Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Critical Thinking - BCOP100

Today's lecture was based on 'critical thinking'. We started by looking at 5 different ways of note taking which would aid us to help to think critically and logically when analysing a piece of work. These were:
- Outline method
- Cornell method
- Mind map method
- Flow method
- Write on slides method 

After, we began to define the meaning of 'critical thinking', which led us into understanding that it is the process of asking questions, looking into the meaning and significance of arguments, evaluating and assessing, weighing up evidence, making judgements, reflecting, discovering, and overall becoming a better and cleaner thinker.

Critical thinking is the "objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement" [2]

Our next task was to take notes while watching the short film, 'Wes Anderson Hotel Chevalier' (2007). The notes that I took in response are below:


After watching the film, as a class we were encouraged to share what we had written down and what we thought was happening. Certain things became obvious to us, like the use of colour and hidden details e.g the arrangement of objects on a table, however other elements such as the positioning of camera, were not so distinct. Anderson carefully positioned each scene so that there was a 'central line', in which everything else was positioned around. Furthermore, the use of just two colours was particularly interesting too, as only yellow and blue were depicted throughout the whole film.

Upon closer research these purposeful decisions taken by Wes Anderson (the director), allowed us to read between the lines and to learn new things about the characters. The main character (Jason) starts off in a yellow saturated room, which appears to be very exquisite and perhaps made to accommodate two people, rather than just the one. This allows us to assume that he is lonely, which is later backed up with the information that he has ran away from something and has lived in the hotel room 'for about a month'. After a mysterious phone call, a woman enters the room, and it becomes obvious that the two have some sort of history together. It is hard to judge whether their past was positive or negative, but the effort that Jason puts into organising the room and preparing himself, somewhat suggests that he has the means to 'impress' her in some way. Although the two do exchange some dialogue, as the clip is so short, all of the questions seem to remain unanswered. It seems that the small movie serves a more artistic purpose, rather than one that tells a deep and gripping story. Anderson definitely focuses on the composition of the scenes, the colours and the idea that 'actions speak louder than words'. The only thing that seems slightly suggestive is the theme of romance and past relationships, which is expressed through the body language of the two characters and the connotations of it being set in Paris: the city of love. 

[1] YouTube (2014). [online]. How to Take Notes in Class: The 5 Best Methods - College Info Geek. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AffuwyJZTQQ [Accessed on 22nd November 2016]
[2] Oxford Dictionaries (2016). [online]. Definition of critical thinking in English. Available at: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/critical_thinking [Accessed on 22nd November 2016]
[3] YouTube (2013). [online]. Hotel Chevalier - Wes Anderson (2007). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QzOuoaE7u4&oref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D0QzOuoaE7u4&has_verified=1 [Accessed on 22nd November 2016]

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Consumerism - BCOP100

In today's lecture, we looked at the idea of 'consumerism', and the material culture that we find ourselves living in. Consumerism is a big idea that has changed the world, just like capitalism. It's the ideology that we MUST consume more and more 'things', for example branded items like clothes, food and mobile phones. Such an idea has been influenced by the growing popularity of advertisement, which influences and tempts us to invest in the product that is being presented to us. Obviously advertisement can come in many different varieties, ranging from audio, visual and celebrity endorsement. Tactics such as these create envy and seduce us all into thinking that we all need to own a certain thing, in order to fit in with the rest of society.

However, these consumer tactics has created a 'throw-away society', in which material goods are being disposed off into land fill way before their expiry date. For example we discard of 1.5 million computers every year in the UK, 99% of which are in perfect working order [1]. Furthermore, the huge demand for luxury commodities create the need for billions of factories that in turn, release tonnes of carbon dioxide and other waste products into the environment - thus contributing to global warming. 

Although consumerism is directly linked to the rising global temperature and sea levels, it does have its benefits. Due to the consistent and rising demand for these material goods, consumerism does create thousands of jobs and is the primary reason for a growing, healthy economy. Therefore it is both good and bad. 

