After April, the time to start planning for the final MFA show was upon us. With a global crisis in our hands, and the world changing every minute we had to adapt in order to continue to produce work. The situation increasingly became worse and UAL was forced to close for the safety of students and staff, leaving us with the option of concluding the degree via online assesment. This was a huge challenge for us as students. Without the facilities open, most of us could not continue our practices, and adapting at the last stretch of finishing the course was a struggle without one-on-one support from technicians, staff, and materials supplied by the university.
For this reason, my practice suffered a turn of ideas. Since cutting and sanding my canvases wasn't possible without the woodshop facilities, the strategy for the Degree Show piece had to be changed, because it was important for me to continue working, thus concept became the center-light of the proposed piece.
Working on paintings at home was equally challenging. London is not home for me. I live here without family or close friends around and my room has no space to match the ambitions of the last works I had planned, nor was my landlord keen about painting inside the house. Luckily, I was able to work at my friend's small studio, and managed to adapt the scales of the paintings to work in that space. Amidst this emotional and physical stress, Tools and paint were also hard to find due to all stores being closed and internet services overload. Once paint ran out I had to ask around for paint that artists weren't using and even had to use some house paint I found in the garage to compose the trial paintings. I aim to produce the final product once the situation gets back to normal.
All in all, it was a difficult time for all with new obstacles every day but we made it work and the projects in our webfolios are the proof of a resoursefull, creative group of emerging artists that I am proud of being part of.
Shots of me painting in my friend's house, for Postgraduate Article on Working during Quarantine
Control has surfaced in the work countless times, connected directly, and indirectly to each phase. After reflecting on these past years, I realized it describes my practice, on its own. The Arc presents the progress made from concept to technique, as well as from mentally distraught to in control of the emotional experiences. So it makes perfect sense that control is the notion we have arrived, both mentally and in my practice.
As said briefly stated in the Arc, the modus operandi has evolved from intuitive to strategic - what used to be fueled by automatic processes of drawing now has evolved to picture referencing and creating my own sceneries for the study of the body, movement, and gesture. The relation between these three is now what defines the work's imagery.
The choice of the topic continues in the line of the now more defined research question:
What happens within our close relationships when the roles of the family are reversed?
Much can be said within the boundaries of this question - is what the work has informed the artist. How interesting is to see the knowledge unfold in front of the eyes when we choose to be honest and fearless of our twisted reality. Behold how much the work can tell us if we pay attention.
When combining the mentioned process principles and the rich narrative of past experience, there's a story that unfolds that is neither judgmental nor moralistic. It is, instead, humbled by its deep social drama that speaks volumes to so many of us. This practice is dedicated to those within that group: the less privileged, the one's that feel alone and isolated from the world, with no other intention than just to inform and bring to light certain aspects that otherwise wouldn't be talked about.
The choice of this medium has proven to not disappoint in the terms of experimentality. I have learned much from acrylics and their properties from the archive and mention it currently because it is an on-going learning process that will continue on. I have chosen it for the challenge it proposed to me, who have never studio painted before. I chose to remain faithful to it for the numerous possibilities it opens for my work and for the aesthetic that pleases me continuously.
Grandma's final quote
Conversations about life w/ the women of my life
Process / concept informing the current work
Batting practice (unfinished)
Initial sketch on canvas board
Medium: Graffite pencil
Dimensions: 1 x 1 meters
First steps into building the concept in Batting practice were structuring the pose along with the concept idea, by taking photographs and defining the imagery composing the painting - thus owning and establishing this modus operandi as the chosen one.
To establish the idea, a simple sketch of the main keywords surrounding the concept is sufficient. Upon grounding the important dualities control/uncontrolled, oppression/freedom, anger/calm, the time has come to build the imagery of the concept.
I wish to finish my degree with this piece because it is a reflection of the past year's emotional experiences that have become increasingly conscious in my years living in London. Living here alone, for two years having to continue to care for my family plus my mother's situation is hard, to say the least. But the passion for what I do and the people I've met in this course, students and tutors, were an inspiration. I come from a closed educational system, where innovation struggles to strive within the senior architecture studios, and thinking outside the standard box of ideas is frown upon or simply not accepted. This current experience has taught me that I can speak from experience in my practice, and I should if I have a unique view of things, in order to inform. What I take from all the ups and downs of the Archive and the researching and digging through suppressed memories, is that Art cannot strive if its dishonest. Having a voice makes art meaningfull. If we don't use this powerful means of expression to speak up, unfiltered, then what is this but another form of oppression through censorship?
