Bodies in Art & Design

On this final session of The Body in Society we discussed the views of the body as an absent/presence in Art&Design.  We began our lecture by questioning, what is reflexive embodiment?

Reflexive Embodiment In Contemporary Society, Nick Crossley, 2006:

We have previously touched upon some of the key aspects of this extract. The body is often objectified in representation. Artists might be the subject of the work, for example Tracy Emin. She is the subject of the work, but also she is somehow embodied in the work. Even Though she is not there in either of these pieces, we reaslise she is the subject and used as the object. We have a sense of her presence even though she is absent.

In Art&Design, it requires the application of the body and often people take for granted on how we use the body for an action, por example, we dont simply draw with a pencil, yes we draw with a pencil but we also draw with our hand which is often forgotten. Every act of production requires the application of the body, so in that sence design requires reflexive embodiment.

Leader (1990) argues the idea of absence presence in which that the body itself disappears into the ckground when we do things with our body for example walking and talking. The relationship between body and tools to produce an output is forgotten.

In which ways creativity responds to emotion? What about consciousness? Would that make a difference to things produced using two items? Manipulated materials in a certain way based on their composition.

Absent/Presence using beds:

Sarah Lucas

Sarah lucas bed
Au Naturel, 1994

Rachel Whiteread

Whiteread’s art operates on many levels: it captures and gives materiality to the sometimes unfamiliar spaces of familiar life (bath, sink, mattress or chair), transforming the domestic into the public; it fossilises everyday objects in the absence of human usage, and it allows those objects to stand anthropomorphically for human beings themselves.

Felix Gonzalez Torrez


The abject body has a strong feminist context, in that female bodily functions in, particular, are ‘abjected’ by a patriarchal social order. In the 1980s and 1990s many artists became aware of this theory and reflected it in their work.

Hannah Wilke

Starification Object Series, 1974

The Abject Bodies: Paul McCarthy


Matter into Drawing, Drawing into Matter

4.1 Susan_Nemeth
Transformations from the Sèvres ‘Cupid & Venus’ Vase, Drawing by Susan Nemeth


In 1945 through 1946, Pablo Picasso produced a powerful series of drawings of bulls. When you arrange his bulls in order of detail the most detailed is a realistic drawing of a bull. All the features are there.  Picasso step by step simplifies the previous image. The shading of the hide vanishes. The details of the muscle disappear. The texture is gone. The three-dimensionality evaporates. By the last bull, we see a line drawing, but those 1simple marks distill the essence of that bull, its strength and masculinity. The clutter is gone and the essence remains.

This final image was the only one in the series that Picasso entitled the bull. By systematically cutting peripheral parts (being careful not to turn the bull into a cow), we force ourselves to appreciate what’s important. Isolating those elements can give a great deal of focus to life decisions.

“There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.” 

– Pablo Picasso

Bull I 1973 by Roy Lichtenstein 1923-1997
Roy Lichenstein, Bull l-Vl,  1973

I have been looking at how we perceive matter by using drawing and painting. Usually children have this perception of what a cow or a monsters might look like and its interesting this perception being then transformed into matter again. How would then a drawing of this transformation end up like? How can I bring this into ceramics? Interesting videos below illustrating this idea.

And now, wondering where my interests are.  Simplification? The clutter is gone and the essence remains? Or is it about perception? All key questions that I would like to explore furthermore.


Visual Dilution

Don’t you often have so many ideas and you don’t know where to start from and you end up lost. Speaking with Duncan about grouping of objects, looking at identity and how form is affected by space in relationship to each other.  Its about altering the physical space that they occupied and how that then forces us to see at these sets differently and how they identify at each other.

“Vitrines hold space as well as objects… They seem to still a part of the world and suspend activity, pause the movement that attends the life of things… Vitrines are part of what I do, not a frame for what I make.” – Edmund de Waal

Looking at the work of Susan Nemeth and Virginia Leonard and relationships between drawing/painting and three dimensional work has really got me motivated and having a tutorial with Pete has clarified some of my thought with some of my previous ideas.

I had this idea how could our train of though or our visual perception be diluted from one form to another. How much does a drawing dilute our perception of the object?

The premises of this idea plays a bit with the thought of how a drawing taken from one of these grouping be transformed onto another piece of work. Does scale matter? To which point forms start joining forms? Will surface be affected by drawing? How is space in relationship to the objects affected by this? I like the idea of having little conversations between drawing and sculpture and to which extent will my last piece be diluted from the original.

