Part 1. Project 2. Exercise 1: The Fourth Dimension

My thoughts on time

Time, most often I think about how I’d like more of it! I think the most interesting idea about time for me is time travel. Ideas brought up by various sci-fi films/series make me wonder about what time travel would be like, whether going against the kill-your-own-grandfather stratagem would create a radical new future or if time is more like a river and it would just find a way around the obstacle.

I’d love to travel forward in time, just to see what mankind does with the technology of today, do we continue destroying the planet or do we find a way to save it? I’d love to pop back in time too and see things like Roman roads being built and compare them to say the M1 now or the National Trust castles when they were at the height of their power.

I find it pretty cool looking at something really old and just imagining all the hundreds of years that an object has been through and all the various people that might have seen and handled it.

I also find it sad when people want to rewrite the past for a better story. For example the current movement to make history taught in schools less ‘imperialistic’ and ‘colonial’. Guess what, we were an Empire, we ruled vast swathes of the planet and we did it using some pretty questionable techniques in some cases but it happened. Whether you love it or hate it, that is our history and we need to learn from it. Statues to great heroes from the past are vandalised by people who read social media fake news about things they don’t understand. Churchill saved our nation from assimilation by a German war machine, yet you see students on the news frantically screaming that he was a right wing oppressor of liberties.

People either do not know or choose to ignore what has happened before and that is the easiest way for our country to get dragged into making the same mistakes all over again.

Have you thought about time in relation to art before?

The only real way in which I have thought about art before is in terms of how it can transport you to a different time and place either of imagination or creation.

A well crafted image/TV series set in a different time can detach you from where you are so completely that looking away from it/coming to the end of a series feels like resurfacing.

An image of a scene from somewhere you have previously experienced can take you back there in an instant. You can smell things, hear and taste things, sensations that may have been lost in a memory until that moment.

Have you already come across pieces that explore what time is?

I have not yet come across any pieces of art that specifically explore what time is. To be honest I generally only look at illustrations related to children’s books or photography on the theme of nature/portraiture.

In a way you could use almost anything and link it to the exploration of time. There is an artist who uses toy Etch-a-Sketch’s to produce portraits of celebrity’s and recreate famous paintings. You could argue that one of his finished Etch-A-Sketches represents time, the time he invested into creating each piece. If you wanted to get philosophical about it you could say that shaking the Etch-a-Sketch and destroying the image on the screen is representative of how time once gone is gone forever.

I had a look around online and discovered an interesting artist called Raghava KK. He creates a lot of works based on the idea of Evolution. Evolution could be applied in several contexts, the one which I think is most common is that of the passing of time.

Hindustan Times. (2019). Exploring evolution through a surreal blend of pop culture. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Jul. 2019].

Raghava KK,Raghava KK Art,Raghava KK Artwork
Raghava, KK. (Hindustan Times. (2019). Exploring evolution through a surreal blend of pop culture. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Jul. 2019].

In the article entitled ‘Exploring evolution through a surreal blend of pop culture’ from 26th August 2015 he explains about his drawing style and the ideas behind his pieces. It was all reading very well until the end when I read a quote that makes me cringe “My paintings are not new media – they are very much the traditional paint on canvas. But the way I see the world is extremely avant-garde.” . With that last line he reminds me of Damien Hirst. This is very likely just as a result of my bias against modern art but what I find myself asking is ‘why do they all want to be some kind of special snowflake?!’

The course folder talks a little about an artist called Tacita Dean who displays animal noises captured on physical tape as a length of tape within a frame. This explores time in several ways. Initially the length of the tape shows the length of the noise that the animal was making. The display of the tape without the accompanying noise means that he viewers mind takes them back to a place where they last heard that noise and plays it for them. From yet another angle the choice to display the tape, a variety which is no longer printed in the UK is a statement on the passing of time as technology has rendered it obsolete. Where would you even start in the quest to play a 16mm tape if you found one at a boot fair?

