PDP: Constellation: An Overview and Reflection

Undertaking Constellation this year has been a fairly positive experience. At the beginning of the year we were asked to chose an option related to the different areas of the art world, I feel the choice of options was varied and there was something to feed everyone’s interests. I chose to undertake the “Puzzling out Contemporary Art” option. Before attending these lectures, I struggled to appreciate a lot of today’s contemporary artworks mostly because I didn’t understand what the artist and artwork was trying to convey. This option explained the concepts behind much of today’s contemporary art and made me appreciate the ideas within the work and realise the artist’s intentions. Now when going to galleries, there is still a lot of contemporary artworks that visually do not appeal to me, however that is just subjective and I no longer dismiss this art, I seek out the concept and have a wider knowledge and more educated position to do so. Also, I appreciate artworks incorporating ready made objects much more now, I have learnt that found objects have a history, a connection within them which has benefited my artistic thinking and practice. Having to chose a contemporary artwork and write a short essay about it applying the ideas from the option was definitely beneficial to me, only having a small amount of words to cram a lot of information into encouraged me to summarise and be selective of source material, which is definitely a crucial skill to acquire in preparation of writing my dissertation.

When beginning the Dissertation process, I felt very overwhelmed and slightly anxious at the thought of writing a successful 10,000 word document. The lectures explaining the dissertation were relatively helpful in stating what had to be done, but the lecture I attended explaining the literature review, I felt more confused me than helped. Having now written my literature review, I don’t think the content of this lecture very clearly outlined what had to be done and consequently I have clarified the task with my dissertation tutor on numerous occasions. Since then, it has been very useful having tutorials where I have been able to ask any questions I still had after the lectures and to talk through my ideas. My initial Idea has developed since handing in the pre-proposal form and my tutor as helped point me in the right direction and give me advice on my progress. It was very useful to be advised to focus my question more and not be too vague in my research. This feedback encouraged me to really consider many angles that cross over into the relationship between art and nature and discover why I felt it to be important and what was important enough to base my dissertation on.

I am exploring a connection between art and nature and the way the two can interlink in my subject work and so my dissertation research has been highly beneficial to my practice. I enjoy writing and learning through research and constellation has given me the chance to improve and utilise these skills. I am currently interested in the connection between art and nature and I wanted to find an angle within this topic that would be interesting and important enough to warrant writing a dissertation on. In today’s technologically advancing urban society, I think a re-connection with nature is important and want to examine the role that art has to play in this re-connection. I also want to investigate the effect art has on nature and the environment. As soon as I found a subject of interest that is significant and important rather than just a broad area, I started to piece together different ideas and bits of research and enjoyed writing my literature review. It opened my eyes to new ways of thinking about my ideas and gave me new angles to approach my question from. Now that I have completed my Dissertation Proposal, I am more confident about the prospect of writing my dissertation

Overall, I think Constellation this year has been a crucial part of my Second year at Degree level. I have learnt a lot about contemporary artworks and written a successful essay discussing the theories concerned. In terms of my Dissertation journey, I do not think the lecture covering the literature review was very beneficial at all and I would encourage it to be made a little simpler for next years students. Also, the lecture that aimed to show students how to use the Library and the Summon Database should be optional as I sat there for an hour and learnt nothing I didn’t already know. If you haven’t used the library this far into the degree program, in my eyes there is something wrong and so an optional lecture would be more beneficial as it would focus on only those who needed it. At this moment in time, I am both excited and daunted at the prospect of writing my dissertation but I am sure that once all my research is done, notes are made and I start attempting to write a first draft, I will produce a successful piece of writing demonstrating the best of my ability that I can be proud of.


