Category Archives: Project 1 – Art and ideas


I have lived and worked in Saudi Arabia for eight years and I have to admit have not done much in the way of exploring the country or even the region of this fascinating country, I did a little in the beginning but I hope that is all about to change with my new interest in art.  Starting this course has been the best thing I’ve done in a long time, it has given me back my energy to learn and be enthralled at what goes on in the mind of other like-minded people.  I am sure there is an artist in everybody, same as a writer or photographer it’s just whether or not your willing to explore your capabilities, imagination or talent you have.  I hope to now look out for more trips available to pursue my love of photography and writing.  However, there has been a new revelation, my love of Art and the question ‘What is Art’ is constantly on my mind, I’m asking friends and family ‘What is Art’ and it is amazing the replies I am receiving, I just love it.  I am really surprised at how interesting I am finding the whole aspect of art and what it means.  I am eager to find out more about the artists I’ve heard of but never really paid too much interest too.  I love that I’m choosing different art over another, meaning I like a certain style or at least I thought I did.  I have always tried to take photos that are a bit quirky or show a different angle to the country or place I’m visiting, so I believe I have a certain style when it comes to photography, but now I’m wondering what kind of painter I would be, it really has opened up my eyes.  I’ve also learned that the title can be just as important as the art piece, Hirst’s The physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living is testament to that, from my first impression of just a picture of a shark that was laughing to actually what it was in the gallery and the possible meaning behind the art piece has just blown my mind.  Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ has also made me query ‘What is Art’ how can a man’s urinal be art? Then of course who decide’s what is Art, David Hensel’s laughing head-piece was taken apart, the head returned to him and the plinth it was on was kept and displayed.  Who decided the plinth was art?  It really is all quite fascinating and I am enjoying every aspect of it.

Back to my starting point, about living in Saudi Arabia, I went a bit off track but I just wanted to add I now have the privilege of working for a company that has built one of the biggest art centres in the Middle East, and is literally ten minutes away.  I visited it for the first time at the weekend and was in awe.  It is beautiful and contains, a massive theatre, museum, library, workshops, restaurant and shop.  I can’t believe what they have on offer and will now be able to visit, I am hoping to learn about the Arab influence in art and will be taking another visit next weekend and hopefully see one of the cinema showings of Van Gough’s work.  The outside of the building can be seen from afar and is very impressive and I want to learn more about the artist/architecture of the building, I have to admit I was a little surprised at the phallic like image it portrays in such a prohibited country, again, needs a further investigation.

My final reflection on part 1 is the technical and note taking side of things and what I have learned, and that was to persevere.  I had got quite frustrated with how the blog worked in trying to set up the sections for the blog posts to go into, but I knew if I could get it right in the beginning then I could concentrate on the studying, I am so glad I did.   I also realised I love my physical notebook, I always have done, I actually collect them as a hobby, and feel happiest with having one with me.  What I’m finding myself doing is keeping my notebook with me and then transferring the majority of the notes to my blog, this seems to be working for me.  Sometimes my notes do feel a bit scrambled and I need to work on that, get a bit of confidence in what I need to digest as important.  Overall though I feel really happy right now I am so glad I have started this course, I am learning a whole new aspect in art, I am doing what I love which is writing and incorporating a few of my own photos along the way to brighten my blog.   The journey has only just begun but loving every second of it so far (apart from the technical side of the blog!).fullsizeoutput_1fe4



The first part of this exercise was to find two still life pictures that relate to fish.   ‘Nature’ morte’  means ‘dead nature’ and is a term used for Still Life.  Along with finding the pictures, it was advised to make a quick sketch of them with notes.

The first one I chose from the Tate Gallery called Image of the Fish God by Alan Davie (1956)



I particularly liked this one as it felt like it was quite modern and yet I had a feeling there was something ancient being symbolised, possibly a man with a sword or shield, but actually a fish instead.  The fish to me seems dead in the way it is being held upwards,

like its been caught and on show, I hope this means it is considered to be still life as I got a little confused in thinking that perhaps still life paintings are more like fish on a plate to be eaten or the painting had to actually look like real fish but dead.  The main points I took from the notes available (Gallery label, July 2012) were:

Notes from Gallery

  • Made up of shapes and symbols
  • Central diamond symbol depicting an eye
  • Artist defines personal pictograms as ‘Primordial’ (from the beginning of time)
  • Painting has a totemic monumentality evokes ancient cultures and shamanistic beliefs – I understand this to mean that it like a totum monument (a totum pole symbol  worshiped by members of a family or tribe).  Shamanistic is a religion of Northern Asia

My Notes

  • Both modern/ancient – man with a sword/shield
  • Dead fish – upright like its been caught
  • Central weird eye symbol
  • Black figure, ghostly
  • Dripping paint, blood?

The second painting a chose was more traditional, from the Royal Academy website called Still Life: Fish by Sir Frank Brangwyn RA (early 20th century)



I thought this was a homely one, quite traditional, as if someone had been out fishing and dumped two fish on the kitchen table, the reason I think its in the kitchen is there is a drinking canister of some kind next to the fish and some pretty shoes also appear on the floor making me think this is in the home.  The Academy indicated some key words.

