What is Art?

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: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2010/aug/21/warhol-brillo-boxes-scandal-fraud [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 - Authorship, creation, originality, appropriation, authenticity and ownership by Ally McGinn

Ally McGinn (2016)  Kenneally.  Artists rag with oil and acrylic. 134 x 91 cm.

Ally McGinn (2016) Kenneally. Artists rag with oil and acrylic. 134 x 91 cm.

The idea of authorship is so interlinked with other ideas that it’s hard to isolate it without touching on a few other things. This post is a relatively brief exploration of the notion of authorship and associated concerns – originality, appropriation, ownership, authenticity, and creation.

A few of these ideas were discussed in my dissertation, and the following is a more in-depth view of these ideas.

Beginning with the beginning – Creation

Dissertation excerpt “The concept of ‘creating’ is highly contested.  Roland Barthes and Walter Benjamin questioned authorship in the 20th century. (Barthes, 1977) Both discussed whether there is an author at all and how much has to be in place for authorship to happen. Barthes wrote about the death of the author, suggesting that “the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.” (Barthes, 1977: 148) Michel Foucault agrees, arguing that the concept of the author allows for an almost tyrannical rule that restricts the free-thinking of the reader, and by extension the viewer. (Foucault, 1984: 121)

Exploring the work of people like Derrida and other philosophers, we can see how interconnected and dependent the internal and external are in any artwork. In any piece of art, how much of the creation is due to the artist and how much to the ‘Artworld’?

The question is not one that necessarily needs (or can be) to be answered, but its existence must be acknowledged to better understand the idea of authorship.

Can we claim authorship over anything? It wouldn’t be difficult to argue that if there is no creation, then there is no authorship, that everything made is re-contextualising or re-presenting.  However, that argument would change the perspective of ownership in the modern world and its history. It does beg the question, how can you claim ownership of an idea?


An artist creates. This is one of the fundamental principles of art, whether contested or not (and it is highly contested). (Marriner, 2015) At the heart of this creation is the idea of originality. Modern society and the human condition seems to continually imply and reject the notion that everything has already been invented.

There can be no entirely original inventions because even the smallest part of the whole has elements that have already been designed, made or explored.

Is it only in the combination of existing things that originality is found?

It is arguably true that total originality is a myth. As humans, we are combinations of genetic, historical and societal events and attributes that combine to form the person we become. Artworks, especially the good ones, are remarkably similar to people in this regard. Take any artwork, made anywhere in the world, and it is merely a matter of knowledge to be able to find the links to other artworks throughout history, as well as links to various different themes, issues, and ideas that exist in our world.

Maybe there is no original art, just varying degrees of transparency?


What is it that makes an artist the author of an artwork? If the ideas of creation and originality are questionable, then the question of authorship is even more muddied. It is generally agreed that art can be anything, or that anything can be art. This inclusion means that the question of the author becomes a complicated one. Is the manufacturer of paint an artist? The question then becomes one of language. What is the definition of an artist, and who gets to decide which people fit the bill? One crucial factor seems to be that the author has the ultimate responsibility to whatever objectives they choose to pursue through the work.

Marcel Duchamp is the foundational figure of these ideas in art. His readymades, which were selected through “visual indifference” (Tompkins, 2013) and with a sense of irony and humour, epitomise nomination as an art form.

If we take Duchamp's assertion that readymades can be art, which I most certainly do, then the tools that an artist uses are already art. If Michael Landy’s art bin (Bishop, 2005) is art, then so are the artworks artists deem non-art. Performance, environments, social change, and any other action or object that an artist chooses to nominate can be, and are, art…...but then who is the artist?


A word must be said on appropriation; a word that is synonymous (in the art world) with authorship. Appropriation can be said to not only be a modern idea. Defined as the intentional borrowing, copying, and alteration of preexisting images and objects, appropriation has been considered a legitimate tool for artists as long as there has been art.

Appropriation is defined as the art of using pre-existing objects or images with little or no transformation applied to them, which can be one description applied to both my process and some of the pieces created recently.

In art terms to appropriate is to adapt, borrow, recycle or sample aspects (or the entire form) of human-made visual culture (although it can be argued that appropriation from naturally occurring visuals is also appropriation).

Appropriation is accompanied by the re-contextualisation of the object or image.  Even if this is just the artist saying, “it is art.”

Appropriation can be explained as "the taking over, into a work of art, of a real object or even an existing work of art." (Tate, Undated) The Tate traces the practice back to Cubism and Dada through to Surrealism, pop art and Neo-geo artists in the 1980’s. (Tate, Undated)

What is considered the first piece of appropriation in art was done during the Cubist movement, although who did it first is still in question. (it was either Picasso or Braque) By adding a piece of oilcloth onto the canvas and later working with newspaper and other materials appropriation began through collage. The two then used appropriation to explore ideas of the significance of realism. Showing that appropriation, like creativity, can be considered a tool for the artist to examine broader questions.

The practice of adding appropriated imagery has been expanded to include entire works of other artists, claimed by someone else, in blatant and defended plagiarism, Richard Prince being the prime example. (Richard Prince, Undated) Who famously appropriated images from Marlboro cigarettes, re-photographing them and presenting them as art.

I've discussed the implications of Duchamps readymades in more than one other blog post, so I'll dispense with that here, other than to say that here again Duchamp intersects visual culture. The readymades were appropriated objects, as well as nominated ones. (Tompkins, 2013)

Appropriation was continued and developed by the Dadaists and collage artists like Kurt Schwitters. (Tate, Undated) Found objects had become a recognised material, and a tool artists began to think with.

A link to another post can be found in Schwitters’ “Merz”, which is a precursor of the development of installation art.

Surrealism took found objects and subverted our expectations of them to form new meaning.

Robert Rauschenberg made what he termed ‘combines,' literally combining readymade objects like tyres or beds, painting, silkscreens, collage, and photography. More on Rauschenberg in another post. (Robert Rauschenberg, 2016)

Later artists like Klaus Oldenberg (Evans, 2009) and Andy Warhol (Evans, 2009) appropriated commercial images and images from popular culture. To both artists pop culture is accessible to all, regardless of class, or education. No matter who you were, it meant the same thing.

In the 1960’s appropriation artist, Elaine Sturtevant created works that were copies of other artworks, with little interaction, nominating them as art. (Evans, 2009)  Created using the same techniques, occasionally with advice from the artist being copied, each work had a mistake in creation, to distinguish between the copy and original. This process, and the resulting ‘new’ work, openly acknowledges its status as a copy; challenging the concept of the author.

When Duchamp nominated his readymades, and Warhol appropriated popular culture they chose certain objects to become art. The work of Sturtevant, and mine eschews this level of decision, by allowing other artists to determine what is worthy to be treated as art.

One of the best-known artists, who work with appropriation as a subject as well as a tool, is Sherrie Levine. I recently saw some of her work at the David Zwirner gallery in London. (Sherrie Levine, 2017)

Levine is primarily a photographer, popular in the 1980’s for reproducing, through photography, recognisable works of art.

Through this change in medium, she questions the author of the artwork and the very nature of authorship.

Sherrie Levine (1996)  Fountain [Budda]  Cast bronze. 30.48 x 40.32 x 45.72 cm. 

Sherrie Levine (1996) Fountain [Budda] Cast bronze. 30.48 x 40.32 x 45.72 cm. 

Levine explored this idea in sculpture, recreating ‘fountain’ by Marcel Duchamp in bronze (The Broad Gallery, Undated) (which is arguably as ‘real’ as replicas seen in galleries today - see my post on the Dali/Duchamp exhibition at the RA for more context around this comment) among other works.

One of her most famous series were photographic reproductions of photographs by Walker Evans. Levine took photographs from the exhibition catalogue and presented (or maybe nominated) these as her work. (Sherrie Levine, 2017)

Artist Michael Mandiberg took this idea one step further in 2001. (Maniberg, 2001) He created an online archive of the images (taken from the same catalogue) which could be accessed and, with precise instructions, printed by anyone with access to the internet and a printer. Viewers can also print a certificate of authenticity (for a Mandiberg).

This work challenges the commodity that Levine's work became, and it would be interesting to find out what she thought of the website - www.aftersherrielevine.com

Artist Mike Bidlo painted reproductions (although he didn't call them that) of works by famous artists, notably Pollock, Warhol and Duchamp. (Evans, 2009)

Often, as can be seen with Levine, Mandiberg and Bidlo, the artists use the original ‘creator’s name in their own titles. Showing that the intention is not to steal, or otherwise claim any of the original skill of the works, indeed it could be said that their content becomes if not irrelevant than at least less important than the fact that they are appropriated.

This is probably most interesting in the case of remade readymades, recreations of Duchamp's works. Arguably the second artist is doing what Duchamp himself did, albeit looking in a different ‘everyday’ for their source material - the everyday of the artworld.

This is an extremely important point in my practice, and a term I often use when collecting materials from around my own, and others, working spaces.

Appropriation has sparked in numerous copyright lawsuits. One of the reasons appropriation is such a controversial subject is the existence of the ‘Artworld’, a term coined by Arthur Danto (explained further in other posts) that describes the foundational context that surrounds any artwork. (Danto, 1964) As the revelation suggests, anything can be art, and art often challenges our assumptions, in which appropriation is a useful tool.

The work of these artists is linked by an inclusion of large components of the work of other artists, from the start. Traditionally the artist is held responsible for all aspects of their creations. Gerhard Richter suggested that art is “ a series of yes or no questions with a yes at the end.” (Richter, 2000)

Even when chance is considered, the artist is still deciding to include or remove something. This is what makes art open to interpretation, in questioning why the artist did something we can interpret the artwork as art.

Total appropriation, or near enough, seems to eschew any responsibility for the details of the work. (Although there are enough artworks in existence, even famous ones, that the decision by these artists arguably comes in the choice of what to reproduce.) Instead, the works reflect the decisions taken by the artist subjects.

My recent works have a similar sense of authorship and responsibility, although certainly on a scale.

These artists are the authors of their work, this point is fact rather than opinion and is repeatedly evidenced. The fact that they are needs no arguing, but the reason is interesting and instead the subject of the work. They are art because they are nominated art, and the artists achieve the recognition of the work as such. That recognition is an important factor when considering the author of the work. Art is only Art with the existence of an artworld, and that artworld is built on a foundation of mutual recognition.

The work of these, and other, artists could be seen as evidence that the author is dead. However, they are closer to comments on the purpose of authorship, and originality, than rejecting it.

Appropriation artists are sometimes seen as undermining notions of artistic authorship and even skill, but the intention is usually far from negative, and in fact, serves as evidence that originality is not all it would appear, and that art has the potential to ask questions we might not typically ask.

