Art verse Science

moon gooseI

Moon GooseAgnes Meyer-Brandis

For my first blog, I have chosen to write about an exhibition titled Republic of the Moon which started in January and is presented by a group of artists known as The Arts Catalyst.  It was by chance, listening to an arts programme on radio that I first heard about the exhibition and the stated reason for the exhibition was to raise the public awareness of the future ‘colonisation’ of the moon. It is nearly 4 decades since man walked on the Moon, however, you might be surprised to learn that the race to the Moon if definitely on with nations vying for the mineral rights to plunder the Moon for its mineral wealth and resources. This is, of course, only a stepping stone to colonising Mars.The question of who the owns the Moon is one that is still to be answered.

The Arts Catalyst, a sort of ‘Green Peace’ of the art world, have taken up the  challenge and have presented an alternative vision with their exhibition Republic of the Moon which has been running at the Bargehouse, South Bank since early January. It might all sound a bit far fetched, but how far from the truth is it all?. Why shouldn’t artists have something to say as well? We are obligated to challenge what concerns us.

The Arts Catalyst has transformed the Bargehouse into an Earth-based embassy for a ‘Republic of the Moon’ with international artists works, fantastical imaginings, performances, music, talks and a pop-up moon shop – all as a playful protest against lunar exploitation. A manifesto declaring the Moon a temporary autonomous zone with responses from artists and scientists alike.


Artists have been fascinated by our nearest astronomical neighbour for centuries. In this exhibition six international artists (Anges Meyer-Brandis, Liliane Lijn, Katie Paterson, Leonid Tishkov, Sue Corke and Hagen Betzwieser) bring their ideas of how we might respond to this new territory, which technically belongs to everyone. This exhibition imagines a Republic of the Moon as a micro-nation for alternative visions of lunar life.

The exhibition is supported by Arts Council England and Science & Technology Facilities Council. I have used information from this website : which goes into far more detail.

Private Moon - Leonid Tishkov

Private Moon Leonid Tishkov

Of the art works in this exhibition, Agnes Meyer-Brandis’ work really resonates with me – in Moon Goose she looks at the Lunar migration of birds and this is woven with imagination, fact, myth from the past, present and future. She actually raised 11 moon geese from birth, giving them astronauts’ names and imprinting them on herself as goose-mother, training them to fly and taking them on expeditions.

Leonid Tishkov’s Private Moon tells the story of a man who met the Moon and stayed with her for the rest of his life. His intimate photos are paired with verse which describes how the Moon helps us to overcome our loneliness in the universe by uniting us around it.

In this exhibition, there are many other epitaphs to the Moon, both mystical and more factual.

Drawing and identity

As my first entry I felt it would be beneficial for me to explore my identity from within the structure of my practice. Within my personal practice, I solely rely on the medium of drawing.  But what exactly is drawing? And how do we actually define what it means?

It has come to that crucial point within my practice where I need to explore the very definition of what drawing is and means to me. In order to do this I feel that I need to gradually explore the language and processes associated with drawing and what it means to others.

As a mark making process, drawing is a very immediate and pure action. “The Shorter Oxford Dictionary defines drawing as: ‘the formation of a line by drawing some tracing instrument from point to point of a surface; representation by lines; delineation as distinguished from painting…the arrangement of lines which determine form.’” (Author n/a. (year unknown). What is drawing? [online]. The Victoria and Albert Museum. Available from: [1st February 2014.])

There has been a clear insistence with drawing across a broad section of art history; there is evidently an essential element within the definition of drawing. ‘For centuries-and even millennia- drawing has served as the most efficient means for immediately sketching new ideas or visions. It is by nature vibrant and experimental.’ (Dexter, ED. (2005)Vitamin D, New Perspectives in Drawing. London: Phaidon Press Limited, Preface: Pg 5) As a process drawing provides a direct, physical and instantaneous practice, which has been widely used throughout history as an essential form of expressing thoughts and concepts. ‘Although the importance of drawing’s role has never been neglected throughout art history, it has rarely been given the attention it enjoys today among the younger generation of artists.’ (Dexter, ED. (2005)Vitamin D, New Perspectives in Drawing. London: Phaidon Press Limited, Preface: Pg 5) A resurgence in the prevalence of drawing has highlighted that within contemporary art ‘…drawing is no longer limited to the notebook or the preparatory sketch, nor to pencil on paper.’(Dexter, ED. (2005)Vitamin D, New Perspectives in Drawing. London: Phaidon Press Limited, Preface: Pg 5) Drawing can now exist as a stand-alone and completely separate entity, within recent times it has become more evident as a strong medium that it isn’t necessarily categorised as a preliminary though process.