So yes, Tacita Deans work explores the passage of time from several different angles. Displaying time as a thing which can actually be measured by something physical is an interesting approach. Again though, again I’m struck by how daft I find it that this is called art. I could put my workboots on a pedestal in a gallery and call them ‘war and peace’ (the different injurys the boots have picked up being souvenirs from such destinations as Afghaistan etc, the road to peace being measured in the tread worn away from their soles) but that wouldn’t be art either!


Part 1. Project 2. ‘Entrance: Place- The First Of All Things’ Pages 13-14

In this task I am to read an extract from ‘Entrance: Place- The First Of All Things’ and make some notes about how closely related time and place are, in particular when I experience work at an exhibition.

Time and Place are two things that I had never considered together until beginning this module. When I read the two designated pages what struck me most was what the authors state on Pg 14 ‘When space feels thoroughly familiar to us, it has become place’. This is very true and not something I had considered before.

Contents of art works often represent either time or place or a combination of the two. When looking at pieces of art I often find myself transported to a different place either of memory or imagination, this can often go hand in hand with losing track of time in my present location!

I find I’m struggling to generate any further thoughts on these two themes. From having a brief look at other previous students learning logs I see that people have written reams of rather philosophical responses but I’m just not wired up to think in that way.

Part 1. Project 1. Exercise 5: Finding Out More

In this exercise I am to find two examples of still life work that includes fish and in each case note the title, artist and date. I am to make quick sketches of them in my learning log.

The two examples of still life including a fish which I chose to use are quite different from one another. The first is a photographic example which I found at The Guardian online.

the Guardian. (2019). The 10 best contemporary still lifes. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Jul. 2019].

wright, c. (2010). Nature Morte 2. [image] Available at: [Accessed 17 Jul. 2019].

This artist (Cindy Wright) has created a series of images to remind people about the cost of eating meat. All this image reminds me of are the needless displays of aggressive veganism at locations like Turkey farms and in the meat section of supermarkets. If we all had to kill our own meat then a lot of people may well choose to become vegetarian, personally I think that would depend entirely on how hungry people became. Everyone should know where their food comes from but equally there’s no need to dress it up. Again I find that this is an arrangement of objects to make a point but not something that I consider to be art.

My second choice of still life is an impressionist oil painting called Still Life with Fish by Pierre Auguste Renoir from 1890 which I discovered at WikiArt online. (2019). Still Life with Fish, c.1890 – Pierre-Auguste Renoir – [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Jul. 2019].

Renoir, P. (n.d.). [image] Available at: [Accessed 17 Jul. 2019].

I do not think there are any hidden meanings in this image, I believe that it has been produced purely for decorative purposes. This, to me, is an example of art. It serves a purpose and it took a lot of skill to complete.

I now have to watch a video discussion from the Khan Academy about Hirsts piece. I am to list the different areas of context that are covered and any references to ‘time’.

I found this video, not at the link given in the student handout but instead at

Khan Academy. (2019). Damien Hirst, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Jul. 2019].

Areas of Context;

  • The title of the piece
  • Arts relationship to the understanding of mortality
  • Physical construction of the artwork
  • How open to interpretation art from the 20th and 21st century is
  • Survival instinct of the human brain
  • The disintegrating nature of the shark and how that can be a metaphor for normal life
  • The impermanence of art
  • The sophistication of Damien Hirst and the potential thought he put into the design of the piece
  • The establishment of museums of philosophy

References to Time;

  • favourite piece of art in last 3-4 decades
  • the history or art coming to terms with mortality
  • art through history
  • 20th and 21st century compared to renaissance
  • post the movie ‘Jaws’
  • 2nd shark that has been displayed in this tank
  • “his design didnt hold up to time”
  • transgenerational nature of art
  • art changing over time
  • Egyptians mummifying bodies
  • the inevitability of decay
  • museums as time capsules

Whilst listening I was also to listen out for information on several other headings;

  1. Hirst – It is decided that it was Hirsts ‘sophistication’ that led to him choosing to display the shark in a tank of formaldehyde. ‘He created the impossibility of its preservation’.
  2. The Piece – The title of the piece is remarked upon as being just as profound as the piece itself. The full experience is described as including both the piece AND the title.
  3. Hirsts other work – It is mentioned that he also slices sheep in half and displays them in tanks.
  4. Information on other artists whose work is concerned with mortality -Duchamp is quoted as saying “A work of art is completed by the viewer”. No other artists are mentioned.

