This year I have definitely struggled with my relation to my subject work. I began the year in a real debate with myself, as I value the power of illustration to speak and convey a deeper message and mine did not. I was struggling with my visual language and what I wanted to say. This led me to my first experiment of the year working with music theory, maths and colour. Colour is definitely an aspect that I have always struggled with, and I thought by quantifying it would improve my work, and that through the use of numeric systems would eliminate the need for meaning as the meaning itself became the system and the beauty. This was based on theories that I had learned from contemporary classical music, where they try to systemize harmony, rhythm e.t.c. I created a few paintings in this style, however I found it hard to make my painting as precise as my mathematics and began to doubt that art really should be serialised.
At this point I was approached by Connor McLean, a composer who I had previously collaborated, and he asked me to work on his new opera. I loved the plot of his opera, as it was based on true historical events it gave me the opportunity to research, which is an aspect of working that I really enjoy. I wanted my whole piece to be very research based, but also inspired by the libretto and music. I began by analysing the libretto, and the sources of the quotes that the composer had used, this gave me a good basis to begin working. At first I thought I might do the opera as a film, as it made scenes with difficult action easier to portray, however, I also wanted the challenge of designing something that can be for a live event. I transferred my ideas for what a film could be and imagined how I would do it on a stage. I had been inspired by David Hockney’s Opera sets, and like him wanted to create a piece that stood as a lifesize walk in drawing.
At first I was unsure about what medium to work in so experimented with collage, however, after doing more research I was reminded of the history of block printing, and how it fitted well into the morals of the opera. This encouraged me to go forwards and experiment with lino printing (as I could not afford woodblocks!) I was very happy with the way my trials turned out so decided I would continue to create the rest of the set in the same medium, cohering it like a walk in print.
Unfortunately I knew I would not have time to get to perform a real life sized opera before the university deadline. This is because it is hard to find singers and musicians and only give them a short time to rehearse. So instead, I decided to make set boxes which could in the future act as maquettes for a real production.
Overall, I am happy with my work this year and feel I have learnt a lot, but mainly that I need to be more confident in my work. I wish that I had felt this way at the beginning of the year as I have really begun to enjoy myself and the creative process in the last few months. At the start I worried too much and was too nervous to even begin mark making, however I feel I now know how I like to work: experimenting from ideas found in my research, and not being afraid to go wrong. I have learnt so many valuable skills that I will take away from my degree, it was a great opportunity.
I found it easy to choose what I wished to exhibit as I feel like all my work has culminated in my set boxes. I was lucky to be able to show one at the “spectacular spectacular” exhibition last month, which was a great opportunity as it allowed me to practice installing it, and gage a public opinion. The hardest part of installing it at Spectacular was the electronics, lights and sound, so I knew I would have to think carefully about that for the degree show. I also decided that to be better presented I would like to situate the box in the wall so the viewer looks inside, instead of on a plinth. This is better in many ways, it protects the model, creates a darker space for lights to make a bigger impact and ultimately looks a lot neater and professional. I was allocated a wall in the centre of the show space, and unfortunately there is a metal bar on the back of the wall so I can’t have my boxes set at the level I wanted. This means that I have had to do some final adjustments to make them viewable from a slightly elevated level. This involved painting round the top of set items to make them look neater. Around my boxes I am putting vinyl stickers of words from the scenes of the opera that the box represents. This gives the work more context, and will help the viewer to imagine them as real theatres in which the action written down could take place.
For the exhibition I have prepared a website of my work so people who are interested can see more. It took a long time for me to choose which work I wished to put on it, as I wanted it to show the best of my work, but also sketchbook and development work. I made a homepage which features images of my three set boxes I am exhibiting, as I believe they most represent me as an artist. I then made pages to show my other work. I decided to put on work that I had done in previous years- chiefly ‘The Middle of Nowhere’ an opera I had designed. I wanted to put this work on as it is in a field that I am interested in persuing.
Building the show space was a good experience and I believe I have learnt many skills that will be useful in the future. I am proud of what we have achieved as at first I didn’t think it was possible! I feel as if I have a better grasp on what it really takes to put on a show and all the work that goes on. I am looking forward to the show and seeing every bodies work displayed.