Most of the time our sense and reaction towards things around us is informed by our past experiences. For instance, when we see red-traffic-light we stop, ice we think of cold and cotton we associate softness. Our brain analyses information and gives us a logical answer to the objects or situations we come across. Sometimes we may ignore our true emotion or feeling towards the objects.
This project is about our sensory experience towards the environment around us. Its aim is to utilise sensory contact of sight, sound, touch, smell and taste to see how they are connected to our emotion and reflect our state of mind. This should result in the enhancement, through drawing, of our sensory engagement to the world.
They are surfaces that attempt to reveal a sense of time and a certain kind of depth, a depth that is both physical through build up and layering as well as emotional depth through destructive scarring. In the end the works are about a search, a search for truth and a search for correctness through the act of painting.
Synaesthesia is a condition by which unrelated senses merge together. Our senses are considered to function separately, however, people who have synaesthesia will involuntarily and automatically joined them together. Synaesthesia comes in a number of forms such as experience colour when people hear sounds or read words, experience tastes, smells, shapes or touch in almost any combination.
Synaesthesia can be described that :-
- the fusion of senses which they were overlap
- a neurological phenomenon whereby one sensory experience involuntarily prompts another
- a sensation experienced in a part of the body other than the part stimulated
Clara Ursitt Olfactory Artist
Traditionally, it was thought that each sense modality (vision, taste, hearing, etc.) was processed separately in the brain, and consequently they were studied separately. However, with recent technical advances in the neurological sciences, it is no longer considered the case. So, what they are basically saying now is that we are all synaesthetes. Just some more acutely than others.
How if “synaesthetes” associate with art?
Wassily Kandinsky, Shaking 1925
Russian abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky claimed that colours were like the notes on a keyboard and he could hear music when he saw colours. His paintings captured his vision of music and he described his lines and shapes on a canvas as musical notes that “sing” together.
The Sensorial Object, is an exhibition held in Craft in the Bay from 17th January 2015 to 8th March 2015. It is not a large-scale exhibition but every exhibit has its own unique style and narrative.
We were divided into groups and each group was requested to explore the artworks according to the five senses, sight, sound, touch, smell and taste and how they are engaged with drawing. At the end of the following week we are expected to present a video to show a drawing process by using one of the fives senses.
“Atelier”, Elaine Sheldon
The first impression of this work is tension. The balloon (glass lampshade) seems like is pressed heavily on a wooden table by the weight of a table lamp. It seems like it is going to explode.
- Sight : bubble, giant-raw egg with its shell, bubble gum
- sound : popping, bursting, sound from friction
- touch : elastic, plastic, warm
- smell : rubber
- taste :
After the group’s exploration of the artworks in the exhibition, I returned to the exhibition and had my second viewing. In the first viewing my focus was on the balloon. In the second viewing I took my time to view the whole set of work carefully. This time I did not feel any tension, instead it was warm and gentle. Neither the wooden table nor table lamp were new and had traces of having been used previously. This could easily been seen by marks on their surfaces. It evokes the sense of the object having been touched. I can imagine a scene in which how they had been used. The light of the lamp is “trapped” inside the balloon causing a sensation of warmth in the observer, while the shape of the balloon has changed the hard-radial-straight line of the light to soft and round. The subject, the human, no longer exists but is still in our memories.
“No Tangible Object”, Zoe Preece
It is a series of spoons with thick-liquid look-alike substance dripping down from the spoons. As a ceramics student, I quickly spotted that for the work the artist used frit to melt it at a certain point of temperature in the kiln to get that effect. Of course, we are not going to explore the technique used in the work but what we truly feel about it based on the five senses.
- Sight : slow, still life, frozen in time
- sound : dripping
- touch : sticky, thick, lubricate, smooth, viscous
- smell : candy, cough syrup
- taste : sweet
The dripping down substance visually suggests slow movement. Our group would like to use it to explore further in drawing.
Our initial plan is to develop a painting to base on the sense of visual in which included an element of “slow” either visually or in the actual painting process. Having no formal training in drawing, I found that this task quite challenging. So, instead of drawing I will use the natural movement of the paint to create a painting.
I would like to look for drawing material(s) that have a similar texture to the artwork, which looks thick, sticky and smooth. Oil or acrylic paints should be appropriate. Gazing at the slow moving downward-dripping paint naturally overlap one another and blend together, evokes contemplation.
We did not plan what we should draw in advance because since we cannot plan to have sensation, it should happen naturally. So we started drawing spontaneously by following the flow of our instant response from within and how we responded to the constantly changing painting. Abstracted landscape, waterfall, wild-flower garden and a storm appeared consecutively in the painting and in the end it was smudged away by a group of artistic students.
