An examination of the place of fresco in contemporary art practice
This dissertation is the outcome of a practice-based research inquiry into innovations in processes and materials leading to a contemporary fresco. The research is in three parts: 1) the textual establishment of a historical framework for fresco; 2) an exhibition, Channelling Time, at the Lethaby Gallery, from 22 April to 3 May 2003; and 3) a critical analysis and conclusion that defines the research. The thesis is intended to explore issues in experimental fresco works and to provide a critical account of techniques, uses, and positions of fresco in twentieth-century art. It also aims to propose new aesthetic values in contemporary art. Chapters I-IV reappraise modern fresco by weighing historical precedent and influence from other artistic mediums. Throughout these chapters it is argued that fresco can establish itself as a current in contemporary art by understanding how its contexts and media differ from traditional painterly approaches to contemporary fresco and an organic relationship to architectural space. The research also discusses how contemporary fresco extends its boundaries with three different types of works: 1) site-specific projects; 2) portable frescoes and fresco installations; and 3) fresco sculptures and frescoes in mixed media. Interviews with major fresco artists examine how their work contributes to the creation of contemporary fresco and its new aesthetics. This research was used as a basis for discussing fresco in practice. It is developed in Chapter V, 'An Ongoing Inquiry through Creative Practice' and was presented at the exhibition in the Lethaby Gallery, the catalogue of which is included. The crux of the exhibition and the culmination of my research is an analysis of fresco's autonomy, diversity, and development from a traditional to a contemporary medium. The exhibition Channelling Time set out to establish fresco as a protean genre that expresses a variety of discourses of fresco.