Project proposal 1.0

[ The text below was written as part of my application to the MA course back in April 2012. I had to do this quite quickly in order to meet the deadline for the Rector's Scholarship. As a result, it's quite sketchy and fuzzy, but probably still addresses most of my main concerns. Version 1.1 to follow soon…! ]

Since completing a design degree at Goldsmiths I have had over ten year’s experience as a designer, both as a freelancer and a full-time employee. While specialising in graphic design for print – publishing, typography and brand identity – I am experienced in the creation of visual communications of various kinds.

During this time I have also participated in diverse cultural activities including the performing arts. In particular, I have developed self-authored visual arts projects and regularly exhibited work. I am now seeking to build on the creative skills and concerns I have developed as a designer and apply them in a visual arts context.

Central to this is to explore the relationship between textual and visual languages. I will investigate not only how words and images can be combined, but also how the boundaries between them may be blurred. Possible outcomes may include forms of typographic abstraction, but will avoid appearing arbitrary or generic by maintaining explicit connections to the meanings of the words involved. Conversely, I’m also interested in simultaneously illustrating and obfuscating textual meaning.

I aim to re-present everyday (and seemingly mundane) words, phrases, images and objects. Subjects of particular interest include the urban environment, street photography, public signage etc – especially around inner south east London. By revealing the fascinating visual qualities of the often grimy, decayed and distressed nature of such subjects, I also hope to challenge conventional notions of beauty and ugliness.

Similarly, another major formal concern is to experiment with the dynamic tensions of certain dichotomies. These could include: simplicity/complexity; digitally-produced/handmade; fixed/fluid; design/art; precision/accident and preconceived/random. Some of these dualities may present opportunities in the field of generative art and the use of visual programming languages.

An additional dialectical relationship I’m interested in is two-dimensional/three dimensional – specifically in presenting the illusion of depth in 2D. This is partly the motivation behind a desire to experiment with the multilayered – for example, in using overprinting to create contemporary ‘palimpsests’. I envisage that my primary outcomes will remain 2D still images, but in doing so I would like to combine various techniques and media in a single pieces – such as digital/screen printing, stencil/hand painting and laser-cut elements. However, I am open to experimentation with other media such as video, animation and 3D – and I’m keen to explore the creative potential of recent technologies such as touchscreen tablet devices.

These formal and technical concerns are conceived against a backdrop of wider ones relating to the social value of artistic production – particularly the question of how elitist and exclusive the art world and business is. This implies further concerns over issues of the accessibility, affordability and relevance of art to most people’s lives and even of democratic participation in public art projects. Do possible solutions include the mass reproduction of artworks, and how does this relate to questions of ‘the original’ in digital production? As part of this general area of enquiry I would like to investigate mass produced, popular, commercial ‘wall art’ (as sold in stores like B&Q, Ikea, Habitat or Argos). How do they find or commission artists? How does their artistic value compare with fashionable, successful ‘fine’ artists? By what criteria do we make these judgements? What does this tell us about ideas of class and taste? I would seek to interview those involved in these industries with a view to publishing a study from a critical perspective. Furthermore, I would aim to directly and explicitly address these questions in the artworks I create.

I would also seek to enrich my understanding of certain artists and art movements to help inform my own original work. This would be through research carried out at the university’s libraries and lectures as well as online sources etc. In keeping with the aforementioned formal and contextual concerns, this could include a study of the Constructivists and Suprematists. In what ways is their vision of a socially-engaged artistic practice relevant in our ‘post-ideological’ age? If the Constructivists had access to today’s digital technology what would their work be like?

As colour is also central to my creative interests I would like to research the work of Colour Field Painting and associated movements and artists such as Bridget Riley and Max Bill, with a view to conducting almost purely formal experiments in colour theory.

In terms of the textual/typographic element, I will research collagists who successfully combine letterforms into expressions of typographic abstraction, such as Cecil Touchon (and the Fluxus movement), Rosalie Gascoigne and contemporary artists like Greg Lemarche. This would be contrasted by research into artists who use text to convey explicit messages such as Mark Titchner, Bob & Roberta Smith and Barbara Kruger.

As I’m also seeking to explore the boundaries between art and design, research may also focus on experimental typographic designers who have a strong element of self-authorship in their work, such as Neville Brody (especially the Fuse project with Jon Wozencroft), John Maeda, David Carson and Cyan.

Finally, as part of my desire to reflect upon our immediate urban environment, a continued study of graffiti, tagging and street art is essential. This could be contrasted with other, non-Western forms of text-based art such as traditional and contemporary Arabic calligraphy.

As a self-employed designer (and potential part time student) I have considerable facilities at home, including a dedicated studio space (about 4x4m); Mac workstation; 23” monitor; scanner; printer; Canon Eos DSLR camera; an extensive collection of drawing and painting materials; and numerous books and resources on art and design.

However, I also hope to make good use of the resources available at the college, particularly the screen printing and digital printing services; specialist software and skills tutorials (eg. in visual programming languages); laser-cutting facilities; the letterpress workshop and of course, the library. Above all, I recognise the value of being part of a larger student body with whom I can share ideas and inspiration.