The pressure to be original is felt by artists around the world, and yet our very understanding of the term is flawed, we are an amalgamation of influences and experiences, as are artworks. The inclusion of appropriated materials can be done for many reasons, and different artists will have different interpretations of the meaning of these items, as will the viewers, but the inclusion itself has a particular meaning.

One thing that these artists show is that originality is not a prerequisite for art.

I'll end the section on appropriation with three quotes from Michalis Pichler’s ‘Statements on Appropriation’ which contained 24 statements, 6 by the artist, about appropriation, pulled out of a hat. (Pichler, 2009)

“Ultimately, any sign or word is susceptible to being converted into something else, even into its opposite.”

“Plagiarism is necessary, progress implies it.”

“No poet, no artist, of any art has his complete meaning alone.”


Along with the idea of originality comes the notion of authenticity. Primarily associated with the art market, there is an implicit authenticity required for something to be considered ‘Art’. There are of course exceptions to every rule, but generally, we trust that the ‘Art’ that we are looking at is what the artist is presenting it as, even if that is a planned pretence.

There is also an element of trust implied within the art gallery, the level of which depends on the status of the institution. We expect works shown at the Royal Academy or the Tate to be ‘Art’ whether we like or understand it.

Beyond the financial or historical implications, authenticity is, as many of the other terms in this text, a tool in the artist's work. It is used by artists to express ideas and to explore our understanding. Using the notion of authenticity can invoke questions about what we perceive as art.


When an author claims a work as their own, they are claiming a form of temporary ownership.  That ownership is vital for the nomination of the work as Art.

As discussed above, contemporary art is filled with artists who have taken this conversation to its extreme, often resulting in lawsuits and lengthy debates over authenticity (another term intrinsically linked to this subject). If we accept that no work is original, then we are all plagiarists, and plagiarism is a fact of creation, rather than merely something to be avoided.

Ownership, when discussed in the art world, brings the art market into the conversation, bringing with it the truth of the commodity that all artworks are - no matter the intention.

The art market is a symbiotic partner to the art world, so interlinked that they are dependent upon one another. (The worlds most expensive painting, 2011)

Artworks are commodities, and the prices of the most expensive artworks are continuing to rise. Even artworks created to reject the art market, like environmental art, can be commercialised (in that case through documentation and reproduction)

Many of my pieces discus, or inspire, the artwork as a commodity (occasionally unintentionally) and whether that discussion is a rejection or a celebration is mostly a question for the viewer. From my perspective, I consider them both. I dislike the commercialism of the modern world and believe that it could be changed for the better but (in the art world at least) I understand the need for it and the purpose it has.

These works have no internal answer to the question of whether the artwork as a commodity is a positive or a negative, they merely embody the question.

A position I choose for many of my works. They are intentionally ambiguous on opinion. I think that is one of the reasons I always include chance elements and unwanted items, the removal of hierarchy and aesthetic preference negates the idea of opinion and adds to the questions invoked.

Conclusion - sort of

At its foundation, it is important to remember that these ideas are metaphysical conversations. Each is as open to interpretation as art itself, and have inspired thinkers for centuries.

The point, as convoluted as it seems, appears to be that nothing is as simple as it first looks. Authenticity, originality, authorship, and creation are all made complicated when applied to art. There is no substantial formula, nor any rules that cannot be broken. The critical factor in the examination of these issues is the artist. It is not in the creation of the work that these conversations exist but in defence and explanation of them.

Regarding my work, these ideas recur regularly. From the collection of unwanted materials, failed experiments and placed canvases, each of my pieces contains an element of shared authorship. That shared authorship, when combined with other contextual features, seeks to question the definition and reality of art.

IMPORTANT EDIT/REALISATION 10.12.17 - I've come to realise that writing and speaking (or language in general) is a form of appropriation. We rarely make up our own words. The personal element comes in our interpretation or understanding of the words, or gestures, of others.


Barthes, R. (1977) Image, Music, Text. St Ives: Fontana Press.

Bishop, C (2005) Installation Art. London: Tate Publishing.

Danto, A C. (1964) ‘The Artworld’. The Journal of Philosophy, Volume (61): Pages 571-584.

Evans, D. (2009) Appropriation (Documents of Contemporary Art). London: Whitechapel Art Gallery.        

Foucault, ‘What Is an Author?’, trans. Josué V. Harari, in Paul Rainbow (ed.), The Foucault Reader (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984), pp. 101-120.

Kabakov, I. (2000) ‘Ilya Kabakov (b. 1933) on installations’. In: Harrison, C and Wood, P. eds. Art in Theory:1900-2000 An Anthology of Changing Ideas. Blackwell: 1175-1180.

Mandiberg, M (2001) After Sherrie Levine. [Online] Avaliable from : http://www.aftersherrielevine.com [Accessed 05.11.17].

Marriner, R. (2015) Making and the Contemporary. Bath Spa University. October-December 2015.

Pichler, M. (2009) Statements on Appropriation. [Online] Avaliable from : http://www.ubu.com/papers/pichler_appropriation.html [Accessed 01.12.17].

Reiss, J. (2001) From Margin to Center: The Spaces of Installation Art. London: MIT Press.

Richard Prince (Undated) Richard Prince. [Online] Avaliable from: http://www.richardprince.com [Accessed 04.11.17].

Richter, G. (2000) ‘Notes 1964-65’. In: Harrison, C and Wood, P. eds. Art in Theory:1900-2000 An Anthology of Changing Ideas. Blackwell: 757-760.

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

Sherrie Levine : Pie Town (2017) [Exhibition]. David Zwirner Gallery, London. 4 October - 18 November 2017.

Tate (Undated) Appropriation. [Online] Avaliable from: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/a/appropriation [Accessed 03.11.17].

The Broad Gallery (Undated) Sherrie Levine, Fountain [Buddha]. [Online] Avaliable from: https://www.thebroad.org/art/sherrie-levine/fountain-buddha [Accessed 05.11.17].

The worlds most expensive painting. (2011) [DVD] Russell England. UK: BBC1.

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


The author of many of my recent works is ambiguous due to the different signatures found on the surface and the previous owners (and creators) of the found objects. (although this is only when the context is known, on initial visual inspection the works are assumed to be authored by me)

The critical factor appears to be the moment when the other artist agrees that their action, object or artwork is not useful for them, and the moment I take ownership of them.

The actions captured are those that the artist disregards - without canvas on the floor, wall or table those actions and marks would be lost.

The objects are either finished containers, unwanted tools or 'broken' items.

And the artworks are all either donated or sourced from bins - all regarded by the original author as unwanted.

Once I take ownership of these objects (or objectifications in the case of placed canvases), they become the materials of my practice. Through this filter, they are in turn nominated and presented as Art.

Without that filter they remain what they once were because it is only through the nomination that they are put forward to be understood, questioned and interpreted as Art.

The fact that an object can be collected and presented, without interaction, as art shows that it is the nomination that counts.

(Although that begs the question of whether the nomination counts as an interaction if it does then the interaction is synonymous with the nomination.)

That the nomination is done by me could, arguably, be enough to count myself as the author.

However, I have to note that even when referring to the placed canvases in passing I refer to them as if they belonged to the artist whose actions are collected. This could be because the artist becomes an adjective rather than a noun. The descriptor of these works is the artist involved. This conflict of description only seems to occur when dealing with the placed canvases and unwanted works - materials, tools, and general rubbish seem free of author-dilemma.

The collaborative authorship of these pieces negates some of the automatic personal associations between author and work. Adding to the unintentional narrative of the pieces.

When thinking about the originality of these pieces, I believe they are often more original than the artworks created during their use. They are referencing and collecting process, and in themselves are completely honest, the occasional dishonesty comes through my interaction.

Their originality can be compared to other works about a similar subject of course, but I (as with most artists) can only hope that they are original enough.

Their authenticity is harder to pin down, by intention. They are what they are, they have a reality, as do all objects.

They are authentically what they are, and when questioned I, as the artist, always tell the truth about their origins and process. However if not challenged, or when seen and not investigated further, some of the works (primarily the found or placed canvases) are misleading, pretending to be something they are not. The viewer may assume that the marks are intentional, or created in an alternative way.

I discuss this because many people seem surprised when they hear how the works are made, and it has been suggested that my current interaction with the work is not enough to call it art.

I have found evidence of this when discussing the works with visiting tutors and other students or viewers. When informed of how they were made (especially the piece - Even babies lie) viewers are often surprised.

That the nomination, not the interaction, is enough for consideration as art is evidenced in historical canon. Further actions from me either solidify or negate the nomination.

Research - Heidegger by Ally McGinn

Martin Heidegger is considered one of the leading philosophers of the 20th century. Heidegger was a prolific writer, influential in many fields of study, whose main field of interest was ontology and the nature of being. (Bolt, 2011) This post offers a brief introduction to his work, theories and a few key points in relation to my practice.

This text began as a short overview but has gotten more complex as I've engaged with Heidegger's writings more.

Ally McGinn (2017)  Enframed . found objects, emulsion paint, gold frame and canvas, 250 x 120 x 50 cm approximately.

Ally McGinn (2017) Enframed. found objects, emulsion paint, gold frame and canvas, 250 x 120 x 50 cm approximately.

Daniel Parker sums up Heidegger's preoccupation as “from beginning to end, Heidegger’s thinking revolved around this one basic question of the meaning of being...When Heidegger investigates art he does not do so to determine its characteristics as a specific and isolated region of human experience, but as a possible clue to decipher the meaning of being” (Palmer, 1998)


In ‘Being and Time’ Heidegger referred to subjects and objects as ‘beings’. Heidegger defines many types of beings in our world, where humans are the only ones who care about the nature of their own being.

Heidegger saw this self-referential thinking as something that marked human beings as separate from the other beings, and as an attempted stand against the flow of time.

This text highlights the important factor of ‘being-in-the-world’ and ‘being-with-others’ (Bolt, 2011) which are both ways of describing an important fact of our being; that we exist in relationship with our surroundings and are formed and informed by those relationships.

This directly challenges the notion of ‘distance’ from theory, as the theory is so inexorably linked to the physical that it cannot be undone. Heidegger views this perspective as an unattainable objective, which would seem to fit with the poststructuralist perspective.

In trying to find an objective distance we are ignoring our ‘thrownness’ which Heidegger explains as a term describing our ‘real’ lives and the experience of living in the world. (Bolt, 2011)

Heidegger uses the term ‘Dasein’ translated as ‘there being’ (Bolt, 2011) and meaning both human beings and the state of being, which he saw as indistinguishable from one another.

