Art as Transformer: Preview

Art as Transformer
What are the relationships between the photographic image, painting and mediation?


This extended essay explores participatory relationships relating to the photographic, painting and our mediation with these images.  Since the year 2000 to 2017, the exponential growth in mobile devices has enabled a greater connectivity to the Inter-web, enabling the uploading of individual daily experiences, via social networks, instantaneously sharing digitised images with families, friends and strangers around the world.
Although some research explores the impact of social networks on the psychology of users, contributions have generally been beneficial and positive, particularly with social activist movements leading to greater democracy.  However, as with all new technologies, we must be cautious about how our psychology is affected and the possible detrimental effects these platforms might have on our identity and social interactions, as well as controlling types of information.
We must be vigilant and cautious due to photographic images becoming easier to
manipulate. Editorially manipulated collages that form corporationist ideologies that could seek to control ways we interpret our view of the world.  One can become easily enraptured with these new forms of photo-paintings pervading the virtual world, especially during this so-called fake news era.
It is also concerning how information can be directed via algorithms, creating individualised feedback loops of implantable desires and appetites, reducing access to new information vital for a balanced mind, society and democracy.

[The 80 page book Art as Transformer will be released as a published paperback book and as a Kindle download from Amazon this month circa 26th May 2017]

Transfiguring Landscape

Walking and being immersed in the landscape brings a connection to its integral beauty and its value to our mental and physical health.  Through these walks I absorb the sights and sounds the landscape of Somerset and elsewhere brings to my mind, as I consume the imagery for my painting and printmaking.  Lately I have expanded my printmaking with rock powder, obtained from the rocks and materials collected from my walks, using them as pigment to form new ways of layering and forming landscape art.
The latest works that can be seen below explore the connection we have with rocks and their connection to life on planet Earth.  Through the sciences of geology, chemistry and biology, I explore the obscure aspects of the landscape and its effect upon our perception of reality and its links to our past, the moment and where it is heading, particularly concerning the environmental aspects and our effect upon it through the industrial age and our current post-industrial digital age.

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Many artists have sought inspiration from the landscape and walking, including: Wordsworth, Coleridge, Hardy, Richard Long, Dr Mike Collier, Paul Newman, Deborah Westmancoat, Georgina Towler, Jenny Graham, Sara Dudman RWA, Andy Goldsworthy, David Bomberg, Michael Andrews (with his painting ‘Thames Painting: The Estuary’ a particular inspiration for me during my time in Cyprus) and many more.  Nature inspires new thoughts, ideas and ways of seeing – including current research from the British Medical Journal revealing the effect on our health being with nature and the value of exercise.

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These new paintings explore various influences coming from my walks in the landscape, either from rocks I have seen, cliff faces, caves, old walls, planet surfaces, moons, peeling paint and objects left to the elements of nature, bringing their own aesthetic to the object and the image.  These explore Zen inspired practices and landscapes resonating with the great Chinese and Japanese paintings of the past.
I have also included a video revealing some of the process that went into making these forms of painting. These explore the intervention of the artist with the materials, in this case rock powder taken from rocks collected from Watchet, Somerset and Soapstone powder, working with the natural consequences of chance, accident and natural forces of nature (maybe even those tiny microbes in the seawater and collected snowfall water added to these paintings).

The Art of Collaboration: An Analysis (Seminar)

How has 20th Century collaborative practices influenced Contemporary Art in the 21st Century?

(20 minute seminar to learners at Somerset College)


What is collaboration?  How do we frame collaboration?  What ways do we collaborate?

Do we press a button?  Do we manipulate and interact with objects?  Do we become involved through forms of participation?  What is the future for Contemporary Art in an age of austerity?

