PARALLEL PROJECT – contextual research and searching for a new language

Parallel Project

Post 2 – contextual research and the search for a new language

As the months have gone on I have continued to explore ideas for the parallel project. In my last post I wrote that I was beginning to narrow down my ideas to the focus on abstraction in my own practice as this seems to be the next step for me. So this post begins this exploration in more precise detail…

Topic: Exploring abstraction in my own practice.

Ideas from the course as starting points:

  1. Each of the sections of the Drawing 2 Course has led me to explore at a deeper level eg: mark making to add expressive or narrative elements, drawing blind, emotional responses to direct physical mark making, responding to music and finally responding to nature’s drawing
  2. contextual research in the course: From the start the course has directed me to research a very exciting list of artist: Elizabeth Blackadder, Prunella Clough, Angela Eames, Cornelia Parker, Pierrette Bloch and finally Emily Kame Kngwarreye. Each of these artists has used drawing as a response to the world around them in new and totally individual ways. Their drawing reveals a process of inner exploration which goes beyond representation.


Contextual research:

My starting point for the contextual research has been to understand abstraction and to this end I have read the following:

  • ‘Spirituality in Contemporary Art-the idea of the numinous’

Jungu Yoon

  • ‘The Russian Experiment in Art 1863 – 1922’

Camilla Gray

  • ‘Place’

Tacita Dean and Jeremy Millar

  • ‘The Spiritual Dynamic in Modern Art: Art History Reconsidered, 1800 to the present”

Charlene Spretnak

  • “Point and Line to Plane”

Wassily Kandinsky

  • “Concerning the Spiritual in Art”

Wassily Kandinsky

  • “New York Studio Conversations”

Edited by Stephanie Buhmann


  • Article from The Burlington Magazine July 2015 – “Immortal mind: Christian Science and Ben Nicholson’s work of the 1930s” by Lucy Kent
  • Also article “An act of praise: religion and the work of Barbara Hepworth” by Lucy Kent
  • “Victor Pasmore: Towards a New Reality” – exhibition catalogue. Djanogly Gallery, Lakeside Arts, Nottingham
  • At present reading…. “Peter Lanyon – Modernism and the Land”

Andrew Causey

Still to read –

  • “Picasso – 50 years of his art” Alfred H Barr
  • “The Essential Cy Twombly” edited by Nicola Del Roscio


Practical Experimentation

The assignment drawings around the image of the bamboo planting have proved a starting point for experimentation into abstraction. I intend to further work with everyday images in this experimental work – at this stage I don’t want to confine the subject matter to any particular subject. I will be working in sketchbooks and paper.

Critical essay

I expect that the subject for the critical essay will evolve out of this work.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

I began by asking the question…

What is Abstraction?

Tate definition…” Abstract art is art that does not attempt to represent an accurate description of a visual reality but instead use shapes, colours, forms and gestural marks to achieve its effect.”

It may be based on a subject or may have no source in the external world.

Pure abstraction – no source in an external visual reality – Kazimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian from 1910-20. Theoretical ideas behind abstract art – that art should be purely about the creation of beautiful effects – that art can and should be like music. Music is a pattern of sounds so abstract art should be created by pure patterns of form, colour and line. Often seen as having a moral dimension.

Development from early twentieth century:

  1. Expressionism – involved highly intense colours often based on the artist’s inner feelings. Kandinsky saw his abstract paintings as a pathway to spirituality
  2. Cubism – always began with a subject from reality, then broken down into areas or planes, showing different viewpoints at the same time (influenced constructivism, neo-plasticism and orphism)
  3. Suprematism (1913) Malevich – freeing art from the natural world by developing a range of forms in intense colours
  4. Constructivism 1917 – made their own constructions from industrial material to reflect the dynamism of the modern world
  5. De Stijl/ Neo – Plasticism (1919) aftermath of world war – create paintings in their pure state – only primary colours and non colours in squares, rectangles, straight, horizontal or vertical lines
  6. Automatism (1920) creation of automatic paintings to reveal the unconscious mind – simplified organic shapes
  7. Action painting (1940-1950s) influenced by automatism –gestural. Improvised
  8. Color field painting (1940-1950s) another form of abstract expressionism – simple compositions of large soft-edged areas of colour – aimed at producing a meditational response
  9. Post-painterly abstraction (1950s) focused on form, colour, texture, scale, composition – rejected mysticism and external world
  10. Hard-edge painting (1960s) only monochromatic areas of clean edged colour emphasising the flatness of the surface
  11. Op art (1960s)

Practical work to find a new language


Exploring abstraction is a logical next step for me in my progress as an artist. As I look back over previous work to assess where I’ve reached and to look forward to what I want to say I find there is a consistent thread of investigation and interest in abstraction. There have also been several aspects of the Drawing 2 course which have stimulated this interest. I’ve reached the stage where I’ve been taught the skills for responding to the world as I see it and my desire now is to look beyond this visual response to another reality.

In the final work for the last course in Mixed Media, I began exploring a visual response to sound and this served to open thought up to using other senses. As mentioned Drawing 2 encouraged this interest using touch, sound, emotional energy and looking at a wider stimulus in the world around us for mark making and visual responses. I’ve also found the research suggestions in Drawing 2 to be especially stimulating and exciting and my interest in artists who are working in abstraction has deepened.

For me the whole concept behind Drawing 2 has been to challenge one’s preconceived ideas of what the eye sees as reality. Drawing can be used in many ways. I am able to use drawing to represent what I see but I want to use it to find a way into drawing another reality. Victor Pasmore, stressing that his visual forms came out of his mind, put it this way: “…what I have done …is not the result of a process of abstraction in front of nature, but a method of construction emanating from within…” page 59 Victor Pasmore ‘Towards a New Reality’.

I’m learning the importance of following through with whatever thought comes even though I can’t see any relevance or outcome…

My first practical work is taking the form of a daily diary without words…see separate post for images.



The idea to work on a daily diary came from needing to develop a new personal visual vocabulary and to develop confidence in my own marks and see them as authentic and real.

The Diary is raising all kinds of questions as I attempt to find my own personal journey through abstraction. I’ve started looking at ‘pure abstraction’ in the sense that there is no representation of a visual reality. However the ‘visual reality’ is in my head and in each of the daily entries there has always been a starting point in reality. I’m not interested in simply the creation of beautiful effects to quote the Tate’s definition. I want my work to express a different reality, one that exists in the mind.

I decided from the start that the images which went down on each page of the diary would remain untouched and I would not go back and alter anything. The motive for this decision came from the desire to break myself of the need to have every image ‘looking good’. What is on the page are feelings only- no attempt at composition!

It soon became clear how important one’s individual marks are when you remove any representation. It’s like learning a new language. You suddenly realize that you don’t have any vocabulary to convey meaning. This has meant that I need to dig deeper to discover the meaning behind my marks. The extraordinary result has been that I find marks and images appearing on the page which seem to come out of nowhere.

Because this is a learning exercise for me I keep a list of ‘words’ about each day on a separate sheet of paper. I’m doing this because I don’t want to fall into the trap of just making pleasing images.



Critical essay ideas

“Representation or abstract isn’t the point!”










About pbfarrar

I am an Australian living permanently in England. I have recently retired from the position of Principal of an independent school and have taken up the study of Fine Art with the OCA.
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