Daseins are individual and yet interrelate with one another.

Dasein has a ‘throwness’, in which we are thrown into a world that is mostly uncontrollable, wholey so at first, and we are left to find our way. Our circumstances, especially in early life, but also later, can be described as chance, and the combination of these factors are what Heidegger termed, our ‘facticity’. (Bolt, 2011)

‘Throwness’ is a term that is related to experience with others, and being in these constant relating experiences with others can overtake our own sense of self until ‘I’ becomes ‘they’. (Bolt, 2011)

This sense of ‘they’ is important in understanding human nature and the societies we live in, which are based on assumptions and perspectives of ‘they’.

In art, we often respond to our ‘thrownness’ and we are certainly formed by the ‘facticity’ of our lives. When seen in this way the relationship of this deconstructed, interrelated, narrative to Derrida and Danto’s theories about the nature of the interiority and exteriority of art (that the artwork doesn't exist in separation from its context) seems obvious.

Daesin is an interesting term because of its tendency towards self-fulfilment. A term Heidegger refers to as ‘projection’ (Bolt, 2011) which I've taken as; the ways ‘beings’ (who are in daesin at all times) explore and react to the world around them through a process of ‘being’. Our ‘facticity’ ‘projects’ a daesin’s ‘being’ through in a process of continual ‘thrownness’.

Note - I could be wrong here, Heidegger is dense and subjective, but that's my interpretation of it.

Further note - ‘throwness’ can never be in the future, it is the nature of our present. (Bolt, 2011)

Heidegger saw a distinction between everyday daesin and daesin, which can be seen as the difference between being, and questioning that being. (Bolt, 2011) The act of being in everyday terms obstructs the ontological examination of being. Heidegger sees this as a form of inauthenticity, an objective term that is a fact of life as a being. An authentic experience of daesin is one of contemplation of self.


Heidegger and other philosophers have noted a distinction between human ‘beings’ and other ‘beings’ but many agree that objects have a ‘being’. This reminder serves to note that when Heidegger is speaking about ‘being’ and the reliance upon ‘being-in-the-world', those theories can be applied to other types of ‘being’ (with varying degrees of success) including artworks.

In ‘Being and Time’, Heidegger posits the relationship between caring and being. “I care, therefore I am” (Steiner, 1978: 101). Without a form of caring we wouldn't exist, if we experienced an encompassing apathy we would stop moving, interacting, being.

Descartes posited ‘I think therefore I am’ beginning a philosophical stance that pronounces the thought as the only truly ‘knowable’ fact.

Heidegger highlights the impossibility of this statement, we cannot detach ourselves from reality enough to make this distinction. We are in the world and therefore our experience of it, and thoughts about it, are inextricably linked to it, as are all other ‘beings’, artworks included. (Bolt, 2011) This is a stance that resonates deeply with me, and a perspective I have long had without necessarily being able to articulate it.

In ‘The Essence of Truth’ he proposed the idea of caring as a catalyst for truth. (Stanford, 2015) (the word caring, as above, is seen as an interest of some kind) To Heidegger, you must care about something before you can know the truth about it, another resonating thought. Our being exists in the universe, with numerous external influences happening constantly, our interest is drawn, which leads to the uncovering of truth.

Truth is rarely something easily seen and is more often read or interpreted. In this way caring can also be described as an effort, I think, in that we must first engage with something to comprehend the truth of it, which takes an effort of some kind.

The overwhelming amount of ‘things’ to care about, even in daily life, leads Heidegger to compare being alive “to be[ing] surrounded by the hidden.” (Stanford, 2015)

I like this perspective on truth, as it acknowledges an element of autonomy in truth, that it can objectively exist, to some extent, external to the human perceiving it, and it therefore re can be discovered in some way.

Heidegger wrote extensively on the notion of the hidden, and in relation to art - which he saw as a process of revealing the hidden. (Stanford, 2015)

In his essay ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’ published in 1950, Heidegger rejected earlier views of aesthetics, and art, as imitation or reflection, aligning it instead with ideas of truth and beauty. This essay shows once more Heidegger's view art objects can be seen as objectifications of truth, a way to reveal “that which is”. (Heidegger, 2008)

Heidegger describes the relationship between artist and artwork as a dynamic, which can be compared to Derrida’s description of the frame. "The artist is the origin of the work. The work is the origin of the artist. Neither is without the other. Nevertheless, neither is the sole support of the other." (Heidegger, 2008)

Art is separate from the two again, Heidegger saw art as the source for both artwork and artist. In this way, art becomes both the origin of and the goal for the artist and artwork, a cyclical dynamic relationship. A view I find particularly interesting, and something that has inspired a great deal of thinking.

This separation of artwork(object), artist(subject) and art(process) has been discussed further by the modern understanding of visual culture, and the semiotic interpretation of it. That meaning is external to the work as well as internal (or both as Derrida argued) is widely accepted, Heidegger seems to advocate the necessity of understanding the separation and the reliance of each upon the others.

Viewing art as both origin and goal leads to a confusing cyclical thought process about which came first, and how the relationship works exactly. Trying to find the essence of artwork and artist would seem to be a route to finding the essence of art. Heidegger chooses to try for the artwork first, as it is seemingly more concrete than their human counterparts. (Stanford, 2015)

According to Heidegger, and others, artworks can be defined through a set of traits but must be a ‘thing’ in themselves. The definition of a ‘thing’ seems to vary massively. (Stanford, 2015)

This appears to relate to Wittgenstein's ‘family resemblance’ theory.


Being an artist i am primarily interested in Heidegger's theories of aesthetics. Heidegger saw art as something with an inherent value, as an activity, in addition to the value found in the experience of art. He argued that art has a purpose in terms of history, and a form of marking ‘being’ and truth in culture. (Stanford, 2015)

In simple terms he saw the value of art as more than an appreciation of aesthetics, and that by reducing art to a form of sensory entertainment we are missing much of its true value, and purpose in the development of consciousness and understanding of beings.

Artworks are more than simple memesis, they are steps in the meaning of what it is to exist.

It could be described as; Art is the science of the senses. The -ology of the senses, using the senses.

“modern aesthetics is born of the aspiration to be “in the field of sensuousness what logic is in the domain of thinking” (Stanford, 2015)


Heidegger related art and philosophy to ‘movement’, as both a need to be aware of habitual behaviours and a deeper exploration of the ways beings create and interact with art and philosophy. (Bolt, 2011)

This is a thought I plan to return to as it is an exploration of these behaviours where I find my process sits.


In “The Age of the World Picture,” (1938) Heidegger postulates the possible implications of relegating art solely to aesthetic concerns. When “art gets pushed into the horizon of aesthetics,” he suggests that it pushes the artwork into an objectification of experience, which counts as an expression of human life. (Stanford, 2015)

I would argue that it also gives art a finite purpose, in the experience of the moment and for the gain of the subject, which, while often true is not always the case.

Ally McGinn (2017)  Plinth painting . Paintings. 40 x 40 x 60 cm.

Ally McGinn (2017) Plinth painting. Paintings. 40 x 40 x 60 cm.

One of the most critical terms I have come across while researching Heidegger is ‘poiesis’ which can be defined as the work existing in a place of balance between the poetic and the enframed.

The enframed comes from the word ‘Gestell’ meaning framing. (Bolt, 2011) Which, much like Derrida's ‘Parergon’, is a literal or metaphysical construct that shapes the way we view or experience something, in this case, an artwork. Bolt compares the ‘gestell’ to a window frame or skeleton, so as something that supports and underpins the ‘subject’ but remains distinct from it, or hidden in light of the true ‘subject’.

Many artists would consider this contextualising, however, it also includes elements of practice, emotion, location etc.

The poetic state of practice is the fluid and flowing creative status an artist reaches, while working, which allows the revealing of hidden truths in the work, or in its process, that potentially lead to the ‘final’ ‘artwork’.

To Heidegger, this state is what an artist is aiming for, and can be described as the pinnacle of artistic achievement. (Bolt, 2011)

The important factor is that art sits in the Venn space between the two and that the artists practice winds on a route between the two.

This is something that I've been edging around recently, it has come up in lectures, tutorials and studio practice, as the idea of what practice is.

This is a very important point for my practice and an articulate description of the way I work in the studio.


Without getting too bogged down by other concerns it's something to note that there is a great deal of controversy over his Nazi affiliations. Last year new evidence came to light that leaves no doubt that Heidegger was not only a sympathiser but a true believer. (Rothman, 2014) (Zielinski, 2016)

The debate about the impact of his anti-semitism on the validity of his philosophical works seems to be ongoing, and not something I'm going to discuss here, however, it is certainly something to bear in mind, especially given how affirming I have found reading his works to be. Personally, I like to think that the work someone does can exist, to an extent, in separation from the person they were/are.

The idea, and whether it resonates, is more important than the speaker.


Interesting term - ‘Praxial’

Comes from the word ‘praxis’ which is defined by Aristotle as process/practice distinguished from and yet intertwined with, theory.

The Cambridge dictionary defines it as “ the process of using a theory or something that you have learned in a practical way”.

An important term in art. Art, certainly in my practice, is an act of praxis.



Researching Heidegger has shown an interesting perspective on the production and interpretation of art. I began this research after hearing about the idea of the space between the enframed and poetic. However, the research has led to something more.

Heidegger not only explored ‘being’ but embraced the reality of it. His theories around ‘being’ rely and impress on us that we are already ‘being’. Practice and theory combined.

The main thing that this research, and the writing of this text, has shown me is that there is a lot more research to be done. Heidegger, and reading through the rest of ‘Heidegger Reframed’ forms part of my ongoing research plans.


Bolt, B (2011) Heidegger reframed. London: I.B. Tauris.

Heidegger, M; trans. David Farrell Krell (2008). "The Origin of the Work of Art". Martin Heidegger: The Basic Writings. New York: HarperCollins.

Palmer, D. (1998) ‘Heidegger and the ontological significance of the work of art’, British Journal of Aesthetics, vol. 38 no.4, pp. 394-412.

Rothman, J. (2014) Is Heidegger contaminated by nazism? [Online] The New Yorker. Available from: https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/is-heidegger-contaminated-by-nazism [Accessed - 21.11.17].

Stanford (2015) Heidegger’s Aesthetics. [Online] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available from :  https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/heidegger-aesthetics/ [Accessed - 02.11.17].

Steiner, G (1978) Martin Heidegger. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Stulberg, R (1973) Heidegger and the Origin of the Work of Art: An Explication, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol 32 no.2, pp, 257-265.

