• Suzy Costello, workbooks

MFA, June 30-July 4

Updated: 7 days ago

Researching Susanna Bauer; Working on quilt; Simon Morris's exhibition When each action opens; Reflecting on summative feedback.


Just started reading Susanna Bauer's pdf on Fictional Archaeology which discusses "material traces of the past as repositories of temporality" [yum, seems to describe what I am looking at in my recent exercises exploring impressions].

From the outset, Susanna clarifies the importance of the fictional imagined state for her exegesis. While she is interested in "traces of human engagement with the material world" her art practice inhabits a space removed from the actuality of objects or sites. This fictional space she describes as "heavily mediated", "shifting experiences of materiality" and exploring space and temporality beyond "linear chronological narratives" (intro).

Describing her artmaking practice as following processes, Susanna writes about how this methodology leads to transformational processuality (a "processual interweaving unfolding of the creative space"), and how embodiment through direct engagement with both material and process leads to "material thinking". [It is not clear to me what she means by 'material thinking' yet, but hopefully it is described more fully in her exegesis.]

I'll keep reading it and seek out other New Zealand based artists as we are all framed within the unique space of Aotearoa. I would like to see how other artists respond to the layering of tangata whenua both in an actual and fictional archaeological site. Do other artists feel an invisible electric forcefield around natural objects? This is what I have found for myself. What is this boundary? How do I understand where it is, given its invisibility in the actual world? How close is too close to this incursion into the boundary space before it is considered disrespectful from a Maori worldview for a pakeha to enter?

List of interesting words found in Bauer's work and meanings gleaned from google:

  • transformational processuality

  • material thinking

  • material traces

  • quotidian: of or occurring every day; daily

  • non-coincidence: opposite of coincidence? coincidence = two things happening at the same time by chance, in a surprising way (non coincidence described in Bauer's work as 'a being outside of time, in order to recognise the contemporary moment through a distance from it')

  • temporal displacement: being out of time; element from one time period is continuously misplaced into different time periods; in some cases perceived simultaneity does not correspond to physical contemporaneousness, and that sequences of very brief stimuli may be perceived as simultaneity or as reversed successions (Wilhelm Wundt)

  • affordance: the quality or property of an object that defines its possible uses or makes clear how it can or should be used

  • temporal relationality: embodiment of intersubjective time: relational dynamics as attractors in the temporal coordination of interpersonal behaviours and experiences

  • narrative connectivity: to tell stories in order to find a shape, a form, in the turmoil of human experience (Umberto Eco)

  • nonlinear temporality:


Now the Indian cotton fabric has been dyed black, I've begun working on the back piece for the Japanese quilt and determined to use a portion of the non-periodic patterns from my artmaking practice last semester. This feels appropriate because -

  • the front is an offering of other artists' work, while the back is an offering of my art making practice,

  • pattern making is embedded in all cultures' textile designs,

  • and an aspect of this art that I can't ignore is the gender aspect of stitching and its relevance to home, which is hard to ignore given I am making the quilt on our dining room table!!

Clearly, I need to explore these strands more fully - geometric pattern making, asymmetry, culture, textiles, stitching as a female craft centered on the home.

The portion of non-periodic pattern I selected is asymmetrical, which is an important aspect of the Japanese artistic aesthetic. This asymmetry, and the non-repeating nature of the pattern, does mean the design is confusing and difficult to register for the human mind which is something I felt in last semester's work. It is not 'appealing' or 'soothing' for the mind; it holds the viewer in an unpleasant state of tension and confusion as the mind unconsciously works to identify the repeating nature of the pattern and its meaning.

More food for thought and research?.....

Next how to attach the back and front of the quilt together?


Exhibition at Jhana Millers Art Gallery, 11 June – 3 July 2021

Simon Morris, Daily Painting #21, 2011. Acrylic on linen, 360 x 360mm. Jhana Millers

wow. simplicity. the simplest of action and the clarity of process. always the purity of colour and its tonal value explored. he could paint anything, yet chooses to examine the elements and conventions of fine art.

When I was questioning my narrative and method of artmaking, experiencing Simon's art bolstered me.

This is what 'Simon says' about his art:

"The connections between three types of my painting only occurred to me recently. It has been a decade since I last exhibited in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington and likewise, these forms of painting developed over the past ten years. Meanwhile, they connect through the use of three common forms of painting language, all familiar to my practice: layering, dilution and colour mixing. In 2011, in my Daily Paintings I added, as a morning ritual on studio days, a single layer of paint, each narrower than the last. This became an exercise of engaging with the liquidity of paint, colour, edge, and control. The 2014 Water Colour Paintings used a systematic process to dilute paint (with the help of mathematician Ed Abraham) that explored change through variables involving both time and application."

When two colours become one (2021), Simon Morris

"This new wall painting When two colours become one (2021) extends my ongoing interest in painting techniques, acting as a starting point to again consider conceptual processes, colour mixing, and the time needed to occupy the space of the Jhana Millers Gallery. When two colours become one (2021) was first developed through a series of smaller-scale paintings I made on a residency at the Headlands Centre for the Arts in 2017. A one-hour bike ride from San Francisco, Headlands is in Marin County just over the Golden Gate Bridge on the West Coast. My studio was a large rectangle with most of its windows along the Northern side, along with a Western one which faces the Californian sun as it sets over the Pacific Ocean. For 10 weeks, I spent a large part of the time by myself, released from the usual demands of work and daily life back here in Aotearoa. I am truly very grateful that I had that opportunity to develop new work, to read, walk and meet people. When two colours become one emerged out of this fresh and expanded experience of time, while filtering new surroundings. In the work this translates into constantly shifting time structures and the direct engagement with colour as it transforms from one hue to another: a simple idea that opens toward a new form over time."

