Critical Evaluation for Group Tutorial: Future-Focused

Critical Evaluation (Future-Focused) – text prepared for group tutorial session Thursday 13th June 2019:

The MA Summer Show preparation has allowed me to consolidate an idea that was embedded in my work from the outset: the painting plus its video as a single module of installation. I intend to continue this trajectory already having further oil paintings on aluminium in progress in the studio.

The inbuilt modularity offers flexibility with respect to exhibition spaces in developing proposals to show work. Whether showing a single unit in a small space or multiple units in larger spaces, each unit can exist independently or as part of a greater number, sharing the same architecture and related points of origin.

Material is important to me. I have documented the reason I use oil as a medium in the recent Second Symposium. I intend to create a new series of smaller works in oil on copper. I have used this metal support before and know of its potential to offer different qualities to those of aluminium and look forward to discovering how this might affect my methodology.

I have come to realise that a painting possesses a memory-narrative which is hidden in its final state. This narrative is unveiled through the video animations I have developed bringing together poetic narrative and poietic work. The continual documentation of all the phases of a work in progress to compile the videos is vital to my practice and I intend to further hone my camera and digital editing skills and improve my studio set-up. Taking as a model William Kentridge’s studio set-up, this would include an arrangement for fixing the camera for perfect registration of the images.

Importantly, the MA has paved the way for further research. I am currently formulating a specific concept which builds on my research statement, focusing on aesthetic considerations from painting. I will bring this to a point where I can initiate a conversation with a potential academic supervisor with a view to undertaking a practice-based doctorate building on ideas and concepts I have been developing throughout the MA.

During the MA I have created a number of texts, some of which form the basis for audio tracks for the videos presented in the Summer show. These poetic narratives have enriched both my methodology and work and have the potential for publication. I have found that I actually enjoy voicing the texts, which was unexpected at the outset. This opens up a new possibility for performance, to experiment with and develop further. Other audio tracks have been created using sounds uttered by me which are then orchestrated, creating audiovisual umwelts that with headphones on offer an immersive experience to the viewer/listener.

I intend to develop the body of work shown at the Summer show as a touring show building on previous experience and that gained during the past two MA years.


Symposium 2 – reflecting on feedback

I have had some problems retrieving the Skype feedback of my online peers but one thing I remember was the feedback in terms of hearing my  narration. I have discovered over the course of the MA that I really enjoy narrating. This has given me encouragement and impetus with respect to creating narratives to the videos currently being complied for the Summer show.

There are nine paintings in all and I am preparing audio tracks for each of their videos, some being narrations I have been working on in the background – I call them “painting in words”. Once completed I shall post all these up – each video with its painting making a gallery representative of work produced over this 2 year MA. The nine installation units for the Summer show will therefore each be an integration of painting, poetry and video. There is a modularity underpinning my presentation, which I intended from the outset as I knew that great flexibility would be needed at the final show.

Soon the floor plans will have been mapped out by my London peers with Jonathan and I can get a good idea of how it will all look.

Symposium 2

Symposium 2 video for presentation, 30th May 2019; with transcript below:


A painting is an aesthetic entity; it exists as it is and that is enough. But for me it has also not been enough as I have asked myself all along as to why the painting is as it is, rather than any other way.

Looking into this I have explored a path of poiesis (meaning making) relative to painting, along the way finding intersections with other disciplines including but not limited to poetry, neuroscience and philosophy. All of this I am now weaving with the following:

Painting is a do-it-yourself activity, progress made through the doing of it, each painting informing the next. The paintings have common descent, inevitably so but each one along the way is also a unique and unpredictable individual – it can’t be known until it is seen.

The painting is a field in which tensions arising between contrasting elements generated may then be resolved – an evolving network of relationships functioning adaptively. The whole is continuously balanced by feedback loops, keeping it alive, as if by homeostasis.

I work everything out on the painting surface itself, not applying labels beforehand to not restrict things. I work to my own system based on fundamental pictorial elements such as line, giving me endless possibility for variation. Consolidating this during this MA, I have come to call my system pictopoiesis which, keeping things open, simply means painting-making.