Has the contextual information about The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living altered your view or response to it in any way?

Yes it has. My initial response to this installation was exasperation. Having read further online in essays previously referenced about the links between Hirst’s shark and capitalism through the decades I can now see how it represents a many layered message. I’ll certainly never be able to watch ‘Jaws’ in the same way again!

Even with my further enlightenment I still have not changed my definition on what makes something art. Having to go and research something to understand it, in my opinion, means something is unsuccessful as a concept.

The Guardian Article

I located this at

Searle, A. (2019). Damien Hirst – review. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 17 Jul. 2019].

Well I’ve read the article and I’m firmly on the side of the author. When I read that he had been classing Hirsts work as ‘memento mori in the pursuit of a reputation’ since 2009 I actually laughed aloud. I couldn’t agree more.

He assembles objects which provoke a reaction, yes. Unfortunately that reaction is normally one of disgust. Is it necessary to continually present once living things in tanks of formaldehyde? I am currently sat in the Falkland Islands where I am being forced to work with the Army. One of their favourite games at the moment is to try and poo on the floor in as public a place as possible without being caught. Seeing this mornings turd outside the hairdressers provoked a reaction in me all right but it certainly doesn’t make it art.

Part 1. Project 1. Exercise 4: Looking at Context

This exercise focussed on a work of art by Damien Hirst entitled The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living.

Write down a few words giving your first reaction to the piece

The name of the piece seems unrelated to the actual artwork. It seems to be a dramatic statement with very little point.

Do you have an emotional response to it?

My main emotional response to this was a sigh of exasperation. I find Hirst to be a showman with no substance, when you look past the glitter there is very little for me to see there.

What do you think it’s about?

I think this piece is about the fact that someone is only truly dead when no-one still living  remembers them. Photos and mementoes of a persons life may record the fact that they walked the Earth but the actual person themselves is only remembered by those who knew them.

Whilst writing an answer to this question I explored the internet a little further. I’ve always been quite anti-modern art so I know I’m going to need to consult a lot of different sources to help me attempt to adjust my viewpoint. Whilst reading various articles I came across an interesting essay entitled ‘Damien Hirsts Shark: Nature, Capitalism and the Sublime’ from the following address .

Within this article the author compares Hirsts shark to Capitalism, an idea which initially I scoffed at but the ore I read through the pages the more I understood him to be correct. Even though I now understood the symbolism of the shark and how the film Jaws was a any layered stamen about how we live in a controlled state, I was still unimpressed by Hirsts installation, like a doughnut without a filing.

And then…

I scrolled through the essay a little more and I found another installation by Hirst which I understood immediately.

‘The Acquired Inability to Escape’ symbolises exactly what I hate about working at a desk. It feels as though you are trapped in a box with no room for individuality or spark, no sense of joy or satisfaction is allowed to enter the box. As entrepreneur Daniel Priestley describes in his book ‘Entrepreneur Revolution’, we in the Computer Age are subject to a system which directs us through a certain life path, it makes us worker bees. The system also looks after us, I do not mean to infer that we need to set fire to the institution, merely that I can empathise with this piece. In my current job I am not trapped at a desk all day, I am merely trapped in the wrong industry. Being an engineer bores the pants off me, every work task is like being stuffed into a box like this, a box of the mind, in addition it is one of the reasons that I started this degree! To escape!

Having stared at this installation for quite a while I have come to the conclusion that I have misjudged Hirst, maybe the Shark in the tank does for some people what that desk in a box is doing for me.

What do you think about the title?