Thus, my practice today is about issues around care, based on my personal experience caring for an ill mother. These issues touch all of the subjects that you see in the Archive: death, fear, doubt, mixed feelings, confusion, denial, reflection, acceptance, and taking action, in this order and sometimes scattered all over. Because there is no guideline to when life switches and standard roles within society and the family flip. This painting is the pinnacle of both stories, it is what happens when both edges rub - how we feel the same as a carer and cared for because we are both of the roles, reversed at times. It's a simple way to pin a very complex subject matter.
This painting represents a woman in a hospital gown, ready to strike - that by itself represents the exhaustion and the attitude to fight back - and the head is introduced later as a symbol of the repressed feelings. The woman is ready to fight back at all her destructive confinements (emotional and physical) and stand her ground. She is both me and my mother.
The intention of this creation also comprises a commentary on self-help strategies - the fact that no one can truly help you but yourself - and a caricature of a society that teaches women to 'hold it together" because losing control for women is "being hysterical" and being hysterical leads to crazy behaviour. We cannot cointinue categorizing women this way. Accepting your realities is healthy, knowing that things not always are as beautiful as movies is important. Losing control at times happens and it's perfectly acceptable as long as you take what you need to learn from it and move on, continuing to grow.
Experimentation / modus operandi in creation of paintings
Painting (82 x 61 cm) for palette study and process video with roller tool
After defining the concept with the help of sketching idea diagrams, pinning keywords, and taking photos to reference the pose of the gesture, it's time to start building the figurative language around the concept. Two smaller paintings were made for this, one with the woman posing in a hospital garment and another with a head screaming, added later to the equation (first the idea composed only the bat holding woman). Starting with the most commonly used colors to represent the skin, hair, and baseball the rest developed intuitively on canvas (Alla prima). It took resorting to layering, to define the garment values of light and wrinkles of movement, but nothing too complex.
The hair posed a certain challenge. All my paintings up to now have been identified with figures of no gender or face. Here, it matters not for the concept of the work which genders it is, but it matters that the viewer would identify the figure correctly as a patient from a hospital, not a hospice, hence choosing the green garment and a striking but calm pose. This makes a difference because I don't want the work falling into the trap of the viewer thinking it's a "crazy person with a bat" when this type of judgment is exactly what the painting informs against. For fear of being too obvious (going against my practice norms) I am relentless of depicting a bald woman, so I worked on something in between. These decisions I usually make during the painting process - having solved the issue by the second painting, with the right atmosphere palette in place, thus easier to adjust the head to it.
The final painting in my practice is a result of several small sketches and study paintings. This is how I operate my ideas.
Introduction of the Head / concept improvement
The idea to add a screaming head to the painting came upon reflecting on the piece mentioned above. The gesture of the figure captured the emotion clearly, for the first part of the intention (a woman that is ready to fight back) but it doesn't give complementing information on the rest of the intention. The screaming head is the figurative expression of the anger, doubt, confusion of past emotions depicted, hence the hole scene representing the closing of this chapter and a new attitude towards the practice.
The first background falls into the category of the geometric work presented in the initial phase of the painting practice. This is merely visual at this stage - in an attempt to find the right atmosphere for the painting. I tend to experiment better once I start by an abstract background; after establishing that, changing it is easier for me, sometimes even leading to completely different outcomes.
Upon reflecting again, I remembered the urge I had months ago, to create something as a tribute to Alfred Hitchcock, my favorite movie director. It feels right to add Janet Leigh head in the classic shower scene of Psycho (1960), because of this movie's intensifying theme: an unending subconscious battle between good and evil that exists in everyone (character of the plot and viewer) - it pinpoints exactly how these years felt. Also, the voyeurism sensation created by Hitchcock with Marion's thoughts in the movie inspires this piece, acting as a metaphor to the categories of voyeurism experience today in the world - feeding on this "crazy woman" perception that has no control of her emotions and her life, subsisting negative traits of today's mass thinking.
Painting of the batting woman developed and fist head painting study
As mentioned before, Hitchcok's tribute in this painting sends a message much like the film: one of a constant disturbance to re-examine one's conscious and judgment abilities.
Like an ever lingering conscious voice that makes privacy with our own thoughts impossible, loss of control is, inevitably accompanied by its opposite. forming one of life's most valuable dualities. It is when we lose control that we find ourselves defining our boundaries, and with that, our values, controlling our identity from then on, hence stressing the importance of mental awareness. Behold, the cleansing moment - characterized by the fact that the woman is ready to hit back, forming a parallel to the shower scene of the movie.
In the final sketch and color trial, the concept becomes increasingly evident.
The woman's head changes to almost bald, setting the concept closer to the intended imagery,
Experimenting did not stop there, as some changes to the garment were applied in order to better communicate the "self-help" commentary. I tried adding commonly seen phrases of mental awareness t-shirts from staff, but quickly realized I was falling into the "too obvious": category and centered back in the green garment.