Zielinski, L (2016) In His Own Words [Online] The Paris Review. Avaliable from: https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2016/10/18/in-his-own-words/ [Accessed - 21.11.17].

Research - 'The Studio' and 'The Gallery' or 'The Factory' and 'The White Cube' by Ally McGinn

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio documentation. 30.11.17

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio documentation. 30.11.17

I have continually found the differences between the studio and gallery fascinating. At university, this difference can be seen in the same space, which is an unusual situation. I doubt I will see it much after university.

The combination of studio and gallery in a single location has been a catalyst for my interests, and this work could have only been created in a space housing that dichotomy.

The Studio - The Factory.

In the studio, the aesthetics of the space are set aside in favour of the process. Artists studios are a snapshot into their minds, and the variety of forms the studio can take are as varied as the artists themselves.

The studio can be defined as the space where an artist ‘works’, where paintings are created, sculptures are formed, and objects become Art, and potentially any site of activity.

An enigmatic geographical location that denies and defies its definition, the studio is as complicated a subject as many found in the artworld.

Developments in the last century include the discovery and embrace of concepts like installation art, relational aesthetics, performance and other site-specific activities, which by definition occur, at least in part, outside the studio. Leading to the suggestion that we are in the stage of the ‘post-studio condition.' (Hoffmann, 2012)

Once, and possibly still, considered a solitary space where an unknowable genius resides, the studio has changed with the modern world, becoming something so-far undefined, and perhaps as indefinable as artists themselves.

Every studio is different and has various demands placed on it. (make no mistake, artists are demanding people)

People continue to have a fascination with the artist's studio, and the activities that take place, undoubtedly in part due to the desire to understand art, and where better to start than understanding the studio. This fascination can be seen in television programs and videos ‘visiting’ the studio, which seem to hover between a recorded reverence and honesty of a documentary and a near romantic escapism.

A clear example of the romanticism of the studio can be seen in the preservation of Francis Bacon’s studio. (Cappock, Undated) Carefully undertaken by a team of professionals, the space has been meticulously collected and replicated in Dublin. The recreation even took the dust collected since Bacon’s death in 1992. What purpose can be found in this preservation of space and object? The studio has been turned into a museum, displaying itself.

Given the rise and expansion of painting, performance, and installation the studio is an artwork awaiting nomination.

The contemporary studio model can be traced back to the shifting focus of art during the Renaissance, as patrons began to fund artists where art had previously been governed by a central system, revolving around the church, and it's monastic institutions. (Klonk, 2009)

The relationship between artist and patron became necessary for both, as individual artists were commissioned to create works for an entire household.

The work would have been created in the ‘bottega’ - workroom - as opposed to the ‘studiolo’ which was more a space for contemplation and study. The etymological link here being the Latin 'studium', meaning to study. (Klonk, 2009)

The artist's development came through apprenticeship; a promising young artist would work for years at the instruction of a master before being considered to learn the art of the master.

This system is linked to the ‘Atelier,' a French word combining studio and workroom, where a single artist would be assisted by a team of apprentices. (Klonk, 2009)

Commissioned portraits would remain a central staple for the artist's livelihood for centuries, as developments in techniques and ideas continued.

The studio became an amalgamation of the workroom and study room, a space where both worked together to create and develop. The contemplation of the 'studiolo' worked into the process of the workroom. (Klonk, 2009)

The basic structure of the atelier and artists themselves remained mostly unchanged from the Middle Ages to the 1800’s. (Klonk, 2009) In 1816 the first academy was opened in Paris - the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-arts - which hosted its own exhibitions, the first salons, to critique, analyse and support the growing developments in the art world and our understanding of it.(Klonk, 2009)

Academy’s like this became the foundation of art in that century and were the catalysts that avant-guards artists would rebel against in the beginning of Modernism. (Klonk, 2009)

The beginnings of mass-production had a significant impact on art. Making paint, which was once a laborious process became something far different when it could be purchased in small, portable, tubes. (Klonk, 2009) Efficiency was the word of the time - and with efficiency comes introspection and an expansion of philosophy, and therefore, art.

The developments and the natural outlook and creativity of artists led to an entirely new way of painting - en plein air - literally meaning “in open air.” (Klonk, 2009) The studio became mobile.

Artists began to work on their own artwork, rather than a total reliance on commissioned works artworks sold more and more on the basis of their own merit —l'art pour l'art, or "art for art's sake." (Klonk, 2009)

In the 1960’s Andy Warhol subverted the notion of the studio, although his work questions whether it was a subversion or not. His studio became The Factory, a space that owes influence to Ford’s production methods.

Warhol worked extensively with ideas of repetition, replication, and reality, or at least the reality of modern life and the celebrity. The Factory was equally known for drug-fueled parties and a high production of artistic output. (Warhol, 2007) Combined with his persona and perspective Warhol brought us the idea of an artist as a brand. Which I see as a form of practice as artwork.

Jeff Koons, a definite artistic celebrity, employs hundreds of assistants in a studio that looks more like the headquarters of a successful modern company, which is probably because the artist's process is most like one, a cyclical return to the apprentice/master relationship. (Warhol, 2007)

When compared to Warhol’s factory the studios of some contemporary artists look like scientific labs, high-tech think tanks, or indeed any other model.

Like art itself, the artist's studio is always a reflection the spirit of the times, and like the definition of art, the artist's studio is varied, undefinable and delightfully mysterious, often even to the artists.

The Gallery - The white cube.

The gallery was traditionally perceived in the same way we perceive a museum; a place where things are not touched and are idolised in quasi-religious contemplation, and often worship.

From experience, I can say that galleries tend to be quiet places, large or small, where visitors are monitored for behaviour, although often unobtrusively.

While the physical appearance and expectations are one of good behaviour, the experiences of a museum and art galleries are designed to be a positive one.

Interestingly, when museums began to be opened to the public, in the eighteenth century, they were used by the public as other public spaces were, as places to spend downtime with friends and family. Charlotte Klonk writes in her book, Spaces of Experience: Art Gallery Interiors from 1800–2000, that it was through room design and layout that the shift in museum etiquette began.

The creation of public galleries meant that arts audience widened dramatically, and therefore it's purpose altered. That goal is still vehemently argued but the shift to what we now know as art can be linked to the opening of these public spaces.

The white cube can be traced to MOMA in the 1930’s. (Maak, Klonk and Demand, 2011) The culmination of various roots, the white cube was the result of a desire to show the depth and colour of paintings produced at the time against the most contrasting background, a pure white wall. (Klonk, 2011) Klonk discusses another root in the desire for hygiene, a white wall shows dirt more easily and appears clean. In the 1920’s theories were emerging about the connotations between white and infinite space. Combined with the increasing desire for temporary spaces to exhibit the white cube emerged.

In full effect by the 1950’s anyone who has since been to an art gallery will have experienced the white cube. Designed to house, acknowledge and present art to the public, aka, the consumer.

It wouldn't be wrong to suggest that, the majority of artworks are experienced in galleries or other forms of curated settings.  A transformative process, curation takes the artwork from studio to gallery.  During the post-creation time, the process of art becomes one of curation. The works are placed carefully, the space aligned with other elements of the work to enhance themes, ideas, and conversations.

Galleries are a mix of publicly and privately funded institutions where art can be exhibited and experienced. (Maak, Klonk and Demand, 2011) Curators have increased in importance and amount as the development of art has grown. The vast majority of artists make work to be shown in galleries. These institutions have become almost religious in their status as the bastions of fine art.

Galleries are designed to be visited, and when the onlooker enters the gallery, they are trusting the institution. The larger the gallery, the more the public trusts that the work will be ‘good.' In turn, a gallery has a responsibility to its visitors to ensure that the trust is earned and validated.

Galleries are not without their biases, in fact, the reverse is closer to the truth. The experience of a gallery is carefully curated to achieve a specific result. It is a physical space utterly controlled by a theoretical ideal. This is no secret and artists often use the white cube to their advantage. The gallery becomes another blank canvas; the space is the surface. Galleries are a lens through which art can be seen.  

The exploration of this bias has led to a relatively new term, Installation art, discussed on another page in this blog.

Looking at a piece of art against a white background removes all associations, other than those with art. The idea is to show the single art in it's purest form.

Curation allows the experience of the entire space to work by invoking the experiences of the individual works into a narrative whole.

“We have to be able to forget that there are walls and have found no better way to do that, than with pictures. Pictures efface walls. But walls kill pictures.” (Bachelard, 1992)

The gallery is designed to be aseptic, to show as little human presence as possible. Toilets, desks, shops and other areas of purpose are kept away from the work where possible or otherwise as unobtrusive as possible. (Maak, Klonk and Demand, 2011)  - experience??

The spaces exist for experience and contemplation alone. This expectation of behaviour and understanding can be uncomfortable for some, but the intention is all about the art.

The white cube remains a somewhat controversial subject and has become close enough to the factors that constitute an artwork that it can be argued to be an artwork in its own right.


Observations of gallery and studio have formed most of this text, experience. These observations have formed many works directly, and an indirect interest in this juxtaposition is part of the foundation of my interests.

This research has been an additional element of my growing collection. Knowing the traditional and origins of both studio and gallery has been a useful tool through my explorations.

It's interesting to note that both gallery and studio can be seen as artwork, in theory, if not in practice.


Klonk, C. (2009) Spaces of Experience: Art Gallery Interiors from 1800–2000. Yale University Press.

Bachelard, G. (1992) The Poetics of Space. New York. Penguin Publishing.

Hoffmann, J. (2012) The Studio. MIT Press.

Cappock, M. (Undated) History of Studio Relocation. [Online] Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane. Available from: http://www.hughlane.ie/history-of-studio-relocation. [Accessed 17.11.17].

Maak, N. Klonk, C. and Demand, T (2011) ‘The White Cube and Beyond’. Tate. [Online] Available from: http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/white-cube-and-beyond [Accessed  20.11.17].

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


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: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2009/may/18/tate-modern-sixties-arte-povera [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: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/amikam-toren-neither-a-teapot-nor-a-painting-1 [Accessed 18.11.17].

Artsy (Undated) Amikam Toren : A User’s Guide to Married Life [Online] Available from: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/amikam-toren-a-users-guide-to-married-life [Accessed 18.11.17].

Baker, K. (2013) Amikam Toren finally able to live by his art [Online] Available from: http://www.sfgate.com/art/article/Amikam-Toren-finally-able-to-live-by-his-art-5056227.php [Accessed 17.11.17].

City and Guilds (Undated) Amikam Toren : Fine Art Tutor [Online] Available from: http://www.cityandguildsartschool.ac.uk/amikam-toren/ [Accessed 17.11.17].