I think the title of Hirsts shark installation is part of the piece. It has to be because without it you would have no idea what point Hirst was trying to make. In my opinion you should be able to look at a piece of art and be able to tell what it is about without having to read the exhibition programme. I am also of the opinion that you shouldn’t have to read the name of something to know what it is, the one exception being the artistic car crash (often with added superglued pasta) being thrust at you by a proud 6 year old or similar.

When considering the title of Hirsts piece I also find that it carries a message all by itself, I do not need to see a giant shark in a tank of preservatives to be able to generate meaning from his choice of words. I am sure I should be saying that the shark adds value to the piece as a whole, that it creates some kind of valid point worthy of consideration. But try as I might I just cannot come to that conclusion, I think Hirst is making a valid point but his choice of illustrating it is about as effective as the Brexit Bus. Not enough information, over the top showing off, it just annoys people.

I then had to look at a vanitas painting by Edward Collier called ‘Still Life with a Volume of Withers Emblemes’ painted in 1696. The same questions were to be answered.

Write down a few words giving your first reaction to the piece

Talent. That silver bowl at the front left is ridiculously lifelike. Warm light is welcoming. Myriad of interesting objects to spot. It’s a picture to investigate.

Do you have an emotional response to it?

Yes. I am drawn to this painting. The warm light makes it a welcoming scene for me. I am also drawn to the cluttered nature of the elements within the frame. A picture that I can investigate is one that I can spend hours looking at. Whilst investigating each element I am very impressed by the level of talent of the artist. The realistic renderings of each individual item are very impressive and demonstrate a skill level which I can only dream of attaining.

What do you think it’s about?

Initially I was wondering if the painting might be about showing off. The images contains food, music being played ad poetry being read which in former times were tools one would use to show off in society. In truth it reminded me of me being sat here right now attempting to learn my way through Art Theory, as soon as I attain this degree I will be dropping it into conversation and showing it off at every opportunity (hence the link!)

I then read further in the course manual and read the description of the contents given to it by the Tate website. This description informed me that it was more along the lines of mortality and contrasting it with death. I found that quite interesting because I associate the warm glow of the paining and the objects within to be more elements of life! Collier arrived in London in 1698 to sell still life paintings to the English market, I am curious to know whether this influenced his choice of objects within the frame. I imagine he made it more to do with life than death for this reason. Not many people would choose to pay money for a morbid painting to hang on their wall!

The more I study this painting the more interesting I find it. I found the arrangement of items particularly good. By this I mean how the book page with the mans face on is a natural point of focus and has been positioned on the top left thirds point. The way the light falls on this page means that it took me a while to spot the skull in the shadow on the top left hand corner. The bright light on the objects on the left and the contrast with the darker negative space on the right draws the focus of the viewer to the objects that symbolise life as opposed to death.This could possibly be a nod towards the fact that the majority of people are drawn to life, to fight for it against sometimes impossible odds.

What do you think about the title?

The title of this piece in contrast to Hirsts is a lot more descriptive. It tells you what is in the image rather than directing you in how to respond to it. I am unsure as to whether this is for more practical reasons, ie because the original name of the piece got lost through time and a museum had to give it one for the sake of differentiation at a later date or whether this really is a practical title that Collier gave his piece.

It works a lot better for me than Hirsts title. I needed Hirsts title to make sense of the installation that he presented. I would far rather be left to explore a painting like Colliers for myself and come to my own conclusions.

Part 1. Project 1. Exercise 3: Reading About Art

In this exercise I am required to read an excerpt from ‘Art History: The Basics’ by Grant Pooke and Diana Newall (2008, Abingdon: Routledge) Pages 1-8. I am to make notes on any parts that require further research or that jump out at me as particularly meaningful. I am also to identify any words that are new to me and list them.

The one item from this extract which really struck me was the initial tale of David Hensel submitting a sculputre of a head for an art exhibition, and how the plinth that accompanied it became mistakenly identified as the exhibit instead. That one of the traditional academy arts should be mistaken for a piece of Contemporary art strikes me as quite amusing.

I’m not a fan of Contemporary art myself so the idea that someone can look at an empty plinth and not think ‘maybe there’s something that should go on top of that’, just seems a bit nutty.

