the machine as the performer.  The canvas then serves as a record of the performance.

Natasha Kidd, as the creator of the machine, has control in certain elements, the colour of paint, the timing of the dips etc but the resulting paintings have very little of her personal influence on them. The machine is the artist and the visual form is incidental.


I could easily continue this post, I have conducted a great deal of research into ‘chance’, and there are numerous books and artists who have done the same.

This does not serve as a full view of this subject but instead uses two artists to serve as a note to the importance chance and the incidental in my practice.


Brown, K. (2001) John Cage Visual Art : To Sober and Quiet the Mind. San Francisco : Cambridge University Press.

Cage, J. (1961) Silence : Lectures and Writings. Wesleyan University Press.

Healy, J. (Undated) ‘Natasha Kidd: Microswitch’ [Online] Available from: [Accessed 28.11.17].

Iversen, M. (2010) Chance (Documents of Contemporary Art). MIT Press.

Kidd, N (2017) Natasha Kidd, Artists Talk. Bath Spa University. 21.11.17.

Research - Fischli and Weiss by Ally McGinn

A collaborative practice of Swiss artists Peter Fischli (born: 1952) and David Weiss (born: 1946). Known for transforming the commonplace with a dose of wit and humor, the duo has been popular since the late 70’s. (Tate, 2006)

Working with a vast array of media, it seems that nothing is off limits in their quest for inclusion, their works cover installation, sculpture, film, and photography. (Matthew Marks Gallery, Undated) Their work has been so varied in medium and subject that a real exploration of their work would be far longer than this short introduction to the pair.

Their work seems to capture a childlike sense of discovery and the aim to pass this onto the viewer, encouraging them to take another look at their surroundings. Their work, while aesthetically chaotic, offers a meditation on daily life, in particular, our perceptions of it. By purposefully misusing objects and materials, they reference and reject the common usage and ask us to question it as well.

The duo is happier stepping back from the tricky issue of meaning, preferring to let the objects, and more importantly the relationships between them, to speak for them. (Guggenheim, 2016)

Working with the idea of duality (Guggenheim, 2016) (in more ways than the act of collaboration) their work invokes understood opposites found in modern culture – Labor and leisure, beauty and kitsch, the banal and the sublime, ad infinitum.

They challenge the divisions between these ‘opposites’ and uncover the falsity of our learned belief system.

Their work aims to confuse, question and identify. The objects collaborate with each other; the process is one of collaboration between the artists as well as an overlapping production of artworks that ‘collaborate’ (or at the very least inform) one another.  A practice of conversation.

In a video piece from 1987, ‘The way things go’, the audience watches a series of everyday objects clattering around a warehouse in Zurich in a seemingly continuous 30-minute piece. The work has been shown repeatedly (one of the beautiful things about the film) and has been included in many group shows, and is available for public purchase. (Matthew Marks Gallery, Undated)

For the opening of the Tate Modern in 2000, they produced near perfect copies of workshop debris, ‘Untitled’. (Tate, 2006) The work is composed of objects commonly found in artists studios, arranged in a way that resembles a workshop, yet each piece has been meticulously recreated. These illusionistic objects reference their subject but remain separate from it. The objects pretend to be their subject, and that realisation, on the part of the viewer, is an integral part of the work for me.

Fischli and Weiss (1993-2006)  Untitled (Tate).  Installation view. Acrylic paint on polyurethane foam and mixed media. Dimensions variable.

Fischli and Weiss (1993-2006) Untitled (Tate). Installation view. Acrylic paint on polyurethane foam and mixed media. Dimensions variable.

This piece was the last major polyurethane installations they made, concluding a 20-year exploration. (Tate, 2006) Seen against the white walls of the gallery these materials are presented to the viewer as art, and the representation is a complex one.

Speaking about the link to Duchamp's readymades, Fischli commented: “Duchamp’s objects could revert back to everyday life at any point in time. Our objects can’t do that; they’re only there to be contemplated. They’re all objects from the world of utility and function, but they’ve become utterly useless.” (Tate, 2006)

Their willingness to include any material shows a stance that appreciates the possibility of anything as art.

Fischli and Weiss (1987)  Sewer Workers.  Cast Rubber. 265 x 475 x 190 mm

Fischli and Weiss (1987) Sewer Workers. Cast Rubber. 265 x 475 x 190 mm

This appreciation of perspective can be seen in ‘Sewer Workers’ (1987) which highlights workmen doing a job often ignored or otherwise dismissed. (Tate, 2006) This piece, showing the processing of waste, can be described as a self-portrait, of sorts. Fischli and Weiss do just that, they process the waste of daily life, through the lens of an artist and the presentation of an artwork.

