I was extremely nervous at what my report may say, so much so that I didn’t open it until I had stared at the email for ages psyching myself up for the reveal. I am immensely pleased with the feedback I received and how in-depth it was. I have lots to look up and read which I know will inform my next body of work for part 3 Reveal and conceal.
Sue, You again have developed ideas and concepts from a thought provoking
body of well-researched subjects. It is clear you seek out topics that are
deep, meaningful and sensitive, as you need the work to have integrity and
significance. It is a risk, to take on subjects such as Female Genital Mutilation
(FGM). Evidently you, critically think through each process finding more linear
subjects although presenting aesthetically pleasing ideas, hollow, and you
want the work to have gravity, substance and depth. This body of research
provides many possibilities; you have worked effectively through a number of
ideas and concepts. Your practice evaluates materials, consciously validating
the use of alternative and controversial mediums. This is a brave body of
work that takes risks with subject matter, materials and processes. Well done!
I understand your aim is to go for the Textiles Degree and that you plan to submit
your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have
shown in this assignment, providing you commit yourself to the course, I believe
you have the potential to succeed at assessment. In order to meet all the
assessment criteria, there are certain areas you will need to focus on, which I will
outline in my feedback.
Feedback on assignment
Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome,
Demonstration of Creativity
Sue, you initially began to look at manmade landscapes finding the
constructed, architectural patterns easy to work with. However, this work
gave you an, ‘empty’ feeling; you needed to stretch the parameters.
Therefore, you began to consider the physical landscape (the body). This
submission falls into two sections: The manmade landscape and the physical
The Manmade Landscape.
Being drawn to Frank O. Gehry’s architectural practice inspired some
interesting work with manipulating personal photographs of famous landmark
buildings such as The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. O. Gehry famous
for his buildings that represent undulating free-form sculpture. He treated
each commission as: “A sculptural object, a spatial container, a space with
light and air”, a very fascinating and cutting edge architect of his time. He also
produced cardboard furniture:
Using your photographs you created montages. These distort the actual
image slightly and throw lines that inform some creative design ideas. These
ideas you sketched focusing on the shapes and angles. I actually really
enjoyed these pages of exploration using mixed media that play with structural
forms. Taking O. Gehry’s window design you made some interesting motif
and repeat pattern work. You show a good understanding of colour, laying
down confidently, line, structure and sketchbook work. Here, you have
effectively grasped ideas and successfully communicated those ideas visually.
Although, you found this work didn’t feed your ‘soul’ and wasn’t ‘challenging’
you enough. I do think it illustrates your real ability in finding interesting
sources to inspire creative and innovative design. With a closer look at O.
Gehry you may have discovered other dimensions to his work such as
‘recycling’, spatial concepts and distorting the socially acceptable using low
budget corrugated metal panels, steel poles and wire mesh fencing.
However, putting constructed landscapes to one side you began to consider
the physical, body landscape:
The Physical Landscape.
This journey led you through considering the numerous ways in which we
manipulate and distort the body including: tattoos, body piercing, cosmetic
surgery and finally to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Each one of these
subjects again, offered a wealth of research to feed numerous bodies of
You have looked at various artists that have approached the emotive subject
of FGM or the female sexual organs such as: Jessica Stanton, Abebe
Zelelew, Ronald Jung, Olubunmi Temitope Oyesanya, The Shorditch Sisters
(Embroiderers Campaign Against Female Genital Mutilation), Anish Kapoor
and Cornelia Parker (Pornographic Drawing – The Whitworth Gallery,
One of the most insightful quotes I found in your research was; “Yoni is the
Sanskrit word for the primal sacred place. The Yoni is as temple in which the
divine essence of a woman, in other words her soul, can be worshipped”,
(Yoni – Hindu). This summarises the sanctity of the woman. Therefore, in
violating a woman’s most sacred part leaves us with the notion that this work
seeks to highlight the gravity and inconceivable loss of innocence these
women and children have suffered.
As I stated previously this is a raw and sensitive subject and it is brave to step
into the realms of using this as a vehicle to form ideas and concepts for
design and artworks. You have effectively worked through a number of ways
in which to form design ideas. Using sketching, watercolour washes, fine
liners to draw the vagina, clitoris and labia. This didn’t work for you so you
moved forward into photographic images illustrating fingers over mouths
(Shhh!) and hands protecting sexual parts. Removing the text gave the
images more gravity and softness but you pushed through to find a method
that projected more of what you wanted.
As Africa represented a continent where FGM was prevalent you began
looking at fabrics, prints and symbolism. Choosing symbols that represented
strength, femininity, bravery, fragility, etc. The attributes you associated with
women and children who had undergone FMG. Exploring these symbols as
design elements for borders or central panels. Again, these motifs could have
easily provided you with numerous prints however, you felt that these had not
expressed or evoked the depth of feeling you desired.