Notes from Academy

Studio setting, fish blood, violence, dead animal, brown

My Notes

One fish almost comforting the other, both dead, pretty shoes, kitchen table, homely, drink container, I didn’t see it as being violent or of any blood.

The second part of the exercise was to watch a video showing Hirsts ‘The physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living” and to take notes whilst listening to a conversation taking place of three people observing the artwork.  I made the following notes:

HIRST – Plays on human emotion, like danger, fear, shark could kill you, seems to be making you question your level of fear.

THE PIECE – The piece is actually a full size shark in a glass cage, that has been killed and paid for.  This is the second one Hirst has created as the first one disintegrated, this one he employed the help of a taxidermist, to try to preserve this shark.

HIRST’S OTHER WORK – He cut sheep in half lengthwise and put in a glass cage

INFORMATION ON OTHER ARTISTS WHOSE WORK IS CONCERNED WITH MORTALITY – I could only grasp the conversation about mummies being preserved in order to preserve time

REFERENCES TO TIME – There was talk about the Egyptian mummies being preserved in the hope of mortality, preserving time or at least stop time

My initial thought when I saw the picture of the shark in the course book, I thought it wasn’t real and that the shark was almost laughing, I didn’t think of it in terms of death or how scary it was and never question anything about mortality.  So having now found out more about Hirst’s work it has most definitely changed my view on how I would view it.

I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed this exercise, from start to finish, it was great to investigate several different galleries for pictures on still life and to chose a couple that stood out straight away for me.  Although there were plenty more but you would just take up so much time so made a quick decision.  I am feeling that my note taking is not quite as it should be and I don’t think I’m picking up on some important aspects, or maybe I’m doing ok and maybe it really is just about my opinion and what I think about what art is, all I know is I am finding the whole experience an eye opener and can’t wait to be learning more and realising what amazing artwork there is and the historical meanings behind some of them













Damien Hurst’s – The Physical impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living – Sometimes referred to as “the shark in formaldehyde”

Write down a few words giving your first reaction to the piece

In this picture it’s almost like your looking into the face of death and its laughing at you

Do you have an emotional response to it?

It doesn’t frighten me as I feel its laughing, but I feel I should be scared because it’s a shark and looking to come straight at me

What do you think it’s about?

I think it’s about life and death, and how this shark is the image of death coming at you

What do you think about the title?

Not sure I quite get it, perhaps its saying that it’s all in the mind and that this shark isn’t about death, and can’t be if your still living

Edwaert Collier – Still Life with a volume of Wither’s Emblemes

Write down a few words giving your first reaction to the piece

It would appear to be about someone who is or was musical

Do you have an emotional response to it?

It’s quite a calming feeling

What do you think it’s about?

It’s possibly about death, someone has left the scene in a mess, so may have died there and then outside of the main scene

What do you think about the title?

Not sure I get the title, The still life meaning Death, Withers meaning wide and Emblemes meaning a seal or flag of international seabed  – perhaps it is a scene on a boat and they have died whilst playing their music



In this exercise I have been asked to  make notes in respect of an excerpt from Art History: The Basics by Grant Pooke and Diana Newall (2008, Abingdon, Routledge).  To summarise the excerpt from what I understand it is widely asking the question who decides if it is art and if there is a purpose to it.  A situation arose whereby an a sculptor (David Hensel) created  a sculpture of a laughing head on a plinth, and sent it to an international and prestigious art exhibition.  The head was returned and the plinth was displayed on its own instead.  A real case of who decided that the plinth was art.

Other parts of the chapter that stood out were:

  • “I’m delighted to have made an empty plinth that isn’t empty, where the exhibit itself is merely invisible”  (David Hensel 2006)
  • “There really is no such thing as Art.  There are only artists”.  (Gombrich 1984: 4), he suggests that art is something that artists do.
  • Decorative Arts; needlework, glass textiles, jewellery
  • Fine Art – Painting, drawing and sculpture (Royal Academy)
  • Contemporary Art – ceramics and embroidery, modern
  • All definitions or art are mediated through culture, history and language – need to look at social and cultural origin
  • Classical sculpture of Zeus  (copy of a fifth century BCE original – would have been judged on technical standard
  • Important to understand that the meaning and attributions of art are particular to different context, societies and periods.  Whatever the prevalence through time of objects and practices with aesthetic purpose, ideas and definitions of art are neither timeless nor beyond history, but related to the social and cultural assumptions of the societies and environment which fashion them
  • Artists – Tracy Emin, Grayson Perry, David Hensel, Bauhaus, Braque, Derain, Kirchner, Matisse, Picasso, Maurice De Vlaminck, Cezanne

The exercise also asked to list any words that were new to me.  I have created a menu that contains a glossary on my Home page, listing new words and their meanings and will continue to add as I go along.

I enjoyed reading this article and about the idea’s of what is Art and how historically it has changed and continues to change as each new artist comes along.  I do feel I need to learn how to take notes and what parts are important, along with how to correctly reference things.