Jessica Silverman Gallery (Undated) Amikam Toren [Online] Available from: http://jessicasilvermangallery.com/amikam-toren/ [Accessed 17.11.17].

Tate (Undated) Amikam Toren [Online] Available from: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/amikam-toren-16792 [Accessed 17.11.17].

Studio Research - Week 10 by Ally McGinn

This week involved a great deal of discussion, a shift in thinking, statement writing and logistic issues. 

Ally McGinn (2017)  Reflection . Paint tube, oil paint, photograph and pencil, 20 x 15 x 7 cm approximately.  This piece has evolved over the last few weeks. The source of its creation is hard to pinpoint in a single source. It shows, rather, the development of thought, and a focussing of idea. Documentation of the early stages of this piece can be found in week eight. I feel it is one of the most successful pieces, in an individual sense, created this term (and therefore on the MA so far). It is tempting here to contextually deconstruct this piece, but I find that I am reluctant to. Instead I will leave it here, in a digital space, to allow it its existence.

Ally McGinn (2017) Reflection. Paint tube, oil paint, photograph and pencil, 20 x 15 x 7 cm approximately.

This piece has evolved over the last few weeks. The source of its creation is hard to pinpoint in a single source. It shows, rather, the development of thought, and a focussing of idea.
Documentation of the early stages of this piece can be found in week eight.
I feel it is one of the most successful pieces, in an individual sense, created this term (and therefore on the MA so far).
It is tempting here to contextually deconstruct this piece, but I find that I am reluctant to.
Instead I will leave it here, in a digital space, to allow it its existence.

Ally McGinn (2017)  Painting  [Working Title]. Paint and studio dust, size varies.  This piece is a large paint skin, with dust collected from the studio over a period of three months. It is placed in such a way as to be ambiguous (although this would change in a gallery setting). Sadly it lived up to it's ambiguity, and was thrown away by a well intentioned anonymous party. There is something beautiful about that interaction.   The artwork had a choice based interaction with another person.

Ally McGinn (2017) Painting [Working Title]. Paint and studio dust, size varies.

This piece is a large paint skin, with dust collected from the studio over a period of three months. It is placed in such a way as to be ambiguous (although this would change in a gallery setting). Sadly it lived up to it's ambiguity, and was thrown away by a well intentioned anonymous party. There is something beautiful about that interaction. 

The artwork had a choice based interaction with another person.

Ally McGinn (2017)  Potentiality.  Canvas, paper, paint, ink, pencil and acorn, size varies.  This piece speaks most clearly about potentiality. The pencil line on the wall is a line from the smaller piece, but I hope it encourages the small question of, which piece is it hinting at.  The colour hidden behind grey (which is the same paint as the floor) is echoed in the materials involved. The colourful piece is a photocopy of an old work, it is stretched around nothing. The grey is traditionally made, with attention to detail, and a single colour.  The small seed is leaning between the wall and the work. It has cracked with age, mimicking the edge of the grey canvas. It's potentiality is undeniable and allegorical to the connection between artwork and context.  When placed in the installation it connects to the hidden storage of work behind the canvas wall, which also speaks about potentiality. Linking across the space in a metaphysical sharing of context.

Ally McGinn (2017) Potentiality. Canvas, paper, paint, ink, pencil and acorn, size varies.

This piece speaks most clearly about potentiality. The pencil line on the wall is a line from the smaller piece, but I hope it encourages the small question of, which piece is it hinting at.

The colour hidden behind grey (which is the same paint as the floor) is echoed in the materials involved. The colourful piece is a photocopy of an old work, it is stretched around nothing. The grey is traditionally made, with attention to detail, and a single colour.

The small seed is leaning between the wall and the work. It has cracked with age, mimicking the edge of the grey canvas. It's potentiality is undeniable and allegorical to the connection between artwork and context.

When placed in the installation it connects to the hidden storage of work behind the canvas wall, which also speaks about potentiality. Linking across the space in a metaphysical sharing of context.

Ally McGinn (2017)  Enframed.  Found objects, emulsion paint, gold frame and canvas, 250 x 120 x 50 cm approximately.  This piece has been discussed in the documentation of earlier weeks. Like ' Reflection' , this piece has evolved through a process of consideration and adjustment. The addition of this week is the painted floor, adding a full-stop to this conversation.

Ally McGinn (2017) Enframed. Found objects, emulsion paint, gold frame and canvas, 250 x 120 x 50 cm approximately.

This piece has been discussed in the documentation of earlier weeks. Like 'Reflection', this piece has evolved through a process of consideration and adjustment.
The addition of this week is the painted floor, adding a full-stop to this conversation.

Ally McGinn (2017)  A New Conversation  [Working Title]. Mixed media installation, size varies.  The pieces in my work are individual in a sense and yet remain part of a larger whole. If the installation is a conversation, the pieces inside it are sentences, the individual elements of pieces can be seen as words, and finishing the analogy the materials become letters.  This analogy leaves a lot to be desired but it serves for the purpose of this metaphor.

Ally McGinn (2017) A New Conversation [Working Title]. Mixed media installation, size varies.

The pieces in my work are individual in a sense and yet remain part of a larger whole. If the installation is a conversation, the pieces inside it are sentences, the individual elements of pieces can be seen as words, and finishing the analogy the materials become letters.

This analogy leaves a lot to be desired but it serves for the purpose of this metaphor.

Ally McGinn (2017)  Glitch.  Digital print.  Three shots amalgamated into one, by my camera. An incidental camera glitch. It's dark and the colouring is terrible for a traditional photo.  I love it.  A photography machine.

Ally McGinn (2017) Glitch. Digital print.

Three shots amalgamated into one, by my camera. An incidental camera glitch. It's dark and the colouring is terrible for a traditional photo.

I love it.

A photography machine.

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: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/14/arts/design/14rauschenberg.html?pagewanted=all [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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDUbPqBRPvY [Accessed 17.11.17].

McEwan, J. (2008) ‘Robert Rauschenberg: Restlessly experimental artist whose career was a celebration of change’, Independent, [Online] Avaliable from:  http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/robert-rauschenberg-restlessly-experimental-artist-whose-career-was-a-celebration-of-change-828260.html [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: https://www.sfmoma.org/artwork/98.308.A-C [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: https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/sfmomamedia/media/uploads/documents/research/rrp_sfmoma_rauschenberg_interview_may_6_1999.pdf [Accessed 17.11.17].

Tate (Undated) ‘Experiements in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) [Online] Available from: http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/e/experiments-in-art-and-technology [Accessed 17.11.17].

The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation (Undated) ‘The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation’ [Online] Available from: https://www.rauschenbergfoundation.org/art/art-in-context/stoned-moon [Accessed 17.11.17].

Unnamed (2013) ‘Kurt Schwitters, inspiration of Pop Art’, The Telegraph, [Online] Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-features/9810512/Kurt-Schwitters-inspiration-of-Pop-Art.html [Accessed 18.11.17].

Reflection - The changing effect of perception. by Ally McGinn

I'm expecting this to be a long and convoluted text, and it comes from a discussion with my husband, who is interested in conceptual music and sound.

The moment an artwork is seen or experienced it is changed by that interaction.
This happens in two ways, firstly on the individual level - the individual artwork changes once it is seen, the viewer's interpretation, critical reception, contextual relation and curated exhibition affect the work and the interpretation of it. The second level is slightly more complex, and yet also individual, the level of continued practice for the individual experiencing the process of art (the artist).

Another way of saying this is that our practices change when people view them (or listen to them in my husband's case). This change can even occur when there is the potential for the artwork to be seen. (Although I would argue that much of this factor is reliant on an inhibition)

Whether that change is positive or negative is likely a subjective fact, it will differ in different cases, but it's worth noting that the change exists.

Artists, and by extension musicians and other creators, often describe trying to get ‘in the flow’ or ‘in the zone’. Which is linked to Heidegger's theories about the optimum state for art, which is in the area between the poetic and the enframed. In Heidegger's writings, the artist aims to exist in this state when creating art.

Through the contextualisation of my practice, my overabundant research and my own self-pressured methodology I have been enframing my practice, to the extent that I'm unable to reach the poetic.

Personal note - I need to stop reading, stop writing and start working for a few days at least.

This ideal state of working is not something to be achieved once and then ticked off, it is a state of the moment and often comes and goes (between the enframed and the poetic). Thinking about it in this way I can almost see which works I've made in the studio that have been linked more to enframing and poiesis, and the ‘good’ works are definitely those created in moments of poiesis.

The ‘moment’ relates once more to Heidegger, and his term ‘throwness’ which is about the moment of existence, constantly happening and happened.

Another perspective for the change that occurs upon viewing the work is through the human activities of art and music (and by extension others). In the book ‘Strange Tools,’ the author supposes two levels of human activity. The first is the primal, basic level, it is the things we as ‘beings’ do. This level includes dancing, communicating, creating sound, making art/images, running, and numerous other things. The second level is the organised activity of that act, including, choreography, writing, music, art, sports etc.

When thinking about the creation of art and the change that perception brings it would seem to lead that the level 2 activity of making ‘Art’ impacts the level 1 practice of making art. It's possible that we have achieved a level of ‘Artworld’ that means that the level 1 activity doesn't really exist anymore, but it feels more like, as Heidegger seems to suggest, that artists are tapping into the level 1 activity when they get ‘in-the-flow’.

Artists (and the extension applies once more) work with the level 1 experience, and then process it through a level 2 organisation to stimulate a level 1 experience in another person.

The other implication to the realisation that perception changes the ‘Art’, in both ways, is the link to the observer effect in quantum physics, in which the ‘observer affects the observed reality’. It seems obvious to state that I am not a quantum physicist, and so I won’t attempt to go into more detail here but the link is an interesting one that I would like to come back to.


This line of thought has two influences. One is the contextual knowledge I have gained from writing this blog, I have directly quoted two texts and the understanding of others has led to this exploration. (Please see other blog posts for more details about this)

The other is a frustration at the issues I'm facing with an overabundance of context at the moment, a reflection on my research practice.

I’ve come to realise that I need to step back slightly and attempt to get back into the level 1 activities suggested here. Focussing on a practice of poiesis.

However, this realisation has led to an idea for a piece of work, which is a fact about my practice that I adore. It often inspires itself.

I'm intrigued to bring in ideas of hiding the work of art. If the experiential perception of an artwork changes when seen then we can mitigate that effect by implying the artwork without seeing it.