“Voice of the Teacup”, Ingrid Murphy and Jon Pigott
The “Voice of the Teacup” is a work that an audience can interact with. A teacup is lightly flick on, causing a vibration to pass to the rubber ball which hangs down from the top of the porcelain trumpet. The vibration makes the rubber ball ricochet around the rim and makes sound like a bell or a hollow metal object being struck.
- Sight : luxury, grand
- sound : bell, calm
- touch : cold
- smell : incense
- taste : metal
The work suggests the idea of whispering, chatting and a social environment.
The sound of the trumpet reminds me of a vessel used in Chinese temples. When a wooden baton taps on a metal bowl it emits a sound that assists in meditation. In the temple incense is lit to release fragrance usually for spiritual reasons.
“Secret”, Anne Gibbs
This artwork is made up of various odds and ends. Some of which can easily be recognized such as the nails, rubber bands and slip cast tree branches while others cannot. They look like bio-cell. It is hard to tell which particular sense evokes in me. I would associate it with the sound of the environment, noises from car mechanism, chatting, busy footsteps, and leaves on trees rustling in the wind.
PMLD – Profound and Multiple Learning Disability. Joanna Grace told us how people who have PMLD cannot enjoy the sensory world like ordinary people, such as those who have autism and dementia. They have great difficulty to communicate with people and have sensory disabilities or mental health difficulties. Through sensory storytelling, Joanna Grace helps her clients become involved in the story and thus experience smell, feel and touch, providing a way for them to find stimulation. It is not only for people with special education needs but can also boost learning and communication skills for all students.
We were asked to respond to the words told by Joanna in drawing and for each drawing we had 10 seconds to finish. That was a very interesting task. It pushed me to think indeed of what it really means to me and how it looks?
Jo gave us a small flour dough which had a light fragrance, and a small amount of fragrant balm. We were asked to touch and feel to see what would be stimulated, sensuously and emotionally. Then we started to draw what we felt about these two objects.
The texture of the dough was like marshmallow which was soft but a little dry on the surface. After I had mixed in the balm the texture of the dough changed to velvety smooth, it reminded me of flower petals. So I randomly started drawing flowers on my sketch book. After a little while Jo turned on the music to see how the drawing was changed when sound intervened.
The sound definitely dominated my whole emotion. The flowers started to have movement by following the rhythm of the music.
Sensory gadget made up of a piece of paper
Drama / Drawing Workshop (DRAWMA), Andy Marshall
Role playing, drama and drawing workshop.
Watching drama, observers look at the actor and actress interaction on the stage then negotiate what kind of emotion we can be seen in the roles then express their emotion through drawing.
Through role playing, students were meticulously put themselves into the third party’s situation which facilitates self-expression and in depth reflection.
Generally, I had a very fun day but what I think was hard about the workshop is the emotion we were asked to explore and evolve is too complex to express in drawing in such limited time.
The marks of anger
Materiality of Drawing, Zoe Preece
A small test was conducted by Zoe in which one person in each pair was given an object. The task was to assist our partner to draw the object without telling our partner what the object’s name was. We were allowed to describe it by its characters, for instance, its texture, shape and form. Neither describing nor drawing the object was easy.
The object was something ordinary which very often in our daily life. It was something which we use and take for granted but never take our time to understand and clearly observe what it looks like and what it means to us. This activity compelled us to view it to learn it afresh and from a different angle.
Our ability to sense, see, touch and smell allow us to clearly perceive things around us and give us great enjoyment but also, since it is too abstract to be described, the drawing becomes completely abstract too.
In conventional drawing brushes, charcoal, colours pigment and pencil are used as tools for drawing. We are not concerned with the character of materials, as they can speak for themselves. Their textures, tactility and appearance can be evoke inspiration.
Zoe provided with us a range of materials, such as string, pine leaves, holly leaves, wooden sticks and wire, to create our own drawing tools. Each tool makes a unique mark which stimulates sensations.
The marks I made here show strong radiant-dash lines.
The stamp made up of string gives grass / weed effect.
The marks make by this stamp tool, which is made up of cotton buds with one end removed, are not very outstanding.
In another test by Zoe, we were asked to choose two objects and a poem. Stimulating our feelings by the objects and the poem, we were expected to draw it with the tools we had made earlier. I chose a few holly leaves and a teaspoon. The poem was “out of hopeful green stuff woven”. I was particularly affected by the word “woven”.
I put a piece of holly leaf underneath a drawing paper then used the spoon to scratch on top of the paper. This left a very clear outline of the leaf. I used the string stamp tool in my drawing. As I tapped the tool on the paper the paint became lighter and lighter, giving a natural gradient tone and rhythm, also with its weed look-alike marks which I think was appropriate with the meaning of the poem.