Really intrigued by the work Gordon Baldwin and relationship of drawing and sculpture


“If there is a vessel there, you would imagine it”


Pippin Drysdale


The landscape is the ever-constant lure, the catalyst for work, the connecting point and anchor for each new development.  

Pippin Drysdale – Website

Pippin Drysdale’s works is ambitious, it negotiates interweaving journeys through various landscapes describing her artistic practice and her engagement with the sites she documents. Through a continuing investigation of the flora and landforms of these unique areas of Australia and a commitment to engaging with the cultural, social and political agendas that are shaping them, she is open to embrace each new creative challenge.

One would be forgiven for thinking there would be a question of ownership, the work is accredited solely to Drysdale. But Palmateer is adamant the story and the work is Drysdale’s and that he is just a part of her journey to create the perfect pieces.

They are humble when they speak of their own abilities but full of praise for each other’s skills as masters of their field. They acknowledge that the sum of their skills is what creates such amazing art, Palmateer’s throwing skill and sense of form combined with Drysdale’s ability to combine colour and texture as she treats the surface of the vessel. Together they create something incredibly special.

Experimentation with Decorating Slips

Ive been looking at a range of artist lately, (Susan Nemeth, Virginia Leonard and the American clay expressionists) and I wanted to explore form. I had about two kilos of crank clay so decided to coil a jug out of my imagination, not really caring if the piece was ascetically pleasing in any shape or form.

Similarly but at the same time contrastingly, the work my Magdalene Odundo which is more concerned with shape and how straight and smooth the final burnished by hand
surfaces are. Her traditional methods used in sub-Saharan Africa production which is primarily made by women, and Odundo recognizes and reinforces this connection through her work’s anthropomorphic references to the female body. But her work also plays with traditional associations. For one, Odundo sees her works, unlike the utilitarian pots created by women, as containers of form and colour. By conceiving her objects not as vessels but as sculpture, traditionally seen as the purview of men, she blurs the boundaries between these gendered realms.

Wanting to explore decorating slips and sgraffito, I decided to go down to the glaze room and mix some slips. The actual recipe is really simple ( 50:50, Ball Clay to China Clay) with an addition of an oxide/stain between 5%-10% and is mixed in the same way as a glaze; however, only 50% of water in relation to dry ingredients is added and its sieved on a 60-80 hole mesh.

I added a thick coat of green slip first and secondly brushed a layer of black decorating slip, leaving the vessel to go leather hard, ready for carving.

I didn’t really think much about the design, I just went through a range of tools making linear marks from top to bottom to explore the possibilities of sgraffito. Just need to let it dry now, ready for bisque firing and glaze it with a clear glaze so the colours pop out. The surface qualities did remind me of the work of amazing and talented Peter Beard.

“The objective of my work is to produce beautiful objects that are modern, yet owe an allegiance to history, giving them a timeless quality.

Strong simple shapes are decorated with complex glaze surfaces to complement and excite the eye. Landscape in all forms is my main source of inspiration, along with the art of ancient Egypt. Combinations of shiny, matt and semi-matt glazes are built up in layers to create the textural surfaces during firing. Wax is used to isolate areas during glaze application”

Peter Beard – Website


Also done another example, using a pinch bowl which i turned into a mug and has a orange decorating slip underneath the black, exploring marks around the cup. Just can’t wait to clear glaze them and see their vivid colours.



Everyday Cyborgs

This week we looked at cyborgs, post-human and prosthesis in ways and ideas of extending the body and we explored rehabilitation of the body to normative functions.

we have an apparent desire to go beyond our capabilities, to push beyond on our limits. We study to increase knowledge, making machines to produce more than what we can with our own hands. Create devices to go faster, see further, speak louder and when our bodies refuse to do what we think they should, we find ways to supplement them and exceed our corporal boundaries. Technology is everywhere and we swim through most our current lives in a tangible digital dream.

We looked at Chris Burden, which on the 70s looked at the physical capabilities of the human body, in which he was crucified to a Volkswagen and on another instance shot on the arm. So why would anyone go through this? He used the body because it was democratic and valueless as in a means it couldn’t be sold, and its used as an anticapitalism material, anti-art market. Not only could he be the artist, but we also could become the work itself, so in another way he is the subject and the object of the work.

