approach to research & making (intersections and articulations)

research and making: one of the things that i noticed when i was doing my ‘residency’ was the two way process of research and making, not mutually exclusive but co-existing. prior to starting exploratory making on the ‘residency’ i had been doing a lot of research reading and writing on landscape and lens as an embodied practice. while my exploratory making was open to go in any direction, i  noticed that many of the ideas in my head from my research were directly affecting the work i was making – on a subconscious as well as conscious level. when i returned from the ‘residency’ i took up my research reading and writing for my contextual study and found that my making led me down further areas of research reading and writing. so in effect they were feeding off each other over and back. with this in mind, i decided to look at how other artists talk about their practice in terms of their relationship between research and making.

Karla Walker on ‘a subtlety, or the marvelous sugar baby’: talking about the process involved with the making of ‘the marvelous sugar baby’, research reading was essential to her process. this is something i expected given its theme and historical context of slavery and race which the work is about. she says that her work is not ‘about’ history but ‘consumed by history’ and this extends to the history of material, namely sugar, its by-product molasses and their connections to race and power. but what struck me about her process was that the research stemmed from a physical place and a physical material – the warehouse, sugar, molasses which led to research reading. in turn her research led her to explore the material in a certain way. i was also interested in how her making involved free association of ideas coming from her making, drawing and reading – a wide body or references which led to her ‘discovery phase’ and informed her choice of form in the shape of the sphinx in a moment of ‘stepping back’ from making and research. this resonated with me, in terms of some of my exploratory making, where sometimes spontaneous and seemingly unrelated making informs and reinforces what i have been working on. as i found through the my boundaries task, some ‘open call’ briefs bring some new element to my making – something to work towards or against. i suppose, there is value in staying open to new possibilities beyond how i normally work.

Karin Mamma Andersson on ‘painting as weapons’: Andersson’s research centres around her making, gathering and assembly in the studio, or as she calls it – ‘the material brain’ of her practice. books and research reading are important to her, as ways or reminding her of history of the past and future possibilities. cutting pictures from a wide variety of sources and gathering them in scrap books also acts as research and informs her making. she mentions ‘skimming through’ books which is something i tend to do also or ‘dipping into’ as i call it, in both picture and reference books. Andersson calls this process of research and making a ‘cycle’ which culminates in an exhibition, after which she must begin again from nothing. perhaps it might be different for exhibiting a body of paintings because i never feel that i start from scratch after exhibiting – maybe because i work on multiple media and have other aspects of an idea still in the process of making – a pause in the process; formative rather than summative. what is interesting is Anderssons approach to beginning again on a new ‘story’ or body of work and how she goes through a process of elimination, narrowing down her research material and pictures as she begins the process again. this is something i do myself, although rarely from a ‘scratch’. she also talks about a non-linear approach to the making processes which is something i identify with, seeing it as a process of churning or spinning plates  – touching ideas and keeping them spinning as they circle beside each other and inform each other.

Elizabeth Price on ‘a restoration 2016’: talking about her process in the making of ‘a restoration, 2016’ which looks at an archive from the Ashmolean museum, Price talks about how choosing a frame of reference – the documentation of the archive rather than specific materials- allowed her to find a starting point for making and a way of exploring the archive. again, a historical context was an important part of her process, researching ways of developing a narrative using the voices of a greek chorus and various technical softwares to structure it. finding this form – voice, to create a narrative informed many decisions of her process. in terms of my own processes, i can identify with the value of the key forms – lens, stereo, stereograph etc in helping to develop work and inform decisions in the making processes, one that stems from research either in terms of reading and exploratory making. developing a frame of reference is also necessary to navigating the infinite decisions and avenues that a making process can open up. i think this frame of reference, in my case landscape and gender, comes from a innate place that is not adopted but emerges and sustains the process throughout, although can come in and out of focus and visibility as i research and make.


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