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Title: Shaping shadows : a practice of expansion painting
Author: Weng, Cheng-Chu
ISNI:       0000 0004 7431 2955
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2018
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Shaping Shadows: A Practice of Expansion Painting is a practice-based doctoral thesis. It centres upon a sustained art practice, offering a body of new work as a means to extend an understanding of painting in the expanded field. The practice in question is defined as a ‘sense’ of painting space, which operates through painterly compositional methods but developed through site-specific considerations of architectural spaces, bodies, and differing levels of consciousness when interacting in such spaces. The artworks range in scale from small punctuations in a room to large installations that fill and resonate with a defined space. The works are typically constructed out of unobtrusive materials, notably Japanese tissue papers, fabric, MDF board and wood, but crucially they are also ‘made’ of the immaterial elements of light, air and shadows. In differing ways, the works are experienced and completed by both artist and viewers, so establishing a set of conditions in which one’s individual thoughts and space-body dynamics are in play. Rather than simply presenting the work as further examples of painting in the expanded field (i.e. as a discursive, conceptual re-categorisation of painting), the thesis explores through its art practice a form of ‘expansion painting’, by which it is meant the artist’s sense of painting deliberates upon an expanded awareness of spaces, the in/visible materialities of light, shadow, air, and memories that accumulate from inner, private imagery and external shapes, patterns and forms. As a key element, medium and metaphor, shadow is at the heart of my practice research. It is both a component of practice and a metaphor of ambivalence (being both of and outside of an object, and suggestive of both distinctive and indistinct forms). Shadow becomes an ideal term and site of practice to build and examine subtle as well as alternative systems or structures, often ones that echo or ‘shadow’ existing dynamics of space, so that a ‘relief’ of images emerge, and/or are activated (as experienced physically in the space, and in the mind while engaging in the work). As such, the resulting artworks seek to provide an awareness of ‘being’ through what is referred to as ‘structures of ambiguity’. The thesis is brought together through both its practice and a written component. The latter offers an Introduction, setting out the main themes and concepts as well as ‘Notes on Practice’, which presents a ‘catalogue’ of the artworks produced. These opening components are followed by two main chapters. Chapter 1, ‘Painting in the Expanded Field’, establishes the historical and theoretical debates of painting in the expanded field and draws upon more recent literatures specific to the expansion of painting. It then considers the artist’s own work in relation to a series of examples of historical and contemporary practice (including remarks on the influence of minimalist art, as well as three specific case studies of contemporary artists whose works explore similar themes and material practice). Crucially, through ‘practicing’ a sense of painting space – defined as expansion painting – a phenomenological reading is undercurrent, which in turn enables a critical consideration of ‘structures of ambiguity’, which is the focus of Chapter 2, ‘Structures of Ambiguity: Grid, Frame, Screen and Stage’. This chapter offers an explicit account and contextualising of the mediums, materials and effects of the works. It leads to another way of seeing, as a deconstruction of space and in-between spaces. The thesis document concludes with ‘Finish: a Practice of Expansion Painting’, which draws together the key themes of the research through further contextualization of art history and theory. Expansion painting is not simply derived from historical, theoretical and philosophical debate, but must emerge through making and viewing the artwork as an open-ended experience. The artworks ‘finish’ at different moments of our being; they also respond to intellectual debates about the status of painting after the modern; and they are made of a very particular im/material ‘finish’ that is the signature of the practice. The underlying problematic of this thesis is the consideration of where objects and experiences begin and end, where boundary lines do or do not run. The ‘shaping’ of shadows is an attention to existing, spatial structures and their confluence with virtual structures of thought and experience. Thus, the medium of painting itself is pushed and pulled in this research, both expanding upon theoretical debates of the ‘expanded field’, as well as advancing its own practical inquiry. Indeed, ‘painting’ is presented as an exemplar of thinking and making.
Supervisor: Manghani, Sunil Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available