Visual Research - Part One - Assignment 1


I have chosen the following as my question for this research assignment.

Symbolic Meanings: Exploring the relationship between human emotions and traditional totems’

I have always been drawn to symbols and ancient cultures that used them to actively effect their day and emotions.  This is something that I have incorporated in to my personal artwork and something I want to develop further.  Most of what I do and create, focuses around raising mental health awareness and therefore this will play a strong role in this project.  I want to show a link between our human emotions/daily struggle and how we can use symbols to ease this strain and to actually make ourselves feel better.

To research this topic, I will need to look at a variety of symbols and cultures.  I have chosen to explore the Native American, Pagan/Wiccan and Aboriginal cultures.  These are the ones whose symbols and beliefs speak to me the most and the way I would like my project to progress.  I have a particular love of Runes and Wangjina Rain Spirits.  Therefore I will be visually exploring these cultures (both ancient and modern versions) and will use this to inform and inspire my designs.

My best places for gathering the visual aids I need will be to actually visit Glastonbury as this has so many different shops and texts that I can use to aid my research and also has plenty of people to chat to and collect first hand sources from.  I will purchase relevant texts whilst here and take plenty of photos.  I much prefer to collect my own sources than to use the internet, so for me this is the best and most important option.

There are also a variety of local museums/galleries and Butser Ancient Farm which I can visit to collect and collate more first-hand sources.  One of my weaknesses would be that if I am only looking at internet based sources I lose interest.  I understand that in this modern world it can be helpful, but personally I need to go somewhere and immerse myself in to the environment.  That is when I becomes truly inspired.  So the visits will work best for me.  As well as using the natural world around me.  I find the sea and forests influence almost everything I create.  My work has often been referred to as ‘organic’ because so much nature creeps in to what I create.  I only need to walk through a forest and I have had another idea.  So these will be great sources for me too.  The ancient cultures would have been as influenced by their natural surroundings as I am, so this is a strong link.

I think that actually explains my reasoning for this project too.  I have been raised in a family that nature is important to and my father has always taken me to magical places like Glastonbury and bought me books on fairies and runes.  They encouraged me to dream and live in a fantasy world full of my imagination.  My father is also a hypnotherapist in his spare time and therefore the mental health link is a familial one too.  I personally have struggled with depression and anxiety since my teenage years and things he bought me, like a beautiful set of runes, were symbols that helped me to feel a little better; even if just for that day.

I guess what I am saying, is that this is a particularly personal project with strong links to my family, my childhood and my own struggles whilst also linking in to my current personal artwork and the reason I do what I do.  I am a full time Art Teacher and I am forever telling my GCSE and A-level students to make their work personal.  It is only fitting that I take my own advice and do what I would encourage them to do.  Drawing on personal experiences and a deep emotional link will help me to feel connected to this project and therefore produce better quality work.

I am currently in the process of moving house (it has been delayed twice and I have already boxed my life up so this is becoming tricky now as I am existing out of packed boxes as much as I can) and so I may struggle with time in the next few weeks.  I am also in the process on changing jobs; I finish at my current position in two weeks and begin my new job teaching art at a different school in September.  So there is a lot going on in my life and a lot of changes.  I do have a tendency to take on too much and overload myself, so I will be making sure that I rest this side of things during the actual move (which will hopefully be within the next 3 weeks) and will make sure I give myself some prep time to start my new job.  But I also have the summer holidays approaching, so I can use that time to visit the places I have mentioned and do a lot of first hand source collecting.

Money is also an issue as per the previously mentioned changes in my life, I am financially constrained, so I will need to take this in to consideration when I am thinking of materials for creating my work.  However, for now, it is mostly about collecting research sources and I will be working in a sketchbook that I have ready so this will all be fine.

I would love to be able to show some of this work once complete and have a few connections to galleries.  I held my first solo show in October 2017 at the ONCA Gallery in Brighton and would like to consider doing this again with this work as they always have a topical/political/thoughtful aspect to the work they show and they like my work within the mental health awareness industry.
Overall, I think this is a good question for me personally to work on and I am excited about the work that could come out of this.  I would like to have completed this project by January 2019.  That is much longer than I would normally set myself for a project, but with the upcoming move/job change, I am being sensible and giving myself time to recuperate from all that so that I can give my all to this assignment.

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