Unlike other forms and movements, ‘drawing has never been deemed “dead” by critics or artist alike, and as its relevancy and longevity has never been questioned.’(Dexter, ED. (2005)Vitamin D, New Perspectives in Drawing. London: Phaidon Press Limited, Preface: Pg 5) This highlights that drawing cannot only been seen as a method of art it holds an element of natural instinct, and its permanency and prolonged existence demonstrates the level of significance that drawing has both as an art form and to identity.





Seeing the big picture

What is it that artists do? Artists, as Grayson Perry recently stated in the Reith Lectures on BBC Radio 4, “notice things that other people don’t notice”. How does an artist when they embark on this journey begin to do this? Open mindedness and being aware of what is going on in the world around you is a good start. I also find that visiting and viewing other people’s artworks is a fundamental part of this process, as you never quite know who or what you will stumble on.

Recently, my friend and I, another art student, flew all the way to Edinburgh to see Peter Doig’s exhibition No Foreign Lands, which was a major retrospective of his work. On the day that we arrived we attended a free lecture on the Feelings of the Uncanny and the Unhomely in Peter Doig’s paintings by a well-known US academic, Richard Shiff, which we saw being advertised purely by chance at the Scottish National Gallery. As we sat down to listen to the lecture, none other than the artist himself, Peter Doig, walked in and sat in the front row. Obviously, this created a real buzz of excitement for those in the audience, as his attendance was a surprise to most of us. There was a Q&A at the end of the talk and my friend nudged me to ask the speaker a question with regards to Edvard Munch, as she needed to make notes on his response. I did as told and it was, again, very “uncanny” that one of the paintings discussed during the lecture was Echo Lake, a painting that I became well acquainted with through my research for a presentation in the previous academic year, and I knew already that this painting was inspired by Munch’s series of paintings called Ashes. After the lecture, my friend and I took the opportunity to introduce ourselves to Peter Doig. My friend then, very cheekily, asked for his email address, so she could ask him a question for her dissertation. I don’t think she ever heard back from him, but it was worth a try!

This was all very serendipitous and it does reinforce the value of getting out and about away from the studio. Since that excursion I have explored what feelings I wish to evoke in my work, in particular, of the uncanny as described in Freud’s essay, which is also a key aspect of Doig’s work. I found the whole experience immensely valuable and it has fed back into my practice in myriad ways.

Waiting to talk to Peter Doig...

Waiting to talk to Peter Doig…


TreeI did an Art Foundation course at the University of Northampton, or Nene College as it was then, in 1990. I studied with John Harper, Paul Greco, Clive Ramsdale, and Dave Parker, and spent most of my time either in the screen printing studio or in the photography darkrooms. I enjoyed the course tremendously, but I ended up studying philosophy at university, not art. I made films for a while, including some experimental films, and these days I quite enjoy taking photographs with a pinhole camera, although I don’t do it all that often as it’s quite time-consuming and I’m quite lazy. My favourite artists include Richard Long and Mark Rothko, photographers Ansel Adams, Minor White and Thomas Joshua Cooper, and film/video artists Stan Brakhage and Bill Viola. I don’t read too many books about art theory, but the one I enjoyed the most was Nigel Warburton’s book ‘The Art Question’, where he discusses the difficulty of defining the word ‘Art’. I’m not a great fan of art galleries (or museums) as I find that they can often be both sterile and overwhelming, but I do like art when it’s out in public spaces: a great example of this being Antony Gormley’s ‘Event Horizon’, which I saw in London in 2007. I really enjoyed Grayson Perry’s Reith Lectures, and the best thing that I’ve seen for a long while were the posters of Paul Peter Piech, which are currently being displayed along the MY corridor at Avenue campus.

‘First Post: My Artwork’… Fatma Ummanel

For the first post I thought I would discuss my studio work and artistic style. My practice follows the exploration of hair through the process of line. Currently in my studio practice I am working on a series of quink and bleach drawings which explore the layers and tones within line, as well as the convolutional nature of hair. These raw renderings have a quiet scrutiny about them, studying the textural entanglement of line. This interest in hair and line was influenced by a figurative project from my first year, wherein I used watercolour paint to replicate the fluency of the body and hair under water. As well as my practice analysing the depth of line, it also evaluates the textural surface and the materiality of the process of application. To me, the erosion of the ink creates an intangible presence as the intensity of the first application of the bleach continues to fade, raising questions of sustainability. Going forward I would like to experiment with creating similar effects of the quink and bleach technique but with oil paint.

