Keen followers of the WeAreOCA blog may remember a post about Drawing 2 student Sarah Youseman’s Parallel Project. If not, you can read it here.
When that was posted, Sarah was beginning her Drawing 2 course. She has now finished and the Parallel Project culminated not in a traditional painting or static image, but in a film of her making a painting. As her tutor I am privy to some of the thinking behind this final, bold, work and I want to share some of the influences Sarah drew on to change and push her practice in order to make her film. This aggregation and conflation of work/approaches by others shows how contextual research can contribute to a developing practice without simply mimicing them.
Starting off with an interest in an area near her home – which also intrigued artist Prunella Clough – Sarah explored some of the process at work there. It’s near Gravesend, part of the Thames estuary. The natural processes at work in tidal spaces is exploited by Richard Long to make large wall drawings. While these two artist might not seem at all similiar, Sarah pursued both of them in terms of her own work. Her critical essay was a ‘compare and contrast’ piece on Clough and Long, culminating with Sarah plotting her own position in relation to these two very different artists.
Throughout the Parallel Project, Sarah mentioned a feeling of exclusion from the area with which she was concerned. It’s being redeveloped and is closed to anyone not in a hard-hat, high-viz vest, and a reason to be there.
One final piece was added to this strange jigsaw when Sarah saw the film of Picasso painting on glass. She recognised that he was painting himself out of the image, as well as making an image. Exclusion through the making of a barrier between artist and viewer. Pulling these seemingly disparate elements together, Sarah has made a work that eloquently builds a barrier between the viewer and her, as well reflecting her feelings relating to parts of her locale.
It’s important to note here that not everything Sarah did worked as effectively as this final piece. She experimented with time-lapse film and other novel ways of making images. Although these don’t directly inform this final film, the fact that she experimented helped her make better decisions, which did feed the work.
All in all, Sarah has made a surprising and effective piece that doesn’t stray far from her initial concerns and motivations, but finds a way to present them that isn’t just illustrative. It embodies the disruption and exclusion she feels, as well as striving to break that down. By being open to influence and being confident enough to appropriate bits of other art works for her own purposes she has begun to position herself in relation to other artists and to really push her practice into new and surprising areas.