PDP: Literature Review: Texts to Review and New Thoughts

After a lot of research and including and discounting information, I am ready to start writing my Literature Review. I have chosen books and journals that both agree with my ideas and comment on art reconnecting nature with society and it’s effect on the environment and that give me new ideas and new angles to look at my question with. The texts I have chosen to review are noted below:

JOURNAL: Dame, Vernon D. “Art, Artist and Environmental Awareness”, Art Education, 1970, Volume 23, Issue 7, Pg 53-54

JOURNAL: Malamud, Randy. “Sustaining Environment for Environmental Art”, Chronicle of Higher Education, 2008

BOOK: Grande, John K, “Balance: Art and Nature” Black Rose Books Ltd 1994

BOOK: NATURE – Documents of Contemporary Art, edited by Jeffrey Kastner, White Chapel Gallery, the MIT press, 2012

BOOK: LAND ART, William Malpas, Cresent Moon Publishing, 2004

Some texts suggest ways that art can reconnect society to nature and talk about environmental issues. Some talk about the economy and how the money made from the sale of art could be more significant than the artwork itself reconnecting society with nature. Some comment on the artwork itself regenerating the environment and others suggest that bringing nature into a gallery space could encourage people to look earthwards. Arguments I hadn’t considered include the economical aspect, the fact that land art being placed outdoors could harm the environment by people traipsing through it, the fact that land art is expensive and maybe the money could be better spent, land art giving habitats for organisms and the thought of artworks physically benefiting the environment. Obviously in the Proposal these documents will be appropriately referenced in my bibliography.

PDP: Dissertation Proposal: Narrowing Down a Broad Idea

In a recent tutorial, thinking about writing the literature review, I realised that I was feeling a little bit stuck and didn’t really have a specific topic within the field of the relationship between art and nature to focus on and so couldn’t read my research books and successfully pick out key information.

 The field of Art and Nature is far too broad to write a Dissertation on and so I have spent some time thinking about why I am interested in it and what it is within this area that I think is important. I find it incredibly fascinating that nature has been integrated into art since art making began I suppose, whether it was used to make paints to produce cave paintings or depicted in a landscape painting. Nature was a bigger part of people’s lives in the past than it is today. Making people more aware of nature and of environmental issues is important.

 In today’s society, a world that is very urbanized and technologically advanced, I feel people have become withdrawn from nature and a re-connection is necessary. Not only do I think it is imporant to reconnect people with nature for the health benefits and for their wellbeing but also for natures sake. I feel environmental issues are very prominent at the moment and making people more aware of them and of nature in general is imperitive. What is the role of art in all this?.

So thinking about what I want to research and what I want to ask and find out: My dissertation will ask: Can art reconnect society to nature? Make people more aware of environmental issues, encourage them to explore nature etc. and Does art have a positive or negative effect on the environment?

PDP: Dissertation Tutorial: Explaining my Proposal and Ideas

My First Dissertation Tutorial was incredibly reassuring, the tutor thought my idea’s for my dissertation were really interesting. I talked about some of the research I had been doing and my ideas of the content of the piece of writing. We discussed different angles I had thought about like researching different artist’s works or exploring era’s of art and how the use of nature in art had changed. Looking at the relationship of art and nature is a massive field and so my tutor advised me to focus it down a little bit and really think about what it is I want to investigate.

He also encouraged me to start thinking about chapters and possible areas of interest for each chapter to break the dissertation up but keep it interesting and well researched. After thinking for a while, I am most interested in how artist’s have integrated nature into their artwork and what ways they have done so and I believe I could split my different chapters into artist’s that have incorporated nature into their work in a certain way. For example, the first chapter could be about artist’s that have physically used nature within the outcome of the work like Anselm Kiefer who mixes natural objects into paint or I could look at land artists like Andy Goldsworthy who creates natural sculpture etc. Then my second chapter could be looking at nature as the artist and I could look at the work of Tim Knowles and how he sets up the credentials for a tree to make a drawing etc. I need to really think about the main issues and how they divide. Obviously I am in the very early stages of writing my dissertation but I am focusing my research a little bit and reading a variety of different books and texts that link nature and the art world.

