During 2015/16 Mieke Vanmechelen completed a series of drawings for a research project which was supported by the Thomas Dammann Junior Memorial Trust Award. The drawings formed the principal visual element to an important academic thesis. The project allowed an opportunity to link up with the Classics Department at Trinity College Dublin where Mieke originally studied Classical Civilisation and Philosophy. The resulting drawings and paintings enhanced the explanatory power of the thesis and contributed to this previously undocumented part of our cultural, economic and political heritage.
Ecology of the Imagination was a project initiated and perfromed by Vena Nascręcka and Mieke Vanmechelen in collaboration with CCAE student Max De Meester and other CCAE participants and invited guests. The project took place at CCAD Sullivan’s Quay campus during November 2014. The performance lasted four hours and a had a number of participants of all ages. The objective of this collaborative piece was to allow the artwork itself to become a performed pedagogy, a participatory mode of creation, interacting both in the physical costruction and through performance in the psychological experience of a ‘space’. The artists engaged in a participatory performace as part of the project.
The title came from a book by Edith Cobb called “The Ecology of Imagination in Childhood”. According to Cobb, sensory and perceptual processes which occur during childhood are repsonsible for the neural network of human intuition. It is during the childhood years that the foundations for later psychic states and well-being are laid. The artwork was an attempt to reconnect with the childhhood desire of making a fort, den or hut, a fanatsy place where one feels safe and protected from the outside world. According to E. O. Wilson, American biologist, researcher, theorist, naturalist and author considers the quest to construct secret space a “fundamental trait of human nature”… “of ultimate value to survival” and a primal urge which has been almost forgotten (Sobel, D. Children’s Special Places: Exploring the Role of Forts, Dens, and Bush Houses in Middle Childhood, viii).
My perspective on my own creativity has become influenced by my research, as I am examining areas around studio practice which are inadvertently connected to it. Certain aspects within my practice are becoming clearer, ideas which I previously overlooked.
By looking at areas which interest me I am beginning to formulate conceptual ideas which are manifesting themselves, not only in drawing and painting but other modes of expression such as mediations with environment, exploration of object and the written word.
As part of my research concerning Mid European Medieval Literature I was drawn to the painting, Netherlandish Proverbs by Pieter Bruegel. Also called The Topsy Turvy World, I saw a direct correlation with the topsy turvy world, where predator becomes prey, as portrayed in the Ysengrimus. Breugel was alive when the texts I am exploring were current and so his paintings animate a time in history which was incomprehensibly filled with pain, suffering and immeasurable cruelty.
The Netherlandish Proverbs, depicts life in 16th Century Flanders, it illustrates 112 identifiable proverbs and idioms in the scene.
I was aware that traditionally in Flanders at harvest festivals brooms were ‘stuck out of windows’ as a marker or symbol which obviously had a significance connected to fertility and found this portrayed as one of the scene in the famous painting.
I researched how brooms were made and put one together myself. Once hanging in the studio it gained a totemic significance and connected with different aspects of my practice.
From my reading of various Medieval texts I realised that the suffering and pain experienced during these dark times is not at all removed from what is happening today, and as I looked at the pain and tortures suffered by people then, an event happened within days of my research. For this reason I included text from an article written by Nina Burleigh, an investigative journalist and author who has reported frequently from the Middle East.
Last week, a 22-year-old Dutch journalist was gang-raped in Tahrir Square and had to undergo surgery for severe injuries.
One of the hallmarks of revolutionary victory in Tahrir Square has always been rape and sexual harassment. Mobs of men routinely set upon women, isolating, stripping and groping
Raping foreign journalists -- guaranteed to attract global attention -- is merely a more efficient way of getting that message across
Egyptian women are the primary victims of sexual violence, and ultimately they are the intended recipients of the message: Stay home, your input in government and politics is not wanted.
I completed a series of pen and ink drawings over a period of days, relating to and coming from the literature I was reading. I combined these with selected passages from ‘The Legend of Ulenspiegel’ – the sentiment of the text is very powerful and still relevant today. I feel this correlation with certain aspects contemporary society lends lends itself to further artistic exploration.
Our workshop with artist Clodagh Emoe was extremely informative, as well as enjoyable. Clodagh Emoe shared some insights into her work process with us and gave us a professional perspective on what it takes to realise projects. A main aspect of her practice is based around the a gathering of people and the use of art as ‘encounter’. Many of her projects are audience orientated and based on an exploration of how thoughts are ‘felt’ as a result of specific ‘gatherings’. This raised interesting questions around art in general, such as,
What constitutes a work?
When is a work complete?
Who completes the work?
What is the role of the viewer?
Is it correct to refer to the person experiencing or participating in the work as ‘the viewer’?
I was one of a group of four to experiment with these concepts and together we produced a site specific piece centred around a loaf of white sliced bread. It made us think about collaboration, ownership of art, conclusion of a piece, the involvement of an audience and the unpredictability of working in this way. The piece involved a choreographed interaction with an audience, and chance element (seagulls) and each other, realising a project like this was extremely challenging and insightful.
These experiments in abstraction made me face a series of questions I have about my work. These drawings were part of a deconstruction process I undertook. The questions which I found most difficult to deal with were,
What does abstraction mean to me?
Is it a bad thing to express emotion in my work, and if so why?
What message am I trying to convey?
Is there a way I can rationalise this process?
I began by making a series of abstract paintings and drawings, but because I had so many questions I felt my work was not resonating with me and that I had to focus on where my practice was rooted, where the actual incentive lies for my artistic endeavor. Inevitably I have now taken the path of critical analysis, exploration and a search for answers.