Unit Task 2

I am rereading and revisiting the notion of the crowd and carnival through Rabelais and His Worldby Mikhail Bahktin. This seems to bring together a series of strands which underpin my current investigations. I am interested in narrative and storytelling, the power of challenging and subverting constructs and alternate truths. Striking a balance between what is familiar and what is uneasy and awkward; a sense of what is strange and unnerving or perhaps playful or menacing. He writes…
‘The fairy tale world can be defined as strange and unusual, but it is not a world that has become alienated. In the grotesque, on the contrary, all that was for us familiar and friendly suddenly becomes hostile.’ (Bahktin, pp. 48)
In subverting the fairytale it becomes further removed from a narrative we are perhaps willing to engage with and inserts a sense of peril or danger where the viewer/reader may become compelled or repelled by the work. Does the work have the power to ensnare in its layers of spun truths?
Although no longer a literal mask, I feel my work is returning to a place where the boundaries of reality and reflection are fluid; figures can be absorbed and disguised, only leaving a trace of what they might have been. Bahktin writes about this state of metamorphosis…‘The mask is related to transition, metamorphosis, the violation of natural boundaries…it contains the playful element…on a peculiar interrelation of reality and image, characteristic of the most ancient rituals and spectacles.’ Pp. 40, which reminded me of Marina Warner’s chapters Mutating, Hatching, Splitting, Doubling (Warner, Fantastic Metamorphoses); a state of instability. How can I achieve a sense of instability with a permanent media like paint? The fluid nature of the surface seems fixed, not the smudge or stain which indicates something just missed. Making transformations and personal narratives of figures explicit to the viewer without a literal interpretation involves retelling stories to link an ambiguous collection of elements through hybrid, binary and semiotics.
The cyclical nature of metamorphosis brings the theme of bookness and series to a point where the narrative strands can continue indefinitely, and forever be deconstructed and rearranged depending on the experience or desire of the viewer.
‘The grotesque image reflects a phenomenon in transformation, an as yet unfinished metamorphosis, of death and birth, growth and becoming. The relation to time is one determining trait of the grotesque image. The other indispensible trait is ambivalence. For in this image we find both poles of transformation, the old and the new, the dying and the procreating, the beginning and the end of the metamorphosis.’ (Bahktin, pp. 24)
Again through duality and contrast, dialogue can be constructed between figure and other elements. Are paintings reflexive in the way they mirror the nature of a metamorphosis and ‘flow’? Does the media flow and evolve in the same way the figures could merge and dissolve? Is the painting process cyclical, eventually rotating and readdressing the same concerns but with new knowledge?
Bakhtin, M. (1965) Rabelais and His World. USA: Indiana University Press.
Warner, M. (2002) Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Zipes, J. (2012) The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The Cultural and Social History of a Genre. USA: Princeton University Press.  
Works in progress made during time of writing

Feedback from Unit Task 2

·         Interested in the nature of fluid nature of surface and instability

·         Relation between practice and concept – influence of Bacon

·         Destabilising the figure or background

·         Using the same book, previous visual annotation – layers of the history of the book, a visual way of dealing with a path of research

·         The idea of bring more knowledge to a book – a personal connection

·         The literal mask – pieces with the missing figure is in a sense masked

·         Ongoing relationships with books

·         Cyclical nature of metamorphosis – retelling stories

·         Water Benjamin – storytelling

·         Cyclical narrative devices

·         The relationship between making and text – does the text inform the making or does the text contextualise the making?

·         Colour without boundaries – could this apply to application of paint?

·         Meaning making and binary bias


I actually feel that I have written something of value in relation to my work. This is hugely because I committed considerable time to reading and note taking through Rabelais to extract meaning and ideas. I actually wrote it before my tutorial with Stewart but many of the ideas we discussed are within this writing – introduced by him. So a pivotal piece of writing which draws together and launches new ideas for my practice and contextualises visual elements. Instability is going to be a main feature – within surface, composition, abstracting and simplifying of space and figure. Also written very fluidly and a product of note taking, followed by typing up notes, followed by structuring into these paragraphs  – the information revisited and investigated more deeply with each review.

One Month Reflection
This task gave me much more confidence in my ability to make links between theory and my practice. Particularly, the act of writing notes then bringing these together to create a structure for writing about my own work. Instability has become an underpinning theme for my current practical work and the process of note taking and making time for reading is becoming more and more important. This has been further reinforced by the writing workshop and ideas about gathering notes and ideas, expanding them and then refining and editing.

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