My tutor also have me more artist’s to look at like David Nash, Richard Long’s Mud Drawings, Walter de Maria and he talked about an artist that writes poetry on a glacier that sounds interesting. He also encouraged me to get a book out of the library called Landscape and Western Art by Malcolm Andrews. I have a few books out at the moment that I am writing down quotes from and reading so I will get on with that first and then look at his suggestions. This tutorial was very encouraging. It was nice to hear that my research has been worth it so far and that It has allowed me to chose a topic that is do-able and could make for a successful dissertation. I am looking forward to continuing to learn more about this topic and reading what other people have to say on the matter.

PDP: Initial thoughts Regarding my Dissertation

Over the Christmas holiday period, I started thinking about preparations for my Dissertation. Nature has been a great inspiration to me so far in my subject work this year and I am highly interested in the connections that can be made between nature and art, the different ways nature is integrated into art and the materials from the natural world that have been used within artworks.

In terms of artists I am thinking of researching towards my dissertation, my subject research has been a catalyst for my research. I have thought about looking at artists that use nature in their work in different ways. For example, Anselm Kiefer who physically uses natural elements on the canvas or in his paint, Tim Knowles who uses nature as the artist and romantic artists such as Graham Sutherland and John Piper who use nature as a source of inspiration for their paintings. I have also thought about researching artists that aim to save nature and the environment through art like Mel Chin. I also thought about artists who document the experience of being amongst nature since undertaking my field option: Drawing as experience.

With these interests in mind, I started doing some reading into the subject, bought a few books I can constantly refer back to and took books out of the library: some of them I have read chapters in depth and others I have skimmed to write down notes and quotations.

SIMON SCHAMA “Landscape and Memory” – Researching Landscape art, Anselm Kiefer, Joseph Beuys. “The organic material of the art is referred back to the landscape from which it has been cut and which it now represents”.

JEFFREY KASTNER, “Nature”, White Chapel Art Gallery


GRAHAM SUTHERLAND “Nature into Art”, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery 

Anselm Kiefer and the Philosophy of Martin Heidegger – Matthew Biro “Nature and culture are from the beginning – intertwined”

Obviously this is only initial ideas and research and the start of a long journey. I have tried to pick a topic that actually interests me and that I am enthusiastic about, I’m not really sure what kind of question I will pose as a title for my dissertation yet but it will come. I am quite nervous and anxious about writing my dissertation, it is such a large document that must be well researched and well written and I am a bit overwhelmed by it at the moment, but I am sure the help from tutors and the tutorials in the next coming weeks will help me make my ideas more solid and therefore make my writing interesting and well supported.

How Does the Addition of Natural Elements affect the significance of Anselm Kiefer’s Vitrine Painting: Fitzcarraldo (2010)? – 500 word Essay


Anselm Kiefer is known for his innovative use of varied and often unconventional materials within painting “a reinvention of traditional forms” (Simon Schama, 1996, p.124). Continuing themes within the works include war, nature and history. More recently, works have incorporated thorn bushes and branches encased in vitrines in the foreground of forestry paintings, as seen here in the work entitled “Fitzcarraldo” (2010). Within constellation, I have learnt about how the use of found/pre-made objects that have connotations of their own, can add meaning to contemporary artwork.. I intend to discuss how the addition of natural materials to Kiefer’s work affects the significance of the piece in question.

The German Forest has been a recurring theme in his practice throughout his artistic career. Kiefer was born in 1945 and grew up in the devastation of war, “a child of the rubble” (Michael Prodger, 2014). Kiefer’s “parents hid with him in the forest during day-time air raids” and so for him the “tall bare, bewilderingly numerous tree trunks” (Christian Weikop, 2014) emit connotations of war and fear. The element of fear is heightened by the fact that there seems to be no way out . “There is no sense of any clearing through the forest, the viewer is entrapped by trunks” (Christian Weikop, 2014). You could claim that the addition of foliage in relief, adds significance to the feeling of entrapment, as if the natural elements almost create a second forest in themselves. However, this could also take away from it as the organic matter is separate from the trees and emits the impression of being on the forests edge looking in.

