When the end is just the begining.

Well, the last blog, well the last one under the flag of an MA in Contemporary Art Practice with The University of Plymouth! Most definitely not the last blog. I have really enjoyed the reflexive opportunity in writing about the things I notice and, importantly the impact of COVID19.

Interestingly the Guardian ran a story by Hadley Freeman which articulated how so many of this year’s graduates must be feeling this year. She talks about how this most stressful, most exciting climax of new knowledge, wider thinking and refining of focus may, will, more likely, be perceived as ‘less triumphant, unsettling, seemingly unfair and probably anticlimactic’. (Freeman, 2020). I think she has so thoroughly hit the nail on the head that I can’t think of a better way of putting it!

I commented to my sister that the outcome of this MA is not the happy and fulfilling sharing of the presentation of my ideas in the flesh but a number of words which do their best to put across a coherent picture of the journey that my practice and I have taken over the past three years.  It seems so mean, and, yes, unfulfilling. Knowing that instead of a crowd of interested viewers and participants my essay will be read by maybe six people, and only one of them will have experienced, and that only partially, my concept.

That said, I am sad to be leaving the hallowed confines of the university and all it offers, the safe and supportive environs to experiment, speak, and be brave without biased judgement or particular risk. I’ve really enjoyed the sense of family and interest in what I’ve done and said, I’ve enjoyed thinking about the presentation of other peoples work and learning to articulate my reactions in a way which offers support but is still a true reflection of the impact the presentation has had on me.

I hope I don’t doubt my achievement. The journey has been epic and life changing. I’ve grown intellectually and am confident that my opinions, whilst as subjective as the next persons, have integrity and that I can rely on the truthfulness of my research and the articulation of new ideas.

For us in the world

I’ve seen these months make changes

It’s changed my thinking, rearranged my viewpoint.

The new reality of a situational existence

I’ve seen the fear of the unknown

Written of the faces of a partly panicked public

It’s changed my thinking, re-focused my priorities.

I’ve seen the changes in the atmosphere 

The new possible positives in a worldwide pandemic

It’s changing our collective thinking, re-viewing our social connections.

I’ve seen the shallow nature of relationships

Witnessed a semi solidarity and new realisation of us

It could change how the system functions –if we could let it.

For me in myself

I’ve seen new things that have always been there

Heard the birdsong but somehow louder, more obvious

Watched the spring and summer unfold with a newfound wonder.

I’ve looked at my world in a different way

Considered the likelihood of death and the prospect of parole

Prioritised my thinking the quality and importance of future connections.

I’ve re-assed my outlook on how relationships work

This time has helped redefine and draw in those with shaky tethers 

It’s moved my pattern from black and white, I’ve learned that grey is actually just fine.

Just as the world around me redefines its narrative, re-tells its history as truth

I’m finding strength in knowing my truth and packing my history away

I’m taking time to breath, let go, draw into myself – because I realise that I matter to me.

Pandemic by Jo Pullinger June 2020

There are many things that this MA has thrown into the air for me; among them is the idea that plain speaking in academic writing has a huge benefit to the readers understanding! That feedback is a positive thing and should be positively sought and that everyone has something positive to offer.

Looking forward; the idea of critical thinking and the option to express myself through my writing is very appealing. I think one of the things I might do is continue the thread on Humour in Art, an area I began to consider more deeply when I saw that fun and humour was something I wanted to include in my work and that other artists seemingly did the same, but didn’t necessarily articulate this aspect of their practices. I think it’s very interesting that there is not very much written, in academic terms, on the way that artists ‘play’ or ‘joke’, ‘pull your leg’ or ‘smirk’ as part of their practice and bring in a mirror to what they find amusing.

I wonder if that is because to find something funny could lead to the impression that, somehow, it trivialises the artists integrity. That, whilst their aesthetic is presented as patently funny their message may not be, but that the use of humour draws your attention. I think it is a very interesting avenue to consider more deeply.   To examine the thin line between a genuine presentation of a contemporary art practice and the act of a comic.

It is reassuring to see that current research is contemplating this aspect. Interestingly there is, or rather was, a conference Laughing in an emergency – School of Arts, Languages and Cultures – The University of Manchester was cancelled due to COVID 19 but which, I assume, will be re-scheduled in the fullness of time. (Wood, 2020). Sadly on contacting them I find that this has been cancelled. However I have, on their advice signed up to Dukes Press Cultural Polotics Journal, where this collection of papers will be published.

I’m glad that there will be avenues to academically consider aspects which are important in the presentation of my practice which will give me focus and drive me to continue not only the context and contemporary aspect of this practice but also to continue to consider the academic implications of my research.

I am also looking to the future developments of the realisation of my framework as a physical presence to be interacted with. the presentation of my ideas as the conceptual representation of my thinking which will have an impact on its audience and leave an impression on their thinking.

At last life is letting up a bit and I can now think about getting back to my studio. Or shortly anyway.  So beyond the academic research into humour in Contemporary Art practice I am now thinking about my own creative productivity.  I thought I might revisit the idea of printmaking as integral to art practice and consider how process and printmaking create a link to other disciplines within an artist’s field of research. I think this will help me push my printmaking in a way which I had intended for the last year of my MA. Something which didn’t happen but which I do not regret. Where circumstances has asked me to expand my practice as I go forward I can only see the benefit as I return to contemplating that space created in the space between the paper and the matrix..

I have explored the edge of an expanded practice and it has drawn me to review both in critical and reflexive contemplation and how expanding a printmaking practice can support other ways of exploring paper and matrix. For instance, where a printmaker also creates paintings, or sculptures or artists books. I was interested in how drawn I was, during the research process, into art practices that involved printmaking as key to their creative aesthetic and one of the questions I found myself asking as “How does the process of printmaking filter through the other works of artists who are primarily printmakers?”

It maybe that there is something in the way a printmaker develops prints, particularly the more painterly types. I am more interested in those whose thinking is less figurative and more focused on form as abstract. And probably printmakers whose work is intended to be viewed away from the wall. There may be something in the process of layering and the way thinking develops as a series of disassociated collections of forms which will come together to create a cohesive finished aesthetic.

Where the initial thinking is broken down and disassembled there is often a very obvious transfer of aesthetic, but not always. At least not on the face of it.  So I think I might spend some time just considering this aspect.  It was interesting to observe how many of those I studied worked in other mediums and carried links to their printmaking practices in these other works.

This is in support of my own emergent painting style which seems to have its roots in the act of layering and the effect of obscuring the layer below, the abstract or random nature of the outcome and the thrill of an unintended outcome.

I may push away, for a while, from a figuratively driven image field to a more abstract outcome which could allow a continued consideration of the embodied nature of dialogue whilst allowing the action of printmaking to dictate the process by which the paintings are developed, as I explore the framework further.

A positive start to the next step.


Freeman, H. (2020) Big graduation moments? They’re totally bogus. Take it from an expert | Hadley Freeman. 

Wood, M. (2020) ‘Laughing in an emergency – School of Arts, Languages and Cultures – The University of Manchester’, Contemporary Art and Cultural Resilience Project Report. University Of Manchester.

Image photo of the Guardian Weekend magazine Hadley Freeman Article