Again, this is just for me, but feel free to see how much I can say about one thing:

Briefly outline the practical assignment

My practical assignment for the graded unit was to make a piece of artwork based on the natural world, I immediately began thinking about Darwin and his theory of evolution which I believe was a good choice as there is so much information about him because at the moment it is his 150th anniversary. What drew me to this topic was my love of H.G. Wells and his books which so delicately handle the theme of evolution and also make satirical remarks on the world at the same time. I wished to make something like this as my final piece. I decided to choose the relationship we humans have with nature and what contact we look at it in. Most of all this involves being at a museum or watching documentaries. I experimented with many different techniques including film, conceptual and print which related to these ideas I had come across. I stumbled upon the feeling of trust which is so very important when watching not just nature documentaries, but all documentaries. We trust what we see because of its format. This is similar to the trust that we have for artists in their work. The gallery and the museum are very similar places: both evoke a knowledgeable silence; both demand respect for the subjects; and both are places people go to understand things. In order for this understanding a certain trust is needed between the viewer and the display. It is this trust that I want to place emphasis on, it was unfortunate that I only came upon this concept during my final piece but I think that I have conveyed the concept clearly and I have handled the artwork delicately. It is vital that the artwork looks scientific and like an artistic response, this is because it makes a potent comment on both.

Review and Update Action Plan in light of experience

I can now say from experience that I should have spent more time developing my concept than developing visual stimuli. However I do feel that the visual experiments where essential in coming up with my final outcome. I may choose to revisit this topic as a subject for a later project. At one point near the beginning where I was less enthused I believed that I was spending not enough time on the project, but I backed it up with putting in a lot more hours in the coming weeks. At the end of the project I had a lot of time left over because I had put a lot of effort in the preceding weeks, this meant I was able to constantly evaluate and have time to correct any weaknesses and make the piece overall stronger. I would have given myself less time to evaluate as I seem to keep reevaluating and changing my mind about the final artwork, this would not have happened if I had given myself a maximum amount of time for evaluating, maybe a couple of days.

Summarise any unforeseen events and how they were handled

I really would have liked to visit the museum to see how their insect specimens were presented in a scientific way, but unfortunately the museum had closed its entire older half which included the animals and insects section. To get through this I attempted to call the storage place where they keep the exhibits while renovation is going on, but again I was knocked back to discover they were not taking visitors at the times I needed. The internet was where I was to find my conclusion to this rich tapestry of let-downs. I found a variety of different ways to display the hair specimens and opted for the most scientific one, placing pins through the hair. Placing the pins through the wood turned out to be impossible so I had to buy a foam board so that the pins would stick. It also turned out in the bottom two drawers, the concept was not clear, so I filled them with hair in order to clarify the concept of the truth being hidden.
Identify any knowledge and skills, which have been gained of developed.

During the project I believe I have learnt a lot about the different movements that I researched, mainly feminism, and also the dogma of the Gottbegnadeten list and their contemporaries branded the name of degenerate art. Although neither were hugely influential to my final piece, they played significant roles in my development stages as I played around with ideas. I really feel I connected with this project towards the later stage and I have learned it would be better to get more enthused earlier on in the project instead of being preoccupied with past projects. For my final piece, I am happy I opted for making something small. I was scared that because it was the final artwork of the year I would have encouraged myself to make a piece which included every concept I had looked into throughout the project, thus forming a giant installation, but I feel I stuck to the concept and produced something relevant to the brief. I also feel I have learnt a lot about digital media in my experiments. Playing about with photos from the internet and taken by me really helped me learn to work photoshop.

Strengths and Weaknesses of the final artwork.

The strength of the artwork lies mostly in its concept and my ability to fool others into believing its real. All the people who I have asked have trusted my words and have taken as fact that these pieces of hair are from the islands I designated. I think this is born from my understanding in the trust the viewer has for the artist which I discovered in my contextual research for a different project. This understanding is mainly due to me trusting the artist Conrad Shawcross who I saw the work of in the Darwin exhibition at the Baltic gallery. The concept evolved from me eventually questioning it.
I believe I have created an antique look extremely well in the display drawers and this is another triumph of the artwork. The antiquity of the piece is vital in portraying the nineteenth century science methods which I learnt about and also the links with Darwin. It is also important in showing the covering up of something to fool someone, reflecting the concept of the piece. However as for a small weakness, the drawers have their original cut-out handles still visible which was impossible to cover up no matter how hard I tried. On a good note, this let scope for seeing an insight into the concept without opening the remaining drawers. The top drawer is, I think, very strong in representing the status and importance of the specimens but I do think the other two drawers are less effective. If I move out of the artist’s role I find it quite confusing to discover the half finished drawers, I would think that maybe I was not supposed to open the drawers, this is supported by the messages “private” written on the front of the drawers. Truthfully, it just looks unfinished and careless. It has changed since before evaluation it was completely empty, I believe putting the hair into them makes this less confusing. It now appears as if the hair in the top drawer was just taken from the bottom two.
Although the frame gives the map significance in the art I wish I had taken more time to look for a more suitable, antique frame which would match the drawers and thus link them together. If I take myself out of the artists role then I would be confused as to the link between the two. However, it is a strength having them close to each other, because it automatically forms a link between the two. Another problem with the link between the specimens and the map, is that its not clear what the annotations next to the hair means, many people who have viewed the work have read the names of the islands as names of the people I cut the hair from. However I do not wish to make the artwork simple as it would complicate the concept. It should become obvious if they spent more time analysing it. The visible words on the map: “astle,” “erchiston,” “Brunts” would be recognisable to locals of Edinburgh but it may not work on an international scale. However I do feel the piece is strong internationally as science and nature are traits common among all of the population, people can relate to it wherever they are from. The scientific, clinical idea is continued with me filling he inside of the top drawer with a white base, this not only helps the specimens be more visible, but also softly implies science. I also think the pins are incredibly effective in portraying the specimens like insect specimen.
During my development stages I feel like I let myself down in my sketchbook, using it more like a log book, documenting all the processes I had used but not really showing my thought process very well. I think maybe the project would have come to a conclusion earlier and therefore have developed more by the end of the time scale. I have learnt from this and will from now on attempt to make my sketchbooks a real tool in the development process. For future projects I will use maybe a lined notebook to document, this will make me think and reflect upon my process a lot more. I will continue this until I am able to use plain paper books again.

Did the work meet the original brief?

I believe my final outcome highlights the issues and concerns over the natural world stated originally in the brief. My interest in science and faith shines through and really makes the piece intriguing. I see the piece as a delightful insight into the world of nature through the eyes of a human. I looked into our relationship with the environment and how we fit into the natural world; this let me make a deep response to the theme of faith and trust whilst cloaking it in a scientific mask. This trust and belief in science, which reminds me of trusting art, was a satirical point I wished to make just like Wells had made in several of his books. I believe this is what makes the art effective and what relates it to the brief.


Author: gordondouglas

Performance artist and curator based in Glasgow, Scotland.

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