- Art Orientated Research -
CREATION OF WORKS OF ART AS AN UNIFYING PROCESS
1. Starting point for the research
This research is one of the first art-oriented
doctoral thesises in visual arts in Finland. I find it challenging to create
a new view through my research to this scholarly area that is only taking
shape, to its structure and contents.
2. The main artistic objective of the research
Liisa Rantalaiho outlines the aims of feminist
research in her article on feminist research methodology. According to
Rantalaiho, the central aims are truth, honesty, systematic approach, consistency,
subject-to-subject relation and openness (Rantalaiho 1988, 46). Even if
the research is strongly connected with feminist research in its themes,
aims and partly also methodology, the main goal of the research is after
all to reach something that is generally human.
The romantic hermeneutics applied the fundamental
idea of Kant's information theory that claims that information can not
be studied apart from the knowing subject. Art was not seeen as an analysis
of the reality, but as human action, where the acting subject expresses
her own ideas and ambitions. The interpretation of a work of art requires
comprehension of the individual personality of the creator, a dive behind
the work, into the depths of the inner experiences of the creator. The
romantic hermeneutics saw creative imagination, intuition, to be a necessary
condition to be able to understand the products of creative action. (Töttö
Compared to traditional history of arts, the art-oriented
research, opens up a new perspective for the analysis and study of the
process of creative work, when a researcher can observe the process of
making a work of art from within the subject of the process.
According to Svetlana Alpers (1993) a supremacy
of language dominates in the history of arts which is based on the model
of art history in the Italian renaissance. This model considers writing
and all those elements in a picture that can be expressed in verbal form
always more central than the actual visual elements. Alpers compares the
situation with Dutch 16th century art, where the word and the picture were
more clearly equal (Heiskanen 1986, 51). Another interesting position in
this study is related to the structure of a completed study, i.e. to defining
the relative importance of the aesthetic and verbal part of the work.
The research continues with the theme of my earlier
projects at the Department of Ceramic and Glass Design. The Snake dance
project (Mäkelä 1992) outlined the encounter of spiritual and
material levels in a subjective creation process. My graduate work (Mäkelä
1994) elaborated on this effort, with the artistic part of the work consisting
of ceramic female pictures made with collage technique. The written part
supported the structure of the artistic part by forming a simplified unity
of poems, pictures and a material study.
TThe world view of an individual of today
consists of an enormous amount of specific knowledge while the overall
view remains incoherent. To find their place in society people have to
pick up the essential in this flood of information, and to create connections
between the pieces of information. In order to cope with this challenge
people have to direct their resources to an ever-increasing extent to the
effort of filtering and organising this information and finally to apply
it at a personally meaningful level.
3. The structure of the research
The feminist information theory is based on the
assumption according to which the women’s way to experience the reality
differs from men’s ways of experiencing. Also the way how women perceive
the reality is different (Saarinen 1988,21). Comparative cultural research
examines typical female characteristics. According to Junkkari (1992, 11)
Hilkka Pietilä sees these to include a strong need to hold oneself
together as a human being, to collect various themes together to larger
Jung (1991) says that a person can not be unified
in one´s middle age, if one does not meet the buried and suppressed
archetypes of the unconscious. Jung distinguishes the personal and the
collective unconscious. The elements of the personal unconscious consist
of individual experiences, whereas some archetypes can be found in the
collective unconscious, that make up general individual tendencies to form
images. Working on these images with visual art helps to come in contact
with them, and through this to one’s own unconscious, too. The conscious
mind, ego, and the unconscious Self will meet. Only through this encounter
a more real and holistic Self will be born.
As a visual artist, poet and mystic William Blake
emphasised similarly that a human being must be accepted as a whole. According
to dialectical idealism, which Blake represents, an individual can not
develop without one´s controversies: intellect and energy, love and
anger are both necessary contrasts in the life (1993,25). In his work Blake
expressed these ideas by linking the picture and the text inseparably together.
A have taken myself the task of harmonisation as
an artist. This study is based on the hypothesis, that at the personal
level the process of creating a work of art itself is a harmonising experience.
Through this process the artist evaluates and organises separate elements
to wholes. In this study, an effort is taken to build up the femininity
from little elements as a puzzle, by putting together different ideas of
femininity from different areas of science. These ideas are reflected in
art as symbols where they search for a similarity in the female pictures
made with ceramic methods. Collage technique is a visual method that enables
to concretise this aim, too. The movement is from chaos towards a harmony
by arranging varying and opposite elements.
TThe structure of the research is based
on the hermeneutic circle (picture 1).
