Experiment 4 – Formats

Problem

I have learned through the previous three experiments a way to combine text and image assets using an authentic personal voice.

The problem is that I haven’t decided on an output format for the work.

Hypothesis

Analysing my contextual research, (how other visual artists have responded to the pandemic), will give me the insights to select suitable output formats so that I can create artwork and produce final products for:

  1. Visual development work for Assignment 5 Critical Review
  2. A proposal for a broader piece of work that covers the full extent of the pandemic diary content

Expected results

I will select an output format for the Assignment 5 visual development work and have options for a broader project.

What happened

An opportunity came up to exhibit at Adams Gallery as part of their 2022 Summer Exhibition.

The gallery’s requirements:

  • Two works to hang – no size limits specified
  • Two works for customer to browse i.e. not wall mounted – no size limit specified
  • Two cards – no size specified

Final product needs to be ready six weeks from now which would time it nicely with my deadline for submitting Visual Research for assessment.

This gives me a ‘live’ brief to work towards for the visual development work.

Contextual research

The following section contains a brief overview of the artist research including work by:

  • David Hughes
  • Vic Lee
  • David Hockney
  • The Crown Letter
  • Fran Monks
  • Tim King
  • Matthew Hodson

David Hughes

In the forward to The Pandemic Sketchbook, David Hughes describes how he made 798 drawings in the first 12-months of lockdown. They are bitingly satirical and brilliantly illustrated. Text and image are combined.

The book contains a “digested read of 100 of those drawings, not necessarily the best ones but ones that attempt to convey certain pivotal moments throughout 2020-2021“. (Hughes, 2021:4)

Pages from the sketchbooks were photographed using an iPad and reproduced in the book with little or no image manipulation. The sketches have a raw feeling.

Many of the drawings were exhibited at Drawing Blood-Before & After, an exhibition of his illustrations and sculptures at The Drawing Schools. Eton College in the spring of 2022.

Fig 1 – A selection of drawings and sculptures from Drawing Blood-Before & After (2022)
Fig 2 – The front cover of The Pandemic Sketchbook (2022)

Vic Lee

Vic Lee started his Corona Diary 2020 as “a way to deal with the uncertainty, confusion and anxiety I felt shortly after news of the pandemic began“. (Lee, 2020:2).

The illustrations capture global news events and personal stories from mid-February 2020 to the end of the year. The information is delivered in the same fairly dense layout and visual style throughout, so pace and volume don’t really change. Whilst the diary has value as a record of events, I don’t think the way the information is delivered makes it very readable.

Fig 3 – A double page spread from Vic ~Lee’s Corona Diary 2020 (2020)

David Hockney

David Hockney. 220 for 2020 (Hockney, 2022) was published as a collectors edition in April 2022. The box set consists of a book containing 220 (plus 4 bonus prints), of iPad paintings from 2020, and an extra volume with facsimiles of two sketchbooks created in the build-up to the project. Both books are contained within a large clamshell presentation box.

Each volume is numbered, stamped and signed by the artist.

The paintings are of the seasonal landscapes surrounding his house in Normandy where he spent lockdown.

The crown letter

The Crown Letter started during the first lockdown by French artist Natacha Nisic, and is a “worldwide open platform for the free expression of women artists”. The Crown Letter is released to subscribers every Tuesday.

Back issues of the newsletter are organised chronologically on a website.

Content includes photography, video, drawings, paintings poetry and prose.

The website describes the collaborative project as “the intimate and collective diary of the pandemic” (crownproject.art, 2022).

What I learned from the website is a way to chunk up content into discrete periods of time. I used this as a rule when selecting content assets for Experiments 2 and 3.

Fig 5 – A screenshot of The Crown Letter home page (2022)

Fran Monks

Fran Monks is a photographer who describes her professional aim as ” to use portraiture to celebrate the undercelebrated” (BBC News, 2020).

During lockdown she adapted her process. Social distancing rules prevented her from photographing people face-to-face so she started photographing her subjects over video calls. This became a much more collaborative process and meant working within the constraints of the technology.

The photographs are small vignettes into people’s lives and capture people and place within a lockdown context. Each image is accompanied by a short descriptive text describing some aspect of the subject and the image.

Photographs are organised into categories on her website:

  • Social distance – Lockdown Mark 1
  • Europeans under lockdown
  • Homeschooling Mothers 2020
  • Vaccine Trial Participants by Zoom
  • Jericho Singers on Zoom
  • US Scientists via Zoom
  • Climate Change negotiators
  • Zoom Vacations 2020
Fig 6 – Social distance – Lockdown Mark 1 (2020)

Tim King

Reportage illustrator Tim King challenged himself to capture events of 2020 in a drawing a day. He describes the project on his website: “Using reportage illustration I captured the atmosphere, attitudes, and opinions of life as it happened” (King, 2021).

The illustrations combine image and text commentary and dialogue and he draws on different papers and found objects such as Covid masks and protective gloves.

Images in the book are organised in chronological order.

He used Kickstarter as a way to raise funds to turn his 366 images into a book.

Because the images are all reportage and portray particular aspects and events of the pandemic that most readers in the UK will be familiar with, I think the diary format works.