How do we become less a passive observer and more actively engaged as a participant in our visual art culture?  Jacques Ranciere, a leading French critical theorist writes about the visual arts and delves into ideas exploring aesthetics, participation and emancipation.  In his critique ‘The Emancipated Spectator’, he explores the idea that for an ‘Art’ to exist and be known as ART, it must ignite an activism in us – to become critically engaged and involved in the work being seen and experienced.  Over the last 16 years it has been noted a rise in community projects involving the visual arts, engaging audiences and opening up ideas about art learning and education; these processes of engaging with an audience teaches new skills to produce something from its processes, both physically and mentally and is something that has become more evident through the funding structures and frameworks set by the Arts Councils and Government initiatives, leading to the expansion of an active engagement with communities, leading to a shift away from private gallery and avant-gardism of the 20th Century.  This has brought an expansion of art initiatives and community practices, leading to new understandings of the importance of the visual and participatory arts to the community.

Claire Bishop’s essay ‘The Social Turn: Collaboration and Its Discontents’ explores this shift in thinking with regard to the expansion of the ‘Arts’ to the wider audience.  She observed:

‘…these practices have had, for the most part, a relatively weak profile in the commercial art world…they’re also less likely to be [considered] “works” [and seen as] … social events, publications, workshops, or performances – they nevertheless occupy an increasingly conspicuous presence in the public sector.’(1)

These come under the headings: ‘socially engaged art, community-based art, experimental communities … participatory, interventionist, research-based, or collaborative art. These practices are less interested in a relational aesthetic, than in the creative rewards of [a] collaborative activity…’(2)

But, what does ‘becoming actively involved’ mean?  How has the role of collaboration from the 20th Century influenced collaborative art practices in the 21st Century, contributing to its evolution?

Beginning in the 1990s and into the 21st Century the increase in digital realities has transformed previous ideas about the role of the artist.  Artists and galleries reach an audience directly through websites, video sites and social networks, expanding the role art plays in the community and society.

What can be considered a form of collaboration?

Collaboration was thought as something that did not much happen in the past.  Yet, this is an incorrect assumption.  Through the Masters’ workshops, training apprentices who would form the main body of a painting: its composition; forms; and style follow the plan drawn by the Master.  The Master would add their signature style, finishing the work and in-so-doing completing a form of collaborative practice.

Artists have set up collaborative partnerships in the past, which continues to this day.  An example of this can be seen in the work of Peter Paul Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Elder(3) who executed around two-dozen paintings together between 1598 and Brueghel’s death.  Most notably The Five Senses series (Taste, Smell, Touch, Sight and Sound) reveal the level of their collaboration – Brueghel’s landscapes and Rubens’ figures.

In Modernism the Surrealists produced hundreds of ‘Exquisite Corpses’ as a group, playing the game of forming strange and surreal figures – each taking their turn in their production. Picasso and Braque worked on the development of Cubism.  The Dadists worked on their publications.  De Stijl worked on purifying art to its essence.  Collaborative groups of artists working together to form and inform their work to their audience.

Performance and Conceptual art from the 1960s through to the 1990s were recorded and developed through Lucy Lippard and groups like Fluxus and Yoko Ono exploring social issues including: Ecology; Feminism; Civil Rights; Gay & Lesbian Rights; Transgender; Conflict and War – exploring the artist as observer and the public as participant to complete the work.

Artists in later part of the 20th Century explored collaboration through their work, engaging the public through social notions of Modernity.  Cindy Sherman and Kara Walker explore social conventions through their work – ‘emancipating the viewer’ from the stereotypes to become active in how we read images from our position of prejudices, becoming more aware of a viewers role and participation in their social role in the 20th and 21st Century history.   Alternative perspectives explore the role of the feminine through class and race – the collaborative roles we play in society and social conventions, galvanising social change, leading to emancipation from set frameworks from a particular class of society.

Jeremy Deller explores performance in art through a process where the public becomes integrated into the art.  We witness the artist and their questions.  The re-enactment of the Battle of Orgreave bringing generations together to relook at a historical event – working with the original miners to explore a point in time.  He initiates a dialogue between miners, police, and community; exploring a new angle of enquiry [although whether this heals or re-opens wounds is open to further study].


Ai Weiwei explores memory and history through objects associated with past time.  Hand painted porcelain seeds link to China’s Imperial past and their cultural ceramic past – symbols used to highlight the People during China’s Cultural Revolution…the seeds nourish, the ubiquitous discarded husks provide evidence of existence … Sunflower Seeds comments on social, political and economical issues relevant to contemporary China such as the role of the individual in relationship to the collective.’