My oil paintings are usually ‘patchwork like’ in style, especially within my portraits. The quink and bleach studies, as well as my oil paintings mix elements of portraiture and hair touching on themes of identity as well as this fascination with the materiality of the chosen medium and its application. “The fate of line is more complex and requires a special description. The transference of line to a free environment produces a number of extremely important results. Its outer expediency turns into an inner one. Its practical meaning becomes abstract. As a result, the line discloses an inner sound of artistic significance.” V. Kandinsky ‘On line,’ 1919 (C. Butler & C. Zegher ‘On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century, 2010) Line is all about mark making and especially my use of line in these ink drawings suggests an inner complexity, it continues to alter as it reacts with the medium and the surface. Its literal meaning can become abstracted when taken out of context. I enjoy the representativeness but also the ambiguousness of my practice.

I like to think my work eludes to a vision of Henri Mattise, “remember, a line cannot exist alone; it always brings a companion along. Do remember that one line does nothing; it is only in relation to another that it creates a volume.” I find that this notion encompasses my work, as the “essence of drawing (and of painting) is line exploring space.” (Andy Goldsworthy)meeee hand work work2

Take An Envelope

The School of the Arts at the University of Northampton has recently played host to a series of student led talks as a way to extend the context in which people work as artists. The ‘Illuminare’ talks have been curated by Fine Art student Bethany Murray, and the first series of these talks in November and December 2013 saw 8 students deliver lectures on their work, their influences and external interests.

Ally Johnson - Take an evelope

The second series began in January 2014 and developed the Illuminare evenings into not only artist talks but also trial events for art performances. Instruction based fine artist Ally Johnson used her Illuminare talk to launch the concept for her work entitled ‘The Hive’. This initially revolved around a performance by musician Cassie Mathews and poet Isabel White whilst the audience where invited up to take an envelope from off of the wall and act out the instructions inside. With heavy influence from early Fluxus based events, the room soon became a ‘hive’ of activity by using the audience as the artistic medium.

The event was the first of many for Ally Johnson who devised the concept of The Hive whereby the audience are turned into ‘worker bees’ who act out instructions, creating activity centred around other performances or artworks. The instructions for this trial run ranged from moving around furniture, talking loudly, and even disrupting the performers; a concept which turned the passive spectators into active participants of the work. Initially everybody was nervous and unsure how to act, but as certain more willing volunteers started to act out their instructions people became more enthusiastic about the tasks. As soon as everybody had relaxed about the idea of being involved the room became hectic with activity which allowed the artist to explore her theme of Harmony to Dissonance.

The launch event for this exciting new Fine Art concept was extremely successful with positive reviews all-round afterwards. Ally Johnson will again be working with Cassie Mathews and Isabel White on developing another Hive event in March at the Royal College of Music, as well as working with fellow Fine Art student Billy Hawes on a Hive based collaboration for the University of Northampton’s Fine Art Spring Show.

Difficulties of Being a Painter

Numerous artists spent months, even years struggling to find inspiration for new art works, yet personally, I suffer with being over inspired. This itself would not be a problem if more hours in the day existed, as well as more months in a term. In the case of a second year student however, time flies by at an alarming rate, creating a difficulty in completing even a fraction of the ideas which flow into my brain, racing at the same pace as the brushstrokes on my canvas. The challenge is not searching for inspiration within painting; rather it is the demand of narrowing down every idea, in order to be prioritized. That itself is one of the more strenuous aspects of painting. Occasionally however, this becomes a part of the fun, just as organizing an interesting composition can be almost painful to achieve, yet part of the enjoyment within making and starting a project from scratch. Truthfully, I am in a love-hate relationship with painting, where the infinite stream of ideas cause endless issues, just as the passing of time does, nevertheless, the personal journey and strife which is undergone right from the pursing of a mental image to the second the last brushstroke is applied, brings a certain uniqueness to the work. No viewer will have the same understanding of the piece as the artist does, but not because they don’t know the idea as well; it is because in fact they have not experienced the mental struggle within the process of producing that particular work. That is what makes being a painter interesting and worth racing against the clock for.