Talk about frustration, I have been wanting to type up my notes for Exercise 3, however I was determined to get to grips with the set up of the blog, I had initially given it a go with my own theme but didn’t seem to get it, so changed it (as I should have done right at the beginning) to the theme chosen by OCA.  Lesson learned, do as instructed to begin with! So I changed it to Twenty Twelve theme, but I still couldn’t get it and I had already posted four posts with tag lines that I had no idea what they were for and a few category choices that I had guessed at previously and somehow got them on my home page.  So I had to strip back to the beginning and over two days I actually think I’ve finally got it, but blimey did that test my patience, and I’m a pretty patient person.  It took rereading the instructions several times before each step sunk in.  I thought all the categories would list immediately on the home page, but they don’t list until you have actually ticked a blog in that category.  Hard to explain but I hope anyone reading this will be feeling my pain, unless you are a wizard at doing blogs.  However, going forward I’m feeling super calm, on reflection – rule number one, I should have followed the OCA notes properly on setting up the blog using the theme advised, rule number two basically should have followed rule one!  Think I am going to have a little break now and then get back to adding my notes for Exercise 3 so I can then get back to the business of studying.  To be honest pretty pleased with myself now thatI know what I’m doing and persevered until I got it right, so just remember to ask for help (I did) if you get stuck with the technical side of things, because sometimes you just can’t see the wood for the trees.


Questions asked in Exercise 2:

  • What is Art? – I believe art is something someone has created to make you feel and to make you question things, if you are the artist I imagine you want to make someone feel something like love, happiness, fear, horror, sad, hatred even anger to me that’s art – A feeling.
  • How do we know it’s Art? – because it’s making us feel something even if it’s boredom, but that in itself will make you question it, either the object, painting, building or the artist that’s how you know it’s art.
  • Who decides what is Art?  You do, I do, he does, she does, anyone can decide if it is art, it’s whether you want to sell it then it becomes a question as to who you can sell it to and if that person thinks its art.
  • Is it enough just to display a found object and say ‘this is art’ because it’s in an art gallery?  No, art is everywhere, like the bunch of padlocks, stick paintings and my own attempts at paintings are still art they just might not be something people want to buy or view in a gallery.
  • Duchamp said he wanted ‘to put art back in the service of the mind’.  What do you think he meant by this?  I think he want’s you to think about art, to question it, to investigate it and to love it or hate it, but appreciate it.
  • Is technical skill an important quality in an artwork?  In some cases there is a lot of technical skill, some paintings are incredible and you just couldn’t paint them unless you had the skill, but then some may think you are born an artist.
  • Do you think art needs to move you emotionally?  Yes I do, I think it is about feelings, even being bored or unimpressed it’s still a feeling if you’re looking at art.
  • Does art have to be unique?  I think so in order for it to grab attention, if you are in an art class and an apple is placed in front of the class, there will always be someone who will create something unique, not just the same picture of the same apple, it would need to be different.  Having just typed that out I’m then thinking but those people who did paint the apple exactly as it is will surely think they have still produced Art.  Hm that is one to revisit.



In this exercise I have been asked to write down my first response to a picture of Duchamp’s Fountain  1950 (replica of 1917 original) (porcelain urinal) Tate Gallery.  It does remind me of a man’s urinal not a fountain, I think of fountains as pretty, perhaps in gardens or parks ,as ornamental features.  This certainly isn’t pretty and not sure why he’s written the letters R Mutt on the side making it even less attractive.  On further research on the Tate Gallery website, I discovered that he had apparently chosen a urinal because he didn’t think it would be liked.  ‘I was drawing people’s attention to the fact that art is a mirage. A mirage, exactly like an oasis appears in the desert. It is very beautiful until, of course, you are dying of thirst. But you don’t die in the field of art. The mirage is solid.’ (Otto Hahn, ‘Entretien Marcel Duchamp’, Paris-Express, 23 July 1964, p.22.).  I quite liked that quote that ‘art is a mirage’ and he believed the urinal to be art, whereas there were plenty of others that didn’t.  On reflection my initial response is it is not art, it’s just a urinal, so it is very interesting to see the different responses as to What is Art.  The more I research the more I am questioning what is Art.  I still think of Art as being a painting, a drawing or a sculpture, not in my wildest dreams would I think of a man’s urinal as being art.  I find it fascinating.  My immediate thoughts now are of a recent trip to Florence, Italy, strolling along the beautiful cobbled streets and coming across little stick drawings on various walls dotted around the city, I thought it was art and loved finding them, it made me excited to find them and I took several pictures, however I did wonder if they were scorned upon and were considered graffiti, but then is graffiti art?  There was so much art in Florence that perhaps now I am beginning to think about the various forms, the famous statues, paintings and buildings and yet I sought out different ideas for photographs like the graffitti and this bunch

fullsizeoutput_1e3cof padlocks hanging on a wall on the famous Ponte Vecchio Bridge, is this considered art?  I obviously have a lot to learn but I am thoroughly enjoying the journey so far.