Musicality of drawing
In the workshop with Zoe I attempted to refresh my senses in order to use them authentically to see the world around us and how we respond to it in depth. In this week the same theory was followed but sound was used to stimulate our emotion within.
This morning we gathered again for Craft in the Bay. It was such a pleasure to have Bethan Frieze playing violin at the site. Bethan used her music to give instant response to the artworks in the Sensorial Object exhibition.
Bethan produced different tonality with her violin that represented her feeling towards the artwork of Funda Susamoglu. It suggested in consistency and discomfort, tension and confoundedness. To the work of Elaine Sheldon, I felt the tone she conveyed was contentedness and pleasantness. In accompanying the work of Emma Rawson, the music was strong in sadness, somberness and sorrowfulness.
A gesture or sound can give meaning. Without saying a word to communicate with others but instead by using our senses of sight and hearing. This afternoon the workshop was held in the Millennium Centre with Chris Glynn and Bethan Frieze.
In the workshop we were asked to complete several tasks. First, Bethan asked that we think about three different sounds that represented an emotion or feeling respectively then we demonstrated it to other people to see whether they could recognize the sound.
The second task was to divide into two-person groups and sit back to back to make sound / noise to communicate instead of using language. It was a little bit odd but hilarious and although laughing definitely was not included in our plan, it happened throughout the task. Even without using language, we were able to roughly guess the meaning of our partner. Then we moved on to another task. Again we were not allowed to use language to communicate, instead it was drawing.
In the next task we were asked to imagine that we were having an exhibition in a gallery. We got to work with our partner without talking to make an artwork together for the exhibition. After the last couple of tasks, we were quite used to a situation without words. As long as we noticed a movement or gesture from our partner we were able to guess and sense what to do next and gradually finished the artwork.
After the “exhibition” we assumed we were the audiences of the gallery. We started talking to other people in the “exhibition” without using proper language again. This time instruments were used. We made sounds with the instrument which represented how we felt about the artworks and used it to have conversation with the others.
There is no doubt that the workshop was full of fun and laughter but on the other hand it was a quite an arduous workshop. Since language was not allowed to be used and serious observation, feeling and sensation were expected.
Magic Flute dress rehearsal
How fortunate it was that we were able to attend the Magic Flute dress rehearsal in the Millennium Centre. The aim of this evening was to let students experiment how sound affects our emotion in drawing. I am an absolute stranger to opera but I felt very excited and was very much looking forward to the performance.
When the lights were turned out the orchestra started playing. The music was sometimes strong and sometimes melodious until the opera singers came out started singing. Their powerful and dynamical voices made a strong impression on my drawing. Following the change of the sound, I produced zigzag lines, continuous wavy lines, strong repeated lines and dense hatching lines. Since I wanted to concentrate on drawing which reflected my emotion, I only occasionally watched the performance on the stage.
Sensory Spectacle, Becky Lyddon
We have the ability to communicate through senses, language, gesture and imagination which help us interact with others. These inborn abilities help us to develop into who we are. We can experience life, emotion and empathy by which gradually we develop and from an individual integrate into society.
People who have autism cannot feel and sense as we do. They may lack social emotional reciprocity, have an inability to speak or abnormal speech, restricted and repetitive behaviour and lack social skills. They usually have sensory integration difficulties, for instance their senses may be very sensitive or less sensitive then ordinary people. It is very hard for us to imagine what their world is like.
“Temple Grandin”, is a movie introduced by Becky Lyddon. As a child, Temple Grandin was diagnosed with autism that caused her to be uncommunicative, hypersensitive and prone to tantrums. Her mother strived to help her adapt to a normal social life.
On one occasion she went to her auntie’s farm where she observed cows being placed into a squeeze chute in order to calm them. Therefore, she built herself a squeeze chute to ease her anxiety and calm her stress. Unfortunately, the device was removed by the college as they misunderstood that it was for sexual purpose.
In her teenage, people were not very kind to her in high school where she was teased by other students because of her unusual speech and odd behaviour. It was very fortunate that she met her mentor, Dr. Carlock, who helped her unlock her talents and expanded her intellect rather than trying to control her impulses.
Temple feels most comfortable around animals keenly observe their behaviour, heading her to become animal behaviourist and livestock consultant.
Temple Grandin has since become a professor of animal science, an author, an autism activist and a consultant to the livestock industry on animal behaviour. She has delivered a speech for Ted Talk.
Autistics are not mental patient, they are normal in terms of intelligence and sometimes even higher than ordinary people as is the case with Temple Grandin. As their disorder is link to neural development it prevents their skill of communication and/or to have hypersensitive reaction. They are like any one of us wanting to be accepted and integrated into society.