Simon breaks the method of making this artwork into simple, refined elements -

  • Action: The moment of painting is an act of focus. Each stroke an action, similar but different. With body length strokes, I apply paint directly to the wall, one action after another following the repeated form, sustained, steady, accumulating to fill the space. Both repetition and acceptance of variation occurs.

  • Space: The Modern architecture of the gallery now meets the space of the painting. They come together as a connected experience, informing each other with shifting light and shifting position.

  • Time: The time of the painting meets the time of the world. Direct sensations of colour and space can be independent experiences, but interrupted by other things.

  • Colour: With one brush, two colours become one. Colour shifts from one stroke to the another.

  • Temporality: Change is constant, everything impermanent. The wall painting will be painted over in time, and possibly remade in another space."

Simon Morris, 2021


Summative feedback from my mentor's:

  1. Speculative/ innovative/experimental practice: Very steady production of work complemented by a growing sense of critical reflection informing each work, which could stand to be sharpened further. Strong intuitive sensibilities that seem very reliant on symbolism and broad concepts such as order/ chaos and nature/culture. Process-centred works deserve further inquiry to explore things such as gaming, chance, code, pattern and maybe even the work of the time/labour.

  2. Materials/ processes and practice: Materiality plays a large role in your creative works. Suggest that further research could be taken in that direction to locate and position yourself amongst the materiality literature and discourse and to point that understanding towards the work of others more vigorously.

  3. Critically evaluate historical and contextual work and ideas relevant to their field: Your spoken thoughts reveal that you have a solid knowledge of artists and art works; this knowledge does not track as much in your blogs or your comments on other student work. There is little evidence of your own ability to critique your own work in-depth, and in the process, draw in reflections/ analysis on the work of others.

  4. Demonstrate an understanding of a range of critical, philosophical and practical tools needed to activate and articulate their research practice: This and the next criteria are perhaps the areas that beg for the most attention in semester 2. Your blog/workbook holds hints of a growing sense of criticality yet resides primarily in descriptive mode.

  5. Articulate a considered position in relation to the debates relevant to contemporary creative practice: There are key markers in your practice and workbook: nature/ natural, process, pattern, geometries, wearing and fragile materials. Suggest that you use a portion of semester 2 to focus your attention on perhaps one process and material and work towards attaining depth rather than breadth. Your announcement that you will move to work with clay is a curious and unexpected choice. If that remains your intention, then suggest that you try to structure your concepts and make in deliberate ways that can reveal new understanding-- not exactly a scientific experiment, but a serious play with repetition and pattern.

  6. Interact effectively with others and respond confidently to flexible conditions and multiple viewpoints in relevant professional contexts: Your regular comments in critiques and discussions are noted and appreciated. Your workbook reveals that you hold more opinions that you let on. Encourage you to articulate these to the group so that the cohort can grow stamina and trust to debate works and issues vigorously. It is very evident that you devote a good time and effort to your studies; the investment and commitment is noticeable. You are a well-regarded member of the class and offer positivity to every discussion.

Self reflection: By the end of the first semester, I felt I had produced original creative work that was "well realised and highly innovative". Shannon raised concerns that the final work held elements of misappropriation of theme and technique but I felt my work was appropriate because it was formed by following the process of my own creative practice i.e. the diagonal stitches formed patterns by the mere process of determined rules given the axis of the grids and the direction of the first thread.

The transformative processual nature of my art practice realised the words in the MFA Handbook that "in 'the doing' and 'the making' that new knowledge comes to bear". The simple act of stitching diagonal running stitches in predefined grids led me to an exploration of nonperiodic unstable patterns, which in turn led to a discussion of the unstable patterns in nature, atmosphere and climate change. My approach to allow the agency of process and material to inform my art making becomes "a mode of research inquiry that questions, critiques, reveals and speculates upon issues, topics, places and events".

Using tissue paper is an opportunity to engage in a new material and offers potentials beyond my previous materials of natural, discarded objects. Comments from students and staff about the inappropriateness of using natural materials sourced from my local environment because of tangata whenua asks me to reconsider not just my use of the materials but also myself as a pakeha within a Maori worldview. This is a profound departure for me and what is what I will focus on in the next semester as it means I will "become more self-aware about creative processes and what they yield" (MFA Handbook 2021).

Realising the second part of the description of the course in the MFA Handbook 2021 was less successful for me. This section emphasises the production of original creative work that is "research-driven" and "critically engaged" (MFA Handbook 2021). Most of my research was based on observations and inquiry into the natural world, and was not academically sourced. I appreciate this does not meet the expectation "that students will build critical, reflective and contextualising skills relative to one's own work as well as others" (MFA Handbook, 2021). I will need to draw more on academic research and integrate it into my practice and imagine this will be an iterative process to gradually narrow the focus of inquiry.

Despite beginning the semester by creating art that responded to two contemporary NZ artists, the comments from the summative feedback indicate I need to do more "tto understand the significance of one's creative work relative to other artists and designers as well as to New Zealand and beyond" (MFA Handbook, 2021).

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