Katie Paterson (Project 3: Place in Art – Exercise 2)

“Have a look at the work of Katie Paterson. In particular consider: http://www.katiepaterson.org/vatnajokull/

“How would you define this piece in terms of media?”


Fig 1. Paterson, K. Vatnajökull glacier (2007-08)

I decided to start with Vatnajökull (the sound of) and then look at her work more generally.

Vatnajökull (the sound of)

I undertook the exercise quite literally initially and so listened to, and researched a little about, Vatnajökull  (the sound of) (2007-08). The idea is truly brilliant. We are given a mobile telephone number to call, which would allow us to hear the Vatnajökull glacier melting. In effect we are being asked to listen to what global warming sounds like. There are however, so many layers of thought behind the work. (Sadly, the number no longer works.)

The melting of glaciers is something that doesn’t happen close to many of the world’s inhabitants. Given the very fixed position of Vatnajökull , Patterson brings the melting glacier to us. This in turn changes the nature of the ‘place’ of the glacier. We are connected to something that was distant, but is now close and so fits within our realm of experience and comprehension.

The effects of global warming work on a much slower timescale than human timescales. Another effect of this work, therefore, is to shrink time. We can hear global warming happening now, within a 30 second telephone call rather than watch time-lapse images and/or diagrams illustrating the effects.

Paterson’s choice of this glacier for her work is also interesting. According to the Glacier Guides website (2017), Vatnajökull  is “…by far the largest glacier in Iceland and the largest glacier mass in all of Europe…” It goes on to say, “Like so many other glaciers around the world, rising temperatures and reduced snowfall mean that this ancient icecap is melting. In one of the most recent reports from the Icelandic government’s Committee on Climate Change, it warns that by the next century, Iceland’s glaciers will no longer exist.” So Paterson has chosen the largest glacier in Iceland to allow us to experience climate change with a sense of immediacy and proximity; in our place at this time.

Continue reading “Katie Paterson (Project 3: Place in Art – Exercise 2)”

Difficult Background – Grayson Perry

Fig. 1. Perry, Grayson. “Difficult Background” (2001) – two views

Fig. 2. My sketches – Top left sketch of a girl, top right sketch of a boy, below are some observations about the pot


The Brighton Museum and Gallery has a Grayson Perry pot, Difficult Background (2001), on permanent display.

I wish to discuss it for two reasons. Firstly, I like Grayson Perry’s work in general and this pot in particular. Secondly, I was struck with how the pot was described.

The pot is in its own cabinet and sits in a corner. It is, however, on a revolving plate which allows all aspects of the pot to be seen. On both of my recent visits to look at it, however, the revolving plate wasn’t working. This had the effect of hiding about one fifth of it.

The cabinet carries a description of the pot. It says:

“Difficult Background, 2001, appears to refer nostalgically to childhood, with figures of children playing, dressed in 1950s-style clothes. However, a closer look reveals scrawled images of terror and war: burning buildings, blasted trees, naked figures running screaming from others carrying rifles. A girl presents an apple to a boy over a fallen signpost labelled ‘lost innocence’. Perry thus makes a powerful statement about the atrocities of conflict.”

I would agree with all of that but I was surprised that the description did not pick up on another aspect of the work. I will, therefore, discuss the piece in a little more detail and then return to the above description and consider other interpretations.

Continue reading “Difficult Background – Grayson Perry”

Photo-punk – Exhibition notes

Photo-punk: 40 images from the birth of UK punk by Ian Dickson and Kevin Cummins

Fig. 1. Photo-punk (2017)


I attended the photo-punk photograph exhibition for two reasons; firstly, nostalgia. I was a fan of punk music. Being at university in London between 1977 and 1980 allowed me to see a lot of punk bands live. Secondly, I wanted to get myself out of my comfort zone. My favourite art has always been painting and sculpture. As much as I am interested and like photography, I do not yet really know enough about it as an art form. I wanted, therefore, to try to view these photographs in terms of ‘art’.

Continue reading “Photo-punk – Exhibition notes”

‘Place – The First of All Things’ (Project 3: Place in Art – Exercise 1)

Exploring Art

Read: ‘Place – The First of All Things’ by Tacita Dean and Jeremy Millar

List artists mentioned and look at least one piece by those whose work incorporates text.