This is an idea I began to work with last year, by recording and presenting the artist's actions in the studio I invoked this idea of the unseen artwork. It’s also something I've been working back towards this year, however, this articulation of these ideas has led to me wanting to be more literal in the hiding of the artwork.
The context of these plans would be that - It is not in the artwork that we find the ‘Art’ but in the experience of making it, and the experience of viewing it. (both of which are arguably level 1 activities, at least in the moment) The later of which happens regardless, it is the experience of making it that I would like to extend to the viewer, the practice of process.

I believe hidden artworks, or hidden elements of them, would invoke that context. The artwork is implied, just as normally the act of making art is implied.

An additional thought to come back to later - ‘Art’ is a performative thing because it is the practice and process of art. The art object belongs to context?? (Way too assumptive, but maybe an interesting initial thought)

Research - Meaning/Taste - Family Resemblance and Beetles in Boxes by Ally McGinn

In researching taste, aesthetics and attempting to understand what art is, i've come upon the term ‘necessary and sufficient conditions’ a few times. These are the conditions for determining a definition. If both can be defined with regards to a certain subject (A for example) then through the exploration of necessary and sufficient conditions we will be able to find all the things that are ‘A’ by excluding the things that aren't ‘A’. (Philosophy Bites, 2017)

Wittgenstein disagreed with this rigid stance. Using the example of games he shows that there are always things that don't fit the definition. We recognise what games are not through the definition of them, or at least not always, but through the experience of hearing the ways other people use the word, which leads us to an understanding of what Wittgenstein called a ‘family resemblance’. (Janaway, 2006)

Wittgenstein saw language as a living thing, and therefore as subject to the ‘change in variation’. Meaning, according to Wittgenstein, is reliant on use, in that whatever meaning we use is one that is ‘right’. Meaning can be local, we share meaning with those close to us, and have our own meanings for those words based on our own lives. (Janaway, 2006)

Wittgenstein suggests a thought experiment, an extension of the ‘private language argument’. In it he asks us to pretend that we each have a box, we all describe the thing inside the box as a beetle, and yet we cannot ever know what is inside other people's boxes. Whether the thing inside the box actually is what we think of as a beetle or is something else the word ‘beetle’, in this instance, becomes both a word to describe what is inside the box and the implication of a small creature with six legs. (Floyd, 2006)

In this experiment the box can be seen as a metaphor for our brains. A pertinent example of this would be our interpretation of colour. We all, mostly, agree on the standard definitions of colour, but the argument becomes more obvious when colours get specific. Working in an art institution for nearly five years I've regularly heard disagreements about colours, and we have no real way of knowing that what we see as green is what someone else is seeing. Pain is another obvious example, while there are obviously degrees of pain we have no reliable way of comparing our pain to that of another.

Words, or more accurately their meaning, operate in the same way. How often have any of us said something that someone has taken the wrong way. It wouldn't be unreasonable to suggest that we all have.

It isn't that much more of a leap to suggest that images are the same. As much of the research on this blog has shown, images, and by extension other artworks, have meaning that is integral to their existence. That meaning only exists when interpreted by a human, and those interpretations come through the reading of information. That information can be digital, visual, auditory, tactile or any number of sensory inputs. To define art as simply something beautiful or enjoyable on a basic level denies our own intelligence, and our capability to interpret information.

Art, it could therefore be argued, contains, disseminates, and encourages the transfer of information. While there are many artworks whose information revolves around beauty, or the weirder sensory experience, there are many others that require a form of data processing, or interaction, from the viewer. If nothing else it's clear that is more information to be explored than we realise.

I would argue that one of the purposes of art is to highlight that processing potential in regards to the world around us, and other areas of daily life.

The reading of art encourages a creative thinking process, which can be applied to the world beyond the art gallery.

There is a reason we can nominate the everyday as art, I would argue that this is because these objects have an element of inherent meaning attached to them. The nomination of them as ‘Art’ is a common activity, but maybe it is enough to think of them as art, or see them as art, at an individual level. We bring the meaning to the work, so can we bring it to other things just by imagining it.

If I think that something I'm experiencing is Art, but never say it, is it any less Art than the painting on the wall? Does it matter that I'm an artist? Whose to say where the artwork lies?


This section was added in addition to my initial post on taste. The information here is mostly from two short sources, that inspried more thinking. Later parts of this text slip into assumptive writing, so this post is more - thoughts inspired by research.


Floyd, R. (2006) Wittgenstein : The Private Language Argument [Online] Philosophy Now. Available from: https://philosophynow.org/issues/58/The_Private_Language_Argument  [Accessed 03.11.17].

Janaway, C. (2006) Reading Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art: Selected texts with interactive commentary. Pondicherry: Blackwell Publishing.

Philosophy Bites (2017) ‘Elisabeth Schellekens Dammann on Disagreement About Taste’, Aesthetics Bites. [Podcast] Avaliable from: http://philosophybites.com/2017/04/elisabeth-schellekens-dammann-on-disagreement-about-taste.html [Accessed 01.11.17].

Research - Taste - Kant, Hume, Bell and aesthetics by Ally McGinn

A term I've been considering a great deal lately is the idea of taste, and the ways we are drawn to things. Many of the works I'm drawn to conceptually, attempt to deny factors of taste, by definition. While the draw towards some form of aesthetic ‘rightness,' at least in my studio practice, continues, both consciously and subconsciously. This is a point in my studio practice that I am attempting to work through.

Taste is generally considered to be subjective; everyone likes different things. However, there is also a tendency towards a particular aesthetic quality in some works. Put in a room full of artworks many people will like similar things, and some artworks feel ‘right’ to some majority. Entirely anecdotal these two statements have been considered valid enough to debate, for centuries.

The philosophers David Hume and Immanuel Kant both explored the notion of taste and this disparity between the perceived truth that no taste is superior and the more visceral sense that there is some aesthetic hierarchy that is yet undefined. (Janaway, 2006)

To Hume, it could be broken down to an issue of education and experience. Taste is a skill that can be taught, leading to an eventual consensus and a universal ‘standard of taste.'

Hume believed that we are creatures more defined by our feelings than any rationality. That we are mostly guided by our feelings, to which rationality is often later used to back up the initial feeling. We reason from, rather than to our convictions. (Janaway, 2006)

Hume believed that our feelings, or passions, could be developed, taste is one of them.

I find myself very drawn to this idea, or more accurately, to the lens Hume views human beings through.

In a classic example, Hume described a taste test. Two people taste the same cask of wine; one notes a metallic note, and the other a leathery one. Both are ridiculed for their assessments until a key on a leather thong is found at the bottom of the barrel. This case highlights an important distinction, the difference between ‘bodily taste’ and ‘mental taste.' Bodily taste can be described as the objective features that we observe and use to justify our judgment of taste; the metallic or leathery notes found in the barrel are located in the wine and are not, as the people ridiculing the tasters assumed, due to the refinement of their palette or their perception of taste. (Philosophy Bites, 2017)

The critical factor, for Hume it seems, is the removal of personal preference and prejudice in the judgment of taste. The difference between ‘Is this good?’ and ‘Do I like it?’.

This is a way of understanding our ‘faculty of taste’. We must attempt to operate this faculty from an unbiased perspective, with a knowledge of sorts, and with a considered argument justifying the judgment of taste.

Hume saw the faculty of taste as defined by five key criteria;

  • Good sense
  • Delicacy/refinement of sentiment
  • Practice
  • No prejudice
  • Comparison

Hume did not assume that all viewers of artwork should be ideal critics, but more highlighted the philosophical conundrum surrounding the issue of taste. Objectivism is critical, but only when we understand our subjectivity. (Intersubjective??)

Tangential thought/link - The only accurate judgment is one, using Hume’s view, that can stand the test of time, and can be expanded into the test of culture. Moving the artwork through time and location should not change the judgment of the ideal critic, which could suggest that the ideal critic does not exist? (Philosophy Bites, 2017)

To Kant, it was more an issue of beauty. He argued that the judgment of taste is grounded in the artwork, not our perception of it. This is a complicated argument because the ingredients of beauty cannot be explained entirely, there are some things considered beautiful to most, a sunset, roses.

There are thousands of ‘beautiful’ paintings. (It is worth noting that there are certain ‘rules’ of beauty - including theories about symmetry, etc., but that is a tangent I won't follow here)

The point remains that Kant saw beauty (vital for taste) as intrinsic to specific objects and images. Beauty, to Kant, requires ‘purposiveness without purpose.' (Kant, 2007) For an object to be purposive, it needs to have that ‘rightness’ that some objects have.

Kant argues that we see an object as beautiful because it promotes a feeling of harmony in the viewer. The generation of feeling comes from the object, not the viewer. Therefore it is intrinsic to the beautiful object.

Kant influenced a great many critics, artists, and thinkers.  His work on art was not limited to ideas of beauty, and he certainly didn't believe that all art should be beautiful. Kant believed that for a real experience of beauty the viewer must remain distanced from the object, an uncontaminated experience (independent from purpose). (Kant, 2007)

Aesthetic judgments have a normative aspect, explained basically - we either agree or disagree with them. Kant believed that we all share a type of ‘common sense’ in which we are all constructed in the same fundamental cognitive way - if one person likes something, it should hold that another can and does as well. This is an important idea, given the prevalence of art in human culture, taste is a part of the artworld, and our shared ability to experience artworks allow these conversations to take place. (Philosophy Bites, 2017)

Edward Bullough continued Kant's aesthetic theories to say that a viewer needs a degree of ‘psychical distance’ to view an artwork. A degree of open-mindedness. He argued that the inclusion of political or sexual issues would only take away from the aesthetic experience and understanding. (Janaway, 2006)

When seen like this I would argue that both Hume and Kant can be correct. Although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there is some element of beauty is intrinsic to the work, and aesthetic beauty can be almost universally acknowledged but the appreciation of that beauty. Moreover, the beauty found in a conceptual idea, a social statement or a witty commentary is a skill that can be honed, or expanded merely with knowledge and experience.

When thinking about taste, the physical form of the artwork is fundamental; it is the way the work is experienced. Clive Bell, an art critic, coined the term ‘significant form’ in 1914. He was talking about the combination of certain qualities that together form something that people respond to on an aesthetic level or the idea that some artworks are liked due to some underlying, and undefinable, aesthetic ‘rightness’ – Beauty - a word fraught with conflicting associations in the art world. Seen as a positive by many it is often considered unfavorable for an artist, certainly for current art students. For something to exist without needing the foundation of a well thought out context or concept, it needs to be able to rely on something else. Beauty is often the alternative. These works are art, as defined by their artistic creator, so in many ways, art can stand without context or content, but there needs to be an alternative foundation. It would be difficult to conceive of an artwork without any of it. It is worth noting here that Bell acknowledged that a critic could inform a viewer's knowledge of significant form. (Freeland, 2002)

Bell, Hume, and Kant (and others) seem to agree that to appreciate beauty the work must separate itself from other concerns. Maybe the closest we can get to that separation involves an appropriate perspective.


