Project Proposal

Final version of Project Proposal:

(Click on the link here for an earlier version) 

Working Title

A Systematic Materialisation of the Painting’s Poetics 


  • To research and develop a photographic time-based form that unfolds and makes visible the poietic/poetic content of a painting as a time-based narrative.
  • To evidence a connection between poetry and painting as existing within a poietic continuum and explicate the process as action and being in terms of poiesis, consciousness of the artistically creative process (weaving with ideas from neuroscience theory of mind/intelligence formation) and poetry.
  • To create a basis for future extension (using digital tools) of the revealing process that emerges, in the consciousness of the maintenance of an unbroken connection with the source and or origin of the painting in aspects material and otherwise.
  • Create paintings synchronously with capturing sequential imagery of their making
  • Research software possibilities to edit and format these photographic records into time-based presentations.
  • Compile a series of animations using sequential imagery.
  • Develop parallel means of display and explication – videos.
  • Combine poetry and painting in single works.
  • Research theory of mind that encompasses creative/poietic thought and production.
  • Develop a conversation/potential collaboration between different fields: neuroscience, poetry and painting.
  • Experiment with viewing arrangements and curation of digital works in dialogue with paintings
  • To contextualise and synthesise my practice in relation to digital media.



  • Botany – Seeing painting as the cultivation and nurturing of a painting in a metaphorical Petri dish. Biological science background formative.
  • Florence, Italy – A connection with the origins of oil painting in the Renaissance and the idea of re-beginnings in art.
  • Rural Lincolnshire – Boundless sky, circular horizon, freedom of an ever-receding horizon; where land and sky meet and permeate one another to form an edge that is visible and invisible containing an interspace.
  • The shared studio where dialogue and collaboration happens and extends to online interactions with the MA course and beyond. It is a setting for reflecting, concentrating and contemplating: a place where both in-work and on-work reflection can take place.




  • Whitman – Song of Myself – the self, contained by and encompassing the universe at the same time;
  • Wordsworth – thought as subject matter: the cloud emblematic of this.
  • Keats – Negative Capability: term for poetic creation out of the willingness to exist in uncertainty. He had a science background (like me) and allegedly, coined the term based on his knowledge of electricity, which was just coming into use at that time.
  • Ashbery – Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror: the poet’s grasp of thinking in painting.


Painting seen through the original lens of the artists’ own writings in relation to the creation of their own visual works:

  • Constable cloud studies – resonances of Lincolnshire skies, handling of transparencies and transience. 
  • Cezanne – edges only apparent: the line of the horizon is not really there, it is both visible and invisible, a metaphor for thought itself. 
  • Itten – His colour theory objectifies the subjective nature of colour; balancing knowledge with perception/sensation.
  • Klee – internal source of the momentum of painting/drawing with principles rooted in nature such as plant growth and form.




  • Gulig – active collaboration; Iowa Summer Writing Programme;
  • Adnan – poet-painter: integrating words and the pictorial, e.g. Leporellos.


 Visual Art:

  • Kentridge – sequential accretion of additions and subtractions; re-beginnings (palimpsest) leading to an inevitable but unpredictable outcome. All an active evolution and extended continuum of poiesis. Kentridge’s concept of “making sense of the world”.



Reflecting a complex adaptive system as in keeping the painting alive:

  • homeostasis – constant rebalancing of internal environment arising out of feedback loops; permeability and selective permeability of cell membrane (relates to transparency/opacity of paint layers).
  • practopoiesis – an adaptive system intelligence formation involving body and mind.
  • correspondences between pictopoiesis and practopoiesis – painting emblematic of the consciousness of painting making itself; also referencing ideasthesia (Nikolic).


State of Consciousness for poetic creativity:

  • Negative Capability – receptive mental space with the latent potential for creative production arising out of the willingness to exist in uncertainty without the normal categorisation of things
  • Practopoiesis (neuroscience) – the flow between different states of consciousness: traversals.



  • Aristotle – the impetus for an artwork versus impetus for life, growth, development in nature. Artwork needs external impetus of artist whatever the tool.
  • Tao – the way – a wandering where outcome is not pre-determined at inception but emerges from the experience of the journey. An active passive balance of consciousness flow.
  • Poiesis and artmaking/painting making: a way of letting be (Derek Whitehead)



My methodology weaves the painting’s world with the wider world. In one way, I see it as a counter-exchange system of the material physical reality of the painting and the illusory world of the virtual/immaterial. The digital helps explicate a sense of this intersection. 

As I paint, I enter into a collaborative dialogue with the material itself. But the painting does not speak in words as I cultivate it, guiding it towards its eventual, inevitable but unpredictable shape. From its very beginnings in negative capability, the painting identifies itself as a receptive space with the latent potential for containing worlds. It offers the chance to make sense of the world by a re-creating of it.

