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OCA student: Patricia Farrar - The Open College of the Arts
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OCA student: Patricia Farrar

Significance of the Critical Essay on my Practice

If you are anything like me, the thought of the critical essay and an exhibition looms large on the horizon of the final months of SYP. Everything starts to get very serious and the expectation seems to be there that somehow you have morphed  into this incredible being called ‘an artist’ with a ‘voice’!

An artist with a ‘voice’!  When I began SYP these two concepts were far from being established.  I had enjoyed the constant challenge to experiment and explore in the course so far and, although academic writing was not a problem for me, somehow I felt a tension when seeing it as a requirement in a very practical environment. But the requirement was there and so, as I thought more deeply about it,  it occurred to me that with the two courses, Major Project and Contextual Studies being required to be studied simultaneously, this had to be a major clue in the process of my development as an artist.

And so it happened but in a major and completely unplanned way!

To ‘have a voice’ depends hugely on identity. You needed to know who you were and what you had to say. I went through several scenarios about identity but it wasn’t until a return trip to my homeland of Australia happened that I began to unpick layers of my identity. I came to realize that in that environment I could be me and this came as quite a shock! It made me ask questions like, “Who is this ‘me’?” “Do I know her?” “Then who is this other person who lives in England?” And more significantly the question, “Well can this ‘me’ only exist in Australia?” I realized that these are questions which come to every migrant. These issues came down to facing questions about place, identity, belonging, ‘otherness’, isolation and memory.

Memory about Australia was the most sensitive one and in a way difficult to rationalize. And memory seemed to be at its loudest in the area of sound. In my painting I spent many weeks working through the effect of sound in the form of people talking, words being used and most importantly the sounds of birds. It was through painting memory through sounds that I really had to search for ideas and ways of abstracting feelings rather than images.

But all the while this struggle was happening I knew I didn’t want to paint ‘Australia’. That wasn’t what it was about. It was about learning to be totally comfortable with ‘otherness’.  Being comfortable with being a migrant doesn’t come easily and I now realize that it has taken me the greater proportion of my time in England to arrive at this. Needing to find my voice as an artist was driving this realisation and it has given me the freedom and confidence to be myself.

At the same time as these changes were happening in my painting for major project, the discussion with my tutor concerning the topic for the critical essay was reaching a critical point because of the time element. It was suggested that I needed to confront the ‘Australianness’ in my work by initially writing a soliloquy between the two voices, Britishness and Australianness. This was an inspired suggestion and so I began a forensic analysis of the influences, feeling, memories, processes inherent in the work in order to understand who I was and to find my voice as an artist. Although this first piece of writing was not considered suitable as an academic submission , it was an essential foundation for the final critical essay. The final essay took the question, “Is my art practice a question of country?” and investigated the subject from a much wider perspective than my own.  The comments from the tutor confirmed the rightness of this change in direction. You are certainly on the right tracks now and the essay reads in a more universal tone rather than a heavy reliance on the soliloquy. There are questions and unpacking of wider themes of the identity of a migrant with a focus on HOW your practice confronts and investigates this. You maintain a personal and poetic reflection of your work whilst delving into other theories to expand your reasoning. It feels like this essay has been cathartic for you to investigate your practice, especially in what your voice is, what voice means to you and how you have found your voice practically. It also states your current practice and how the essay has formed a framework for future work.”

The most important point I want to make, however, is the effect which this cathartic experience had on my practice. I found that my painting was undergoing a change. I began to work with greater confidence, unhesitatingly using the strong colours which I associate with my homeland. I discovered an excitement in paint and a greater understanding of the process which was personal to me . Words had always had special meaning for me and many times poetry formed the basis of the creative process. I didn’t question this any more and it seemed that the process into the painting flowed with such unquestioning ease. I had found my voice! I had found me!

Patricia Farrar

I am heartbroken to have to share the news that OCA student and artist Patricia Farrar passed away at the weekend.

Every single drawing and painting student (and many beyond) has some connection with Patricia as her work illustrates our course units as exemplars of practice. Many of you know her very well indeed as a generous peer and a friend.

Emma Drye, OCA Programme Leader for Painting and Drawing. Read Emma’s post on Patricia here.

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Posted by author: Emma Drye
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13 thoughts on “OCA student: Patricia Farrar

  • Such a sad story that Patricia passed away my deepest condolences. I was unaware of her passing while reading about her practice which was so inspiring. We all struggle with identity at some point and finding our voice. Rest in peace

  • I am saddened to hear that Patricia has died. She was a student who always seemed to be there during my years with the OCA. An inspiration to my own personal journey. Her work will live on .to inspire others.

  • What a wonderful conclusion to Patricia’s OCA /life journey, she found her voice, confidence as an artist and who she was, but how sad she could not take it any further. I did not know Patricia but her writing above and Emma’s account of her influence on others, show something of how she made an important and positive impact in the world. I send condolences to her family and friends at this very sad and difficult time.

  • What a fabulous, inspiring post, then I read she has passed on…so very sad to hear this. My condolences.

  • I did not know Patricia but have seen her work and the responses to this sad news reflect how much she inspired others. She was clearly successful in following the deepest call of an artist to -authentically find her own voice. Condolences to friends and family.

  • I did not know Patricia, but what a moving and inspiring piece of writing by someone who clearly found personal meaning and catharsis through her art practice . So sorry to read that she has passed away.

  • I was so happy for her that she found her voice and her theme for her essay and then read that she has passed away. So sad that she is no more. Her painting is so full of exuberence and happiness.

  • This is such a lovely, personal and very inspiring piece of writing, of which I can relate to. Trying to seek out identities and our voices is so overwhelming, but her experience somehow makes it feel possible. But I’m so saddened to then read she has passed away!
    This thought has made me think also how important it is to enjoy our degree journeys each step of the way.

  • I am deeply saddened by the passing of Patricia. I remember how she was always there to contribute to my Drawing 1 course always stepping in to help with advice every time I would post a question about work and assessment. Having read through her critical essay, it sheds so much light on how it can approached with one particular point of consideration; for the artist to reflect on the importance of self-identity. It is only when we humbly search deep within ourselves that we are able to derive the answers to our questions and conquer our weaknesses, fears, insecurities… Rest in peace dearest fellow student, thank you for all your valuable contributed time to help us.

  • Totally inspiring, enlightening, energising – learning about Patricia’s journey, her poetic expression of it. Through her art-making she found a way to her essential self = and to show it. Her journey continues … she/her art lives.

  • I am so glad that Patricia managed to finish her Degree Course and to eventually find her voice. I am sure she was proud of her achievement. Generous to the end, inspiring us all to continue our journey by writing such a
    beautiful piece about the Critical Essay.

  • I was very shocked to hear of this sad event. Patricia has always been just ahead of me on my OCA painting journey so I always found her blogs informative and inspiring. She had just completed her journey but now sadly will not be able to fulfil her plans and all the creative ideas she had.
    My heartfelt best wishes and condolences go to her family and friends at this sad time. She may be gone but will live on in her work and our hearts.

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