Reflective thinking is essential as it constantly revitalises but it is also circular. Critical analysis helps me to see what is actually going on, to not be complacent with things or take them for granted. This way, circular thinking opens out into a spiral, moving things to the next level whilst maintaining the life-affirming rhythm of the circular gesture – where the end of the line is also its rebeginning.

Alongside the paintings I make digital animated timelines showing where the painting has come from and how it moves through a series of unifications continually regenerating it. These renewals serve to clarify the situation in its ever-increasing complexity over time. These timelines evidence both the painting’s descent from source and its ascent – a transmutation from primal to higher form.

Continuity with origin is continuously embodied but the beginning becomes increasingly invisible, the layers of work becoming the work at the same time as they veil it; it becomes the visible invisible.

The aesthetics of my approach are consciously governed not by externally-derived stylistic notions, rather by universal principles such as those driving growth and development in natural forms.

We have had scientific knowledge of such matters for ages but only recently has that been expanded to include that of complex adaptive systems such as homeostasis, a system which we all depend on to stay alive. After all the world is perhaps best understood from the perspective of a body, each and every one of us a living body – in this we are on common ground.

Making it or looking at it, when art works well it makes us feel extra alive. Remotely, I imbue these notions and thoughts into a painting. It seems to me to be a real basis for connection. I see the painting as having its own agency in this respect once it is in the world.

This consideration is particularly relevant to today bearing in mind the various conversations around the production of artificially-intelligent art.

Material matters as everything has material origin;  thought itself depending on having a brain-containing body first.

I use the medium of oil for its provenance both in art historical terms and in personal terms – it was with oil paint that I began my first artistically self-conscious explorations.

The oil itself was alive relatively recently and it has unique sensual, elastic properties such that to me it is as if it were still alive.

I think in terms of the continuum of this historic medium. I also fully embrace digital tools to help explicate and enrich the situation.

The unbroken thread of consciousness that has brought us here is palpable – the unfolding future a matter of the continuously evolving past.


Residency Reviewing

Residency Timetable

Working backward in time, the latest being freshest in my mind.

Featured image shows detail of a wall between Camberwell and South London Gallery, the location of our pop up show.

Prior to the pizza outing (when we relaxed together at Caravaggio’s) we had had a final session togethe in which we followed a set format. We were asked to think in silence for 6 minutes and raise a question, an open question. This was an invitation to the others in our group (3 or 4 of us) to listen attentively for 20 minutes with the specific assumption that the answer to this open question lay within the person who was asking it. My question was to myself – What will be the nature of the next piece of work I shall do when I am back at home and in the studio again? I explained to my listeners that the context of my home and studio was very different to during my stay in London. I explained that in such a different context I would understand things differently and needed time to absorb all that had gone on during the residency. I was asked what would I be taking back with me to the studio in terms of what had I gained from the residency.  I explained that the residency had made me understand the importance of telling the story, something which I am already beginning to do with the timeline animations which tell the story of each painting. I have realised that there is a new dimension to my storytelling that I must realise, and that is the story of the evolution of my way of painting over many years – how I got to paint in the way I do. Over the years I have evolved and changed such that now I want to look back and take stock of my life so far, and the visual development of the painting gives me a framework. I had always thought of the telling of one’s own story as being a matter for writers, and not thinking of myself primarily as a writer I have not told my own story all these years. I shall tell the story in paintings, creating timelines into my own history, told in terms of the gradual development of my own idea of pictopoiesis which has arisen out of the painting itself and is the point of reference around which my project proposal is orientated.

As a result of this exercise, I realise how I must get down to the task of looking back over all the images of my paintings over the years and create timelines which I feel might perhaps best articulate the nature of the journey. I am keen to begin as soon as I get back home.

In addition, I am delighted that Iris and Vivian would like to come and visit our studio sometime. It is easy to get to Newark North Gate from Kong’s Cross, where we can pick visitors up. Given that the train journey is just about 1hr and 20 mins, in a way we are at a simple commute in London terms, and given the time it takes to cross London itself, we are in a way quite near train-wise.