Throughout the text I noted down all words that were new to me. The words and their definitions are listed below.

Bauhaus – This is a German modern art movement.

My Modern Met. (2019). Bauhaus: How the Avant-Garde Movement Transformed Modern Art. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Jul. 2019].

Hegemonic – This means leadership or dominance. (2019). Definition of hegemony | [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Jul. 2019].

Ethnographic – This means ‘a branch of anthropology dealing with the scientific description of individual cultures ‘. (2019). Definition of ethnographic | [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Jul. 2019]. Ethnographic – This means ‘ a branch of anthropology dealing with the scientific description of individual cultures ‘.

Part 1. Project 1. Exercise 2: What is Art?

This exercise presents me with a list of questions which I am to spend approximately 15 minutes answering.

What is art?

In my opinion, art in general is anything which draws you in, absorbs you, makes you want to keep studying it. For example the beauty in a sunset is a sensation of nature, the photograph or painting which can capture that sight, that is art.

How do we know it is art?

I classify art as a physical piece intended to capture the eye which has taken some recognisable artistic skill to create.

Often people will only classify something as art if it is within a gallery, being presented as art ie within a frame or on a plinth.

Who decides what is art?

To get something into the public eye or into a gallery to be recognised as art in the traditional sense then it must be seen by curators, collectors, critics, experts etc and judged to be art.

On a personal level someone looking at an object or scene will choose for themselves what they perceive art to be.

Is it enough just to display a found object and say ‘this is art’ because it’s in an art gallery?

For me, no. I do not think putting a found object into an art gallery makes it art. I also did not think that Tracey Emins ‘Everyone I Have Ever Slept With’ was art. I thought it was a clever play on words, but it isn’t art.

Duchamp said he wanted “to put the art back in the service of the mind”. What do you think he meant by this?

I think he meant that people weren’t looking for art, they weren’t finding it in everyday life, he wanted to address that. If you are routinely presented with gilt framed paintings by old masters and told that ‘this is art’ then you become reliant on having this spoon fed to you. In reality there is beauty in the everyday, anything can provoke appreciation in the right context or frame of mind if you are receptive to it. However I still maintain the opinion that there is a difference between people being more aware of what is around them, for example the likes of Duchamps urinal, and classifying something as art.

Is technical skill an important quality in an artwork?

Yes. If an artwork does not contain an element of skill then it has no effect on me at all. It needs to be something that I cannot do for myself, ideally it needs to make me go nose-to-canvas trying to figure out how they managed to produce such an image before standing back and absorbing the image properly.

Do you think art needs to move you emotionally?

No. If it doesn’t move me then it probably will move someone else instead. Art is unique for each individual that looks at it.

Does art have to be unique?

Not for me. The way each artist renders the same scene will be completely different. It is in their depiction that the uniqueness of their approach will manifest itself, and from that there will be different reactions from the viewer.

Part 1. Project 1. Exercise 1: Duchamps Fountain

I am to use a few words to write down my first response to Duchamps fountain.

My actual first response on turning the page were a few profanitys having just spent a good portion of my Reith lectures post thinking about what a ridiculous idea it was! I should have seen this coming!

My responses to Duchamps fountain

  • it frustrates me because I do not classify it as art
  • Pretentious twaddle

Part 1. Project 1. Reith Lectures – Grayson Perry

I was instructed to listen to at least one of and take notes on the Reith Grayson Perry lectures.

I found the transcripts online which proved to be very useful!

Reith Lectures – Tate Modern. (2013) Playing to the Gallery: Democracy has bad taste. : (Accessed on 17 July 2019)

My notes on – Lecture One. Playing to the Gallery: Democracy Has Bad Taste

Contemporary art, once a bit of an eccentric niche, has gone mainstream, it’s all around us. A lot of people still aren’t comfortable with the idea of modern art and need more of a frame of reference with which to approach it which is what Grayson Perry (GP) wished to address.