Regarding my practice, this research has helped highlight the importance of recognising my personal preferences in a work of art. While I've been working on my faculty of taste over the years of study, it has been more externally focused. The application of this faculty in my practice is a fundamental skill I can improve, with firmer knowledge of it I hope to be able to apply a more precise perspective to the visual ‘editing.' One free of my personal preferences - which I can already say includes a sometimes overwhelming visual aesthetic, and a tendency to lean towards an aesthetic ‘rightness,' which can be detrimental to the work.


Freeland, C. (2002) But is it Art?. New York: Oxford University Press.

Janaway, C. (2006) Reading Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art: Selected texts with interactive commentary. Pondicherry: Blackwell Publishing.

Kant, I. (2007) Critique of Judgement. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Philosophy Bites (2017) ‘Elisabeth Schellekens Dammann on Disagreement About Taste’, Aesthetics Bites. [Podcast] Available from: http://philosophybites.com/2017/04/elisabeth-schellekens-dammann-on-disagreement-about-taste.html [Accessed 01.11.17].


The image I've used to illustrate this post can be accessed here - http://virginiaspairteas.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/the-tongue-map.html

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:http://www.alisonjacquesgallery.com/artists/72-fernanda-gomes/works/ [Accessed 11.11.17].

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

Whitelegg, I. (2013) ‘Fernanda Gomes’. Frieze, [Online] Available from: http://www.alisonjacquesgallery.com/usr/documents/press/download_url/240/fg-frieze-sept-2013.pdf [Accessed 11.11.17].

Research - 'Indiscipline in Painting' - Imi Knobel by Ally McGinn

Indiscipline in Painting was an exhibition held at Tate in 2011. I recently started reading the accompanying catalogue. A few artists have jumped out at me, but Knobel is the most interesting at the moment. 


Knobels assemblages introduce a combination of separate elements into a single form. Disparate elements coming together to form an ambiguous whole.

The seemingly everyday, or at least useful, objects make the viewer question whether the works are ‘Art’ or simply a functional pile waiting for their purpose. This halt in moment asks questions of purpose and the apparent careless positioning, which is anything but, alludes to an unknown future purpose.

The elements of assemblage can be reformed in different showings, meaning each iteration becomes a new conversation, with the same subject. The work and it's viewers are different at each exhibition, which is a conversation i really appreciate.

Knoebel is skilled in composition, in direct counterpoint to the apparent organic placement of the objects. The section on Knoebel in ‘The Indiscipline of Painting’ describes the effect that this care with placement has. “There may be no greater art, his sensibility reminds us, than the fine-tuning and composing of that which looks or sounds completely random, something seemingly without guile or the intervention of the artist.

Installation view (2011) Tate St Ives (Knobel, Diao, Richter) 

Installation view (2011) Tate St Ives (Knobel, Diao, Richter) 

The piece ‘Black square on Buffett’ (1984), consists of a large plain wooden box, small cardboard box, plain wooden board and a black painted wooden board.  These four elements together speak about potentiality, function and reference Malevich’s ‘Black Square’. That the black square in Knoebel’s work is leaning on the other elements, and yet the only ‘finished’ piece involved echoes the hierarchy of art, and it's importance.
The large wooden box seems to float away from the floor, firmly announcing the intention of the art.

When looking at the work it becomes clear that each element has been carefully thought out and considered, and the action of placing the works seems to be evident, in a similar way to a brushstroke containing the action of the painter.

Showing the black painted panel next to a smaller, untouched wooden panel alludes to the elevation of status that painting bestows upon the original materials. This piece confronts us with those materials, and others used in the creation of work.

I personally find this work extremely appealing, not only for it's concept but the clean lines, angles and careful composition add up to an aesthetically pleasing whole.


Clark, M. Shalgosky, S. and Sturgis, D. ed. (2011) The Indiscipline of Painting. London: Tate Publishing.

Daniel Sturgis (Undated) The Indiscipline of Painting [Online] Available from: http://www.danielsturgis.co.uk/project.php?id=1 [Accessed - 02/11/17].

Research - 'Strange Tools' - Chapter 2 by Ally McGinn

Noe, A (2016) ‘Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature.’ Narrated by Tom Perkins. Avaliable at: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Arts-Entertainment/Strange-Tools-Audiobook/B01994KQQA (Downloaded: 24/10/17).

I'm finding I'm writing more notes listening, as opposed to when I read a text. When reading I make annotations (occasionally long ones) and highlight but while listening my thought have been going a bit deeper. When reading this tends to only happen in reflections on the text or when trying to apply that knowledge elsewhere - to this blog for example.

Of course it could simply be that I am finding this text very aligned with my interests in the function of art, although it discusses that function from the perspective of it's process, rather than the function of the art object. This text is one that fits very well with what I am thinking about at the moment.


Notes from chapter 2

In this chapter the author continues to compare aspects of art to other activities, in a very interesting way. This time, dancing and choreography. Where the artist is the choreographer.

  • we act out of habit but we are often unaware of those habitual activities.

  • The exploration of dancing as an organised activity is interesting for me after a visit to the museum in Exeter two weeks ago where I saw an unexpected traditional gypsy dance, which was unchoreographed and more akin to a conversation than a predictable routine the dancers followed.

  • “If you can read you will read, the sign almost reads you” interesting in term of semiotics. A literal statement that I cannot deny, and I doubt anyone else would. When we see language we read it, and our minds often create words when there are none (number plates that look like other words or names are a good example of this) so desperate is the act of reading when seeing. Once a language is learned it becomes, at some basic level, an automatic activity.

  • If we take the metaphor for art, that the author has encouraged, then he suggests here that art is an organised activity that we participate in but do not create. This would seem to align with Barthes, Derrida and Danto (to varying degrees). Artists nominate and show art, they explore it's possibilities and represent it.

  • A staged activity - one undertaken for a purpose that is supposed to be read, interpreted or enjoyed. An exhibit.

  • The artist's desires and intentions are not the same as the intentions of the activity of art. (The choreographer and someone dancing in a club, have different aims)

  • We are artists, it is an organised activity of which we all undertake. Artists expose that activity and use it to communicate some idea or emotion.

  • We are unknowing artists by nature. Art gives us the opportunity to examine further the depth of art and the implications on the way we use it.

  • Natural/cultural

  • Re-organisational practices.

  • Art is philosophy, revealing something Heidegger called something concealed hidden, implicit or left in the background.

  • Plato - recollection - the author sees this not as a sign that we once knew more than we know now, but a reorganisation of what we already know, including things we don't know we know.

  • Wittgenstein suggested that philosophy is a question saying, “I don't know where I am” basically, “I'm lost”.

  • Different neighbourhoods of consciousness - a nice way to describe the relationship between art, philosophy and other organised activities.

  • Choreographing is the philosophy of movement…..this would imply that art is the philosophy of...something.

    • Not that the two are related, but they are similar activities in purpose and method (to an extent)

  • “They are practices, not activities, methods of research”


Research - 'Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature' by Alva Noe - Chapter 1 by Ally McGinn

Screen Shot 2017-10-26 at 14.25.29.png

Notes from audio book. I listen to books in the car and I became a bit obsessed with the ideas in this one. I am listening to each chapter twice (once in the car, and then later when able to take a few quotes) so half the writing below is my thoughts after the drive, which are then fleshed out on the second listen.

Listening to the first chapter

The book supposes three ideas

  • ‘that art is not a technological practice but it presupposes the existence of those practices.’
  • Art is a philosophical practice. And the author argues that the opposite is also true. Because art and philosophy work in similar ways to study our organisation and potentially change the way we organise ourselves. This isn't necessarily the subject of an artist's practice (although it is for some) but the author suggests it is their method, or at least part of it.

  • Art and philosophy depend on the existence of language and discourse around it.

    The things that stick out for me from the first chapter are the following;

  • Organised activities (“exhibit structure in time”) - which have 6 features that define them;

    • That they are;

      • Naturally rooted

      • Cognitively demanding

      • temporally/rhythmically structured

      • Emergent from endogenous dynamics

      • Functional

      • Potentially pleasurable

  • Seeing as an activity - it is not something achieved passively, it requires an active involvement. The science of looking involves the processing of data in the brain, but it can only describe what is being seen. Any reading of that information requires an element of active consciousness (although this can be subconscious)

    • Seeing is making contact with what there is and we can fail to see.

    • “It is not brains that perceive but active animals or people.”

      • It's is an activity more akin to driving a car, reading a book or cooking a meal (active) than digesting food or even tasting it (passive).

    • Art is often philosophied as a deified subject/object but that forgets it's basic origins.

    • Art can be a way to exploring the act of seeing.

  • Art is at heart, a human activity. This seems like it should be an obvious point but it's not something i have explored in my practice. There is only art when humans are involved, which I am going to try to bring further into my work. Upon reflection the person in my work has been the participant (either artist or viewer, often both) I am unsure what a more direct reference to the human element would bring to the work but it would be an interesting exercise.

  • Organisations - we are organisms (‘organised wholes’) and we only have to look at the etymology of the words to realise the link. (“To be alive is to be organised”) We are a complex system of interconnected elements, and we understand far less about ourselves than many other subjects. We are obsessed with ourselves, and devote countless lifetimes to the study of humans. Which I have to admit fits the modernist ideology - something studying itself with itself. Art is part of that study, I believe, and many others have argued, explored and exemplified.

    • The chapter begins with an exploration of the act of breastfeeding (and I would highly recommend anyone read it, it is a wonderful text that highlights the broad subject of communication and how far it goes beyond organised language.) it helped cement in me an understanding of the ways we interact with each other. Art is a form of that interaction, we might make work in solitude but the audience is always a presence.

    • Communication is a negotiation.

    • Shared activities help organise us.

    • Organised activities often happen without control.

    • “It is our nature to acquire second natures” Humans naturally turn activities into habitual responses, we have the ability to ‘lose ourselves in the flow.’ Habit is biological, to achieve skill or expertise we need habits.

  • The author argues that art is always concerned with itself, simply because humans create it (physically and conceptually).

    • This implies that art, like seeing, is an active activity, when considered as humans studying themselves and their relationships with the world around them. Again this seems like an obvious statement but it would begin an argument that all art fulfils modernist ideology at a philosophical level.

  • Perception is many things. Perceiving is related to acting.

