Visual Intelligences Research Project

Seminars : Artists' Seminar : Ian Kiaer

I was just thinking how to do this and I just answered each question quite briefly so it may be a little bit dry but I’ll read what I said because I wanted to talk about these questions.

“When you start a piece of work how much to you have an end in mind? Do you start with an image of what it might look like, or its effect or mood?"

I generally work thematically in terms of projects so the subject and ideas are there before the form is determined, yet when I start thinking about a piece there is usually some visual aspect that gets me involved. Working with models means that there is perhaps one motif that I begin with, whether in the form of a painting or a building or a fragment of something else that I feel conveys something of the subject, no matter how obliquely. It may be that I discard that particular motif as the work develops but I begin in that way. I may have some sense of what the work might look like, or it may be that I have a piece of material that has a particular quality that I feel will serve the work. Often I find and bring different materials and try out different models as the work develops and that means that I can’t be too prescriptive. There’s often a frustration where a model that I like very much on its own terms or I feel serves the subject matter appropriately, does not work formally with the other motifs.

Next question: “Some artists describe the creative process in qualitative terms as a series of judgements about such things as aesthetic quality, communicative power, the work’s internal logic and so on. Other artists are more procedural and systematic. How do you negotiate and develop your process? What type of decisions do you make?”

In the previous question you used the term effect/mood. I feel this is important to the way I work though I think that 'tone' is a better word as often I try to judge the right tone of the subject I’m working with. This may sound very subjective and irritating and I can understand why people call for a theory of aesthetics to somehow pin the terms and mechanisms down, but I do feel that ultimately making the right judgement for my work is about the particular tone or mood it gives off. Again in working with relationships between models, paintings and found objects I feel the right rapport needs to be established between the entities. I was very much struck, a long time ago, by a small plaster sculpture that is in Tate Modern by Georges Van Tangelo, called Rapport de Volume. It seemed to me to describe a way of working - that might place me in the internal logic camp, which I’m not sure I like. In one work different models convey different kinds and different amounts of information. A found object may signify a particular scale, whether in relation to one’s own physical presence or to an imagined scale, determined by a model next to it. Or it may just give off a particular association or suggest a particular form or fragment of landscape. A model sitting next to it may carry very specific and precise information concerning a building or a structure. It may be describing an interior or a system of thought such as a set of theatre steps or the way a roof structure is resolved. In itself it may be quite deadpan in what it describes, quite technical but in relation to another element it begins to have different associations that open out its meaning and makes the reading more ambiguous and hopefully more interesting. There comes a time always of tension in the work between how much information a work can hold before the resonance of the different objects begins to break down and the piece becomes just a series of independent objects placed next to each other. This has something to do with the relationship between how much specific information a model may carry whether abstract or literal and how open it remains towards the other objects.

Next question: “How much non-visual matters or thoughts are part of your working process. Do ideas or even words figure prominently whilst you’re making work? “

As I mentioned in the beginning I work in terms of projects, either to do with a person’s thinking for instance say on Frederick Kiesler, or the relationship between two peoples’ intellectual or poetic contribution, such as a combination of Curzio Malaparte and Brueghel. The connections that these people have in terms of their ideas or work they have made may be very tenuous, yet their combination has a certain interest. In terms of actually using text in the work - if I felt that it’s an appropriate motif that worked visually or poetically and/or practically in its position with other works or groups of works, then yes, I’m happy to include words.

"How and when do you reflect on your work?"

There are different times and types of reflection. During the practical making of a work I have to consider whether it is working formally? Is this the right tone or too illustrational or too insipid or whatever? Then there are moments in between projects where Bruce Nauman’s dictum of ‘how to proceed and how to proceed correctly’, seems appropriate. It’s during this time that I think most strategically about what I’m doing and how to change or develop what I’m doing. There’s also the time after putting up a show when I begin to have doubts or feel that certain aspects have worked and others less successfully. Sometimes when riding my bike I have ideas.

"How might a work evolve in relation to other works you have made?"

The convenience of working with projects is that one can take them up or leave them aside depending on what seems most appropriate and relevant at a given time. Sometimes the projects bleed into each other, like for instance in the Art Now space last year where two projects, the Lichtenstein project and the Breughel project came together. In that sense I am always thinking about the relationship and categories of the work I make.