They communicate in a very different way that we are not very used to. Likewise, they do not understand our world. Every individual is different and has their own character. We ought to respect who they are.
After viewing the exhibits of the exhibition “Sensory Spectacle” by Becky Lyddon, I have a better understanding of the world of autism. Empathy is what I have learnt from this workshop. It is also an essential element in our design in which how we can deliver a meaning that can resonate with audiences.
Psycho-geography Drawings by Celia Johnson
Psycho-geography : –
the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals.
We followed Celia, walking in line across the LLandaff field and at the same time we needed to draw a map, simple lines, to record that which we saw. During the walk, our attention was constantly caught by things around us such as birds, joggers and mowing machines.
Then we stopped by a river where we had 20 minutes to draw the scenery or anything which captured our attention. On the way back to the college we lined up behind Celia again and we were asked to follow the gestures or movements she made while we were walking. The last task was to collect objects that caught our eyes while we were walked back to the college.
Back at the college, we stuck up drawing papers on the wall and we were asked to draw, in simple lines, the gestures and the movement we had made and what we remembered from the walk. Finally, we were asked to individually make another drawing of our memories from the walk.
My drawing basically recalled the scenery and objects I had seen of which I was impressed and remembered. When I walked down to the river bank, there was a sloping-rock path which produced feelings of instability and discomfort. So, in my drawing I drew cliff-like edges along both sides of the field.
This workshop was abstruse and I had difficulty gaining a clear understanding of it. I would suggest that the maps and the drawings are a subjective experience which document according to the experience of an individual’s psychological state and its transformation through surrounding environment.
Retrospect synaesthetes introduced the notion on the first week that we uses all our senses to perceive the world giving us a complete picture, visually and imaginary. Although the workshops in this module aimed to strengthen use of our senses, we were also restricted in using them at certain time. Because our senses were not being completely used, the drawings were limited to marks or lines. So, when I started planning to make my Sensory Story I decided to put all the senses into my work so that a complete story could be delivery to the audiences, and brought them into the story.
My Sensory Story was based on a Chinese mythology, which I used in my subject project Connections and Objections, regarding the creator of the universe Pan Gu.
In Zoe’s workshop, I learned how to utilize materials based on their unique peculiarity. Hence, I tried out different materials in order to stimulate inspiration. The drawing material I used in this small project was mainly charcoal. A very simple material but its versatile quality produces textures like smooth, rough, gritty and the tense of its darkness.
Using razor to create sharpness is the most appropriate.
Attempting to depict the murky elements and put smell into my work, I lit a candle to capture the natural movement of the rising black smoke, it ended up burning papers and my finger. At the end, for health and safety reasons I gave up this idea. Instead of the previous idea, I scratched a charcoal with a cocktail stick to create the gritty effect.
PAN GU the Sensory Story
Reflection to the Field option 2
I am always keen on learning new skills and techniques. Drawing is one of the subjects I would like to explore and learn more of. The reason I chose this Field option was to learn drawing and how to draw. This Field project was rather out of my expectation since it did not relate to actual drawing. Nonetheless, I found it very useful in terms of the theory it delivered that is, how to observe and perceive more sensitively and this concept is useful in any discipline.
In this Field project we re-awakened our senses which directly connected to our inner emotion that reflect our state of mind and how we respond to the world at a deeper level. It has caused a significant amount of reflection on the meaning and purpose of creation, both in the present and future.
Compared with perceiving things around us by only using vision, the experience in this Field project was stronger and more intense.
I particularly benefited a lot from Zoe’s materiality drawing workshop. In ceramics, from my point of view, the work we create is usually well planned in advance. In her workshop I experienced the response between the maker and the object it was so spontaneous and inspiring. I really enjoyed the fact that there was no barrier between the maker and material.
Becky Lyddon’s workshop was also inspired. The story of autism triggers empathy and her work has strong impact on the audience. Both of these elements are importance for creation.
In the sound drawing experience from the Magic Flute dress rehearsal, we listened to the singing and the music from the opera singers and orchestra before we physically responding to it. It made an immediate connection with our mind and through it, our body. Since the response was so instant and direct, only simple lines could be made, but it was a work which contained the moment of our primal emotion.
In visual art, drawing is the most important part, dating back to our history throughout to nowadays, and it is as importance as our own language. Through drawing, artists translate the world or their experience and emotion through visual meaning which even more accurate then words.
In this Field project I re-recognized the use of our senses by which we see the world by heart without being disturbed. But what I found vexing was I could not deliver what I would like to express when every time I was asked to make a proper drawing. Drawing is affirmed as an essential part of the curriculum which relate to any disciplines, practice and essential training are also crucial . Tutorials are also an indispensable part of the process.
Overall, the experience in this Field project is fruitful. It drives me to want to learn drawing even more.