We looked at other artists which explored the body and its physical limitations:

Tehching Hsieh

Marina Abramovic

Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present (2012)

Dennis Oppenheim

Rebecca Horn

Such horrifically maimed and disfigured men were far from uncommon in Germany after World War I, when 80,000 amputees returned home from the front. Reliant on prosthetics, canes, and crutches, these veterans have become as mechanized as the war that claimed their flesh.

War Cripples, Otto Dix, 1920


This attention to the prosthetic figure has ricocheted through 20th-century art, with artists expanding the body beyond its limits. Extensions celebrate possibilities while revealing the constraints we have engineered for ourselves. Working directly after the First World War, Oskar Schlemmer’s body supplements amplified the frailties of both the natural and enhanced body. He had experienced a short period of military service and, while in hospital recovering from injury, saw many men with lost limbs. The sculptural costumes of his Triadic Ballet, first performed in 1922, forced performers to submit to the weight and geometric form of their attire while Slat Dance 1 from 1927 used equipment designed for physical education to lengthen the dancer’s limbs. Just as 18th and 19th-century ‘progress’ compelled people to conform movements to the rhythm of the factory, Schlemmer’s constricting additions forced their wearers to empathise with their own mechanics.



The body and language are the two things that we surely know best: whether linguistic or physical, prostheses are both material and metaphorical; they are markers of a technologized body, and far more than mere supplement. As Aimee Mullins, athlete, activist, and protagonist in Matthew Barney’s The Cremaster Cycle 1994–2002, has eloquently explained: if a person needs false legs, why should they look like human ones? A prosthetic has the potential to extend the body far beyond the limits we are born into – a prospect that is equally terrifying and exciting.

But what is a cyborg? A cyborg is described as a  fictional or hypothetical person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body. On reading Technologies of the Gendered Body, Anne Balsamo, 1996 according to Balsamo, these hybrids are “neither purely human nor purely machine”. Talking about binaries a dew sessions ago, this book goes to explain how dual dispositions are never symmetrical. Harway goes on to argue that cyborgs have the potential to disrupt the persistent dualisms that have been “systemic to the logics and practices of women, people of colour, nature, workers, animals”. Some of the troublesome dualisms include culture/nature, human/artificial, male/female, as well as other such as reality/appearance, truth/illusion, theory/politics. Cyborg bodies, then cannot be conceived as belonging wholly to either culture or nature, they are neither wholly technological nor completely organic. “Cyborg bodies cannot be completely discursive. Cyborgs are a matter of fiction and a matter of lived experience”.

Ear on arm credit ABC-970-80

Doctor Von Hagens


Virginia Leonard – Relationship Between Painting and Ceramics


Virginia Leonard – Website

 “Paint is laid on paint, mark is laid on mark. The subject becomes less important as the painting progresses. Often the sheer thickness of the paint, between the small valleys and crags of paint add to the paradox of realised space. Sometimes the subject is formed by the drama of colour – forms caught up in the method of paint laid upon paint. Often in the painting I invent visual ideas and images that are summoned up by the automatic gesture, where the marks have no specific reference purpose. It is a play of mind and imagination”

Virginia Leonard only came across ceramics just a few years ago and explores relationships between expressionist painting with ceramics. Her large, variously capped and colourful, layered vessels laced with resin, are strong and visceral objects that look as though they came together simply by instinct. Both seen on her painting and her clay viscosities, often mimicking organs, revealing something that we know of, but is unseen.

Virginia’s addition of resin looks fresh and offers tempting drips that beg to be touched by fingers, (to see if they’re as flexible as they appear) often seen in her painting but solutions to the curiosity aroused by additions of some decal images is added, although some links to the domestic via what has been the most widely used and imitated design for domestic tableware is tentatively there.

The American clay expression often intentionally looks poorly made. Led by artists such as Nicole Cherubini, Beverley Semmes and Arlene Sechet it is characterised by an irreverence for technique and messy, loose handling often typified by heavily fingered coiling and surfaces left spontaneous with supporting casually made plinths of plywood or reinforcing steel rod that can resemble workshop detritus but are a part of the work. Forms are influenced by traditional ceramic objects but also defy them by mocking domesticity using pot forms only as shapes rather than objects that are useful. Sometimes lustred all over and sometimes draped with junk jewellery or bedecked by small handles that could not possibly lift the vessel.