Analysing Art Workshop

Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Research & Reflection

I had the pleasure of attending an analysing art workshop which has provided me with many new ideas for how to approach works of art and has made me reflect on how I have been analysing pieces previously.

As part of the workshop, we chose from a selection of images of artwork to analyse. I was drawn to a sculpture by Adrian Villar Rojas:

Image from Adam Thompson’s Padlet

Step 1 – Initial Response

In this, we were challenged to write down five words that come to mind when looking at the piece. Then, spend more time looking and come up with three questions about the piece.

Five Words

  • Sandwich
  • Destruction
  • Man-made
  • Trapped
  • Regeneration

This was a powerful exercise to me as it made me contemplate the gut reaction you get to a piece of art. Often, we jump straight into analysis without thinking about why we have even been drawn to that piece in the first place.

Three Questions

1. Were the plants put in there or has it been left to grow naturally?
2. What are the top and bottom made of?
3. What do the embedded objects represent? 

Again, I found this powerful as to me, good art should make us ask questions. To me, it is what makes art interesting, the thoughts and ideas that it arouses in us. However, I don’t feel like I have ever written down these initial ideas and questions like this before and it is something I am going to do with pieces in the future.

Step 2 – Description

The crux of the idea here is to describe what you are looking at to someone who can’t see it. Imagine you are talking to someone on the telephone about the pieces of art in front of you.

From the photo, it seems like a massive structure that fills a large section of the room. From the objects embedded like the trainer, you get a sense of size.  It is a multi-layered cylinder structure that seems to have a top and bottom made from concrete industrial waste like sections of a concrete tank. Between the top and bottom are sandwiched in layers, dirt, stones and what looks like more concrete. Growing in the dirt are different plants, some saplings, a bulb, grass and leafy plants. They don’t look planted but as though nature has retaken the object. Also embedded are various items of clothing, trainers and rope and some objects that could possibly be a football? Again these are scattered randomly as if they have been dumped or hidden in a rush. The trainer is a Nike, brand name and looks new. We don’t know how it has ended up there. Maybe not quite perfect from a factory and left with the other waste?

The whole structure is a mix of nature, industry, waste and consumer products. It looks like it could have been dug up from the ground and we are left wondering who made the objects and how have new items being left discarded like this? 

My thhoughts in the workshop

Step 3 – Context

Now comes the research stage. This made me contemplate the order I have analysed in the past. I tend to jump straight to this step without completing Steps 1 and 2 first. We did have some discussion in the workshop about this, and I agree with another participant that it comes down to confidence in many cases. I don’t think I yet trust my own judgement without referring to other people’s thoughts first. When I reflect on this, it doesn’t make sense. Art is subjective and we should all have our own opinions and emotions about it, we should never rely on someone else to interpret it for us. Reading others’ opinions is important as it can challenge our thinking but it should never be at the expense of our own thoughts.

Name – Adrian Villar Rojas
Nationality – Argentinian
Title of Work  – Where the Slaves Live
Date of completion – 2014
Dimensions – 240 x 550 x 24 cm
Medium – found materials
Where can it be found – La Fondation Louis Vuitton Gallery

“intended as a living sculpture”
artists own materials are embedded.

The idea that the human becomes part of the ecosystem. The Anthropocene period. 

Confronts the idea of human extinction.  

“where the slaves live” as a title – who are the slaves it is referring to? – “whose title recalls the Latin root of the word “vernacular” but also a indication of France’s history with slavery?

Context research from workshop

Step 4 – Interpretation

In this step, you start to pull together the first 3 steps and place the art in a context with interpretation. We didn’t really have enough time on the day to do this step fully as I feel like this could be the step that takes the longest time and has the potential for the most in-depth work.

There are many ways to go about this step and we have a whole series of questions to prompt our thinking.

I think when considering this piece alongside his other pieces the common theme seems to be the impact of the Anthropocene and potential human extinction.  It gives us a feeling of what might be left behind when we are gone. As if some time in the future a time capsule has been dug up and someone’s life just ended and their belongings were left behind. 

This invokes a feeling of inevitability about life and can make us stop and reflect on how we are impacting the environment and what our mark that we leave behind will be. Do branded trainers really matter when they are going to be left behind to just rot in the Earth.

There is also a strange feeling of optimism that no matter how much we destroy the environment, it will start to take over again. There is a feeling of the plants growing to heal the scars left by man. 

