I was lucky enough this year to be given several opportunities to take my work out into the ‘real world’, and watch the public interact with it. In January, myself and two other students from my course were offered a paid scribing position for a conference about internet safety and wellbeing, run by WiseKids. It was my first time working in this kind of environment so I went into it with no idea what to expect. We were scribing the talks and panels as they happened, so we had to work at a very quick pace, but still create work that was concise and coherent, so that people could view it in the future and be able to understand the message. It was a fun but challenging day, that had the three of us working to adapt our skills to the task.
Another opportunity was the ‘Travelling Circus’, which was a sort of working exhibition that was organised and run by Tom Margett. A group of us from Illustration moved our practise out of the studio and into the Duke Street Arcade in town for a few days. It was a thoroughly enjoyable few days. It was exciting to be working in view of the public, and to be inhabiting a different space. We managed to lure a few members of the public into the arcade but mostly people came past and peered through the window at the work we were producing. I spent the 4 days creating a cloud painting, which I would later use for another exhibition, ‘Spectacular, Spectacular’.
Sophie Keen organised ‘Spectacular, Spectacular’, which was an exhibition where the participants involved had to submit and show work that focused around the theme of a spectacle or the spectacular. I submitted the painting I had done for ‘Travelling Circus’ because I consider the natural world, but in particular the skies, to be spectacular. I looked at similar themes in my dissertation, so this exhibition carried on with that body of work. The exhibition was incredibly well organised, with everyone getting involved in promoting and curating the show. On the opening night, I also received an offer to buy the painting I had on show, which I accepted. It was a really good boost to my belief in my own abilities as an artist and I tried to keep that motivation going in the build up to the degree show.
Trying to balance my time between completing the pieces I wanted to have on display in the degree show, and building the show itself was definitely a struggle. I spent the last two weeks before the deadline constantly covered in paint, either from my own work or from painting walls in the Illustration show space. I have two pieces on display, a book and a painting. The painting is one of the first things that people will see when they enter the show space, and I am interested to see what effect that will have on the viewers.
Alongside the physical work, I have been working on building my own website. I wanted it to have a very clean, white, minimal appearance. The portfolio of work that I am displaying on there is predominantly painting, with a series of drawings that accompany my Pit Pony project. If someone were to come across my website I would want them to see me as being more of a painter then anything else.
The link to my website is here: zjnunn.wordpress.com
I feel as though this year has been incredibly defining for me as an artist. The decision to start using oil paint in my work has given me direction throughout the year. The first oil painting I did was a blue-tinted landscape, with a large portion of the image being sky. I only did the painting to test out the paint at the time, but I think that was the starting point for the Cloud Project, that has been a work in progress throughout the year.
I haven’t ever done a project that I wanted to continue working on after the deadline, but I think this is definitely the case with The Cloud Project. After handing in the dissertation, I was pretty certain that I was sick of painting clouds, but after only a month or two I was finding myself being drawn back to it for the Travelling Circus. I painted a piece that I would later use for Spectacular Spectacular. Shortly after this I displayed a selection of my work from The Cloud Project in the cabinet for a week. Seeing the work on show as a collection, with a body of text alongside it to give it context served to reignite my interest in the project. I think having work from that project in the cabinet was successful, as it was well received and it helped move The Cloud project from being a pile of work on my desk to being work that had a place in the world.
The piece I did for Spectacular Spectacular was incredibly successful, in the sense that I managed to sell it. I had been considering putting it for up for sale but there was a part of my brain going “but if no one buys it then that means it’s not any good”, and I didn’t really want to deal with that. What happened instead, I was approached and made an offer, which of course I accepted. It really boosted my belief in my own ability, and it reinvigorated my enjoyment for The Cloud Project.
The other main body of work that I have been developing this year was the Pit Pony project, which still doesn’t have a better name then that. I was very lost after the Christmas holidays, and I was in the period, as I mentioned before, where I was sick of The Cloud Project. Over the space of a week several different things occurred that made my new direction feel like fate. I had been looking at some pictures of mining horses on pinterest, not deliberately, but I had been looking at other things and it had caught my attention. A few days after that I took a trip to St Fagans to get inspiration, which I found in the form of a book in the gift shop called ‘Harnessed’. It details lives of the horses and men who worked in the mines, specifically in Wales. A few days after this we had a visit from Kate Dicker, who I was lucky enough to have a tutorial with. She has been an incredible inspiration throughout this project, and I think it was her who properly kick-started it for me.
I spent the rest of the year working mainly on the Pit Pony project, occasionally dipping back into The Cloud Project, and then bringing the two together in a sense, for the exhibition.
In March I requested to put a collection of my work on display in the cabinet that sits in the entrance corridor to the building. I’d been thinking about putting work in there for a while but it wasn’t until this point that I finally felt like I had a solid, coherent body of work to display. I put up my work for the Cloud Project, and accompanied it with my text regarding what the clouds grew into a metaphor for. Having it all displayed together, with the text alongside, made it seem much more coherent then it had been before. I think putting it in the cabinet was a really successful move.
I made them because I wanted to make some textural things with plaster and I still can’t think of a reason for them but they belong with the Cloud Project because I said so.
When I wrote my dissertation proposal it had absolutely no relation to my subject work, but over summer I changed my idea and I believe it ended up shaping the development of my subject work. I changed the focus of my dissertation from feminism in Mad Max: Fury Road, to the presence of the romantic sublime in the film. The romantic sublime is something that I think I had been trying to capture in my own work without even realising what it was. The sublime is about creating extreme and contrasting feelings in the viewer, immersing them in awe and terror. I’m not necessarily going from quite that extreme, but I do want to create atmospheric and immersive pieces.
The artists I looked at in my dissertation, such as Turner, John Martin and Constable all overlap with my subject work. Looking at them for my dissertation gave me a greater understanding of their work, particularly Turner. I spent a lot of time reading in depth into his artistic career, and I believe he will continue to be an influence to me and my work.
Despite thinking I found a new direction for The Cloud Project over Christmas, when I came back to uni and tried to move forward with it I just could not get engaged with it. I still can’t pinpoint what exactly the reason was for getting sick with the project was. I think perhaps I’d just been working on it for too long. It was also just after handing in the Dissertation, and I think I needed a fresh start after that.
I put The Cloud Project to rest for a while, and didn’t pick it back up until the Travelling Circus Exhibition, a few months later.