Chapter 3: Explanation, Understanding and Beyond, Sullivan, G., 2005.

This chapter discussed whether visual arts practice can be accepted as a form of research. The author also looked at how knowledge is accumulated in the practice of making art. One of the questions asked is ‘How can practical/intuitive understanding be theorized?’ and ‘How can new concepts be theorized?’ To answer these questions the author looks at a few different types of research methods and how they are applied within the University setting. The argument that is made is mostly in favor of the studio as a ‘place of inquiry and research that has potential to yield knowledge’. The first method is Practice Based Research which is the ‘making’ of art. At University level the art piece is submitted for examination along with a ‘substantial contextualisation’ of the work. This is a way of proving originality and judgement is made on whether the artist shows a contribution to knowledge in the field and ability to analyze. But the author claims that research should be seen as a ‘cultural practice rather than a codified form of academic inquiry’.

In the past artists tended to leave the explaining to aestheticians and historians. Some artists don’t talk about they’re work as they feel that nothing can be added to the visual image. Another reason they might not talk is because they feel that the ‘intelligence of creativity has been drastically underestimated by those outside the field of knowledge.’ But this isn’t an option anymore as the nature of artistic practice has changed the responsibility of the artist to cultural theorist and practitioner. Greta Refsum claims that if visual arts wants to have a theoretical framework then it must look at the processes that lead to the finished art. ‘Practice informs theory and theory informs practice.’ The author looks at Reflexive Practices which is research directed by ‘personal interest and creative insight’ but also informed by theory and discipline. The artist must ‘reflect’ on information and ‘question’ content and contexts as problematic situations. Postdiscipline Practices is another method which describes how visual arts research ‘takes place within and beyond the discipline boundaries as dimensions of theory explored and domains of inquiry adapted’. It is hard to define how an artist works as there is always a body of knowledge present before a project is begun. The author concludes by saying that university demands should be satisfied but the artist should keep a degree of integrity about what constitutes visual arts research. He also claims that because the artwork itself is in the public domain then it enters into a set of institutional relations and becomes part of an introspective regime.

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