Contacting an African Fabric Shop they sent samples and emails explaining
production and processes. Consider looking at Yinka Shonibare MBE, Africa
Now: Political Patterns. Shonibare explores his West African heritage; his
practice is concerned with disrupting conventional notions of race, class and
cultural identity. The significance of black diaspora of art originating from
European, American Imperialism and slavery.
You are very articulate and self-aware, very well researched and demonstrate
a developed intellectual understanding. This is clearly evident in the manner
in which you question materials and methodology. For instance questioning
yourself and your practice in whether to use blood was appropriate or purely
for ‘shock’ tactics. Having been on the study visit to The Whitworth Gallery in
Manchester and viewing Cornelia Parker’s work it helped you formulate
reasoning and justification in using alternative mediums.
Although you lay to one side the African symbols, you had investigated the
meaning and strength behind these. I agree that these could have led to a
body of interesting design work. The importance of these cloths and
symbolism for women carried a great weight, often unable to express
themselves they used this a medium to convey strength, courage and
celebrated their femininity. Perhaps you hadn’t expanded these enough?
S.B Response – reading this set me thinking why I hadn’t stayed with the ideas I had and developed these further, what was my ‘gut instinct’ telling me? I realised that subconsciously I view parts 1-4 of the course as a preliminary to part 5, in so much that in the back of my mind that these are all possibilities for full development in part 5. I am aware that in part 3 I can explore deconstruction and decay of fabrics, which will produce valuable samples developing the subjects I have covered in parts 1 and 2.
Tutors notes continue…
Could these become raw, exaggerated, random, distorted? This may have
provided a way in which to express a broken spirit or struggle?
Buying dried blood from an on-line butcher you began to explore making a
screen using African nations (most profound for FGM) as the design or motif.
Experimenting with various fabrics you tested and investigated methods of
printing with this medium. The Christening Dress became the symbol of
‘ceremony’, and consideration of the child’s innocence. Although you have
not stated this clearly this links very well to the research you submitted
regarding the prolific numbers of FGM in the UK, Sheffield our home city
having the 5th highest levels of FGM. This almost Victorian Christening dress
takes on the role of British Colonial Power and the dissemination of countries
affected by historical plundering of the West. Now Britain has made a
homeland for cross-pollination of cultures.
S.B response– I see how whilst in my mind I was wanting the Christening Dress to tell of the juxtaposition of British involvement in Colonising it’s perceived developing countries and the arrogance and ignorance in this alongside against the Long held cultural and social reason for the practise of F.G.M. I listened to a play on radio 4 (A cut above) some weeks ago where a young British Muslim teenage girl, arranges in secret from her family her own F.G.M, as she is attracted to a boy at school and she believes he wouldn’t be interested in her if she hadn’t undergone F.G.M. I intellectually understood that a girl would feel pressure to be made ‘clean’, yet I hadn’t felt it in a way that the play allowed me to. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05vfgc8 I do need to explore all angles in my work.
Tutor’s comments continue…
Therefore, it is difficult for us to understand or come to terms with the cultural
ceremony of FGM, now legislated as illegal in the United Kingdom. I found
some of your research article very interesting and could see from both sides
the gravity of this situation:
• It is a cultural practice.
• To keep a woman whole before marriage.
• To keep the girl ‘clean’.
• To be a respected member of the community.
• Religious reasons (Muslims).
Although this carries a strong message about the subordination of women and
girls in society this practice is carried out by Christians, Muslims and followers
of indigenous religions suggesting it is more cultural rather than religious. If a
girl believes no man will marry her resulting in no off spring we begin to
understand the social pressures of FGM. It is always relevant and important
to see both sides of the argument and understand ‘why’ this procedure still
exists in the 21st Century. This conjures up even more substantial material to
inspire provocative artworks, the pull of cultural identity versus abhorrent pain
S.B response – I see I have not noted my thoughts on one of the reasons I chose to use the christening gown, I wanted to take the focus away from the assumption that F.G.M was a African and/or Muslim practice. I wanted to show that F.G.M was practised world wide and was not solely a religious practice. I did not want to present a prejudicial viewpoint. If I was to present this work in an exhibition I would need to think about what content my artist statement would have. I also need to look at the work I have produced to see how I can, if possible develop the piece to be clearer in my intentions.
Tutors notes continue...
I believe the christening gown does open an uncomfortable dialogue
especially as it lies marked with blood. The dried blood becomes brown in
nature that almost signifies the passage of time, being aged and dulled, the
rawness of red has been dissipated. I imagine hundreds of your little white
christening gowns hung within a gallery on simple washing lines. The impact
would be sobering and powerful. You have shown a highly effective grasp of
ideas and communication of those ideas visually.
