PDP: Reflecting on Constellation and How it Has affected Me and My Practice

 Constellation has been an extremely valuable part of my first year studying at degree level. Attending the Key Note lectures within the first term of undertaking the constellation module opened my eyes to new ways of thinking. They taught me to think beyond what I see and to question a theory, artist’s work or object further than my initial thoughts and assumptions. I had never even considered philosophy within art before Clive’s lecture: do I have ideas or do Ideas have me? I found myself questioning this lecture for hours afterwards as it really grabbed me, it encouraged me to think about what art really is today. Although I was engaged in the lecture room, If I’m honest, I’m still not really convinced that I understand the literal and the phenomenal through no fault of the tutor and may have to research that further. Learning about artistic periods through history such as the arts and crafts movement has broadened my historical knowledge and within constellation, I have quickly learnt that you have to have knowledge of the past to create new artwork today inspired by what you know.

Study skills sessions not only allowed me to choose an appropriate tutor to aid me in my essay writing, but allowed me to gain a wider knowledge. As an artistic individual, I was not really familiar with the world of sonic arts and so it was interesting to learn about music and sound being considered and utilised as an art form. Although I’m not particularly interested in this medium, I saw how effective sound can be and within my field module thought far more carefully about the music I decided to add to stop motion animations that were produced. Something I found particularly overwhelming before attending John Clarkson’s skills session was being faced with a piece of academic text that is incredibly wordy and far away from the main point. I feel in this session, I learnt how to find the key points and to summarise academic text into my own words in order to understand its content a lot easier. This is undoubtedly a valuable skill to gain as when reading books as support for my essay and analysing artists work and information I feel I have been able to understand texts a lot better and in return been able to write a far more successful essay than if I had not attended this session. I have referred to the thoughts of Clive Cazeaux’s study skills session when writing academically also. Cath Davies’s option taught me how to analyse an image in depth and look beyond what I am seeing and consider why objects have been put a certain way or why a person created a piece of art and what message is being conveyed. I think this impacted on me as an arts person the most, as I feel I analyse my own work and the work of others a lot more successfully than when I first started the course. Ranking this as the most valuable skill I learnt, I chose her subcultural option which incorporated image analysis to write an essay from and I am definitely glad I did.

Cath Davies Subcultural Sessions that I have been attending every week have changed the way I read imagery and made me think a lot more about what I’m painting, why I’m painting it, What materials I am using, the connotations behind them and messages that I want to convey to the viewers of my work. Also, I look at other artists work far more in depth and aim to decipher why elements of their work are the way they are. I understand how artists make appropriate decisions now and how even if something looks abstract and like it doesn’t really represent anything, it most definitely does. In terms of subculture, I have learnt an incredible amount about how you can reclaim objects and change their meaning to portray a new one. My field work has been far more successful than my subject work in my opinion and I feel this is partially down to this constellation option. I have really thought about portraying a concept and how the imagery I use would portray a certain meaning. I have thought about how certain colours have connotations and will aid me in emitting a certain mood from within my work. I can confidently say that I would not have looked at images in such depth before being asked to produce my constellation case study. I chose to write about a punk aesthetic and I definitely approach my practice differently after undertaking this. Being interested in fine art, learning about destruction being creation in punk artwork could definitely inspire future projects.

Constellation has helped me achieve a lot really. It has equipped me with such a variety of tools that I will take with me throughout my degree. My eyes have been opened to the work of so many artists that I wasn’t aware of and I have learnt to consider decisions that I make within my artwork more carefully. I now think about statements that I am aiming to make and how powerfully they are being conveyed within my work.  However, there is still room for improvement and I feel that my knowledge of analysing images, understanding academic writing and having a knowledge of the original meanings of objects in order to change them will grow as I continue doing so and practice. I am sure that the concepts behind my art, its appearances and the thought processes I go through will improve as I progress through the course. Constellation has been an opportunity to progress as both an artist and an academic. We have been given the chance to take the skills we have and improve them and I have been shown new ways to understand and develop. I am confident that constellation has already made me a stronger contender for whatever I may wish to do in the future.