The main focus is directed to the screaming head, as it is the uncanny object of the scene, mimicking the controlling nature of its presence.
Three trials were done to establish the right proportion to the head, back in the sketch phase. The decision for this size complemented the idea of the deceiving grandiosity of this distress, as sometimes our problems seem heavier than they really are therefore we allow them to take the best of us.
The painting process was quick and simple, with the intention to test the atmosphere afterward. The blended technique applied in the skin (established on the last paintings of the practice) gives a realistic feel to the uncanny head, speaking to the viewer.
Final sketch on canvas board
Medium: Acrylic and Mixed Media
Dimensions: 1 x 1 meters
Two versions of the final piece background / new technique experiment in the first trial; technique more adequate to previous practice
The piece is a representation of the concept surrounding the hole practice. This is the final painting, it's composed of the same concept as before, with the shaping of the canvas in full effect. Shaping the canvas acts as a metaphor for the underlining concept of most if not all my works - loss. Like a puzzle, all pieces are brought together to make the image clear, hence, not being complete if something is missing. These lost pieces represent parts of ourselves we lose, are taken from us, or simply choose to leave behind. Some of them we find a match for, others we never do, leaving behind the so-called abyss. The title Batting Practice, (as in the last chance to warm up before the game), suggests this last concept further, in the sense that this is the final piece, made from the constant fails and wins of the practice - that builds up to the deciding point that is now. Ultimately, no matter how much batting practice you're allowed to, you can still lose the game.
Much like Alma Haser's, photography project Puzzling Portraits, whose works challenge the dimension of traditional portraiture, this work breaks the boundaries of painting and creativity within the fine art sector, with concept thought-out with both dimensions in mind (interior and exterior), consciously thinking of the relations of the painting with the space around it. The intention is not to make the piece too complex for this time, but to remain open to the possibility of changing the concept by changing the pieces of the puzzle, to create the viewer's own relation with that space. One of the ambitions for this piece was to make a structure that would enable the pieces to slide inside the painting, giving the viewer the possibility to re-arrange the story. For now, simplicity remain the best option, and because we remain on the topic of control, that wouldn't be viable for this piece as I want to suggest that I am in control, not others. For the future, the plan is to make the viewer an active participant in the story, allowing the audience to create their own stories by mounting the puzzle pieces themselves. This would be possible by creating a scenario in the painting that would be easily altered by the adding or subtracting of a piece.
Final piece for the degree show
Dimensions: 1 x 1 meters
Note: The Background may change, depending on the choices of abstractional background or simply one color background portrayed in the previous section. Upon fabricating the piece, changes may happen. (once I have paint supplyes again, and the right situations to get back to the workshops are met)
Fabrication and Installation
This is a representation, mounted by myself, of how the work is to be shown in Copeland. The background photo was taken by myself when we first visited the gallery space, I used it as an example, the area of installation doesn't necessarily have to be this one. I initially took a picture of this space due to the interesting shadow the natural light from the skylight creates.
I then photoshopped the painting in the wall with shadowing to give it a more realistic approach.
The pieces of the canvas that are taken out, don't have to be the ones depicted, the Tetris scheme can also be different.
When having the physical show, the perfect scenario would be to remake the structure in London, using Wimbledon College of art facilities and workshops to make the necessary adjustments. That may lead to minor differences in the work. This would mean accessing the wood workshop, to fabricate the frame for the piece, either in one big wood board or in two individual ones, that can be used separately or next to each other.
Photo of Copeland Gallery taken by me and photo montage of painting
Timeline / production
Define keywords that inform the work
Sketch initial ideas
Start thinking the canvas imagery
Define the imagery related to concept
Start posing in photos, recreating the imagined imagery
Sketch some poses as well
Sketching diferent possibilities for the scene of the painting composing pose with symbols, ideas, details, etc
I should be back in the London home so I can start producing the trial paintings
Testing color palette
Defining the atmosphere for the painting; test several different palettes.
Choose on preferable palette and experiment with that one, see what I can change and make it my own
Experiment with the background, fit in with the figure style and palette
Supposing we're back in the workshops for this month, start producing the final piece
Painting the final piece
Painting the final piece
Cut and shape the canvas
Budget / production
Pencil, rubber, geomtry tools
Circa 4/5 hours a day of labour (usually)
£75 (£15 p/h)
(calculations done for the max hours)
Canvas or wood boards for trials
Brushes, cleaning mediums
Circa 7/8 hours a day for painting (usually)
£160 (£20 p/h)
Sanding paper, saw, power tool to cut canvas
French cleat material, wood and nails
Circa 7/8 hours a day for painting (usually)
Circa 3/4 hours for shapping and cutting
£240 (£20 p/h)
Total of £475