Artist as Theorist (Lynn Pan)

This essay is about extensive artistic practices, which focuses on the artist-as-theorist. That means there’s potential pathways which can link artistic practices and theory. Ideas and actions can be linked in new ways. It examines the changing patterns and sites of visual arts inquiry. “Visual art” is not only a descriptive or representational form, but also a means of making images which can reveal new knowledge.
The author explain the relationship between theories and practices in three aspects: Making in Systems, Making in Communities, and Making in Cultures.
What I found interesting is the art practices of traveling in culture. The artists work as a ethnographer, use the form of visual art to real the new knowledge of humanites. Firstly, that means artists open up new system for art making. There are new visual forms and structures as new possibilities for the field of other knowledge. It also relates to both making in communities and making in cultures. On one hand, artists change their research sites form studios into the community. On the other hand, because of the globalization and technological advances, more and more artists work in different sites across the world. They move between and among cultures, leaving native place and going from one place to another in their life. Here artists do self-reflective through “otherness”—surroundings and objects. They show how they think about who they are in that way—the experience of “self-fashioning.
Here is a example for making in culture. Ah Xian, a Chinese artist now living in Australia exhibits his work inter- nationally. He struggles to explore the cultural values of his homeland and the adopted country. And use the art form of porcelain as a vehicle to think the culture knowledge of the old and the new, the east and the west.
I found the chapter is really related to my project. I also work with the local community, and travel in culture. The reading is very helpful.

From Lynn


About Lynn

need everything unexpected
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3 Responses to Artist as Theorist (Lynn Pan)

  1. Imoh Bare says:


    From my understanding of chapter five of the article ‘Art practice as research: inquiry in the visual arts’, artists inform themselves and others through their art which is largely influenced by the processes they undertake in order to achieve their end goal. Although the artist may have a system, and generally there are processes to follow, these shouldn’t be seen as barriers but as gateways to other artistic possibilities. Together with the adaptation of other skills in the different media that they might have combined to reach their desired results.

    This article can influence my personal perception of art, especially when it dealing with my ongoing project. in this sense I mean that the image or the visual perception of an art work can be inform the onlooker theoretically even though it is primarily practical.

  2. Jess says:

    I really liked this reading as well. Not only did it give me an interesting perspective on my own art work, but what has been influential in my own project. I found the section in this reading on aboriginal art in Australia quite interesting having lived there for four months.

    Aboriginal art is mostly composed of colorful dots from my experience. The colors and patterns are absolutely beautiful, but I have no knowledge into their basis or cultural backgrounds. The part in this chapter that discussed how anthropologists, historians, and artists never talk to one another about common things such as aboriginal art really struck home, because while I appreciate the art, I’ve never looked into its background.

    I think as Lynn points out, as international artists we push the boundaries on art and combine all of our experiences into it, but I think what we do need to keep in mind that while native art may inspire us artistically, there is a long history behind it and in order to better represent those forms in our work we need to do the research. Over all, I think that as artists we can all take a lot from this chapter.

  3. irem atalay says:

    On Sullivan’s “Artist as Theorist”-by irem

    In this chapter Sullivan outlines the new breath art has taken. From a modern era of fragmentation and specialization we have moved to an era of interaction and intersection of components. Different cultures, practices, approaches meet, touch and merge to create a limitless possibility of art and new ways of seeing.
    There are no boundaries for the artist to express a cross cultural mixed palette as practice in its dynamic character, with new technologies and mobility meet theory. The domain of art has spread as well as the domain of science and technology. These extensions are not simply the result of the developments in these fields but their intersections, creating new fields of study and work. Sullivan indicates that fields that were considered separate and irrelevant have come to a point where for truer understanding and knowledge, they have to interfere and relate with each other.

    Art does more than feeding and producing within its domain-on its definition, questioning and addressing. Every component of human life and every study conducted in order to undercover some aspects of humanity can be the subject of art. Artists now transcend the conventions whether it be system-wise or cultural or related with art. The transcendence goes even further with digitalization where artwork as object disappear and we can alter the conventions of time and space.
    The definition of studio is evolving from the ‘private space where the artists make work’ to communities, to the streets, to a broader social context of communication and systems that are intricate and hard to single out.

    Now contemporary art not only exceed traditions but use them, play and shift between the past and present to update the cultural reflections of our time.
    Transexperience as proposed by the artist Chen Zhen defines the phenomenon of being in-between cultures and systems, where the “departure from convention” brings about a “creative catalyst”.

    Personally I can very well relate to the chapter and the new breath of art because of my background. Studying sociology and working extensively with theory I passed on to the field of contemporary art which I see to encompass sociological understanding and theory, too. I very much got used to the question ‘what is art got to do with sociology?’ in this transition period and even still. On the other hand, I am from Turkey, from a different culture studying and making art in the UK. My work is based on using and playing with some aspects of my culture to bring it to a contemporary and more universal context.

    We can relate the new characteristics of art and other combining fields to the broader phenomenon of globalization. Contemporary artists themselves as mobil agents going from place to place and discipline to discipline are among the first to attain a universal passport in a way.

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