Consumerism to me is something that we are all part of (in the western world), and will remain something that we will all find hard to avoid. With a growing competitive world, it will always remain in a big cooperation's interest to sell their products to us in the most effective way, in order to gain an economic surplus. This is why I think that if anything, consumerism will only be exacerbated with the new and revolutionary ways of advertisement that these cooperations will enforce. We can however, consume more efficient and 'greener' technologies, along with adopting a more mindful outlook, we can remain to be consumers, but with a less destructive impact on the world around us.

[1] YouTube (2011). [online]. Big Ideas That Changed The World - Consumerism. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=B1F42B1D1E0763A1 [Accessed 15th November 2016)

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Reading The Material - BCOP100

Today's lecture was based on the subject of 'material'. Material can be interpreted to mean many things, for example, fabric 'material', 'material' in terms of consumer goods and brands, and 'material' as in the matter of the universe. Everything that we can physically experience is in fact a type of material.

We began to look into material typologies, which is when the same 'type of thing' are grouped together. It can be defined as, "a classification according to general type, especially in archaeology, psychology, or the social sciences." [1]

Taxonomies are a "scheme of classification" [2], e.g to group the same thing together, but to arrange them in size or colour order. This type of arrangement commonly creates captivating and 'pleasing to the eye' compositions, which can be commonly found in many artists work.

Materialism to me means to own and purchase branded items. In a growing modern and technological world, it becomes increasingly harder to avoid, and many of us find that we unintentionally fall into the category of being a materialist. Due to advertisement, consumerism and just trying to fit in with society, we all purchase the branded items that we have been 'brainwashed' to desire.

As part of Tuesday's lecture, we all had to bring in an item that we would normally have in our pocket or bags. We all laid these out onto the table, and as a whole they were all categorised into smaller groups. From this we had to produce a series of different observational drawings, which we had to produce a poster of a particular collection (a typology). I decided to draw travel items, and things you would commonly take with you on your travels: passport, train ticket, headphones, keys etc. 

We were told to work in our preferred medium, I chose watercolour and coloured pencil, in order to create my finished poster: 

[1] Oxford Dictionaries (2016). [online]. Definition of typology in English. Available at: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/typology [Accessed on 8th November 2016]
[2] Oxford Dictionaries (2016). [online]. Definition of taxonomy in English. Available at: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/taxonomy [Accessed on 8th November 2016)

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Semiotics - BCOP101

Today's lecture was on semiotics, which is the study of signs. We all learnt that signs are only signs, if they can be read and understood, and that it is in our human nature to communicate 'signs' in our everyday life. Whether this is intentional or unintentional, all human behaviour is communication in some way - we HAVE to communicate.

We then began to look at some artists that used both text and image to evoke thought and mystery. Magritte "this is not a pipe" was used as an example to show how two contradicting signs lead to a paradox of confusion - things that we see in art are just a representation of the real thing.

Ferdinand de Saussure created his own definition of a 'sign'. He said that, "the sign is the whole that results from the association from the signifier with the signified". What he means by this is that a sign becomes a sign, after being interpreted by the observer - it has to be understood to have meaning.

Furthermore, Charles Pierce claims that 'nothing is a sign, unless it is interpreted as a sign'. Pierce's 'Triad of Semiotics' demonstrated this:

We then moved onto image analysis, and looked into how different words have different meanings and connotations e.g in varying cultures. Denotation is a the description of a thing, whereas the connotation of something is the meaning or symbolism. These definitions helped us to begin to analyse different artworks, in order to learn more about the context and purpose of the piece. 

The Ambassadors (1533) by Hans Holbein, was used as an example whereby we could start to analyse in close detail. During class discussion we noticed that colours and objects were used to connote wealth, whereas skulls and broken strings were used to indicate the idea of death. Many of the items had a polysemic meaning, as they could be interpreted differently to give contrasting meanings.

'The Ambassadors', Hans Holbein, 1533

Image Analysis Task
Using the skills that we had acquired in the lecture, we put them to practice by analysing our own image and from which, we began writing a formal and contextual analysis from.

'Monkeys and Spaniels Playing', Francis Barlow, 1661

Formal Analysis
'Monkeys and Spaniels Playing' is an oil painting by the artist Francis Barlow. It was painted in 1661, and measures 105.5 x 132 cm. The most obvious thing is the use of earthy colours, hues of orange and beige dominate the piece, and with the addition of complimentary deep blues, the picture seems balanced and harmonious. Overall, the image is very dark, with the foreground slightly illuminated and the golden clouds in the background providing a rich glow.