Picture 1: The setting of the study
The basic idea of hermeneutics circle dates back
to the antique rhetoric, from where the philological hermeneutic adopted
it as a rule to interpret a text. The parts of the text had to be understood
with the help of the whole, and the whole, in turn, with the help of the
parts. To understand the parts, the meaning must be anticipatied of the
meaning of the whole and vice versa. For the philological hermeneutics
the idea of the circle was methodological, but Gadamer interprets the circle
as one historical description of human existence. The historical tradition
is born and lives in the shape of hermeneutic circle (Töttö 1981,68).
The basis for historicism of the understanding
is that an essential condition for understanding is preliminary understanding.
In this research preliminary understanding is based on the earlier studies
(see page 2) and the artistic work of researcher. Understanding and preliminary
understanding together form a hermeneutic circle, where understanding is
improved preunderstanding and is again preliminary understanding for even
better understanding. The circle is formed because the objects of understanding
at the same are time marks of the whole and belong to reality itself.
A hermeneutic circle can be described as a symbol
of the spiral form of information. Accordingly, the information is taken
to move ahead, returning to the starting point over again, but the information
does not return as it was, it has reached a ‘higher level’. The circular
form of the information is at the same time necessary and apparent. It
is necessary to form a structure for the way of thinking, so one can understand
better what one is doing, whereas it is apparent in the fact that it does
not guarantee an increase in the understanding as such
The history of affect is a circle of interpretations
following one another. The continuity of the interpretations is secured
when the interpretative subject adopts the previous interpretations as
her preunderstanding. In this very manner an interpretative subject is
a part of the tradition, a theoretical subject is a part of the object.
The historical reality consists of the interpretative glances that the
own reality makes on its past. Therefore historical reality is always open,
never finally completed. (Töttö 1982,172-179.)
The study process proceeds along a hermeneutic
circle. In this work the aim is to understand feminine symbols in the visual
arts. The research process approaches the problem through science and art,
while a symbol operates as a mediator etween these two.
The function of scientific part in this
research is to clarify feminine symbolism by using the methods of traditional
scientific research. The aim is to define the ideas and appearance of femininity.
The method will be a ´processed´ version
of a diary. Aims have already been given to the diary text been given,
and the text will be divided into certain parts during the writing process.
The aim of this structuring is to facilitate text analysis of the diary,
that will be done later. It also ensures that certain information for this
research will be written down. (Mäkelä 1990, Vilkko 1990.)
A. Everyday life diary will consist of the markings related to normal
family-life and personal existence as a woman. This section will include
everyday notes on motherhood, femininity and life as a wife.
B. Diaries, representing scientific literature, the aim is to clarify
the approaches offered by different disciplines to femininity, for example
philosophy, sociology, psychology, history and aesthetics. This section
reports on the literature read and points of view found.
C. The diary will also contain a section where all miscellaneous unspecified
notes, that dealwith femininity and have an influence on the contents of
pictures, can be written down. Probably this section will include notes
on e.g. strong emotions.
D. Diary on pictures includes notes dealing with the origin of pictures.
This section includes notes about how the pictures originated: how the
idea was brought about, what aims were given to the picture as well as
on the expressive methods and experiments with materials.
Information and ideas obtained in the scientific
part of the research will move forward to the artistic side according to
the logic of the hermeneutic circle (picture 1), where the information
functions as the preliminary understanding for free visual expression.
Because the scientific part of the research is in the written form and
aesthetic part has a visual form, the information will be communicated
The Greek word ´symbolon´
means fitting different parts together in a way that they form a whole.
A symbol always represents something else than it is as such. A characteristic
aspect of a symbol is, that it always is an indirect representation (Pylkkänen
1986, 69). Symbol is a mark, through which something hidden or silent is
recognised and made covertly visible. It has also been defined as a counterforce
of oblivion (Holten 1994, 39).
There are certain symbols, which are considered
universal. On one hand people have certain fundamental interests, and on
the other hand people can somewhat identically distinguish similarities
in some things. Folklore, mythology, and dreams contain universal symbols,
common in any society. The symbol formation is, however, mainly individual:
everyone can create completely individual symbols that are connected to
one’s personal experiences in life (Pylkkänen 1986,69-70).