"How do you choose titles for your work?"

I try to keep them quite dead as if archiving, although I don’t like using numbers. Colours seem to work for me, for example, Endless House project, Stadium Gray. In this way the project, Kiesler’s Idea of Endless, and the category of a stadium and the distinguishing colour are included. I try to avoid poetical or emotional titles.

"What specific skills have you developed in relation to your work?"

I’ve become quite adept with the glue gun.

"What scope is there for unforeseen events occurring in your process, what is your attitude to them?"

This is a very important part in the process. As I said earlier, I don’t like to be too prescriptive as the work needs certain openness. This openness is not just to do with a feeling of being incomplete, that things are left unsaid, which I feel is important but also that in the making there is something being found. In this sense the introduction of a new material or a found object that jars the harmony or destabilises the rapport is important. There is also included in this a romantic sense of grace, that something unforeseen can rescue the work. In that sense the found object is not just important in its status in the work but as its process.

"How do you know when a work is finished? Could you consider work to be finished despite it conveying a substantially different appearance or meaning than originally intended?"

There is a moment when a work closes down, that it becomes full, and the individual elements seem to work in an interesting way. At that point I have to decide whether to break the work open again or leave it. It’s the equivalent I suppose to scraping a painting down with a palette knife to open it up again. The use of the model as a strategy by its nature presents itself as unfinished, as something experimental or a model of something, quite provisional.

"Have you ever exhibited or sold your work before you felt ready to do so, if so what were your concerns?"

Yes, sometimes I feel that’s been healthy, to force me to make a decision and at other times I feel that I would have liked time with a piece. I think it’s a matter of deciding what level of compromise is acceptable. This also has to do with the nature of the work. It also involves practically learning from experience and one makes bad decisions.

"Do you ever write statements or notes or talk publicly on your work? If so do you feel it affects your work? What sort of thing might you write about and why?"

This again is quite a sensitive issue as I feel that insensitive writing really affects the work seriously. When it comes to writing about my own practice I’m careful not to write specifically about the quality or poetic nature that might be present. I’m interested in writing a parallel text, again in quite a deadpan, informative way that gives the viewer information around the subject that may or may not be useful. Often I feel the information I give does not say anything about what is going on in the work as I want to leave this untouched.

"If you had to choose one work to represent you from all that you’ve made which would you choose and why?"

This one I decided on is Hakp'o dang (black) 2001 that is part of a project I was doing on this sixteenth century Korean scholar/painter and a Utopian politician as well. He tried to reform society and was exiled by the king for the rest of his life. He built himself a house in a very remote part of South Korea in Quang Xiou (?) and just wrote poetry and painted landscapes. I wanted to make a work that somehow conveyed this aspect of dwelling in exile. There are several elements such as the table, which is a Korean scholar’s table, set very low; you sit crossed-leg at and a student would come and listen to his teacher, sitting around a table like that. Then there is the relationship between roof of the building and the model of a mountain; the relationship between Korean roofs in architecture and the mountains are very important. They have this theory called Pong Su (?) which is a kind of geomancy theory and just the background painting which has a sense of landscape and a particular kind of Confucian type of scholarly painting - it’s just bringing these different motifs together. The motifs can be very simple and straightforward but together they can work to create a kind of sense a world that also works on different levels and different scales. You have the one-to-one scale of the table versus the miniaturisation and it seemed like a good work to bring in.

"What does the term Visual Intelligence connote to you? Do you think it applies to the way you work, in what ways is it inappropriate?"

It gives some sense of art practice and its relationship to thought. I’ve been thinking recently about notions of poesis and praxis as referred to by Georgiou Gambian. He talks about poesis as rather than concentrating on the making of something, it concerns itself with bringing into being, creating an intellectual space where the act of bringing forth is possible. In that context visual intelligence in a work suggests the creation of the kind of space that makes thought and poesis possible, the emphasis being less on the object itself than what it opens up, so I thought that was quite interesting in terms of what Jon Thompson was talking about - making a space in which to act. Also in that sense the creative block is also important, that it’s less to do with the actual making of an object than the space it opens up.

