New drawings

It’s been a while since I’ve actually had chance to sit down and make things. I had started with a few ideas a couple of weeks ago but wasn’t really sure where to take them. That was when I discovered the Wellcome Collection. Seeing all the medical, tribal and ceremonial artefacts up close in a merging of art, science and belief, gave me the inspiration for some new work.

I headed over to my studio, with a pen, a sketchbook and a copy of Gray’s anatomy and set to work. I’d had a conversation with someone recently about making as thinking, and it surprised me how easily the work developed just through the process of drawing. I know that might seem obvious to some people, but it was a revelation to me.I’m not usually a massive fan of working in sketchbooks, preferring to dive straight into projects, but recently I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Dieter Roth’s sketchbooks in an exhibition and realised, not only is it a good way of channelling visual ideas, but it also shows an interesting back story to the viewer.

At this point in time these drawings are just sketchbook work, and I haven’t yet decided on the scale or exact media I want to use, but I anticipate them being the beginnings of screen prints, collages, tunnel books, and/or masks. So for now I’m going to continue with my information gathering and I’m looking forward to looking through the medical manuscripts in Special Collections at the Uni. I’ve also been thinking about the relevance of Da Vinci’s ‘Grotesques’, which ties in art and science references.

Neomedievalism

Q: What do the Mighty Boosh, 70s games programmers and the zombie apocalypse have in common?
A: Neomedievalism

In fact, neomedievalism doesn’t actually exist as a discrete academic discipline, as much as a collection of relevant discourses relating to the pre-modern era. This current para-discipline embodies a fascination with the medieval as a lens by which to justify the present and predict the future.

This concept was first brought to my attention through attending a lecture by Dr Neil Mulholland, Head of Postgraduate Programmes and Visual Culture at Edinburgh College of Art. His interest in this topic spans through his teaching and curatorial practice, into his work with the Confraternity of Neoflagellants. It also highlights some of the themes running through my own work at present. The lecture was split into three sections:

Geopolitical neomedievalism
The concept of neomedievalism was first coined by Hedley Bull in The Arnarchical Society, which described ‘a post Stalinist settlement; a system of overlapping authority and multiple loyalty’. Bull’s prophecy detailed the prominence of the localised city-state, and likens it to the shift from hierarchal to democratic systems. This is epitomised by the rise of the internet and social media, by allowing greater opportunities for sharing and networking.

Economic neomedievalism
The neomedieval ecomomy references changes in the means of production made necessary due to large scale pandemic. In the aftermath of the Black Death, the population of Europe having been severely diminished, improved production methods were required to make up for the decrease in skilled labour. In his new book, Makers: The New Industrial Revolution, Chris Anderson suggests a marked return to this kind of ‘prosumer’ society, where DIY culture, coupled with increased access to new technology, leads to more opportunities for democratising production processes in a similar way to the post-plague era.

Aesthetic neomedievalism 
There is a strong performative element to this new aesthetic movement, with artists such as Marcus Coates andPlastique Fantastique recontextualising shamanistic and folk rituals for contemporary audiences. Storytelling is also a particular feature, recreating the medieval oral tradition. Even one of this years Turner Prize nominees, Spartacus Chetwynd, specialises in the retelling of cultural phenomena throughout history, using heavily ritualised and improvised performance.

My own interests lie in how ritual is reproduced in art without repeating cultural stereotypes, and I’m keen to address this in a global context. This is supported by revisionist attitudes within Medieval Studies and independent publishing houses such as the Babel Working Group. I have also noticed a recent increase in Middle Eastern responses to Victorian Curiosity Cabinets which sheds new light on the subject from a different perspective.

Further information:
Speculative Medievalisms 
Postmedieval: A Journal of Medieval Cultural Studies
The Dark Monarch: Magic and Modernity in British Art
Altermodern
Best Flame War Ever
The Digital Potlatch

Image: Marcus Coates, Journey to the Lower World, Performance Still, 2004
Photo by Nick David. Courtesy of www.artvehicle.com