The addition of thorn bushes and branches with no greenery on them suggests a wintery feel and adds significance to the piece because of the association winter and snow has with the holocaust, “where the jews were forced to march miles across cold, snowy landscapes barefoot to their death”. The thorns add a sense of danger and negativity to the work. Furthermore, thorn bushes have christian connotations, linking the piece to the religious predjudice surrounding wartime. The fact that the natural elements have been removed from their environment and allowed to die makes the feeling of loss of life more prominent.

The title “Fitzcarraldo” evokes the determination of Carlos Fitzcarrold, a Peruvian Rubber Baron who transported a 30 tonne steamboat over mountainous terrain. This could be seen as echoing the determination of the heroic soldiers who fought in war. Organic Matter existing in the piece gives it a three dimensional impression. “By adding found materials to the painted surface of his immense tableaux, he invents a compelling third space between painting and sculpture” (White Cube, 2014) It can be argued that the viewer experiences a greater connection with the forest as they can imagine reaching out and touching the branches. However, the natural objects could be detracting from the forestry.

After analysing the image, I have come to the conclusion that the addition of natural elements adds significance to the forest in war time and to the work as a whole. The German landscape was desolate from the effects of WWII and I feel that the addition of branches with no life on them adds significance to the tradgedies. Adding natural materials to “Fitzcarraldo” gives the viewer a more immersive and sensory experience of the work and echoes “the gritty materiality of historical truth” (Simon Schama, 1996, p.126).

CONSTELLATION: Contemporary Art Lecture: POST-FEMINISM by Jon Clarkson


Modernism and Feminism


Alexander Rodchenko, Make way for the women 1935 – Geometry symbolising fairness and rationality. There is a socialist/realist element within the work. Making a statement about men and women but from a mans perspective. Male photographer, positive image, portraying a solution to womens equality, but the women are still kind of objects for the men to look at, being seen through the male gaze. Womens action is at the centre of the image. Propogandistic intention.

If the photographer was a women, the image would be viewed really differently and there would be no thought of the women being objectified.

Questions of Identity


Marc Quinn – Alison Lapper, Pregnant 2005 – It is a sculpture of a working class disabled single mother produced by a middle class able bodied man. Which of these facts is most important? He chose her as an image to sculpt. There is a valued place for women in the world. The sculpture has a heroic element. Bringing equality of women, people with disabilities and single mothers etc. Using language of classical sculpture to comment on the place of people with disabilities in society.


Sarah Lucas – Get hold of this 1994-5


Sarah Lucas – Where does it all end? 1995
What are the signs of masculine and feminine in these images? Feminine – Pink, red, lipstick, the opposition between white teeth and red lips. Look like womens arms. Masculine – Snarl, gritting teeth on a cigarette. Takes offensive elements of male culture and asks how poerful it is if a woman does it.

Post-feminism as a term, often comes up in the 1990s.

Feminism and Post-Feminism

Katy Deepwell – 3 popular mis-conceptions about feminism-

That Feminism = Women + Power
That Feminism = Bra burning lesbian separatism
That Feminism = is only a question of gender.
(These are only half truths)

Julia Kristeva outlines the 3 moments of Feminism-

Feminism = Equal Rights
Feminism = Advocacy of a separate women’s culture
Feminism = Total re-evaluation of Ideas of Masculine and Feminine

Equal Rights

One strand of feminist art avoided images of the sexualised female body because in the past these images have been objectified and exploited.


Mel Ramas – Miss Corn Flakes 1964

Barbara Kruger – What are you looking at 1994
In small print it says “This is not a mirror”. Targeting the women that look at fashion magazines, saying that you are not looking at what you should aspire to become, it is just another woman.