1. Notes

Ian Hamilton Finlay

Finlay I H The World Has Been Empty Since the Romans - 1985

Fig. 1 Finlay, I. H. The World Has Been Empty Since the Romans (1985)

I find this piece quite baffling. This image was taken from the Tate’s website (see list of illustrations below). In the text that accompanied the image, it was explained that “Despite its ruin-like appearance, Finlay’s sculpture was in fact specially made in its present form.” The text goes onto discuss various aspects of the context of the work, in particular that this is the first part of a sentence which concludes, “But the memory of the Romans fills it. They go on prophesying liberty.”

This exercise has asked whether the pieces have any relevance to ‘place’ and how they reference it.

The piece is quoting a reference to the Romans but “The World” as understood by the Romans was not the planet, it was largely Europe, North Africa and those parts of western Asia abutting the Mediterranean Sea.

The sentence is attributed to Antoine de Saint-Just, a military and political leader during the French Revolution. In terms of place, there is something curious about a revolutionary leader of the 18th Century referencing the Roman concept of the world. Whatever his aims and ideals for the French revolution, the quote suggests an antiquated sense of what he felt the world was or could become, which is underscored by the old and damaged appearance of the stones.   


Continue reading “‘Place – The First of All Things’ (Project 3: Place in Art – Exercise 1)”

Damien Hirst and ‘nature morte’ (Project 1: Arts and Ideas – Exercise 5)

Part 1

Find two examples of still life work which includes fish and in each case note the title, artist and date. Make a quick sketch of both pieces.

I decided to choose two pieces that were quite different. The first was a Picasso and the second by William Merritt Chase. It is no exaggeration to say that I have not tried to draw properly for decades. I tried to experiment a little in each sketch. In the first there are areas of colour and so I decided to use coloured pencils.

In the second,the artist’s emphasis was on realism so I used normal drawing pencils but instead tried using both hard and relatively soft ones.

Drawing 1 – Based on Picasso’s Still Life with Fish (1923)

P1 Ex 5 - picasso

Drawing 2 – Based on William Merritt Chase’s  Still Life with Fish (Date unknown)

P1 Ex 5 - w m chase
Continue reading “Damien Hirst and ‘nature morte’ (Project 1: Arts and Ideas – Exercise 5)”

Damien Hirst & Edwaert Collier (Project 1: Arts and Ideas – Exercise 4)

Damien Hirst – The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living & Edwaert Collier – Still Life with a Volume of Wither’s ‘Emblemes’

Hirst - shark
Fig. 1 Hirst, D. “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” (1991)
Still Life with a Volume of Wither's 'Emblemes' 1696 by Edward Collier active 1662-1708
Fig. 2 Collier, E. “Still Life with a Volume of Wither’s ‘Emblemes'” (1696)

PART 1 – Damien Hirst – The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living


  • Write down a few words giving your first reaction to the piece
  • Do you have an emotional response to it?
  • What do you think it’s about?
  • What do you think about the title?

My immediate response is a combination of cynicism and curiosity. I will return to the cynicism in Part 3, but my curiosity stems from both the shark and the title of the work.

Continue reading “Damien Hirst & Edwaert Collier (Project 1: Arts and Ideas – Exercise 4)”

Notes from Art History: The Basics (Project 1: Arts and Ideas – Exercise 3)


  • Look at an excerpt from Art History: The Basics

  • Make notes on parts that require further research or jump out at you as particularly meaningful
  • Look up any words new to you and list them



Art History: The Basics


Read and better understand these phases/periods of art history:

  • Classical Revival of 18th C
  • Bauhaus
  • Modernism


  • Institutional Theory of Art


Particularly interesting comments/observations/quotes from Art History: The Basics

David Hensel:

the art world itself seems to be engaged in a cultural performance about our times, a parody about duplicity, marketing tactics, and acquiescence.

Presenting this work in public and watching the reactions has produced many fascinating insights into how the arts work, about the need for understanding the broader picture of the dynamics of culture, and particularly the need to study the history of propaganda and patronage, the pursuit of invisible influence, in parallel to the study of the history of art.

(Letter from David Hensel, 1 December 2006)