30 MINUTE ENCOUNTERS; SIENA
A series of portraits in chronological order depicting people like me, non-native to Siena. My encounters with these sitters were limited to 30 minutes, as I was curious how this limitation would affect the style of my painting. The portraits are connected not only by painting style, but also colour choice, which was inspired by the colours of Siena. The sitters are all looking down and not engaging with me as I paint them, as I wanted to capture them in a more candid pose – reading a book or using their phones.
Reading response: Alfredo Jaar “On the Being of Being an Artist”
Similar to Jerry Saltz, Alfredo Jaar tackles big questions, such as ‘why is art important’, and I think that deserves respect. (One of the reasons Jaar gives in response to this question is that art changes the way we perceive and respond to our surroundings.) I also respect Jaar’s emphasis on culture and its importance in creating a model of looking and thinking about the world. He says that culture is therefore key in making change possible.
Jaar’s own work is interesting in the way it portrays the power of a single simple idea. The meaning is very apparent, so communication is simplified without sacrificing complexity or depth.
I think a lot of his art is about creating a dialogue between different cultures and questioning the wrong in the world. Of the works I have seen, I get the impression that the art, although simple, provokes introspection and reflection.
Jerry Saltz – ‘what art is and what artists do’ reading response:
This was such a fun and playful reading, but one that still holds so much meaning. I agree with everything he says – art is a necessity, a medium of thinking, and an energy source that makes change possible. It alters the global conversation and is an important part of every culture’s identity. It was interesting to read in Saltz’s blunt terms how you don’t make art to please anyone but yourself, you must take risks and work hard, whilst also letting the art work through you.
There are also several points that stood out to me in his ’33 Rules for Being an Artist’, which I would like to highlight as a reminder to myself:
- Art doesn’t need to make sense, be understood, or even be good.
- Art should contain emotions that are easy to understand, complex or not.
- Artists communicate abstractly, indirectly.
- Art is not passive or just for looking at.
- The difference between subject matter (e.g. man with a sling) and context (e.g. grace/pensiveness/vulnerability) is important.
- It only takes about 12 people to make a career: 1 dealer, 5/6 collectors, 2/3 critics, 1/2 curators.
Mid-Term Project: Passers-by: Siena
The aim was to represent the Sienese community, and I did this primarily through 50 charcoal portraits of people I passed on my walks in the city. The portraits were fast documentations, straight on with no emotions – instead focusing on basic physical features and facial structure, which resulted in rather androgynous looks. From this collection of 50 portraits, I created 2 slideshows (one of 20 faces, the other of 30) which I projected separately from 2 projectors onto the same space, so that they overlapped. The faces softly faded in and out, and the timing of the slides were slightly different, creating an interesting situation where sometimes you would see both faces at the same time, sometimes only ones, and other times there wouldn’t be a face at all. This fleeting and imperfect timing was to represent the feeling of passing people in the street in an irregular manor, with little time to linger on any one face, but rather experiencing the presence of many people.
It was interesting to see how after a while, it became difficult to differentiate between the faces, as they all merged into one mass – an unexpected representation of the community as a whole. The faces all merged into one can also be seen literally through all faces overlaid.
The sounds heard alongside the projections were from a 15 min recording of my most common walk through the streets of Siena. The sounds of footsteps, and of people getting louder then softer as we pass, also mimic the idea of fleeting encounters.
The projections were set up in an enclosed, box-like space created by panels, which viewers could enter. It created a simple, empty setting in which to focus on the drawings and the sounds. However, the projectors were set at such a hight so as to limit engagement with the portraits – if you walked too close to them, you would block the projections. Therefore, it may have been a better idea to raise the projectors higher, and allow for greater interaction with the portraits.
Coincidently, the colours used were white and black – the colours of Siena. If this project was to be repeated for a community of another city, different colours that represent that city could be chosen.
Reading Response: Report from Italy
The protection and preservation of historic art and architecture in Italy is a focus, and although this does not provide an environment for the maximum growth of emerging art, I do not think it is necessarily a bad thing. Having said this, there could be an increased focus on contemporary art in schools; doing so would foster a sensitivity towards creating a meaningful dialogue between historic and contemporary art. This could also help avoid the production of contemporary installations and sculptures being placed within historic settings, with no relevance or context to that particular space.
Booklet Project: Connecting Past and Present
The layering of past and present can be seen in the faces you see around Siena. To find a relationship between the contemporary faces and those from history, I have overlaid on sheets of translucent paper the faces of people I have passed when walking the streets, with those of medieval Sienese paintings. The aim was to discover to what extent the people as a whole have changed in terms of race/age/facial features, and I noticed that among the numerous differences, there are also similarities. On the top most layer is a single continuous line that highlights these similarities and differences; it both simplifies and combines the two drawings beneath it into one. This represents the way in which traces of the people in historic art are very much a present part of the lives of the people in Siena today. I also saw this single line as an interpretation of the rope in Lorenzetti’s Good Government fresco – in a way, it goes through all the people of the city and brings them together in strength. Because each of the layers are drawn on translucent paper, you can see through the pages to the ones below and this was important to create the sense of layering of times. However, the pages are free for the viewer to move around and find their own combinations of faces and create their own compositions.