The image depicts 3D forms that are presented in full tone to show their realistic form and shape. Barlow used precise line to create a hyper-realistic representation of the animals - which was particularly new in his time. Visually, he has represented and conveyed the sense of texture very well, especially in the fur of the animals.

Although the image is balanced in colour, it could be argued that the subjects in the piece create the sense of imbalance. It seems that Barlow has created the sense of chaos in the right side of the picture, whereas the left seems to be relatively calm and tranquil. This technique could have been used to create an off-centre focal point, which would create a slightly more interesting composition - one that is more captivating to the eye. However as a whole, Barlow has been able to capture 'variety' in his painting. It is upon closer inspection that you start to notice the immense detail included in the scene, for example the fly on the wall. So although it could be argued that the focus is off-centre, this has not lead Barlow to neglect part of the piece. Instead he has focused in great detail to the whole scene, and painted in the same amount of precision throughout.

After researching the painting, it has become evident that 'the oil paint was applied with small, smooth brushes for the animals, and architecture and with longer and stiffer ones in the landscape' [1]. This technique could have been used in order to create the illusion of distance and depth in the scene.

Overall, this oil painting leads the eye to discover the hidden details in the piece. Barlow was known for his animal paintings, and is believed to be the 'earliest British born animal painter' [2]. Furthermore, this piece is believed to have been commissioned by a pet owner, who would then hang the painting above a door in their home. The inclusion of both dogs and monkeys could indicate that the owners were particularly wealthy; i.e to firstly commission the piece, and secondly to own such exotic animals. [2]

Although this particular painting isn't perhaps Barlow's most recognised piece, it certainly demonstrates his immense skill and precision in portraying challenging scenes involving animals.

Context Analysis
The subject matter shows both spaniels and monkeys playing together on a stone construction and illuminated golden-hued pot. The photo-realist style suggests that perhaps Barlow painted from life, this comes from an infrared examination, which revealed that the dogs had been laid in with thick, boldly applied black under paint, which provides a shadow to the form. On the other hand, the monkeys are not under painted, indicating that they were not drawn from life and instead from studio patterns. [1]

Animal paintings at this time were largely associated with decorative arts and interior design [2], which suggests that this piece was commissioned by someone who owned such animals, and therefore were from a higher class. Although no symbolism is particularly evident in this piece, it could be argued that the way that part of the picture is highlighted, this could be to 'highlight' the superiority of these people in society (the monkeys and dogs symbolising the higher class). In contrast, the lower class people could be symbolised through the use of the darkened landscape in the background, almost signifying that they are often forgotten or lost in communities - only the wealthiest were focused upon, or viewed as 'important'. This interpretation however, is not in any way suggested by Barlow himself, but is instead just one possible interpretation of the piece when reading into the signs and connotations of the painting.

The painting is currently in the Tate Britain (room 1650). It was purchased with assistance from the 'Friends of the Tate Gallery' in 1989 [2]. Now the paintings function is to be observed, appreciated and to teach about the artist himself and the art in the 1600s. Whereas before, it is believed that such a piece would have been used to decorate a home, and could have possibly hung above a door. This change in function and purpose is common of paintings from the past, as they are arguably treasured more in the present than they were in the past.

The only thing about this painting that remains a mystery, is the fly/moth on the wall. Maybe there is a hidden meaning behind it, or maybe it is simply there for Barlow to allow the animals to 'play' or to immerse them further into the scene? This, and whether the painting at all has any hidden meaning, will remain a mystery.

[1] Tate (2005). [online]. Monkeys and Dogs Playing 1661 by Francis Barlow. Rica Jones and Joyce Townsend. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/about/projects/tudor-stuart-technical-research/technical-entries/francis-barlow-2 [Accessed on 1st November 2016]
[2] Tate (2016). [online]. Francis Barlow, Monkeys and Dogs Playing. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/barlow-monkeys-and-dogs-playing-t05572 [Accessed on 1st November 2016]