Category Archives: Education

Side note – Karla Black

Now would be as good a time as any to break away from recording my internship, as in my last post I introduced the work of Karla Black at GI 2012. Karla  represented Scotland at the 54th Venice Biennale and was a finalist for the Turner Prize in 2011, the year that Martin Boyce won. Martin was actually at an opening at the gallery while I was a volunteer tour guide, unfortunately I don’t have pictures but maybe someone does!

Karla’s sculptural installations are known for their light pastel colour schemes and ephemeral quality, and for the artists’ use of everyday household materials. This is a common sub-genre of conceptual and neo-conceptual art in itself, and a feature of a lot of Glasgow artists (hence the title of the latest sculpture show at GoMA, ‘Everyday‘. But more of that later.) One particular talking point about Karla in particular, is her adoption of what could be termed ‘feminine care’ products such as cosmetics, in her work. ‘Don’t Adapt, Detach’ is decorated with glitter eyeliner in place of paint, for example, and those looking closely at ‘Empty Now’ would have seen bronzing pearls casually strewn on the sawdust.

Karla Black GI 2012

The ramifications of such use of materials deserves in-depth discussion, and is a topic I will write about in a later post. The artists’ incorporation of stereotypical ‘feminine’ products raises important questions of meaning, intent, and interpretation. The habit of society to read gender into art, as in so many things, will form part of my Masters research, and the meaning we read into materials is something I am very interested in. Karla Black’s own reaction to such categorization of her work was one of the motivating factors for me in my research, and has posed many as yet unanswered questions.

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Some reflections on my time as an Intern

I’ve come to the end of my twelve-month internship as a Curatorial Assistant. I actually can’t believe that a year has passed since I was finishing my finals and starting in the gallery, it has passed so quickly. My internship served as a crash course in contemporary art, and dropped me in to the city’s current art scene. If that sounds a little dramatic, you have to understand that there is a limit to how ‘contemporary’ your classes get when you study Art History. With my honours focused primarily on art of the twentieth-century, I didn’t really get any more recent than the late eighties. After all the (amazing!) stuff that happened in the sixties and seventies, study materials sort of trailed off…

Graduation Day

Which is precisely why such a different approach is needed when you are dealing with contemporary art. Sure, the theory and the historical impetus still stand, and occupy not just an important place but also a really useful one when it comes to critiquing current works. There is not, however, this sense of retrospective reinterpretation and categorisation that dictates how ‘historical’ art of times past should be viewed and understood. In my case, I was mainly viewing art by emerging and mid-career level artists, who are still in a developmental phase, which keeps things fresh and interesting! Even more importantly, if you come from an Art History background, there is very little literature about these artists! The odd review if you’re lucky, sometimes. Academic essays in peer-reviewed journals are the exception, and not the norm, which means I had to change how I approached researching these artists.

To be continued…

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Formal Training and Creativity. Versus?

Does theory and training hamper creativity?

At a talk this week by designer Wayne Hemingway OBE, he made the case for thinking outside the box with regards to training. As a fashion designer Hemingway was self-taught, which seemed to remove the barriers of self-preservation and open him up to be truly brave and experimental. While it is true that in 2013, a lack of formal education in your chosen field is an almost guaranteed barrier to entry, there is no reason, according to Hemingway, why an architect cannot design clothes, or a graphic designer cannot design social housing. The training is a basis and a foothold, but should serve to give you the confidence to think much more broadly. But isn’t it true that the more you know the more you realise you don’t know?

As a classically trained musician, I have long bemoaned my complete lack of songwriting ability, blaming it on the fact that I have been trained in the ‘proper’ way to write music. What I mean by this is that I just can’t put pen to paper and run with it, but I am crippled by rules of key signatures and what not. It would have to make sense to me, rather than  honest and unrestrained expression. While I love listening to contemporary and cutting edge artists, seeing their work in sheet music form hurts my eyes and my brain.

While not belittling the importance of sound theoretical training, I wonder if the extra rules and constrictions that come with the acquiring of academic knowledge can be restrictive? Or perhaps that is the point: that true greatness may come once you have mastered the theory and are then able to go beyond it with innovation?

The old adage rings true for me with music: I know enough to know that what I write wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as the work of the artists I listen to, and so I don’t bother. I think the key attribute in creativity may be neither training or lack of it, but bravery, tenacity, and resilience. 

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