Grayson Perry explores ideas on identity and role-play.   He explores the other through ceramics and tapestries (The Vanity of Small Differences) – he questions social conformity and the identities we become.  His work on the system of class and identity is worked through collaboratively working with a community – living with them and exploring their way of life.


Marina Abramovic’s collaborative work The Artist is Present explores interactive participation.  A moment of connection: looking, seeing and feeling. The artist stares and the participant stares back – bringing unknown emotions to the surface through a one to one engagement.  A direct form of communication witnessing a transformation between artist and viewer, both becoming the work. 

© 2010 Scott
© 2010 Scott Rudd

Collaboration has also witnessed co-authored works by many visual artists who have worked as a team or partnership.  These relationships have seen prominent stars of the art world including: Gilbert and George, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin with their mixed-media assemblages;

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen with their large sculptures of everyday objects and vinyl forms; Christo and Jeanne-Claude Javacheff and their material covered buildings, islands and architectural forms; ATOI exploring ideas about what sculpture is and can be considered in spaces; Patrick Gallaher and Chris Klapper explore mapping and the elements of nature, forming interactive performance pieces; Erika Barbee relays through her performance pieces a collaborative passive process through applications like Twitter – exploring our relationship with technology; Professor Josef Danek explores collaboration with artists around the world, using dropbox to send projects to work on and exhibit in the Czech Republic.

Patrick and Chris’ Symphony.
ATOI at Beers, London, 2016.

Mike Collier from Sunderland University explores working with groups of artists, scientists, writers, poets and the public through the act of walking in the landscape.  The research gathered from these walking journeys lead to the formation of new works exploring the phenomenological aspect and our place in space.

The 21st Century has seen many changes in the way we send, receive and share content.  These innovations are leading to new ways about researching collaborative projects. Technology has emancipated communities, social groups and individuals.

Claire Doherty’s From Studio to Situations: Contemporary Art and the Question of Context (2004), …notes:

“using art as a means for creating and recreating new relations between people.”(4)

One such relationship was recently shown on BBC Two’s Artsnight.(5)

Nicolas Serota explores the role of art in the 21st Century and the changes happening outside of the gallery space – revealing projects that utilise the Internet and the gallery space.  The Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art has been exploring the work of The Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise, a group based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa.  Through Dutch artist Renzo Martens he brings together plantation workers who engage in art making at settlements of the Institute for Human Activities in the country’s rainforest, for the purpose of affecting social change.

‘The current exhibition features sculptural portraits or representations of art-market figures such as the collector. Each one is moulded from clay and then reproduced in Belgian chocolate through multiple technologies, including 3D scanning and printing. Profits generated from the sale of these works are directed back to the plantation workers, improving their living conditions and help redressing global economic inequalities.’(6)

These experiences are being explored in the community of Middlesbrough.  Groups of artists run workshops teaching how to work with local clay from Teesside, once used in the ceramic industry, creating new skills and learning, forming sustainable living – repositioning concepts on contemporary craft and art-making in the 21st Century with the traditional skills from the past.

New technologies are re-shaping the future of Visual Art – ready to be accessed online and 3D printed directly in the customers home.  These developing technologies will change the way artists collaborate with the community and the World at large – changing the way people see and think about art and craft-making, its production and the shifting creative economies of the future – no longer bound to a gallery and high street system.  Art and Design accessible to the individuals and communities via our developing Internet mindscape.

The future is now.

Powerpoint (Download): How has 20th Century collaborative practices influenced Contemporary Art in the 21st Century_


[1] Claire Bishop, The Social Turn, Artforum: 2006, Pg 1
[2] Ibid
[3] Rubens & Brueghel: A Working relationship
[4] Claire Bishop, The Social Turn, Artforum: 2006, Pg 4
[5] Nicolas Serota, BBC Newsnight: Artsnight, Series 3: 2, (London: BBC, 2016) [accessed Friday 13th May 2016]
[6] Ibid