Reflective Journal Week 18, 26 Jan – 1 Feb 2020

While the first unit and the feedback week ran to its end, it would be wise to start working on Unit 2 despite the fact that it has not been briefed yet. 

It is hard to ignore the fact that the most galleries in western Cornwall refuse to accept works except from “Cornish Artists”. The definition of the term and the flexibility of explaining the verbal meaning made me wonder whether I can be considered as a local artist. Can I be converted to a Cornish? Or perhaps I had to born and be raised here in order to contribute to the local market? Finding the region where old-fashioned realist painting was appreciated is like winning the lottery; the rarity of this opportunity suggests it is not likely to be found somewhere else in England. The majority of the academic painting field, as far as I am concerned, share a preference to radicalness that reflected in the contemporary painting style. 

Although the visit to Professor Fairninton’s studio eliminated the concern of being staved due to my painting style, the conservative in the protective attitude, also, all of the galleries owners I have enquired still triggered further thinking regarding the self-recognition of “being Cornish”. 

Relating to my concept, the essential attempt of engaging in global-scaled movements and the social incident is demonstrating the conservatism of the painter. The intense self-consciousness of addressing the one him or herself as a “Cornish, through and through” with potent pride that can be observed is in contrast against anxiety. Although I am still tracking down bibliographies, I have noticed there is a developing trend that Cornish people considering Cornwall a country rather than a county of England. 

I have noticed the Cornishes’ desire of being recognised as an independent ethnical group among Britons. From conversations and chats, I was informed it was majorly due to their cultural identity and historical factors. Cornish people are generally proud of their Celtic background. These opinions require citations. 

However, I believe the uprising articulation of considering Cornwall as an independent country is tightly connected to the political dilemma of the UK in recent years. The economic crisis, immigration problem and Brexit has significantly impacted on national stability. Consumers have been losing confidence, as well as investors. The British pound has dropped to its lowest in its history, and a considerable number of international firms has been relocating themselves to the mainland of Europe. Germany launched some very beneficial economic policies in aid of cooperations and investors who would like to relocate and start businesses. It further boosted the country’s competitiveness for challenging the position of European economic centre. Scotland launched its independent vote while the public opinions were not unified whether Britain should remain in the European Union for benefits. Even the Welsh independent movement gained support right after the failed Scottish independence referendum. The anxiousness has been generating in such concerning political instability. Whether it will stimulate Cornwall’s questioning to require more researches, it will be carried on for the following weeks. If the answer is true, I believe it will further firm the county’s cultural conservatism. Its art trend and preferred aesthetic standard will be more independent, even isolated. 

I travelled to Cornwall and hoped to produce a series of Western Cornwall landscapes in response to the “Cornish Pride”. I found this regional independence rather interesting. It can be reflected in paintings showing the region’s protective gesture. I will focus on exploring whether Cornish people are answering the political anxiety by their growing unity on cultural aspect. Meanwhile, I will be working on breath-taking landscapes that local people are proud of. 

I already made some sketches from field trips. While trying to increase its number, I have started designing the composition. In this stage, I hope to arrange western Cornish landscapes in ominous sceneries. It will be the focus on Penzance, Marazion and Land’s End. I have learned the significant contribution of St Ives in the history of art; thus, I have decided to use the town as a cultural figure in the more in-depth exploration. 

Sketches produced in the field trip to Penwith will be posted in following weeks. 

At the mean time, I thought about the expansion of the idea which supported the “Anxiety of Painting” in the last week’s Reflective Journal. I have produced two versions writing that are more basic. 

The first one is:

I considered the possibility of naming the PhD direction with “with Bare Hands we Defeat Machines”. Majorly looked into Art Nouveau as a movement that stimulated bu the anxiety of being replaced by machines, the project would detailedly analysis the artistic movements that reflects the competition against machines. While the continental style was transiting to be less precise and academic, a movement appeared as a sudden reassertion of hand-made natural elements. Some textures and shapes inspired by Medieval and early Renaissance art was utilised in its output. I believe it is an interesting perspective to look into the anti-machine artists. Few years ago, Alibaba, a Chinese commercial Titan used artificial intelligence to generate retail posters for its online shopping platform Taobao on 11th Nov, an event very much like the boxing day. A massive amount of posters that should have been cost enormous human labour were produced in a short period. This innovation raged some serious debate, as well as the anxiety of the Chinese designers. Taobao was famous for its difficulty on job application and high salary, this move caused worries that designers who work for for the enterprise will be dismissed when the technology is mature. 

I had a frequent engage in the field of illustration and graphic design that year. Most of my income came from book, posters and leaflet design. The news just caught when I started gaining a stable client group from the local market. It concerned me significantly of being replaced by methods more efficient for I have acknowledged that clients require time to be accumulated; by the time I can start independently, AI might have already activated Skynet.