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Key Artwork: Natura Morta Series : Giorgio Morandi 1890-1964

“There’s little or nothing new in the world, What matters is the new and different position in which artists find themselves seeing and considering” – Giorgio Morandi

Giorgio Morandi is an Italian painter. He was highly inspired by Paul Cezanne’s still life paintings and limited use of colour. Cezanne was Morandi’s Ideal, He based his work on his influence and later went on to become a professor of engraving.

Morandi produced a large series of Still life artworks called “Natura Morta”. They convey abstract notions and are composed out of what look like very ordinary things. The pieces are very small-scale and there are lots of space around the objects within the composition, the objects are usually grouped together. The colour in his works is very muted in tone and restrictive. They are passive but not passive and for still life’s they are not always that still. He has created 1350 Natura Mortas and has reused imagery. He uses bottles and boxes that re-occur in a number of his pieces, jostling for space on the canvas. Sometimes little huddles of objects appear to present human relationships because of the way they relate to each other within the composition. Are they a metaphor for Human Relationships? They could be poems in paint or trying to portray distilled quietness. There is an amazing colour range within his works but the colours are very dampened down.


Morandi was also influenced by Ben Nicholson, Wayne Teabold and Paul Coldwell. There is a great amount of compression of space within his still lifes and sometimes it is as if we are at eye level with the objects or on top of the table they are on. Throughout Natura Morta the objects are viewed from different angles. Sometimes the shadows spread across significant areas of the painting and are facing different directions as if there were different sources of light.


Giorgio Morandi also produced engravings that demonstrated a very fine cross-hatching technique, but retained the same compositional style as the painted Natura Morta where the objects are fighting for space.
He created a whole series of paintings where he completely blanks out some of the objects within the works, creating negative space. Nearing the end of his life, Morandi produced a series of very economical watercolours which are “barely whispers” of his paintings. Within them there are dense groupings of abstract forms but they are delicate and convey exactly what he sees.


Morandi spent his life drawing and painting what he saw. I have learnt from his work, that going back and drawing what you see can help you to move on and create something interesting. Ideas do not have to be huge, they could just be another way of looking at things. “I don’t know what I’m doing but maybe I could just do that”.


Key Artwork: “Composition 5” 1911- Wassily Kandinsky

  To create new artwork, he felt you had to know the old. If you know the History of Art, you know what options are available to you and how to progress with influences in your own practice. The Idea of autonomous art, is about knowing your own limits.


Kandinsky’s piece “composition 5” has a great deal of conflict and harmony within it. Kandinsky was  a pioneer of abstract painting. During the industrial revolution, artists including Kandinsky felt they needed a way of painting to show how they felt. The felt that there lives were mechanised and disfunctional and wanted to paint to convey losing a sense of conventional order and so turned to a more abstract approach. Abstraction gives a valuable insight into how the artist experiences disorder in the world and how they experience it.

Kandinsky produced ten large compositions in this where he is influenced by religion and the story of cleansing in the Bible. He Explores the narrative of the Book of Revelation. Through Colour and Line, He wanted us to experience ourselves the spiritual element within his work and wants to evoke a sense of energy to the viewer. During his artistic development, Kandinsky looks at many different ways of using paint in his work. He gathered knowledge of other artists whilst trying to develop his own artistic vocabulary. As he gains a more in-depth knowledge of other artists work, his own work becomes more increasingly about colour and form. He felt that children’s Art is the perception of the world we lose when we are educated. He looked at art from different people from different backgrounds because he felt that our own experiences influence out artwork.

Kandinsky was a great believe in primitivism in art. In ‘Composition 5′ you can see (after analysing his early stages of painting) that he tells a story within his work and everything is connected in some way if we look long enough. It is an eclecticism of styles and stories. Elements of the religious stories from the Book of Revelation are seen in many of his earlier works. This particular painting points towards the third dispensation, the Holy Ghost. Kandinsky has moved away from the hardened world and created a new language by weaving different stories together.

From Kandinsky’s work,  I have learnt that some Art maybe abstract but it has meaning. Kandinsky wanted us to explore this and find elements of story within his work and to create our own response. The narrative is harder to find within abstraction but he wants people to have to search for it. He wants his work to affect us immediately and spiritually. It has also reiterated to me, the importance of gaining knowledge of Art History.