Tell us a little bit about yourself—your background, major program of study, reasons for taking this trip, and anything else interesting you want to share (maybe something people might not know about you).
Hello! I’m Alison and I’m a fourth year Fine Arts student at KPU. I’m the Student Technician for the drawing and painting studios, as well as a senior leader on the Orientation Team, and a Women’s Ministry Leader at Calvary Grace Church. I’m specializing in acrylic painting, and although I’ve been training in realism, my paintings have grown increasingly more abstract over the last year. I like to include elements of the West Coast landscape, and push colour and pattern. I hope to become an artist, as well as an educator for a university in a Fine Arts program.
I decided to go on this field school because every single artist and art professor that I talk to describes the privilege of seeing art around the world. Seeing the real thing instead of an image of it, seeing it in the context of the gallery. It is so much more inspiring to actually see a piece of art in front of you, especially after having studied the Powepoint images for years in class.
What has met or exceeded your expectations or surprised you about London (or Venice) so far?
I’m pleasantly surprised by how many impressive galleries there are in London. I thought for sure there would be at least a few that were lacking, but there is such an incredible variety of amazing classical, modern, and contemporary art. Each gallery and museum that we’ve visited
so far has been concisely curated, and I’ve already seen a full range of high and low brow art. And I don’t think I could talk about London without at least mentioning the beautiful buildings. Every street we walk down, we’re surrounded by a view of gorgeous architecture, and the older structures are complimented with new buildings.
I’m also enjoying seeing how large some of the pieces are, and now I understand that when we as students say that we’re “going big”, it’s not actually that big. We’re still working relatively small, and have to learn how to push past that to create truly large pieces. Our work will be so much more impactful on a larger scale, so I’m looking forward to seeing how quickly this trip will affect our scale.
Give us some insight into your assigned artwork from the Tate Modern. After seeing the work in person in London (and any other related art from the same artist or art movement associated with the assigned work), what struck you most about it and/or how did the artwork’s form, content, and context shift for you when seeing it.
My assigned artist from the Tate Modern is Doris Salcedo, and her project deals with group memory and trauma. She’s particularly examining the group trauma of her fellow Columbians under the rising pressures of a dictatorial government. Her work at the Tate Modern, Shibboleth II (2007) was a gigantic crack through the floor of the Turbine Hall, and has since then been refilled, leaving behind a scar in the floor. This is a nice parallel to the scars we acquire out of trauma. I already knew that since the crack had already been filled I would only get to see the scar; and although it was subtle, the sheer scale of the piece was massive (see picture below). This shifted the context for me because I’m not used to experiencing pieces of work that are overwhelming large in relation to my body, I’m used to looking at 8 foot wide wall works.
My assigned artist from the Tate Britain is David Hockney, who is an acrylic painter working with space and perspective. I found that seeing his work, Man in Shower in Beverly Hills (1964) was much more rewarding because it closer relates to my own practice. Seeing it in person gave my way more insight to his process, such as the pencil lines he had made and then filled in, or the layering of paint as he added new elements to the space.
How did you approach the creative task of responding to your assigned artists in studio? What were your challenges as an artist to be in dialogue with the artwork and artist? Would you do anything differently now that you have seen the work in person?
I found it a lot easier to respond to Hockney’s work than Salcedo’s. As an acrylic painter also experimenting with colour and space, I not only found Hockney’s work more aesthetically engaging, but also more interesting to formally examine. He creates depth with a combination of realistic tonal shifts and flat expanses of colour. For this response, I looked at creating an interior space from a reference image that my husband had taken of me in our bedroom, getting ready for bed (image below left). This allowed me to play with the specific perspective of an onlooker, and the idea of voyeurism. I had to be extremely precise with my colour selection, as each tone will add information about the light in the room, the form of the objects, or the angles of the walls.
For my response to Salcedo’s Shibboleth II, I honed her use use of wire to examine the idea of forced confinement, as well as the idea of group memory. I used the widely recognised form of the female reproductive system, and constructed a monstrously large, industrial uterus out of chicken wire, which now hangs off the wall at six feet tall and seven feet wide (image above right). I wanted to push myself with scale, and felt that this material would better suit the ideas of confinement than a painting would have. After seeing the scar of her work, there’s nothing I would have changed about my project, with the exception of adding direct lighting to reflect off of the metal.
Today’s activity was located at the National Gallery. What were your impressions? What will you take away of the experiences of this day?
Today’s activities were located at the National Gallery. The inside of the gallery was huge, I think the building itself is well suited for showing art as it doesn’t distract from the work, but is by no means a boring space. The interior of the building complements the work, and also facilitates the flow of foot traffic wonderfully. I loved getting to see such a wide array of modern artists such as Claude Monet and Georges Seurat, whose respective styles have both played a huge role in the way I handle paint on the surface of my works. And who could go to London without having afternoon tea? Fortunately for us, the National Gallery cafe hosted a wonderful high tea where we got to indulge, and recharge before continuing through the multitude of exhibitions. I’m so grateful that I took this opportunity to see art in person, and I know that it will have a huge impact in both the way I produce art and the way I view my professional practice.