Semester 2 : Week 4 ~ External Assessor Interview – Jake & Dinos Chapman, Jonathan Meese, Paul McCarthy, Tal R.

jake and dinos
I would love to see a big version of this…

The examiner was wonderful to talk to and was immediately able to recognise multiple strands in my work and gave me a lot of artists to look up and some good feedback. I was quite relieved as I am concerned about the cerebral, serious, minimalist bent of the Irish art scene in general and of this course in particular. I wish there were more people taking risks. So each new person I meet is a potential eye roller at my sloppiness and my humour, both of which are easily misconstrued. In that sense using absurdity and bad workmanship require more craft that other types of art rather than less. One has to be deliberate about it without being too obvious, incisive without losing the edginess. I am not there yet but at least I am starting to understand. So I was relieved I did not get an eye roll today, instead I got a lot of understanding. From her website,

‘[Breda Lynch is] interdisciplinary artist who explores the mediums of drawing, photography, print media, collage, installation and experimental video. She creates art from her ongoing engagement with discourses on identity, the double, the culture of the copy, hidden histories and queer culture.’

Breda Lynch at The Soul Noir Festival2017. Image at

As I said we had a good talk. Mostly she referred me to artists and others with similar styles, themes or methods as my own work. In fact this is what most art tutors do, refer to other artists. This is something I like but which other students take issue with. One classmate has said ‘I don’t want to listen to them telling me about other artists, I am concerned with my own work.’ The implication I think is that it is a lazy way of teaching or perhaps that tutors are stuck in what has been rather than what could be. This had not occurred to me as I enjoy immersing myself in what others are doing. It is inspiring and after all there is nothing new under the sun. We get inspiration from each other and add our own voice, our own twist.

So I considered this criticism and more or less rejected it. Yes it can be frustrating when there’s no response to our work, that we are kept at arm’s length by a barrage of alternative practice but in fairness it is not possible for an art tutor to engage with all students at such a  personal level, nor I think is it desirable. They tread a tricky path. If they respond personally to a students work they risk being accused of favoritism, of attracting too great a dependence by one student or another. With the artists temperament being as it is and the work being so close to the heart, this is a recipe for disaster. Besides, whether or not art can be taught (I don’t believe it can) we are not on the course to have our hands held. We are here to contextualise our practice ourselves, to triangulate what we are doing in the world of artwork as it is now, the better to plot our course in what is a difficult, lonely landscape. The only thing the tutors can give us are the co-ordinates for possible way stations on a route which is our own to map.

I was delighted with all the thoughts Breda threw at me. It demonstrated a breadth of knowledge as well as an identification with what she could see of my work and what I could explain of it to her. Her questions to me were incisive..

‘How are the materials that you use important?”

Is humour important?Why?

‘Is there a sense of story telling in my work?’

‘Where do you see your work fitting in?What path will you take?’

I have talked about my materials elsewhere, primarily wood and cardboard-recycled, reused, organic but machined, carriers of their own messages. I am still conflicted by my use of materials it has to be said. Or rather I feel, or felt, I may be stuck. That perhaps my process could be imposed on all sorts of materials if I would just try. But I am refining these thoughts.

Humour is definitely important, perhaps central but it is something that happens in the course of the process, rather than being deliberate. It is the essence of it I suppose, however it is the element I need to be careful with. Humour can often be misconstrued as ‘lightness’, lack of seriousness, when it is anything but. Some of course will not be drawn to my work no matter what. But those who are deserve that any humour be carefully considered and placed.

The story-telling had not occurred to me but I realised it is there in the story I am telling of a process over time, a time span longer that the hours spent actually constructing a piece-which is a different but important strand. This question above all, has helped me realise that my process on the spot, the instinctive work is different from the process I am trying to impart when I build the facsimile of an object. One is in the moment, a springing from my own history, all that has made me, the other is about my perception of a process that has already taken place.

The question about my where my practice might go made me think too that I may have to cut my own path. That it will be difficult, that it is already difficult. The subsequent talk about the health and safety of my work for instance has made me realise I will have to work harder than those who work on canvas or in print to get my work out there. That while my sloppiness is important, the framework I build for it, that I deliver it in needs to be crafted with care.

What has come out of this meeting is that ,ironically, by being sloppy and funny (in the darkest way) demands that I be deliberate and incisive.