My interpretation from the workshop

Step 5 – Judgement

In this step, we are making a subjective judgement. Do we like the piece? Is it successful? What would we change about it?

I chose this piece as it was unusual and I wondered what on earth it was. It intrigued me and I immediately had lots of questions about it.

After reading about it and looking at it more closely I am not sure “like” is the correct word. It is an ugly piece aesthetically and in that ugliness, it leads me to question the impermanence of humans and the impact we are having. The ugliness is depressing to look at but also depressing to think about in a misanthropic way. 

In this way, the piece is successful as we need to be asking these questions of our species. 

Judgement from the workshop

Painting Based on The Road

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 2: Encountering Time - A Critical Analysis, Research & Reflection, Sketchbook

After reading The Road extract I wanted to create something in response to the imagery.

I only used burnt sienna acrylic paint to pare back the colours and add to the atmosphere.

I am pleased with my composition as it draws you along the road and the loose nature of the surroundings add to the atmosphere. It feels like the world is closing in on them but the road is giving hope.

Feedback from others

Great work on the shadows on the road!

Great atmosphere and draws your eyes to the distance really well

It reminds me of Russia!

Kirstie Macleod – The Red Dress

Creative Arts BA (Hons), Exhibitions, Other Projects, Research & Reflection

A 12-Year, Award-Winning, Global, Collaborative Embroidery Project by Kirstie Macleod

The idea of uniting people and women from all over the world.

Forst stitches were in 2009, since then it has travelled around the world.

OCASA event had the artist Kirstie Macleod talk about her work which I had the pleasure of attending recently.

British textile artist Kirstie Macleod began the Red Dress Project in 2009. Initially, exhibiting the dress as an installation, wearing it as she sat in a clear cube working on the embroidery. During the next 12 years the dress took on a life of its own, becoming a platform for women, particularly refugees, the impoverished and those living in war torn countries, to express their feelings and tell their stories. Embroiderers from across the world used stitches that reflected both their culture and country, making the dress an international and multi-cultural piece of textile art.

Assignment 2 Feedback

Assignment 2 - Encountering Time, Assignments, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Research & Reflection

I received my assignment 2 feedback last week and thought it would be useful to reflect upon it.


  • My work is thorough and organised.
  • I demonstrate excellent research skills and critical reflection.
  • I am learning from a wide range of creative disciplines and broadening my knowledge and understanding.
  • I am expanding my critical and theoretical competencies.
  • Using a Venn diagram in a creative way to display research more visually.
  • My research observations are excellent in compiling historical, contextual and observational information.

Points to Improve/Consider

  • My analysis can be sometimes too broad in scope. Consider narrowing down to the specifics of what types of art etc.
  • Begin to establish a clearer idea of my creative direction.
  • Experiment with ideas and materials alongside contextual work.
  • Do more making and less written reflection.
  • Activate research in a way that draws connection to my creative ideas.
  • Look at Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate to compare to Aitken’s Mirror.
  • Write reflections for assignments using the learning outcomes for 1.1 Experience Creative Arts.
  • Include access dates in references.


Overall I am happy with the feedback I received here. I was aware that time was an issue for this assignment and I neglected some of the more creative responses to just get to the submission point. I am pleased that my tutor thinks that I have good research skills and that my referencing has improved. I do feel this is a real strength of mine. I do need to continue forwards trying to incorporate a more creative way of tackling each exercise and to include more images of my own sketches, ideas and creations.


Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 3: Understanding Interdisciplinarity, Research & Reflection

I thought it would be useful to write down some of my ideas about what interdisciplinarity is before I properly embark on this unit, to see how my ideas evolve as I learn more about it.

For me, it seems a modern phenomenon to separate out ideas into academic subjects. When you look back at ancient times in the early days of academia, people studied far more holistically. The greats of Aristotle, Plato etc weren’t experts in one subject, they interweaved ideas to make new areas of study. Then over time, we seem to have become more and more streamlined in our thinking. In doing so, I think we have lost a lot of creativity and thinking.

Interdisciplinary working uses a range of disciplines to create something new. It involves transforming and creating a new language out of an integrated approach to both thinking and working. Its practical nature reaches outwards and therefore requires us to form connections with ideas from a broader cultural context.

OCA learning materials

This is getting back to a purer ore innate way of looking at the world. It is how children discover new things and learn. Young children don’t do “Art” and “Maths”, they make marks in the mud, count buttons, construct sculptures from sticks, make music using spoons and their plates.