For Plato, art is a reflection of world of ideas,
having received a concrete form. In 17th century, Emanuel Swedenborg of
Sweden added to this idealistic main idea a theory of correspondence, a
philosophy of equivalencies. In 1880´s French Charles Baudelaire
moved Plato’s theory of ideas and Swedenborg's correspondence theory to
the aesthetistic level, thus creating the basis for the written theory
In 1891 Albert Aurier refined this theory and also
contributed to the development of the ideas of the artists that were involved
in synthetism and introduced the symbolist theory in visual arts. According
to this theory, a work of art has to convey ideal, symbolic, synthesizing,
subjective, decorative element but also has to reflect the artist's independent
In developing synthetism, Paul Gauguin approached
symbolism, when he set as his objective to express a general state rather
than an individual idea. According to Remy de Gourmont, all talented artists
are symbolists, because they try to express what is eternal in a personal
experience. (Sarajas-Korte 1966,14-28.)
The starting point of the aesthetic part
of this research is collage technique, through which the ideas from the
scientifical part of this study, the preliminary understanding, is transferred
in the form of symbols and unified.
The collage technique that I use, is based on the
post-modern idea on art of David Godbold, my teacher. Pictures borrowed
from the culture are not taboos any more, but the significance of the work
is seen rather in the destination than in its genuinity. In the post-modern
art an established symbol is often moved to a new context, whereby it also
brings with its cultural meaning. The artist communicates with the viewers
by bringing a number of motives in front of them - only when combining
these with the earlier information in their own mind, the viewerr can see
Art and cultural history is filtered to my works
through the figures I use, which are borrowed from old masters, contemporary
artists and today's media. I usually choose dramatic figures, which express
clearly their emotions, merely by their positions. Although the starting
point of the pictures is personal, I can set personal experiences to a
distance with the help of borrowed figures. The familiar figures bring
a temporal, symbolical dimension to my work as historical signs: the earlier
culture still lives in our collective unconscious and influences our way
In his work as a visual artist Edward Munch (1986)
preferred the aspiration to represent his inner life honestly. In the spirit
of Munch’s pictures, my pictures are of the soul, trying to catch a certain
sensitivity and openness. As a woman I represent naturally these positions
through the female figures.
My pictures are dealing with different, sometimes
difficult and contradictory sides of femininity: hidden sexuality, eroticism,
fertile and abundant motherhood. The female figures that I portrait are
on the other hand energetic and physical, on the other hand persecuted
and vulnerable. The nakedness of the figures refer to openness and honesty,
exposing a sensitive and wounded human at the same time. The aim of aesthetic
part in this research is to find a whole person behind these immaterial
Preliminary understanding reached through science
is the basis for understanding in the creative process. By analysing the
pictures made in the creative process, the information reached in the art
can be moved to science with help of the symbols. According to the hermeneutic
circle this information is now preliminary information for the scientific
method. Information is, however, not the same when starting the circle,
but it has been refined on the way to the 'higher' level.
The function of ceramics is to make the
research visible. The ceramic work process takes place side by side with
the research process. The knowledge reached in the research process thus
affects the ceramic process, and correspondingly, the results reached in
ceramic process have an effect to the development of the research process'
The starting point for the concrete part of the
research, is the technique I sketched out in my final work, that allows
me to combine free visual expression to the ceramic skills.
In my graduate work ceramic collages were formed
on the top of earthenware sheets with the help of this technique, by varying
the three elements. The colour scale was decided by the dyed clay slips,
while sodium carbonate had an effect on the structure. Informative elements
were the figures, which were made with silk screen and picked up from the
pages of art history. Some of the clay pictures were finished by using
only ceramic methods, part of them were supplemented in the manner of a
collage, by adding unfired elements on the top of fired pictures.
The aim is to broaden the ceramic skills in a way,
that it serves visual expression of the main themes of this research. The
purpose is to make a larger series of pictures with this technique which
will form structural unity in the chosen room. The progress in the whole
research process will be illustrated with three exhibitions.
The research takes four years. Theoretical
and methodological studies will take place in the first year. During the
next two years the focus of the studies will on artistic work which will
be presented at the end of this period with exhibitions. The fourth year
will be text analysis from the diary to which text has been written during
the whole process. Writing reports and assembling the exhibition to accompany
the dissertation are also scheduled to the fourth year.
ALPERS, SVETLANA 1983: The Art of Describing. Dutch Art in
the Seventeenth Century. Chicago.
BLAKE, WILLIAM 1993: Taivaan ja Helvetin avioliitto. Suom. Tuomas Anhava.
Karisto Oy. Hämeenlinna.
ESKOLA, KATARINA toim.1986: Symbolit, seminaariraportti. Nykykulttuurin
tutkimusyksikön julkaisuja 1. Jyväskylän yliopisto.
GODBOLD, DAVID 1993: An Intimate Relationship - Selected Works 1988-1992.