  • None of this can be explained at a chemical or neurobiological level, it is more than the quantifiable examination of our biology (at least st this time).

    • We are organised at an intermediate level - roboticist Dana Ballard calls - the embodiment level. Not subpersonal, not about what's happening inside us but of the activity and the nature of it.

    • Embodiment level - as we move around the environment it changes with us. We mostly aren't aware of this, the author uses the example of the change in colour of things when seen in different lights, we don't see this as the colour changing.(Perceptual constancy)

    • “Seeing is a temporarily extended dynamic exchange with the world around us.”

    • Seeing is an organised activity, (‘of achieving access to the world around us’)

    • ‘Basic and natural but consciously organised.’

    • These organisations are not of our own making, but neither are we slave to them. They are a function of our being.

“We make art out of organised activities.”

Skills, knowledge, situation and environment - I have often tried to articulate the external factors in reading art. Noe uses these four labels, which seem to cover the meaning well.

Personally interesting - the author discusses the difference between communicating with someone in person and someone remotely (on the phone). They are different activities when speaking to someone in a remote activity we use different elements of our consciousness, which conflicts with other activities we are undertaking (which the author argues is why it is so dangerous to speak on the phone while driving, which use similar activities). Speaking in person with someone creates a collaborative environment, which is not achieved remotely.

I struggle to speak to people remotely and this may begin some research for me to figure out why.

There is a fascinating study here...for someone who understands more about psychology and brain function than I do.


Noe, A (2016) ‘Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature.’ Narrated by Tom Perkins. Avaliable at: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Arts-Entertainment/Strange-Tools-Audiobook/B01994KQQA (Downloaded: 24/10/17).


Research - Meaning by Ally McGinn

Meaning in art

Dewey posited that art is a way of understanding human culture, primarily the culture in which it was created. Heidegger agrees that the study of art, and the making of it, can be a form of understanding human history and progress.

The reason is a simple one, or at least it can be. To understand a piece of art we need to understand it's context, which includes information about the world at the time of making.

When combined with the artist's intentions, the reality of the work, it's place in the wider art world and it's place in the world ‘outside’ of art, it forms a language of art, in particular that piece.

The language of art is not a literal one. It is complicated and open to interpretation. Understanding the language of art aids in the interpretation of it.

Interpretation is a difficult word, one Derrida didn't use; because, Derrida believed, it presupposes a ‘pure’ or ‘real’ interpretation, where one doesn't exist.

Interpretation is dependent on perspective, and therefore is subjective. Meaning is subjective.

This can be seen in the study of semiotics, the meaning attributed to something often reaches a consensus at the basic level but each sign can contain potentially infinite signifiers, it simply depends on who is processing the sign - and more importantly who they are, how they think, what they know, and what they have experienced.

It is the combination of these factors that determines the interpretation of a sign. There are of course limits to each, but when considered as a whole the possibilities are numerous.

Semiology is the study of signs, and anything can be a sign, if seen in the ‘right’ ways.

Therefore meaning is, while limited in specifics, open in its possibilities.


If we take it to be true that art is a form of language, then it must be true that it communicates.

The language through which art communicates is specialised, there is an ‘Artworld’, as defined by Arthur Danto, in which this art language is the native tongue.

It is a skill. One that, like many others, can be improved upon over time. At first we may need explanations to help us open our eyes to the possible meanings of an artwork, but as we learn more about the artworks and when we actively ‘look’ for the signs (or possibly ‘words’ in this analogy) the language becomes easier to see.

Semiology is a useful lens through which we can explore the language of art.


The artist and the interpreter don't have to agree on the meaning, and often don't.

The important thing here to remember is that there is no pure meaning, we are fallible creatures and meaning is applied by humans to the reality we find, or the ideas we explore. Meaning is fallible.

In ‘The Intentional Fallacy’ by Wimsatt and Beardsley, the authors argue that the artist's meaning is irrelevant. Once the artwork is seen it the meaning given to it during it's creation no longer matters, it is what it is, and what it is will be interpreted by others.

I feel that there is a lot of evidence, at least anecdotal, that suggests that the artists cannot be seen as totally irrelevant after creation. For the very reasons seen above, to study art we need to know it's context, which includes the artists intentions. Whether or not the audience agrees is far more open. Artists also guide meaning, both during creation and after. (although in the case of after it can feel a defensive task - until a consensus is reached on the artist's status of course. Few would disagree with the artist's intentions when written on the wall of the RA for example)


When the artist and the interpreter do disagree, it is worth remembering that interpretation is a lens. It explores at least one facet of an artwork, and rarely sees them all.

A ‘good’ interpretation could be argued to be one that explores many facets, including some of itself.

Christine Freeland describes it in this way - “A good interpretation must be grounded in reasons and evidence, and should provide a rich, complex, and illuminating way to comprehend a work of art. Sometimes an interpretation can even transform an experience of art from repugnance to appreciation and understanding.”

And so we come to the importance of meaning, or the benefits of it.

Art is an immensely broad subject, given a three letter word to describe it. No two artworks are the same, and when they appear to be they are only highlighting that very issue. The interpretation of art aids in our understanding of what it does.

These ‘things’ (artworks) do something. They exist and they have a function. That function is physical and  cerebral, and meaning is central to the cerebral process.

Whether we ‘like’ and artwork or not, ignoring the meaning in favour of our initial personal opinion misses something important about the artwork and the role of art in human society; to make us think.

Note - here the word ‘think’ is defined to include the act of actively seeing, reacting or otherwise interacting with the artwork. After all there is always an element of thinking involved.


Writing this post has highlighted for me that we each have a methodology when we look at art. We can be said to be trying to understand that methodology, and potentially broaden it, when we open our minds to art and explore works for more than their initial ‘like’ or ‘dislike’.

As a practicing artist it is also interesting to note that meaning can become clear to an artist as well as the viewer. I've known many artists who have ‘suddenly realised’ their work is about an interest they had years previously or a personal issue they didn't realise they were working through in the studio.

Meaning isn't always intended, at least consciously.

Meaning is, to quote a phrase coined by popular culture but no less appropriate, bigger on the inside.

Next post - I'd like to explore more about why we create art, and the purposes of the activity itself.


Danto, A C. (1964) ‘The Artworld’. The Journal of Philosophy, Volume (61): Pages 571-584.

Derrida, J. (1978) The truth in painting. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Dewey, J. (2005) Art as Experience. New York: Berkley publishing group.

Freeland, C. (2002) But is it Art?. New York: Oxford University Press.

Jasper Johns: Something Resembling Truth (2017) [Exhibition]. Royal Academy, London. 23 September - 10 December 2017.

Marriner, R. (2002) ‘Derrida and the Parergon’. In: Smith, P and Wilde, C. eds. A companion to art theory. Blackwell: 349-359.

Marriner, R (2012) ‘Reframing the picture, recasting the object’. In: Heywood, I and Sandywell, B. eds. (2012) The handbook of visual culture. London: Berg.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2010) ‘Heidegger’s Aesthetics’ [Online] Stanford University. Avaliable from: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/heidegger-aesthetics/. [Accessed - 13/10/17].

Wimsatt, W K and Beardsley M C. (1946) ‘The Intentional Fallacy’. The Sewanee Review, Volume, (54): Page 468-488. [Online] Available from: http://libarch.nmu.org.ua/bitstream/handle/GenofondUA/26575/eebec50474beb95720cbb1e0b96892f5.pdf?sequence=1 [Accessed 17.09.2016].

Research - Deconstructing canvas - Post 1 by Ally McGinn

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio documentation.

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio documentation.

A material found commonly in painting studios, and a few others. Traditionally associated with painting this material is more than its function. A post concerning the conceptual meaning and ideology of canvas is planned for in the coming weeks, for now....

.....a physical deconstruction of canvas.

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio documentation.

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio documentation.

These stages of exploration were undertaken in the paint workshop.

Beginning with a pair of scissors, i had to cut across the weave of the fabric, in small sections, to best ensure the chances of the material separating. 

The resulting pile was run through a blender, a tiny section at a time worked best in this case. 
The blender had to be manipulated and turned on sporadically to allow the material to spread and not gather at the bottom. 

The resulting deconstruction is surprisingly fluffy. I could not remove all threads, so initial tests were done with these still inside. I am currently searching for more effective methods of reducing the fabric. 

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio documentation.

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio documentation.

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio documentation.

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio documentation.

Some of the deconstructed canvas was placed into the milling machine overnight to see whether the ceramic crushing would help reduce the material further. It was predicted that it would begin to felt the material back together. The above image shows the result. On the far right is the 'lump' that came out of the milling machine in the morning. 

Upon consideration there is a chance that adding less into the milling machine might yield different results. which is something to come back to later as it is unlikely. 

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio documentation.

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio documentation.

The next stage was one of my primary interests, attempting to turn canvas into something that can be either painted or sculpted with. 
Initially it was mixed with Alkyd Resin and a small amount of turps, in a pestle and mortar. 

When mixing paint in this way we are looking for the dry element to absorb all the moisture of the medium and then become suspended within it. In this case we achieved a small degree of success but not particularly encouraging that we would make a successful paint. 

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio documentation.

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio documentation.

We tried a small section of that mixture with a beeswax/damar resin mix (50:50). 
Using a mulling plate (with a small amount of blue pigment residue on the surface, which is where the colour has come from. Something i personally love) i mixed the paint with a palette knife and time. 
The mix of beeswax/damar to alkyd/canvas did not appear to make a difference at this point, it might when drying. I would predict that it will take longer for the 70/30 mix to dry, given the slow drying qualities of beeswax. 

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio documentation.

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio documentation.

The final mix in this first round of testing was the fibre mixed with stand oil (which is given its name due to the process of leaving it to stand in large trays during production) and a small amount of siccative (for its drying qualities).

This mix is the most promising, in terms of sculpting. I made two batches, one formed into a ball and the other into a cube shaped 'mould' made from greaseproof paper. 

Drying time.....

Im going to be testing a few other ways to reduce the canvas fibres. Putting them in the milling machine was promising, a small amount of dust was produced - which is what we would ideally be looking for. 
The difficulty of this process is its authenticity. Once we get to a certain point with mediums then the material created may be a vehicle that contains canvas, as opposed to the preferred, canvas made into something else. 

I will be continuing my experiments making paint from unwanted 'things'. Begun last year with paint made from studio dust.  Initially i plan to collect dust from the three studio bays at Dartmouth Avenue to examine the differences in colour once processed into paint. 


Nothing this time, other than the research goldmine that is the paint workshop at Bath Spa and its technician, Tim Davies.