Interdisciplinarity Definitions

Image from

I like this visual image on the oca learn site to explain what interdisciplinarity is. It goes beyond a cross-discipline (viewing one discipline from the position of another) and multidiscipline (working with different areas of study at the same time as separate entities) to more integrative practice.

Interdisciplinarity is the study of two or more disciplines with concepts from both the arts and broader global views with the aim to form something new (hybridised).

Lucian Freud: Real Lives


Tate Liverpool is showing a collection of Lucian Freud’s work throughout the seven decades of his working life in the Real Lives exhibition.

Lucian Freud

Lucian Freud was a German-born artist who lived between 1922-2011 and has been described as one of the leading figurative painters of the twentieth century. He explored portraiture in-depth and painted from life getting his models to pose in the studio for him. Some of the models sat for him for months meaning he developed a very intense relationship with them. He also painted self-portraits with the same intensity.

Early Works

Freud started by painting himself and his neighbours in the post-war period. You can already see the high attention to detail in his paintings. In Man with a Thistle, paint was in short supply after the war and so he used it sparingly, reportingly mixing it with household paints to make it go further.

Out of all the portraits on show, this is one that resonated with me. It is an artist starting out on their journey and somehow you feel that in the painting. By bringing the thistle in detracts from the figure slightly and I think this shows some of Freud’s own insecurities. He doesn’t want to be the star of the painting, it is almost a painting of a thistle that happens to have a man in the background.


When Freud starts painting other people like Charlie Lumley, Kitty Garman, Bella Freud, Kai Boyt, Lucie Freud and Celia Paul the person becomes the star, unlike the earlier self-portrait. Freud seems much more at ease painting other people.

What struck me about the girl with the white dog, in particular, is the level of detail. When you look closely at the dressing gown cord, you see how intensely he looked whilst painting. The textures he has created with the fabrics too makes them come alive. So even though the colours are still very muted, the painting has vibrance.


Freud often turned his attention to plants during periods of difficulty with relationships. My favourite piece in the whole exhibition is Two Plants. I was drawn to it as perhaps I resonate as I often struggle with people and turn to nature and plants for comfort. Like his portraits, the amount of detail is incredible and it must have been a very meditative experience painting all the individual leaves.

Two Leaves, 1977-1980 Lucian Freud

Apple Image Idea

Images, Other Projects, Sketchbook

I came across this saying and it made me think about the exercise on apples.

It is important to live as if we are always on the eve of a great discovery and prepare to welcome it as completely, intimately and ardently as we can.

Unknown Author

The idea of discovery made me think of apples and knowledge but in a childlike way where everything is a chance to learn. We sometimes lose that as adults but this reminds me to get back into the playful mode.

I experimented with the colour, inspired by some of the scenes in Amelie where a green filter is applied to make the red of the apple stand out more.

The font is meant to look Biblical, emphasised with the capitalising of “Eve” to remind us of one of the symbols of knowledge in the Book of Genesis.

This was a quick mock-up just using Canva, but it is an idea I may develop further. At the moment it feels too “social media” as if it is something that people share for inspiration without truly reflecting on it.

Liverpool Mountain – Ugo Rondinone

Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Exhibitions, Research & Reflection

Liverpool Mountain (Rondinone, 2018) is a 10-metre high sculpture situated outside Tate Liverpool in the heart of Liverpool’ historic waterfront. It consists of five vertically stacked rocks painted in bright fluorescent colours. The rocks are balanced to appear to defy gravity and contrasts strongly against the more muted colours of the Liverpool buildings and sky. It is thought to be reminiscent of ancient totems and has a land art feel to it too. It has taken a natural material of rock and placed it in a very unnatural position with manmade colour added.

Ugo Rondinone is a Swiss-born artist now based in New York. Liverpool Mountain is part of his Seven Magic Mountains project in Nevada and Miami.

The work has been described as being “instragammable” and I can see why. It is imposing, seeks attention and cries out for its photo taken.

It contrasts with other land art I have seen and am aware of. This isn’t made to feel part of the natural world, the opposite. To me, it suggests a reflection on human’s interference with the land. The artist has taken natural rocks and stripped away all their natural beauty to make something that looks artificial. I think this also plays into the “Instagram” appeal as isn’t that what we do on social media. We take natural beauty and cover it in artificial filters to the point sometimes the original person no longer resembles their online image.


Rondinone, U. (2018). Liverpool Mountain. [Sculpture].

