Artist Statement

Studio 3, Summer Assessment 2018, Uncategorized

The historicity of the nature of my work interpolates the boundaries of the art-historical and the contemporary, as I partake within a practice leading from the legacy of late 1960s Conceptual Art. Part of my practice has been negating this legacy of this term, and focusing on establishing a structure and material basis for presenting a research based practice.

My work last term was focused on an investigation of retail architecture. I did not see these spaces as negative in their pursuit of a continuation of capitalist commodity fetishism, but rather wanted to understand the sensuous way in which they create aspirational spaces, encouraging the viewer to purchase. I was hugely inspired by the writings of Walter Benjamin’s ‘The Arcades Project’. In his literary collage exploring the experience of the Parisian arcades, he writes, “the arcade is a city, a world in miniature”[1], within which “the commodity proliferates along the margins and enters into fantastic combinations.”[2] The way in which Benjamin describes the sensuality and spectacle of he retail environment, led me to explore contemporary retail sites – the shopping centre – with the aim of quantifying an architectural experience set between romanticism and commercialism, into one of universal data and transferrable understanding. My work, Becoming A Mall Rat: A series of encounters and explorations leading to the discovery of the average colours of the modern British shopping centre’ (2018) comprises of a spreadsheet, which aims to discover the average colour of four shopping centres, through an extraction of hex values from each of the fifty individual photographs of each site taken. Twenty-five colours from each shopping centre have then been chosen at random, and displayed within a grid formation, next to the average colour of the overall shopping centre, the original photographs, and colour squares, which denote the place within each site the photograph was taken. I have made a key, so that the viewer is able to understand the connections between each of the separate documents.

This term, my focus has been the transformation of my research-based practice into a material format. As such, much of my assessment of data has been based around explorations of colour. I have been inspired by the work and writings of Joseph Albers in his book ‘Interaction of Colour’, as he explores the way in which we understand and use colour. He writes that we all perceive colour differently, due to the “innumerable colours… in daily vocabulary”[3], but the limited amount of colour names. The specificity of the colours in my work are of the upmost importance, and therefore, I have relinquished language, choosing to identify colours using specific hex values. These hex values may not conjure colour in the mind of the viewer; however, they mark a specificity of experience which is imperative to the investigation. This specificity is explored within the colour blocks, directly influenced by the composition of Albers’ ‘Homage to the Square’ series, as I have shown the viewer my direct placement within the site, through contrasting colour relationships, which denote the specific areas I was situated within.

I have been greatly inspired by the writings of Benjamin Buchloh in his essay, ‘From an Aesthetics of Administration to a Critique of Institutions’, as he theorises the conceptual tendency towards relinquishing aesthetic judgement arising from visual pleasure, and instead champions an embrace of the aesthetics of administration. Inspired by contemporary artists such as Berny Tan, particularly the way in which she uses graphs not only as a method of displaying research, but also as a vehicle for the process of art, I found the administrative aesthetic of the spreadsheet and key essential to display an initial idea and format for data entry as well as a work of interesting form within itself.

Sol Lewitt wrote in his seminal text, ‘Sentences on Conceptual Art’, “Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.”[4] My work eschews positivist notions of rationality and empirical methodology, and instead presents a flawed and hopeless science, whereby colours represent a totality of experience. I aimed to find the average colour of each shopping centre, in order to find an originary backdrop for the object of commodity. Rather, I found sensuous variety of tone and saturation, a lure for the viewer in their simplicity as block tones, to question the nature and discovery of the colours, investigating themselves through the information provided, and then upon reflection realizing the self-indulgent purposelessness of the investigation, arguably tied to the themes of the architecture it has aligned itself with.

The artist Hanne Darboven was perhaps the most influential to the design of my display. Her exhaustive collecting and mathematical tendencies, are presented as ordered and meticulous documents which fill the gallery walls, in their frame to frame displays. I have used a similar grid system when curating the work in the space, to differentiate between each shopping centre, as well as to create a work which is aesthetically simple and spreads across the wall space, and as such the wealth of data can take precedence of the display.

In my future work, I would like to develop my research-based practice, particularly with quantifying a personal, physical encounter to the realms of data and data processing.

 

[1] Benjamin, Walter, ‘The Arcades Project’, trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin, (London: Belknap Press, 1999), pp31

[2] Ibid., pp37

[3] Albers, Joseph, ‘Interaction of Colour’, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), pp5

[4] LeWitt, Sol, ‘Sentences on Conceptual Art’, http://viola.informatik.uni-bremen.de/typo/fileadmin/media/lernen/LeWittSentencesConceptual.pdf (date accessed: 29/04/2018)

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