"The attributes of Visual Intelligence have been described as resonance, expression, power, subtlety, sustainable impact, symbolic richness, poetic evocation, compelling vision. Would you like your work to have any of these qualities? Which ones and why, or why not? "

These are the kind of words that I would avoid or resist using for my work but I wouldn’t necessarily object if someone else would use them. That’s because, as I said earlier, there are values not to aim for when making a work and these values I feel one shouldn’t necessarily aim for but should be the result of what comes from a certain rigour of thought and attempt at poesies. I cannot imagine aiming at symbolic richness or poetic evocation.

"What other qualities does art that you admire have, is there a specific work of art that you admire and why?"

I thought of this, (slide) it’s a photo of an unfinished building of Casa Malaparte by Curzio Malaparte. If anybody’s seen Le Mepris, the Godard film, this is the building that a third of that film is set on. He designed this building as a Casa con Maya, a self-portrait in stone, and I like it very much as both an image and the building itself, it’s not just a building but as a model for dwelling. It’s a building that opens up a space for thinking and living and dwelling. It’s a thought model, so I wanted to leave you with that.

RF: You said you worked in a series of projects but you didn’t say how you chose the projects in the first place.

IK: I suppose that’s why I agree also that work comes from work. At the moment I’m doing my PhD on ‘Building, Dwelling and Thinking’ and so certain projects just suggest themselves from my interest in that area. So, for instance, Frederick Keisler is an architect who’s working with the model, he’s a very Utopian visionary architect, yet he’s not building anything so what his models are and what they suggest are quite interesting in terms of art practice. Someone like Malaparte likewise. He’s not an architect, but he’s very interested in what it means to dwell and in creating a kind of space that’s both a studio and a living space and kind of like a sublime theatre stage. So it’s just how projects suggest themselves as I go along.

RF: Do they always evolve around specific people and their work?

IK: I suppose so, so far. I’m interested in what it means to think around the practice one’s doing, whether as a writer or philosopher or artist, - what it is we’re actually doing and how the building or the environment that we set ourselves in affects the way we think, the way we make work , the idea that it's not a neutral space. That in itself is quite a philosophical starting point.

RF: And do the ways that these architects work give you models for ways of working, ways of thinking?

IK: Yes, I suppose so. Or gives me a way of re-acting to their ways of thinking. Yes.

RF: I’m assuming you have different elements in the studio and you try things out in different juxtapositions and you come to some kind of resolution and you take it into a gallery, would that be a fair description of the process?

IK: Yes, yes.

RF: Does that mean different elements might then go into a different work and take on a different relationship, or once you’ve found a solution does it stay that way?

IK: Practically they tend to settle in that way. I do like the idea of different combinations of work and the way they feed off one another and so in an exhibition with more than one work the way that the models interact can be quite interesting, but they do tend to settle. There is a sense that I want to make a decision with the work I’m making, so yes, they do settle in one piece.

RF: It’s because I said to you about that photograph on your current exhibition card, when it’s on the floorboards, the floorboards dictate a scale, don’t they? They’re these great chasms and then it’s quite interesting then seeing it on a different surface and you read the scale differently.

IK: In that sense the work always remains quite flexible because depending on the space where the work’s shown there is an adjustment to that space and the different associations. I’d also say that I’d choose certain works don’t work on a particular floor surface. For instance wooden floors, it’s difficult to use a rubber bladder on a wooden floor because it’s too much like a ball in that situation, it loses its sense of scale. So that there are certain situations where one has to think about the nature of the work and the nature of the space.

BH: I’m not sure if this is the case for all your work but all the work that I’ve seen of yours, it tends to exist as a small number of elements, you know, three or four seems to be the usual configuration. I’m interested to hear a bit more about that and whether or not you’ve tried working with a lot of elements, or just with two?

IK: I've worked with very small elements like a single element of a floor piece or just a couple. I find that when the elements grow more than say five or six they break down, they lose a sense of rapport, they start to fall apart into single works again, so one has a cluster of several work, this is just my experience so far. So it’s how to find that tension between several elements contributing to one work that I’ve been interested in so far.

BH: I wonder if it is a question of control and whether the more elements you get the more associations can come in and you lose the tension of that dialogue?

IK: Yes. I did throw a few back-up ones where it might be different. That’s one where there is a few more elements and this work can be seen in different configurations, here it can be broken up into different elements, it shows a different kind of scenario. This was a site-specific piece and it’s now out of context but I quite like the vivid orange.