The stitched city masses of Sheffield, Leeds, Nottingham, Birmingham and
Manchester again are poignant using darning techniques, surgical like running
stitch and ‘cut here’ text. This is effective work presented in a professional
way, showing strong judgement. You could consider developing these further
perhaps using splashes of blood, combining techniques. Could the stitch
work be raw almost like stitching up roughly an injury? Fabric could be frayed,
bulky, with bleeding through of other mediums. I think you could extend this.
You have competently created repeat patterns, boarders and motif designs in
accordance to the brief using land and city masses as the design element.
This didn’t have any gravity or weight for you. Again, consider the materials
used and application. Consider distortion, blending of nations or torn divides
to give more power and depth to repeat designs.
S.B response– I am looking to sample ways of decaying and de-constructing fabrics in this manner in part 3. One of the workshops suggested is called De-constructing and disintegration. I like the idea of blurring the boundaries of the nations and cities. This adds the visual narrative I am missing.
Tutors notes continue…
Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity
Sue, you have worked in a considered and thoughtful manner pushing the
boundaries of ideas and concepts. These sketchbooks evidence
experimentation and exploration of mixed media, textile cloth and inspirational
materials. You are hungry to find methods of expressing evocative and highly
charged emotive issues. Here, you are creative, taking risks with imaginative
and successful outcomes, with a strong evidence of personal voice.
I do think you could at times push ideas further before laying them to one side.
Each element you select for research and inspiration holds weight and if
pushed could result in some amazing outcomes. You have a natural ability to
sketch beautifully using line and colour very effectively (Frank O. Gehry’s
architectural practice work). The christening gown evidences your ability to
develop concepts and take risks with successful outcomes. I agree at times
the work become flat as you process repeats and motif designs. Consider
pushing the boundaries of these. Perhaps these could hold as much gravity
as the gown via exploring further ways in which to manipulate or distress cloth
or experimenting with applying dye mediums in a more aggressive or
(S.B response – This could be samples worked in the part 3 workshop Deconstruction and decay?
Tutor’s notes continue…
Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays
Sue, your on-line learning log effectively charts your journey. You post
regularly, updating ideas and concepts, personal reflection, lines of research
plus personal discoveries. This log is well written, easy to navigate, presented
in a professional way showing a fluency of technical, visual and research
skills. You are articulate, self aware, very well researched and demonstrating
a developed intellectual understanding.
It is good to see that you are actively seeking our study visits and gathered so
much from the Whitworth Gallery, experiencing Cornelia Parker’s work. It is
clearly evident that you are inspired by contemporary art and focus on ways in
which you can address grave issues via your art practice. I am interested to
see where the old cine films will take you. Revisiting the old workhouse
before its demolition and projecting the images. Your work looks to uncover
hidden prejudices, discrimination and abuse of women through the ages and
cultural divides. The workhouse does have an affinity with the plight of FGM
in the links between women suffering due to birthright.
You include relevant website links and a cohesive bibliography again,
highlighting the depth of research gathered. I would encourage you to
continue scratching below the surface to find sources of inspirational
research. Perhaps argue both sides in your critical writing. You have papers
that relate to ‘why’ FGM happens, just highlight this in your own writing.
Imagine how difficult it must be to be born into this traditional cultural situation.
The stigma associated with not going through with FGM.
S.B response – I have completely missed this out in my consciousness, execution of the work and the blog.
Tutor’s notes continue…
Continue to photograph your work this is an excellent record of the processes,
applications, experimentation and exploration of materials. You include
relevant artists work images that have had an impact your development both
conceptually and methodologically. Experiencing the work is so important and
I would encourage you to continue visiting exhibitions and galleries as this
feeds your creative mind. Your personal reflection is always very heartfelt and
insightful. Well done!
Other sites connected with FGM:
Often make provocative work relating to the body, sexuality and being female.
Judy Chicago – The Dinner Party: (with a view to the table runner concept).
Nara Lubelski – (A Situation, Clumsy, Side Dish).
Nara Lubelski – (Repair & mend).
Coppard, Abbie and Costanza, Enrico and Pasqui Eleonora, Aware (2011),
Aware, art Fashion Identity. Damiani Editore, London, Royal Academy of Arts.
Wolf, Naomi,(1991), The Beauty Myth. 2nd ed., London, Vintage Books.
Pointers for the next assignment
• Maintain your excellent working practices.
• Continue to seek out inspirational research sites including galleries,
shows and exhibitions to feed your practice.
• Explain both arguments.
• Sketch regularly.
• Expand and push the boundaries of ideas before moving on.
• Consider merging concepts such as using symbols within the work.
• Push methods of exploration such as distorting, distressing,
• Continue taking risks and pushing the boundaries!
Well done Sue, this was a thought provoking and insightful body of
experimental work. I look forward to your next assignment.
Tutor name Lizzy Levy
Date 18th June 2015
Next assignment due TBC