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  • Writer's pictureSuzy Costello, workbooks

Art Studio, Week 5 17-21 Aug 2020

Making artwork for formative assessment, discussion with Anne Noble, Mossman Gallery visit and artist talk.

1.FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT Phew that was a hard one! Three of us from our exhibition group joined together to practice installing our work prior to the exhibition. This was a valuable exercise to understand how our works 'read' together and iron out issues with installation which is time consuming and fraught with difficult decisions i.e. how and where to install our works within a room with no natural lighting. It was a very useful exercise and highlighted a number of issues i.e. best way to showcase the artworks and why the method Izzy and I chose did not work as effectively as we had hoped; how much distance was needed between the works and which area of the room to use (e.g. corner, wall, center), and learning how to use lighting effectively as none of us had used the equipment before.

We spent a day installing and this meant we didn’t really give ourselves enough time to stand back and review our decisions before the formative assessment, which was quite critical of our efforts. We were disappointed with the feedback we got but it all adds to our understanding of the installation process. A positive outcome was that we all worked really well together and supported and encouraged one another. It also taught us that we need to give ourselves a lot more time to install and ask for feedback and help from our mentors.

Suggestions for the installation process -

  • investigate the exhibition space earlier and draw an installation map/plan for the area before we even begin installing

  • give ourselves enough time to install, reflect and ask for feedback from mentors

  • allow more time to ask Mike for his help and advice re lighting

Formative Assessment Crit Form 213
.442 S
Download 442 S • 98KB

Formative Assessment - Lecturer comment:

Well, the installation in T24 looks good in photos, but I don’t think it worked in real life: the theatrical lighting got in the way of reading the parts as sculptural objects in space, reducing everything to a two-dimensional projection. That’s not to say that it couldn’t work, but one of the things I enjoyed about the test-install in your studio was how it reminded me of your (successful) work form last year: your very astute use of surprising materials in space. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with back-peddling to pick up past ideas to see if they still have legs.

But I can understand your desire to do something new, given that you had a very successful first semester and you may be wondering where to go from there. But with just 8 weeks to go, it might be better consolidating and resolving, working on installations of the cicada shells, gold-leaf and thread rather than hiving-off into new territory.

As before, your workblog is very good, IPO and references appropriate, etc., etc. Keep that up.


I was very fortunate to met with Anne Noble over Zoom to discuss art in the context of evidencing biological processes and scientific knowledge. She encouraged me to learn and read more about cicadas, to consider not just their shells and adult life above the earth which people know already but also their mysterious nymph lifecycle under the earth, why and how they have survived so long on Earth and become a world expert on cicada! This mysteriousness and context to the earth is very evident in Anne's own work on bees.

She discussed the importance of following biological processes rather than the anthropomorphic tendency of humans towards non-human living forms. And we discussed what art and poetry offers the scientific community beyond their different, yet complimentary approaches, to understanding the world around us. It seems to me that artists and scientists are both observing the same object or process but respond completely differently to the stimuli and sensory information and the artist can act as a conduit between science and people. We also discussed how aesthetics can be used to interpret and represent biological processes.

This has prompted me to do more research on cicada. Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand has some great information, like the white material left in the final moult is the lining of the cicada's breathing tubes!! I am also reading Olly Hills Cicadas of New Zealand.


ii) Photography

In addition to the installation I have been trying to create photographs of the cicada shells. My aim is to evidence the exquisite casting of the shell in all its detail and in a manner that appeals rather than revolts people.

Using a DSR Cannon camera with 100mm lens I took some photographs of the cicada on gold paper in the Art Studio block which has beautiful lighting from the east and west. Most were a little disappointing but there is one where the sunlight shone inside the exoskeleton and created an iridescence that was stunningly beautiful especially for a complete novice!

Photos by Suzy Costello

I was captivated by Dane Mitchell's work Private and Confidential on display at Adam Art Gallery. Three photographs of paper and rubbish bags were printed on very large glossy white photography paper. They are 1270mm x 1270mm high gloss with ample white space around the image and the sheer size and glossiness creates the feeling of being encased by the paper. I'd like to use this large scale approach so have taken some images and visited Peter Miles in the photography department. We discussed macro photography and how the camera and macro lens I used was too small to capture enough data. He has offered to work with me in the studio with the 90mm and the 50MP D850 to get better results, so that is exciting.

iii) Mould making A group of us will meet with Caitlin to learn mould making using rubber latex......this is something I will explore next term. I've also heard back from Weta who are willing to do a detailed scan of the shells - I'm just waiting to hear about cost and time.

4. MOSSMAN GALLERY VISIT Simon Morris and Shannon Te Ao organised a gallery visit to Mossman Gallery at 22 Garret St. They led an engaging discussion with students in how to use language to describe Emma McIntyre's exhibition Heat, 07 Aug – 05 Sep 2020 which consists of 5 large abstract paintings.

Image sourced from

Mossman Gallery is quite discretely signposted which was interesting and Bjorn Houtman opened the studio just for us. There were two rooms - a small side room (with brochures and small photography) exquisitely painted a flat, nude pink colour (pashmina) which contrasted beautifully with the large white cube room of the gallery exhibiting Emma's work.

The gallery space was accessed by a side corridor so your first impression on entering the room was to encounter the artworks in their entirety - quite a chaotic and wildly busy experience. The starkness of the room (white walls, floors and ceiling and cool lighting devoid of natural light) created a focused atmosphere to experience the artworks and the room was large enough to view the work(s) from afar as well as close up. This was important as the works are full of layering, mark making, colour, pattern and texture. Interestingly, there were no artworks on the end wall but the large canvases were hung facing each other (3 on one wall and 2 on the other), creating a dialogue between the works and allowing colour to vibrate and fill the room and reflect off the walls.

There was no written material on the walls which I really like as it can interrupt your experience of enjoying the works. There was also no red stickers despite all works being sold prior to the exhibition opening! Mossman Gallery must have a very mature and trusting clientele to generate such a successful result.

Some wonderful questions and comments were offered e.g.

  • How do you know when a painting is finished?...when you have painted yourself out of it

  • Emma's use of patterns to stabilise the painting then use of layers, colour and texture to destabilise it, leaving the viewer in a place of neither

  • Why would you take this painting home?

5. ARTIST TALK - ANNE SHELDON Unfortunately I missed Anne's talk as it would have been pertinent to my art making practice. I will explore her work more fully


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