Below are some of the artists she recommended I have a look at and why…

Jonathan Meese, a multi-disciplinary artist whose junky sculptures on plinths inspired this suggestion, in view of Chocolate girls plinth. Not sure I am interested in continuing to appropriate the plinth though, in doing so one is in danger of having ones work being absorbed by tradition..well unless your plinth is 9 feet tall and spalashed with chocolate…

Tal R. A Danish/Israeli artist. Again sculptures on plinths. I like some of these more than Meese’s. but primarily I like his installation Blinds…tunnels are the best…

Skin Toned Garden Mapping Jessica Stockholder Date: 1991

Jessica Stockholder. Well, yes, I have been looking at Stockholder since my degree. I like her work but am disappointed that her thoughts about it seem to have changed not a jot in twenty years or so.

Sarah Sze. A bit delicate for me  but like that theres so much going on..reminds alittle of Ciaran Benson Bailes for the use of photographs of things.

Sarah Sze, Triple Point (Planetarium), 2013; Wood, steel, plastic, stone, string, fans, overhead projectors, photograph of rock printed on Tyvek; Installation view at the United States Pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2013, © Sarah Sze

Jake & Dinos Chapman particularly their Shitrospective for their use of plinths and cardboard.

Austin McQuinns Ape Opera. I was particularly delighted to learn of this work as it touches on a strand of my practice I haven’t talked about much-jerry building or that idea of a fractured, fragemented sensibility attempting the work of the numinous . Ape Operaconsiders what the work of ‘god’ becomes when channelled through the ape, or man.

The work of Samuel Beckett. I always found Beckett hard to get into but Breda had pointed out the dark absurdityof my work links to his. I have heard this in regard to my other work, especially Sharm below, which unconsciously references Becketts Happy Days, the story of a woman in her 50s buried to her waist and then to her neck,for the duration of the play…I know that feeling.

Cathy Wilkes. Wilkes will represent Britain at Venice next year. Her installations are supposedly large scale but the inclusion of the human figure, which appear to be to scale, means it loses any monumentality. I would have to vist her works to see what I think.

The Queer Art of Failure by Judy/Jack Halberstrom. This book is going on my to read list. While Queer art is not so much my thing-I really feel that labelling oneself in this way(queer,female,feminist, religious or whatever) is counterproductive and this idea of the ‘heterosexual’ maintaining dominance doesnt sit right. Most heterosexuals, or any sexuals, are of the 99% that are struggling-though it has to be said its more than likely true that the 1% are mostly made up of white, heterosexual males and in my own opinion the whole system is driven by mens need for sex-but where that leaves homosexual male in my theory I am not sure. No, leave the unnecessary labeling out of it for now, but the idea of low theory appeals. Here’s some of the blurb for it…

 The Queer Art of Failure is about finding alternatives—to conventional understandings of success in a heteronormative, capitalist society; to academic disciplines that confirm what is already known according to approved methods of knowing; and to cultural criticism that claims to break new ground but cleaves to conventional archives. Judith Halberstam proposes “low theory” as a mode of thinking and writing that operates at many different levels at once. Low theory is derived from eccentric archives. It runs the risk of not being taken seriously. It entails a willingness to fail and to lose one’s way, to pursue difficult questions about complicity, and to find counterintuitive forms of resistance. Tacking back and forth between high theory and low theory, high culture and low culture, Halberstam looks for the unexpected and subversive in popular culture, avant-garde performance, and queer art. She pays particular attention to animated children’s films, revealing narratives filled with unexpected encounters between the childish, the transformative, and the queer. Failure sometimes offers more creative, cooperative, and surprising ways of being in the world, even as it forces us to face the dark side of life, love, and libido.

mentioned Maurizio Cattelan here too, my favourite jester, through whose practice the fear of failure supposedly runs.

Paul McCarthy, for the breadth of his practice in film, installation and performance. I loved his saloon installation at the Hamburger Bahnhoff in Berlin. By the by, I had a friend once who livedout the country. His Mam did the locals hair in her front room which she had converted. They called it, in all seriousness, The Saloon…

Inside Paul McCarthys ‘Saloon Theatre’ in Berlin. Photo:The Author.

All told there is a lot to work with here. And a lot still to consider in my practice. However in respect to this course it is finally time, after years of exploding ‘out the way’, to begin editing myself. To narrow my focus, to experiment quickly with some materials, to research a couple of artists deeply and then settlle on my path for the final semester. So there is a shift going on (I hope), time to stop putting everything and the kitchen sink into my work, to hone my aim the better to cause an impact. But those thoughts are for other posts.



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