The incident was the original inspiration of reevaluation vintage movements of the late 19th and early 20th century. I believe the acceleration of industrialisation greatly impacted on the traditional social structure. Employment lost over the advancement of industrial machineries might have concerned artists of that age as well. Logically, they would develop works reflecting their irreplaceability in the greater scale, and articulate the uniqueness of their hand-crafting and drawing skills. The assumption seems reasonable if we take the later flourishing of abstract art into account: the stimulation due to the anxiety significantly rase the threshold, a newer generation of artists were forced to create works that cannot be competed by longer years of training. The deduction makes sense the it explained why the consideration of visual pleasant are minor nowadays, and painting have become the carrier of conceptual ideas. 

Regarding this thinking, I tried to prepared the first version of writing. 

In the late nineteenth century, application of machinery as well as the appearance of factories significantly liberated the productivity in Europe. The advancement of the era substantially impacted on the traditional structure of the society. Dilemmas regarding the relationship between human, nature and the industrialisation of the world were introduced. 

The transition of the society has widened the sight of European field of painting. Despite the amount of interesting factors that worthy discussion, topics of painting is generally limited. In the artistic market which has been maturing, movements and styles were dominated by specific masters. In order to gain popularity, paintings were required to be persuasive, and obtained the capability to be a carrier of means of production; the promotion could be achieved by expanding the field or discover new territories at the same time. One of the most representative example was the development of Hudson River School, which was stimulated by the Westward Expansion, and displayed the adventurous spirit that inherited from the continental colonists. Meanwhile paintings mimicked the aesthetic of Far Eastern culture also revealed a huge attractiveness of the exotic style in the expanding market.

At the end of the Age of Discovery, photography replaced painting as an efficient and economical alternative. The pursuit of being realistic, in the large picture, was not necessary any longer. Painting styles gradually evolved from precise, documentary to freehand and impressionist. Similar to the replacement of human resource by machinery, styles demonstrated vintageness was created in response to the social transition. Especially the Art Nouveau at the beginning of the twentieth century, can be regarded as the anxiety when graphic-based artists facing the anxiety of “being eliminated by the industrialisation”. They studied their culture, extracted elegant textures from the history and experimented to create an accurate complex which “reached the equal level of machinery”. The determination led the evolvement of art in the last century which ultimately result in the trend of abstract art. 

Then, the rapid exchange of information, utilisation of more advanced tools and further boost to productivity asserted painting tremendous difficulty for being explained. Western painters has acknowledged and been practicing under the idea “painting is the carrier of concept and idea”. The value established on Conservatism generated an environment in which “minorities can not be valued reasonably”. In this context, can the experience of the past be referable? Can we picture the future to some extends? Where the future of painting lies?

Needless to say, the topic requires to be narrowed down. Also I did found disappointments within the writing. The logic was not well organised and examples might be appropriate. All these factors weakened the theoretical support of the proposal. 

The first edit quickly came out. Some adjustments have been applied and it was narrowed down a little bit. I recognised it is now still too wide however without academic support finishing the task alone seems very unlikely. Examples have been changed and some tutorials have been booked. This version could be found below.

The Anxiety of Painting

The liberation of productivity pushed the advancement of era, granted more possibilities to our society. Especially the application of machinery and assembly line, massively impacted on the traditional structure of the society. The value of the western society which established on profound Conservatism brought many interesting factors. 

Transition of eras generated a huge amount of inspirations. However the valid topic of painting is always limited. The style in a field is also dominated by a limited number of masters. In order to survive and thrive in a competitive market, there is no doubt that artists were required to enable their work obtain the potential to be a carrier of social wealth. In 16th, 17th century, this trend revealed as a pursuit in realistic style and touring around the Europe. Painters attracted commissioners and collectors via demonstrating distinct European civilisations; in 18th and 19th century, innovations in navigation greatly expanded the market for exotic styles. Painters had to travel to the western frontier and Far East to explore landscapes that has never been recorded before. 

The end of the geographical discovery also enclosed the available topics that could be gained from observing nature. Painters had to explore new concepts for methodologies. Gradually, painting was converted to carries ideas and theories as its essential motivation while documentation was taken over by other formats.

The reassert of vintage aesthetic tends to appear when the society is experiencing its rapid change. Movements like Art Nouveau was led by artists who demonstrate a great anxiety to the industrialisation, demonstrating attempts of “exceeding the physical capability of machine”, and the struggling for the occupation of a dominating position in the symbiotic relationship with machinery, also a reassertion of returning to nature. Later in the century, the core guidance switched to “creating works that machine cannot”. It explained why artistic style have been growing to abstract.

The rapid exchange of information, utilisation of more advanced tools and further boost to productivity asserted painting tremendous difficulty for being explained. Western painters has acknowledged and been practicing under the idea “painting is the carrier of concept and idea”. The value established on Conservatism generated an environment in which “minorities can not be valued reasonably”. In this context, can the experience of the past be referable? Can we picture the future to some extends? Where the future of painting lies?

The second writing is much more closer to the post of the last week, which I believe, have proved its development of idea is feasible.

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About cechenpaints

An artist, painter, illustrator based in London.