- Art Orientated Research -


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. 

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 1982, 168.) 

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. 

2. The main artistic objective of the research
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. 

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 entities. 

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. 

3. The structure of the research
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. 

3.2. Science
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 with symbols. 

3.2. Symbol
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 of symbolism. 

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 emotional power. 

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.) 

3.3. Art
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 the message. 

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 of thinking. 

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 female figures. 

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. 

3.4. Ceramics
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. 

4. Timetable
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. 
5. Bibliography
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. (painamaton lähde) 

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. Helsinki. 

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. Helsinki. 

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. Gaudeamus, s.81-98. 



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