Fig 7 – Clap fatigue (2020)

Gap analysis

The table below contains a gaps analysis of different output formats derived from artist research and my own ideas. The pros and cons are an assessment of how my own pandemic diary content could work in a particular format.

NoFormatProsCons
1Book – Diary format with content organised chronologically by date.This was the format I originally perceived. The story arc is easy to understand.
I have the technical skills to create print-ready artwork.
The quality of the content is inconsistent.
There is a huge amount, and creating a book containing content from each day would be a huge and expensive undertaking.
Production costs would be extremely high.
2Book – Highlights of the year. Curated content organised logically using a pandemic frame – the content treatment would be similar to that used in Experiments 2 and 3.Would allow me to select/combine/treat content assets (as per previous experiments) with freedom. Focus on themes where there is strong content.
More interesting and entertaining for a reader.
There is enough content to allow me to do this.
Taps directly into my personal voice.
I have the technical skills to create print ready artwork.
This would be a major undertaking in terms of time and effort.
Production costs would be high.
3Website – A static brochureware website. Content arranged by date but displayed in a range of different ways based on content taxonomy/classification/taggingI have the knowledge and experience to build this as a solution. This would be a major undertaking in terms of time and effort.
I’m not clear who the audience would be for this
4Website/social media- Dynamic content displayed to the user based on a set of filters/rules that displays content dynamically based on content taxonomy/classification/taggingI have the knowledge and experience to specify requirements for this solution and provide content assetsAs above. Additionally there would be external cost for software development
5Website – Dada chance operations. This would use the same approach as the previous option but display text and image assets using an algorithm to combine them randomlyAs aboveAs above
6Exhibition box – Curated set of images and texts presented in a portable format.A flexible format that would work well with a curated set of content.
The size and shape of the content is also flexible and would fit to available time and effort.
There would be some production costs.
7Postcards – Make your own story cards. A physical version of option 5Works well conceptually i.e. build your own narrative.
Size and shape of the project could flex depending on time/effort/budget constraints.
There would be some production costs.
8Physical exhibition of curated images (i.e. not the original pandemic drawings)A version of option 6. Size and shape of work for display flexible. Low production costs. Could test the work out on an audience to learn if it works before scaling up/trying a different approach.
Already have an opportunity to exhibit in Adams Gallery.
There would be some production costs (low compared to other options).
9Physical exhibition of original pandemic drawings and curated works. Could be interesting. Chance to organise content in a completely different way.
Could lead with curated works and display original drawings and notebooks as context?
Could be a good option to pitch to galleries?
Would require a large space. Unclear how to display 500 plus drawings
10Virtual exhibition – A digital version of option 8 or 9. Different to the website options in that images would be heavily curated and the user experience more directed.There are galleries offering open calls for work as part of group virtual exhibitions but these would be for one-off pieces of work.Unclear how successful virtual exhibitions are as Covid lockdown restrictions lift. Why would anyone find/look at the content?

Conclusions

Visual development format

Option 8 Physical exhibition of curated images – this allows me to take advantage of and learn the lessons from a real ‘live’ opportunity.

I will also pitch the new work at other galleries – this builds on the work and learnings from the Print editions experiment.

Further development

The ever increasing volume of source material and the fact, through these experiments, I’m discovering interesting ways to present it gives me confidence that I’ll be able to develop it into a larger project. To a certain extent, what that might look like depends on lessons learned from exhibiting the work at a smaller scale.

I can see opportunities to pitch ideas to galleries for a larger exhibition and/or to bid for funding to develop one of the other formats.

What I learned

There are a range of potential formats I could use to display the work.

What I’ll do next

Develop final artwork (silkscreen prints and risographs), to exhibit at Adams Gallery.

Consider exploring other formats further as part of Unit 3 Sustaining your practice.

References

List of illustrations

Figure 1 – Hughes, David (2022) A selection of drawings and sculptures from Drawing Blood-Before & After [Photograph] Eton: The Drawing Schools. 03/03/2022 – 15/05/2022.

Figure 2 – Hughes, David (2021) The front cover of The Pandemic Sketchbook In: Hughes, David (2021) The Pandemic Sketchbook.

Figure 3 – Lee Vic (2020) A double page spread from Vic Lee’s Corona Diary 2020 [Illustration] In: Vic (2020) Lee’s Corona Diary 2020. London: Frances Lincoln p. 4-5.

Figure 4 – TASCHEN (s.d.) David Hockney. 220 for 2020. At: https://www.taschen.com/pages/en/catalogue/art/all/60012/facts.david_hockney_220_for_2020.htm?change_user_country=GB&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI7OSvlvPm9gIV-ZBoCR1hsAR2EAQYBCABEgJW6vD_BwE (Accessed 27/03/2022).

Figure 5 – The Crown Letter (2022) A screenshot of The Crown Letter home page [Website] At: crownproject.art (Accessed: 31/03/2022).

Figure 6 – Monks, Fran (2020) Social distance – Lockdown Mark 1 [Photograph] At: https://www.franmonks.com/social-distance-lockdown-mark-i (Accessed: 31/03/2022).

Figure 7 – King, Tim (2020) 2020: A Drawing A Day (s.d.) At: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/452763227/2020-a-drawing-a-day (Accessed 13/04/2021).

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