Published by Douglas Hyde Gallery. Dublin. Ireland.
HEISKANEN, PIRKKO 1986: Symbolien vaihtoehdoista kuvataiteessa. Teoksessa
Symbolit, seminaariraportti. Toim. Katariina Eskola.Nykykulttuurin tutkimusyksikön
julkaisuja. Jyväskylän yliopisto, s. 50-66.
HOLTEN, RAGNAR 1994: Näkyjä ja haaveita - Ranskalainen symbolismi
1886-1908. Suom. Marja Alopaeus. Skogs Boktryckeri AB. Trelleborg.
JUNKKARI, KAIJA MARIA 1992: Naiseksi joka olet. Toinen painos. Gummerus
kirjapaino Oy. Jyväskylä
JUNG, CARL-GUSTAV 1991: Symbolit - piilotajunnan kieli. Otava.
MUNCH, EDWARD 1986: Worlds and Images. Edited by Bente Torjusen. Chelsea
Green Publishing Company. Japan.
MÄKELÄ KLAUS 1992: Kvalitatiivisen analyysin arviointiperusteet.
Teoksessa Kvalitatiivisen aineiston analyysi ja tulkinta. Toim. Klaus Mäkelä.
Gaudeamus. Helsinki, s. 42-61.
MÄKELÄ, KLAUS toim. 1992: Kvalitatiivisen aineiston analyysi
ja tulkinta. Gaudeamus. Helsinki.
MÄKELÄ, MAARIT 1992: Käärmetanssi. Keramiikka- ja
lasitaiteen laitoksen projektiraportti. Taideteollinen korkeakoulu. Helsinki.
MÄKELÄ, MAARIT 1994: Heijastuksia - kollaaseja punasavelle.
Keramiikka- ja lasitaiteen laitos. Lopputyö taiteen kandidaatin tutkintoa
varten. Taideteollinen korkeakoulu. Helsinki. (painamaton lähde)
PICHON, YANN 1987: Paul Gauguin. Suom. Saara Palmgren. Kirjayhtymä.
PIETILÄ, HILKKA 1982: Uusi naisliike ja tasa-arvo. Toisenlainen
tasa-arvo. Toim. Sinikka Sinkkonen ja Eila Ollikainen. Kustannuskiila.
PYLKKÄNEN, KARI 1986: Symboleista sairaudessa ja terapiassa. Teoksessa
Symbolit, seminaariraportti. Toim. Katariina Eskola. Nykykulttuurin tutkimusyksikön
julkaisuja. Jyväskylän yliopisto, s. 69-75.
RANTALAIHO, LIISA 1988: Naistutkimukesn metodologiasta. Teokesssa Akanvirtaan,
johdatus naistutkimukseen. Toim. Päivi Setälä ja Hannele
Kurki. Yliopistopaino. Helsinki, s.28-54.
SAARINEN, AINO 1988: Naistutkimus - paradigmahaaste? Teoksessa Akanvirtaan,
johdatus naistutkimukseen. Toim. Päivi Setälä ja Hannele
Kurki. Yliopistopaino. Helsinki, s.5-27.
SARAJAS-KORTE, SALME 1966: Uuden taiteen lähteillä - Suomalaisia
taiteilijoita Pariisissa, Berliinissä ja Italiassa 1891-1895. Otava.
SETÄLÄ, PÄIVI ja KURKI, HANNELE 1988: Akanvirtaan, johdatus
naistutkimukseen. Yliopistopaino. Helsinki.
TÖTTÖ,PERTTI 1982: Yhteiskuntatiede ja toiminta. Objektivismin
kritiikistä yhteiskuntatieteiden metodologiassa. Toinen painos.Yhteiskuntatieteiden
tutkimuslaitos. Tampereen yliopisto. Sarja A:55.
TÖTTÖ, PERTTI 1981: Lukacs ja hermeneutiikka. Tutkielma ¨Historia
ja luokkatietoisuuden¨ totaliteetin käsitteestä. Yhteiskuntatieteiden
tutkimuslaitos. Tampereen yliopisto. Sarja B:32.
VILKKO, ANNI 1990: Omaelämänkertojen analysoiminen kertomuksina.
Teoksessa Kvalitatiivisen aineiston analyysi ja tulkinta. Toim. Klaus Mäkelä.
Maarit Mäkelä, @
University of Art and Design Helsinki UIAH
Department of Ceramics and Glass
Hämeentie 135 C
FIN-00560 Helsinki, Finland
phone: +358 9 75630397, fax: +358 9 75630275