The below image of lichens was taken during reconnaissance for the pop – up exhibition.  I was thinking of symbiosis, the co-existence of different organisms for their mutual benefit – as is the case with lichens.


Living Wall

Note to self: Working on the wall and how to get all the timelines up together and twinkling – should be 4 columns and 3 rows with each space filled with a different timeline.  When this post is viewed after preview and/or publishing several spaces are blank and each time exactly which spaces are blank alters. I am not in control of the wall, and would like to curate it, so need to at least know how to be in control of the overall. Or, is the uncertainty of it interesting in itself?  So this to be addressed in my next (group?) tutorial during the residency which begins in London soon on 13th February.  I already have some idea of why this is happening – Gifs are actually quite tricky in several respects, which I must note down for future reference as I take things further.

Cultivating a Commons

Image: Cultivating a Commons, oil on aluminium 125 x127 cm 2017


I was very pleased to have seen Steph’s post mentioning my work. The benefit of having appropriate peer response is really rewarding. Through her insightful perceptions Steph indicates common human ground between us. I am really looking forward to our meeting up at the residency in February. I note that Steph has a show coming up during the period, so I shall also want to know how that goes.

An observation Steph made I found particularly pertinent was:


Note to Self:

Cultivating a commons/painting a commons/picturing a commons.

Venn diagrams

Post for Second Symposium

My previous post gave the background (with a lot of technical stuff too) for my exhibit at 2 Girls Gallery. The exhibit consisted of a small 25 x 25cm, oil on aluminium painting and a digital animation, duration just over 2 minutes. which I would like to demonstrate here. So please see below the two items, along with explanatory labels reflecting the animation and the painting in relation to each other.

TIMELINE 1 – The Temporality and Potential Endlessness of the Line
Janet Waring Rago, 2017, 
62 frame GIF; 31.5 seconds duration.
This is the starting work in an exploration of the meaning of ‘line’: the expression of ‘line’ as a temporal process and living metaphor for the poetic idea of extension, liminality, and boundary. The animation discloses the hidden narrative of the painting as a series of fleeting glimpses that tells of the ephemeral story of a painting. Each image is a painting I have to leave behind in a continual progression. Each image nonetheless creates an imprint in my mind which is near forgotten and superseded by subsequent and equally temporary images. Only the final image remains, and it too is only part of a potentially endless line. Each one of the 62 frames corresponds to a line of the poem Omphalos by Nicholas Gulig in conversation with my work. The 62 frame cycle is repeated 4 times.  This collaboration was curated and documented by Jeffrey Pethybridge at likestarlings.comThe painting OMPHALOS – drowned to nothing and became, accompanying this animation corresponds to the last line of the poem.




OMPHALOS – drowned to nothing and became
Janet Waring Rago, 2016
Oil on aluminium, 25 x 25 cm
As part of a conversation between painter and poet, curated by Jeffrey Pethybridge at likestarlings.comNicholas Gulig wrote ‘Omphalos’ in response to a series of my paintings. This particular painting is, in turn, a response to that poem. It marks the endpoint of a potentially endless process. In the animation, TIMELINE 1 – The Temporality and Potential Endlessness of the Line, shown in this exhibition, I am exploring the meaning of ‘line’ as a temporal ‘object’. The animation discloses the hidden narrative of this painting as a series of fleeting glimpses that tells of the ephemeral story of a painting. Each image is a painting I have to leave behind. Each one of these nonetheless creates a brief imprint in my mind which is superseded by subsequent, equally temporary images. The final stage itself is only one in a potentially endless line.
Title from the last line of poem OMPHALOS by Nicholas Gulig – for full text go to 



Note to self: in summary, the above GIF represents the sequence for the purposes of this post. The Quick Time movie (see the previous post), which was the actual exhibit now needs to be represented.  Opening up a new YouTube channel (something I have not yet done) will serve to create a whole new means of communication for me, moving things on considerably. Participation in this exhibition had several quite severe challenges, as outlined already but I was able to meet them and uncover in the process next steps forward at levels technical as well as artistic, which I shall be integrating as I go.