Another strand produced generalised images of the sexualised female body.

f8 f7

Judy Chicago – The Dinner Party 1974 – 9
Strong Statement of the cultural status of women. All of the crockery in this piece is stylized female genitals. Falic symbols are normalised in culture, female ones are not as normalized and so she is putting them out there. The idea that Biology is destiny is hindering on Women. A lot of art uses imagery of the female genitalia within it. Is that all that women have in common then? They all have vaginas? Virginia Wolf is one of the women at the table here, aren’t her books and achievements more important than her vagina?

In the 1990s, many artists started using highly sexualised imagery again.

f10 f9
Helen Chadwick -Vanity 1986
Tracey Emin – Self Portrait 2001
These images can be contrasted with imagery of the Page 3 model.

Pipilotti Rist – I’m not the girl who misses much 1986

She is using the language of titilation, but using video technology to prevent that happening. Wants to deflate through humour. Slowing and speeding up time up to get a state of conciousness. Pipilotto Rist is interested in an innocent sexual experience, a bodily experience. Her work doesn’t talk a page three language, more like a dream state.

Re-evaluation of Masculine and Feminine?

f11 f12

Jenny Saville, Passage 2004-5
Collier Schort, untitled 2011

Is it possible to transcend ideas of gender in art?
Maybe in these images, the intention is that they are not labelled as a particular gender – equalizing man and woman?


This label remains problematic, it suggests that it comes after feminism and can be used in several ways:
– It comes after feminism because feminism has been successful
– It comes after feminism because feminism has failed
– It comes after feminism because it is the antidote to feminism
– It comes after feminism because it is the opposite of feminism
– It comes after feminism because it is the continuation of feminism
There is no definite answer and so the label Post-feminsim is still difficult to determine.

Nan one month after being battered 1984 by Nan Goldin born 1953

Nan Goldin – Nan one month after being battered 1984

f14 f16 f15

Sarah Lucas – Two fried eggs and a kebab – The male and the female rediced to sexual symbols.
Sarah Lucas – NUDS 2010 – Bodily experience



John Carran – The Wizard 1994
Lisa Yuskovage – Day 1999-2000
Does knowing the gender of the artist change the significance of the painting?

Lucy Lippard in Deepwell p.157
Does the fact that a woman paints a woman neutralise the pornographic source or is it still pornography?


Lisa Yuskavage – Half Family 2003
This isn’t an image directed at men. It gives off a feelnig that is significant only to women. About the feeling of having a body, not what it looks like.

Masculine and Feminine


Helen Chadwick – Piss Flowers 1991-2
They peed in the snow and cast the imprint. Some represent the male and some represent the female. The longer, more falic like stamens actually represent the females, this is because there is less movement in the female pee stream. Stereotypically we would think that the more falic sculptures represented the male so this piece is clever and interesting.

Images from the Bad Girls Exhibition 1993


Helen Chadwick Glossolalia 1992
Contrast of Hard and Soft. Small Falic Symbols, Making a falic symbol in the middle. An image like this would be picked for an exhibition called “Bad Girls” because there is an appeal to the body, Tongues and fur. The togetherness of hair and tongue is often quite repulsive. We reject it without thinking about it. Unconcious Reaction.


Before this lecture, I had never really considered issues of gender very deeply before. I certainly had not discussed whether the gender of the artist changes the way that the art work is viewed. I have been encouraged to think about certain connotations that certain materials and imagery has in terms of masculine and feminine and been shown how art can cause a divide in opinion. To me, it doesn’t matter whether the artist or subject n an art work is a man or a woman, I would consider the art work itself and the concepts behind it. It is always interesting to learn how art is used to convey messages or comment on a life situation. Within this lecture, we talked about whether Jenny Saville’s Passage piece equalizes the rights of a man and a woman, I can see the evidence for this opinion, but for me it highlighted the fact that individuals are scrutinised for being different in some way and that she was making difference accepted and depicting it in a aesthetically pleasing way, Similar ideas were running in Marc Quinns sculpture of Alison. Feminism has been portrayed in art for many years and it was interesting to learn how it has changed.