Reading response: All Together Now
It was interesting to read about the writer’s take on the effect of the internet on craft. I would agree that the internet is great for sourcing material and knowledge, and helps hugely with distribution, which may lead to a lack of ‘sense of place’. However, I would argue that not being connected to a physical place could be beneficial if the craftsman is not relying on the place, or the methods of production that come linked with its history, to give the craft its identity. Instead, the product’s character would come purely from that of the craftsman, as they now have access to knowledge, materials and methods from all over the world, thus giving them a new creative freedom. In this way I would say that craft is not becoming more homogenised, but rather more individualised.
It is also rarer to see items of craft, such as furniture, being used in everyday life. I wonder if this has to do with the idea that craft is becoming more individualised (less about community/place) and made by people of all cultures – thus causing it to be viewed more as objects to look at, rather than use.
I wonder if there is now, or will be soon, a new type of craft that creates products using digital techniques – trained manual skills which use a digital platform – as this is essentially no different to the skills of craftsmen who use machines for woodwork, for example.
In the reading ‘Mapping the Intangible: Making the Invisible Visible’, Garcia and Borobio say that in discovering the intangible values of a landscape, you also uncover human desires, emotions and identity. This is a provocative comment, which I would agree with – people interact with their landscape on a daily basis (and perhaps did so more in the past) and so it makes sense that a place retains a strong link to the people who experienced it previously. The idea to uncover the history and ‘unknown potential’ of a landscape through researching its blind memory is fascinating. This was done through researching a place’s name, story and location, the knowledge of which allowed them to give worth to the place and in this way ‘rescue’ it.
The importance of the name of the place as a gateway to learning about its origin and personality really intrigued me, as well as how respecting its cultural heritage can lead to not only a sense of recovered identity, but also responsibility to cultivate its memory. In this way the simple act of uncovering a place’s story could also lead to bringing together a community of the area’s members who are linked to its story.
How all this information could be accessible to the public through artwork was also interesting. Garcia and Borobio reference the collages of James Corner, and mention how the use of collage as a new way of seeing landscape is effective in emphasising the essential parts of a landscape – and is also open to interpretation by the viewer.
Using art such as collages is an effective way to create a dialogue with an audience and provoke throught as to how a viewer identifies with their own landscape and their responsibility to it. I wonder if this method of engaging people with their landscape would work in any setting around the world, and to what extent it depends on the cultures and customs of the local inhabitants.
Blue of Distance reflection:
Rebecca Solnit proposes several alluring ideas, such as that the feeling of desire is something to be cherished rather than filled. In the same way, we should appreciate distance (the reason for the colour blue), for if we cross it, the blue is gone and it is not the same place.
Another compelling idea Solnit proposes is that of the sanctity of memory; when we gain something, we lose the memory of it. I think, however, that sometimes, having an object helps us to retain the memory of it, even if it is selective.
I find Solnit’s points about taking time and being appreciative of space and memory, all very pleasant and charming.
Intro Unit Project: Tempo Zulu
In this proposal for a series of interventions around Siena, I was interested in highlighting and uplifting the ‘scars’ left on buildings that have occurred due to the palimpsest-like layering of construction over the years. I was inspired by the philosophy of Kintsugi – its acceptance of the imperfect and its call to bring history to the forefront rather than hiding it – and wanted to recreate this using marble tiles, such as those we saw by Emilio Frati. I thought it would be interesting to fill in and highlight the gap between old and new construction with this colourful and relatively expensive material. In doing so, it would hopefully bring a focus to the passage of time, as well as the idea of the history of the buildings being an important part of the culture of the city.
Reference images for the Tempo Zulu project:
In my opinion, the difference between ‘craft’ and ‘art’ is not how, with what materials, or even where they were made – both can be made using any process, with any materials, and in any place.
Both craftsmen and artists understand their medium, work with it and respond to it. Both craft and art can have an aesthetic importance and both can be provocative, inspiring emotion or memory.
However, for me, the difference between craft and art is its purpose. A craftsman’s creations are for a practical use whereas an artist’s creations are to be viewed (and possibly also to provoke thought).
In ‘More Love Hours than can ever be Repaid’, Mike Kelley re-appropriates handmade toys and crochet blankets. He changes the purpose of the peices of craft from one of use, to something that is viewed – and in doing so, it becomes a piece of art.
Both ‘craft’ and ‘art’ are fluid terms and neither is more important than the other.
Intro Unit Project: Walk of Destiny
Rebecca Solnit talks about uplifting the ordinary, and refers to Jackson Pollock’s words “we must become preoccupied with and even dazzled by the space and object of our everyday life”. When walking around Siena centre, I passed several tourist shops and tobacconists who were selling picture-perfect, photoshopped postcards of city landmarks. However, i think the people you meet and the places you visit in day to day life whilst living in Siena are just as good an indication, if not a better one, of the culture of the city. Therefore, I thought it would be interesting to replace the polished photographs on local postcards with pictures of Sienese people – baker, waiter etc – the people you meet everyday. The 6 colours used in these pictures are all exact swatches taken from photos of buildings in Siena, and in this way, create a colour-palette that represents the architecture here.
Kayoon Anderson, UK
Having been born in Seoul, South Korea, and raised in London, the relationship between culture and identity has always been an interest of mine. A degree in Architecture at the University of Cambridge has only made me more fascinated by the beauty of the human form and ways to represent their emotions – something I look forward to exploring further in Siena.