Comparison of Alice Kettle and Ibrahim Mahama

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 2: Encountering Time - A Critical Analysis, Research & Reflection

For exercise 4: Comparative Analysis, I have chosen to compare Alice Kettle’s Thread Bearing Witness (2018) and Ibrahim Mahama, Material Effects (2015.

I was drawn to compare these two due to their contrasting use of fabric in their work. Fabric is something I work with a lot and it was interesting to see two vastly different employments of it with a lot of commonalities too.

Venn diagram comparing Alice Kettle and Ibrahim Mahama

The overall aesthetic of the two pieces couldn’t be more different. They both do construct with fabric as the basis but in a very different way. Thread Bearing Witness is a large scale work involving highly coloured and detailed embroidery (Whitworth, 2018). The pieces take fabric as the basis but then teams of people embroider using a huge variety of stitches and colours and a plethora of designs. The connecting feature is the theme of cultural heritage, migration and the role of embroidery as a domestic practice worldwide. The variety in the designs is as wide as the people creating them and each person has a story to tell through their creation. When they are displayed together there is a sea of colour from blues, reds, turquoise to golds and yellows and everything in between. Material Effects also uses fabric as the basis but takes a monotone look due to brown jute being the only fabric used. The effect is a wall of brown, again huge in scale but this time the focus isn’t on the variety of stitches and fabric techniques, the impact is in only one significant fabric being used throughout (MSU, 2020). Mahama only use jute to make his giant installations. Jute is a symbol of global industrialism and the associated labour with it. There are also strong links to the colonial past and its historical link to empire. Jute is predominantly produced in a few countries in Asia and Latin America and then circulates worldwide through international trade networks (Amarica, 2018). 

A strong theme that runs through both pieces is the politics of movement. In Kettle’s case, the focus is on the movement of people through migration and the impact on people’s lives. Migration is one of the defining issues of our time and will continue to be through climate change and global conflict. It can be easy for us in the West to sit and watch the news about refugees and migrants and detach ourselves from it. Kettle brings the people behind the news into the limelight and gives them an opportunity to share their creativity and stories. In a similar way, with his use of jute, Mahama highlights the hidden people in the global labour force. By using a material directly linked to Ghanian cocoa production, he shows the integral role African labourers have in producing goods for western consumers. Through this, both are giving a voice and stage to marginalised people.

The production of both pieces although they use very different techniques have some similarities. Both are produced by cooperation and community. Kettle gets groups of migrants together to produce pieces for the collection and Mahama and his many collaborators work together in communal settings, which are often former sites of production — abandoned factories, train stations, markets, or courtyards.


Ibrahim Mahama, Material Effects, (2015)

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 2: Encountering Time - A Critical Analysis, Research & Reflection

Ibrahim Mahama is an artist from Ghana that creates spaces of social intervention that probe the boundaries between artistic antagonism and civil participation. His preferred medium is that of the burlap sack – in particular, that which was imported by the Ghana Cocoa Board and repurposed by charcoal sellers (MSU, 2020).

Mahama only use jute to make his giant installations. Jute is a symbol of global industrialism and the associated labour with it. There are also strong links to the colonial past and its historical link to empire. Jute is predominantly produced in a few countries in Asia and Latin America and then circulates worldwide through international trade networks (Amarica, 2018). There is a huge amount of physical labour involved in the production of jute sacks and Mahama highlights this by adding one more step in the process – his deconstruction and reassembly into gigantic works of art. Mahama and his many collaborators work together in communal settings, which are often former sites of production — abandoned factories, train stations, markets, or courtyards (Documenta14, 2015). Mahama is trying to highlight the people behind the processes as described by Amarica (2018) ” Regardless of the integral role played by African labourers in this industry, their efforts and the lived realities of rural poverty remain relatively unknown to Western consumers enjoying a decadent and luxurious product, such as chocolate. Here, global capitalist markets not only estrange Western consumers from Ghanaian labourers but render the latter invisible. By making use of a material directly tied to Ghanaian cocoa production, Mahama brings these discussions to the forefront and makes clear that we are all connected to, if not complicit in, the unequal power relations of commodity production”.


Amarica, S. (2018). Jute, Entangled Labour, and Global Capital. Esse, 94, pp.52–59.

Documenta14 (2015). Ibrahim Mahama. [online] Available at:

Michigan State University (2020). MSU Broad. [online] msu broad. Available at: