Spencer Roberts | The Problem of Research in Art and Design

I haven’t previously blogged any of Spencer’s lectures so far this year because they have not grasped my attention, and therefore I have had no interest in blogging them. However, his lecture yesterday on the 3rd November, I managed to keep up what was being said, and most importantly, understand why.  The lecture explored research in Art and design, however leaned more towards art.

Spencer began with theorist Christopher Frayling who had created  disciplinary criticisms within art in the RCA research papers. Spencer pointed out to us that is is quite interesting to use Frayling’s criticisms against his own argument and what he has done critically. Christopher Frayling wrote an abstract; this explored research, and its associated problems. But also said that due to research leads to innovation, providing examples of work to support this statement. He then calls out a stereotype of research in relation to his argument that Art History research, leads to the “doing” aspect of work.

Spencer then moved on to talk about Pablo Picasso and his relation to research. His cubist painting Les-Demoiselles-d-Avignon includes naked women wearing African masks. Spencer used this as an example, and said that Picasso hated the association to research and was skeptical to the process.Therefore when creating this painting, no research was involved. Instead, Picasso is influenced mainly from memory, such as the red light district in Barcelona, ancient sculptures and Cezzanes Monte. Picasso used to say ” to search means nothing in painting” and that there is a “visual intention”. Picasso also didn’t like talking about his own work, this is because he liked to have no fixed meanings and leave his paintings open for interpretation in a expressive fashion.

Spencer then moved on to talking about the cliche’s with Frayling, mainly the cinematic portrayal of artists and the Hollywood representation. He showed up a trailer for the film “Lust for Life” featuring Kirk Douglas playing Vincent Van Gogh.

Although the film is classed as fictional, it includes an exaggerated grain of truth. It is expressive, non-cognitive and critics artists who research, occasionally by artists themselves.

Spencer then proceeded his lecture towards the design aspect. He said there are two types of designers, pre 1980’s and 80’s onwards. Pre 1980’s he said are a boffin and influenced by war or sci fi, he said that designing is pragmatic for this type of designer. The 80’s onward designer is more a product of style, and influenced by tv shows such as Nathan Barley.

The 80’s onward designer considers is postmodern and considers images styles and signs.

Lastly, we talked about Fraying’s distinction.

  • Research into art and design (standard)
  • Research through art and design (applied research)
  • Action research (experimentation and research document)
  • Research for art and design

The last is the one that Fraying had the problem with. The work is intended to speak for itself. It was most significant and talked abut because people could not think of examples for it. Next session we will be carrying on from this topic.

I found this lecture to be most interesting of what Spencer has done so far this year. I was particularly interested in the referencing to Vincent Van Gogh and his thoughts to Research in art.

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