P3- Contextual Studies Assignment 3

‘To-ing and fro-ing between bewilderment and certainty, knowing and not knowing, is critical to the creative process and is characteristic of this sense of living the work’.

(Fortnum 2007 (p.vi)).

When I read this in the course text I laughed, because only days before I had had a conversation of a similar vain with my husband. Insight v’s delusion. I think I have felt this recently as I’ve explored other artists work and attempted to set my work in a given context, believing to have found the answers to certain question- like ‘can you grow your own art materials? only for doubt to creep in later on.

I think I have attempted to address this in the work I have done for this assignment. For the exhibition piece I have selected to look at the work of John Newling, who has made work by ‘growing his own material’- in Jersey Cabbages. I have become quite interested in his work, in particular this ‘growing’ and ‘the care/ nurturing’ aspect. To explore this further in relation to my own practice I emailed him, to enquire about his project ‘The Lemon Tree and me’, to which he responded by sending me the text to read. I have yet to read it, but hope it will help to further answer some of my own uncertainties about where my work sits.

For the contemporary artist piece- a dialogue, I have explored my working practice with that of Eva Hesse, through the use of questions from a conversation between Cindy Nemster and Hesse in 1970. When I look back at your report I note that you wrote, ‘pay particular attention to what is required in the contemporary artist section’. So, I think although I acknowledge Hesse is no longer alive, I think I am exploring her work because of the resonance it seems to still have for many contemporary artists. I have added my draft notes, so that you can see how I built up the piece.

I have found that during preparing this assignment I have started to use a voice recorder as a means to facilitate the flow of words. I had been finding that sometimes trying to think the words and write them at the same time can stifle the flow and be quite frustrating. I immediately found it beneficial in producing these written pieces.

For my assignment I include-

 In addition-

  •  I have added a selection of copies of notes I have made for these pieces.
  • I have added my note from the Tania Kovats/ Tim Knowles talk– there is another talk at Hestercombe this week –the Context of Art- I have managed to get a bursary ticket.
  • I have added my notes re- ‘The Absence of Presence’ essay.
  • I have added a copy of the emails with John Newling- a different kind of dialogue.

Proposal for critical review- Contextual Studies.

Eva Hesse and the Contemporary resonance in her work.

‘Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, grasping, confusing, itching, scratching, mumbling, bumbling, grumbling, humbling, stumbling, numbling, rumbling, gambling, tumbling, scumbling, scrambling, hitching, hatching, bitching, moaning, groaning, honing, boning, horse-shitting, hair-splitting, nit-picking, piss-trickling, nose sticking, ass-gouging, eyeball-poking, finger-pointing, alleyway-sneaking, long waiting, small stepping, evil-eyeing, back-scratching, searching, perching, besmirching, grinding, grinding, grinding away at yourself. Stop it and just DO!’

These are the words of Sol le Witt in a letter to Eva Hesse in April 1965, whilst she was still in Germany on a residency with her sculptor husband, Tom Doyle, which turned out to be a transformative time for her practice. She seems to have responded to his urging her to ‘just DO!’ and went on to produce a significant body of work, despite her short life- she died of a brain tumour in 1970, which seems to have gained a resonance with contemporary artists. Briony Fer says,

‘I think that the erosion of the works, while not authentic to what they originally looked like, must be taken into account when considering their contemporary resonance. It is the contemporary appearance of these works, degraded or not that has been important and influential for younger artists. This is Hesse’s legacy; this is what she means now.’

Conservators at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art have drawn parallels between some of the processes Hesse used in her works, drawing and sculpture, that make links to a painterly process. I think it is also this cross over of practises, hinting towards almost a kind of ‘hybridisation’, that holds another interest. ‘Is it a drawing or a painting?’ or ‘Is it a painting or a sculpture?’ Anna Lovatt talks about this idea emerging in the work of contemporary artists-

‘What emerges is not necessarily a ‘post-medium condition’ in which all specificity is lost to a catch-all term like ‘installation art’, but a situation in which divergent practices might be used to critically interrogate one another.’

My interest in Eva Hesse is about the nature of her work and the sorts of materials she has chosen to make work with, along with the variation in scale between her works. Sol le Witt’s letter hints at apprehensions Hesse may have felt with regards to her work, but it is this idea of ‘doing’ the work that I have found myself responding to- the sense almost of just working with out thinking. I have found myself working like this perhaps in response to having suffered a significant loss this year. Hesse’s fears and anxieties about her work may stem from the traumas she experienced earlier in her life. In a way these ideas can only be speculative, but perhaps at the same time need to be acknowledged. Hesse asserted that her primary focus was on her work and chosen material, but acknowledged also that it couldn’t be totally separated from life-‘This is where life and art come together’.

So in this piece, I want to explore this contemporary resonance in Eva Hesse’s work.

  • I want to think about her life, in particular her time in Germany, along with other influences, like her friendship with Sol Le Witt, which may have influenced her.
  • I want to consider the issue of 2 and 3 dimensions in her work.
  • I want to look at her working processes and methods- what motivated her?
  • I want to consider the nature of the materials she chose and the outcome, in particular the question of ‘impermanence’ and likely deterioration.
  • I want to consider what it might be that gives her work a resonance with contemporary artists- what do contemporary artist say about Hesse?
  • I want to explore ideas emerging from her practice that relate to my own practice, and the implications it might have.

Bourger, Michelle and Sterrett, Jill (2002) Eva Hesse’s artisitic process (video). Online at www.sfmoma.og

Fer, Briony (2009) Eva Hesse Studiowork. The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh.

Lovatt, Anna (2012) Drawing: Sculpture- Drawing across and between media. Drawing Room, London and Leeds Art Gallery.

Nixon, Mignon (2002) October Files- Eva Hesse. The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Roberts, Veronica (2014) Converging lines: Eva Hesse and Sol Le Witt. Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas (in association with Yale University Press).

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