There is a somewhat backward relationship between what we are told is good and what is actually popular. What is popular is different again to what we think we want, this was demonstrated by the experimentation of Komar and Melanie in the 1990’s. Currently something is only judged to be ‘of quality’ if deemed so by a range of different people from the artists peers to critics and dealers. After these inspections have taken place we are allowed to approach the ‘art’ knowing that this must be good. To me that defies the whole point of art, what’s right for one person is not right for another, if you happen to be in a minority of people for liking something then why should this mean that it is worth less, if, for you, it still takes your breath away?

Art takes itself very seriously as GP discovered when he was asked if he was a loveable character or a serious artist. The impression that the art world gives off is that you have to be high brow or your work is not worth as much, why? One example that springs to my mind is Banksy, an artist who regularly makes political statments through the use of representational elements in a very contemporary medium, admittedly a little illegally. His paintings are protected and auctioned for thousands which implies that he has passed the inspection phase that GP mentions by the curators, collectors and peers. Still though I do not see him feted in the art world for his talent, from what I have seen so far he seems to be an artist recognised and celebrated by the people rather than the experts.

This made me think twice about the title that GP gave this initial lecture. ‘Democracy has Bad Taste’. Does he mean that we, the great unwashed, have got no taste in what is art and what is not? Quite possibly it is instead a reference to the fact that what is deemed to be good by the experts can be at odds with what is actually popular. GP is a bit of an enigma in this interview both poking fun at the art worlds seriousness whilst simultaneously shuddering at the thought of fashionable people deciding that they like his art so I’m not sure which definition he would have been leaning towards.

In 1998 I watched the Turner Prize as recommended by my Art Teacher at the time. The winner that year was a man called Chris Ofili who uses a lot of elephant dung in his work to either adorn or support his paintings. Elephant dung. Now this guy must be classed as a good artist, he attended the Chelsea School of Art followed by the Royal College of Art in which time he was awarded a travelling scholarship around Zimbabwe ( Accessed 20/02/19) . On top of all that, he didn’t pull that Turner prize out of a cereal packet, he won it fair and square. It is the ‘how!?’ that blows my mind.

He’s attached poo to the painting of a black woman. If anybody else on the planet did that right now there would be outpourings of accusations of either racism or gender inequality. On top of that the painting doesn’t even look that good, to me, but as I’m sure is coming across I am one of the Great Unwashed who has no ‘taste’ in art and thinks Banksy is an inspiration. If that means I never have to look at a painting covered in elephant poo and look for deep significance within it then I’m ok with that to be honest!

Lecture Two. Playing to the Gallery: Beating the Bounds

Within this lecture GP sets out a criteria to help people decide whether or not something is art.

He also mentions an artist called Marcel Duchamp who brought a urinal into an independent art gallery in 1917 . Duchamp (GP says) believed that he could just point at something and say “That’s art”. I can’t believe that there was not a single person there who said to him “No mate, that is a urinal”, writing your name on something does not make it special. GP mentions further examples such as an artist (Robert Rauschenberg) who was asked to paint a portrait to which he wrote a response claiming an approximation of “this is a portrait if I say it is”, and this GP alleges is another work of art. No Mr Perry, that is someone being a tit.

As if his examples could not get any more hair-pullingly frustrating for their utter lack of hand skill, once again we are drawn back to excrement. It seems in 1961 an artist called Piero Manzoni canned his own faeces and sold them for their equivalent weight in gold.

*head in hands*

I listened to GP’s different litmus tests of whether or not something is a piece of art and came to the conclusion that he is actually one of the establishment of people he claims to poke fun at from afar.

Only one thing he mentioned in his lecture had any resonance with me. It was something he was told by Charlie Gere, Professor of Media Theory and History at Lancaster University. GP asked him ‘Can you give me a definition when I would know I was looking at a piece of web art rather than just an interesting website’. The reply was ‘you know it might be art rather than just an interesting website when it has the grip of porn without the possibility of consummation or a happy ending’. Now, ignoring the (once again) overly sordid frame of reference and applying it to art in general, that is the closest definition that I have found so far that correlates with my own opinion of what is and is not art.