PART 1. Project 1, Exercise 4, Looking at Context

Damien Hirst, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind if Someone Living, 1991.

First reaction:

Pointless animal cruelty, deliberately shocking.

Emotional response:

Anger. Reluctance to engage further.

What do I think it’s about?

Primarily publicity for the artist. The fact that if you saw this view in another context, you might be about to die (tiger-sharks do prey on humans) yet you still can’t comprehend death. By extension, we take life for granted.

What do I think about the title?

It is thought-provoking and an interesting concept.

Dewater Collier, Still Life with a Volume if Wither’s ‘Emblemes’, 1696

First reaction:

level of detail invites closer viewing, recognisably Vanitas still life with typical symbolism

Emotional response:


What do I think it’s about?

Depicts ‘earthly pleasures’ – wine, fruit, music, jewellery- alongside reminders – skull, hourglass, timepiece – that these things are fleeting and everyone dies.

What do I think of the title?

More of a label, a descriptor.


Exercise 1: What do I want to gain from Higher Education?

I wish to add a level of personal growth to practices I am exploring anyway, and to broaden my experience through exposure to other artists’ work and interactions with fellow students. I have a stressful job in Finance and the creative process helps me manage that pressure; it may seem counter-intuitive to add pressure into that area of my life by studying formally, but I am more productive and motivated with a deadline.

Time management is a significant issue for me. My professional life is somewhat cyclical in terms of workload, but also frequently has an ad hoc element to it and it will be a challenge to fit my studies in around this. As well as time, there is inclination to consider. I have to be ‘in the mood’ to study in order to enjoy it (and I do want to enjoy it!) and my energy levels and mood are impacted by work. To mitigate this, I will need to plan well and give myself sufficient time to work through the course.

Exercise 2: Set up Learning Log

I plan to use this online blog as my learning log, and will include within it photos of any supplementary materials I produce.

Exercise 3: Analysing and Learning

Nude (Study), Sad Young Man on a Train

By Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) – Guggenheim, PD-US,

What I see – Many, predominantly vertical, marks in graded shades of brown, palest in the centre creating the impression of close proximity. At a glance, it looks like a queue of people. On closer inspection, one sees details that imply it could be the same figure (cane, pipe, physical build, posture).

What I think – I like this piece, I’m interested in how artists portray movement. It is over a century old but it seems modern to me. The use of colour suggests situation in the tunnel and creates a marked sense of perspective. I think it is clever and effective.

I found the constraints of a low word-count added an interesting element to this exercise, driving the selection of the most important points to highlight. Just looking briefly at Duchamp’s body of work makes me interested to track his development over decades and learn more about his interactions with other well-known artists and movements.


Exercise 4: Managing Time

(covered above)


Exercise 5: Setting up your space

In terms of resources, I’m fairly sure I have everything I will need.

I am very fortunate to live next to water, surrounded by a nature reserve with very few neighbours. My house is a tranquil place to be and, whilst I have a dedicated north-facing room for art (not yet unpacked from the move), I tend to spend most of my time in the upper south-facing rooms because of the view, and I can work at the kitchen table.


Exercise 6: Say hello to fellow students

There seem to not be many students on this module at the moment. About 15 of us have communicated via the email group. In addition to this, I have set up an unofficial closed Facebook Group for us where we can share our blogs, chat, critique and share interesting posts. This is in place for Drawing 1 as many people find it difficult to navigate through numerous email trails. I found it to be a really valuable resource so I suggested it for this group as well. There are three of us who are admins to build resilience for when people complete the unit and move on. So far we have just introduced ourselves with our backgrounds, which are very varied in terms of location, age, family circumstances, experience. All women so far, strangely.