Note/Thought - Thought Dump by Ally McGinn

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

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

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


10th November

Objects in time.

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


12th November

Revealing thought through process.


16th November

The limits of knowledge.

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


17th November

Writing what I know.

I write things down, and then I know them.


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

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



20th November

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

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


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


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


Analysis Paralysis - fantastic title name.


21st November

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


22nd November

Descriptions, opinions and interpretations.


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


23rd November

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

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

Maybe these are two works of art.


28th November

The act of occupying space


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


29th November

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


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


Communicative transactions.

Artist and viewer cooperate in a mutually beneficial transaction.


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


Maybe my method is reflection and perception.


30th November

Art cannot be contained within words.

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


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


2nd December

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


3rd December

Life in Context: Context in Life.

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

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

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


The Experiential Turn.

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

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


6th December

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


Artists refuse to take anything for granted.


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


7th December

Relational sentences.

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


Philosophy and art are intrinsically related and yet vastly different.


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


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


They create opportunities to explore.


Research Methodologies - Walking Alone by Ally McGinn


In the reflection of my research on ‘The Sublime’, I described one of the ways I research. After a lecture by PhD student Lydia Harcrow I have realised the importance of articulating this method in itself.

My work revolves around the importance of presence. As subject, medium and practice. The driving force for my work is my presence in the studio. The driving force for my research, as I have discovered, is presence in the metaphysical. In other words; just getting on with it, and working through it. (This is shown and defined by a realisation that writing is a tool for thinking, not simply as a record, a notion repeated throughout this blog) My subject is dependent on and explores the presence of the viewer, and the object, within the work.

Another element of presence in the research is a method I rarely speak about. Every evening, without fail, I go for a walk in the dark around the fields near my home. During this time I either listen to research (through audiobooks and podcasts) or read research I have preloaded on my phone. This is the place where I write most of my thinking and process the research. I spend at least one hour outside and have been known to be out for up to six hours when writing.

This is a time of being present, of embodying a thinking process where the majority of visual stimulus is reduced, external inputs are minimised, and the contextualisation of theories can be the sole focus.

Presence, in artistic practice, can be seen as synonymous with embodiment. This embodiment comes from the objects we see in art, and the experience we have with them, but also from the artist's presence within the work.

The studio practice is reliant on the embodiment of myself, and later the viewer, and this articulation is to show the importance of embodiment in the contextualisation of my practice. My evening walks, which happen even in freezing weather or rain, are a meditative process, that brings in an element of distance, from visual stimuli and other inputs. Time to reflect.


This is a post about the notion presence in a part of my practice I had not associated with it.

While not necessarily a research post, it serves as a note for myself about the recurring theme so far this year, and certainly throughout this module; presence.

Through the writing of this post, and the lecture today, I have come to a new title for my work for this year. (I’ve discussed before that I like to title the year as a whole, as a work)

The title is ‘Through presence and process’.

I believe what a title does is contextualises and places the work, as a whole. Titling in this way (as an extended experience) can be compared to the title of an exhibition, and resonates with my interests in an ongoing practice as art.

These are important elements in my practice. This title has led to the reduction of my practice to two single keywords. I’m not entirely sure if this is positive, or entirely accurate, but it is certainly accurate to my best feelings at the moment.

Bibliography - All of the words in this post are my own, but the desire to articulate this thought was inspired by the following lecture.

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

Ally McGinn (2017) Documentary photograph of walk. Portholland, Cornwall. 01.12.17.

Ally McGinn (2017) Documentary photograph of walk. Portholland, Cornwall. 01.12.17.