Using black rubber as a sculptural material for ‘Sewer Workers’ makes a scene that is familiar, although as stated often ignored, more jarring, the reality of the material, and its associatiobs, conflict with the banality of the subject.

Their lives have been described as a form of sketchbook when everything they did had the potential to be nominated as art - even documentation of an airport they passed through. (Milar, 2012)

Though their portfolio is extensive and eclectic (to say the least) their visual language is an intelligent and humorous commentary on life, art and almost anything in between. Their work challenges notions of the everyday and people's perceptions of the world around them, which I think is a simple test for great art.


Guggenheim (2016) Peter Fischli David Weiss: How to Work Better [Online] Available from: [Accessed 15.11.17].

Matthew Marks Gallery (Undated) Peter Fischli David Weiss [Online] Available from: [Accessed 15.11.17].

Millar, J. (2012) Fischli and Weiss: the art of humour [Online] The Guardian. Available from: ( [Accessed 16.11.17].

Tate (2006) Fischli and Weiss: exhibition room guide, room 10 [Online] Available from: [Accessed 15.11.17].

Tate (2006) Fischli and Weiss: exhibition room guide, room 1 [Online] Available from: [Accessed 15.11.17].

Tate (2006) Fischli and Weiss Flowers and Questions. A Retrospective [Online] Available from: [Accessed 15.11.17].

Research - Fernanda Gomes by Ally McGinn

Gomes is a Brazilian visual artist, born in 1960, she was active in the 1980’s with her first solo show in 1997. (Schwabsky, 2002)

Gomes uses leftover everyday objects, including furniture, glasses, mirrors, string, hair, cigarette ends, small pieces of bone, worn wood, plastic bags, gold leaf, pencils, paper, water, rubber balls, and even crispbread in her assembled objects.

Her works question what art is by encouraging the viewer to ask whether they are paintings. Blurring the line between painting, sculpture and object Gomes calls her works ‘things’. (Whitelegg, 2013)

Often including multiple elements, the works can be considered to be installations.  She carefully complies the objects, altered and unaltered, into arrangements that resemble cartographies.

Many of the elements are covered in white paint, a reference to the studio and the act of preparing to paint. Using the same, balancing, colour on multiple objects equalise them, visually and metaphorically. The objects reference nothing but themselves, and their relational interactions with each other.

Fernanda Gomes (2014)  Untitled.  Canvas, wood, paint. 32 x 58 x 3.3cm

Fernanda Gomes (2014) Untitled. Canvas, wood, paint. 32 x 58 x 3.3cm

The white paint removes references and acts as a form of reduction. In places, her editing makes it almost appear to disappear.

Gomes chooses not to title her works, adding to the ambiguity of each. I find this very interesting and akin to the act of priming a surface, to open it for consideration. (Alison Jacques Gallery, Undated)

Gomes assembles the works in the gallery spaces, turning the gallery into a temporary studio. Her practice entails careful consideration in the space, which she describes as an attempt to “try and enlarge perception, as a stone thrown in the water” (Schwabsky, 2002). This practical intensive interaction with the gallery space intimately relates her work to the space of display, which in the case of artworks is the space in which these things reside, their immediate environment.

This is something I deeply admire, and constantly seek to achieve with my work.

Her visual language can be described as delicate and shows a respect for the objects she claims. Utilising the mundane Gomes aggrandises objects we would normally ignore, making us reconsider the material world. By treating the materials with such reverence they become almost relics, a link to the idea of the museum or archive.

The relationships between the objects chosen bring unexpected dialogues to life. In some pieces, the relationship is nearly imperceptible – like a single piece of transparent thread against a white wall.

On a personal note - I feel I have an element of subtlety but it is something I would like to explore more.

Gomes speaks about the “insufficiency of words”, in art. (Schwabsky, 2002) I’ve often felt this is the case, otherwise, all artists would be writers. This understanding of the nature of language and its interaction with art is evident in her handling of objects and their purpose.

Fernanda Gomes (2017) Installation view of studio.

Fernanda Gomes (2017) Installation view of studio.

Her work is a balance of consideration, addition and reduction; hovering between mundane and significant, while capturing a sensitivity to the visual world. Gomes is an artist who forces us to ask whether we are looking at a painting, or simply a metaphor for one, either way, the questions remain


Alison Jacques Gallery (Undated) Fernanda Gomes [Online] Alison Jacques Gallery. Available from: [Accessed 11.11.17].

Schwabsky, B. (2002) Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting. London: Phaidon.

Whitelegg, I. (2013) ‘Fernanda Gomes’. Frieze, [Online] Available from: [Accessed 11.11.17].