Circular gestures run through a painting as a unifying element of complementary dynamic aspects forming its structure. As depth increases the circular becomes a spiral progression suggestive of the cyclical rhythm characteristic of the diurnal/light dark and the circadian that is embedded in all life. Nicholas Gulig begins his poem Omphalos (written in response to a number of my paintings) Centre, season, cell… evoking nature as the original source.

The horizon, the apparently circular line that encompasses the earth, does not really exist, is invisible. I see this in the Lincolnshire landscape where it is constantly evident; my methodology informed by my surroundings (I am developing two sub-projects concerning line) There is no actual line between the positive and negative space of a painting: Cezanne made that clear. The line does not exist, it is invisible, it is the visible invisible, it represents the interspace space across which exchange occurs, the system being adaptive, alive, homeostatic.

Through my living agency, a homeostatic-like system establishes itself naturally; I constantly ask myself how to keep the material and the painting alive. As if in reciprocation, the painting makes me feel extra alive, its uncertainty is exhilarating as I cannot know exactly how it will be until it appears, so it retains its latent potential, staying full of possibility at all times, as when it began. In sustaining this inner potential the painting actualises as a series of palimpsests and rebeginnings. Throughout the trace of origin or source, is detectable though increasingly hidden. My intention is to imbue the work with its own impetus, by virtue of its palpable materiality. Gradually it is imbued with its own internal energy source (I transfer the energy of my own being) enough to sustain a continuum of making and re-making, by which the painting can be extended beyond itself. It is concluded when I see that it contains, as far as I understand it, all that it can reasonably contain and that I should leave it as such and it is time to begin or continue another painting. The cycle begins again, I progress, from one painting to the next painting in this way, each one a reclarification of my own sense of it all.

The comparison with a homeostatic adaptive system has correspondence with practopoiesis, Danko Nikolić’s neuroscientific theory of intelligence formation. Homeostatic exchange requires permeability throughout in all directions into and out of the painting. Oil paint like no other medium is fluid, elastic, sensual, and alive (it was once living as linseed). Oil paint can be stretched so thinly as to imply a permeable membrane, a mediator of exchange and hence a moderator of behaviours between the interior and external world, between myself, the painting and indirectly, the receiver of the artwork. The translucence of oil paint varies depending on the pigments used. I build up a painting accreting layers with relative degrees of transparency and opacity, balancing these qualities. I recreate, over and again; the former selves of a painting become an accretion to be overwritten palimpsest-like in the next rebeginning.  A painting becomes, actually is, history within a painting.

Eventually, a painting comes to rest, much of its history now hidden. But if I have kept a photographic record of the metamorphosis of the painting, interrupting my process continually I can use this record to reveal a time-based narrative, the story of that painting. The capturing and compilation of the photographic sequence in tandem with the painting also informs my own assessment of the painting in progress. I can be more objective when I see it on screen and easily review and re-orientate its progression in the process. Likewise, with writing, I try to formulate texts that fully integrate with the pictorial.

Digital tools are an invaluable complement to physical making. Viewing on screen and physical printing is a way of putting distance between myself and the work: I become the receiver rather than the author of it and can re-evaluate it as such. Digital tools enable extension into prints, artist books, leporellos, maps etc. These add another dimension to the idea and work and permit a wordless, worded, or otherwise explication of the work.

A significant use of the digital is the composing of animations. The gif animation (animation – archaic def = ‘the state of being alive’), in particular, alludes to the ‘living’ nature of painting. However, the format, despite its relative simplicity, does have particular challenges with regard to display hardware and aesthetic outcome. I am currently resolving these issues envisaging the use of small multiple screens, projectors and a dedicated computer. This trajectory will give me the flexibility as to the means of display, scale and numbers of screens. The animations can also be generated as a movie file using After Effects, which allows for the centering of the image giving rise to smoother transitions than are possible with gifs. However, the gif format is expressed in simple coding which is flexible and therefore offers longevity in the rapidly changing digital environment.


The animations disclose the poietic narrative of the painting that is hidden in the final work. Working with them has clarified my approach to painting which I have termed Pictopoiesis (picto: picture and or painting; poiesis: making).

Pictopoiesis is demonstrated throughout the animations where seeing the making of a painting can be understood as a time-based process analogous to the narrative of a poem in its saying. This narrative is hidden in the final work. Pictopoiesis identifies an active and in-motion adaptive system synchronous with the painting’s gestalt and in constant reciprocity with the artist. It involves a homeostatic process of balancing and rebalancing the physical and relational components of the painting through the artist mediating the inner world of the painting and self with the outer world. As the work progresses, it adapts and changes in response to its and the artist’s environment. Symposium 2 explicates this further – bringing in audience consideration – making it or looking at it, when it works well, art makes us feel extra alive

The fundamental ‘living’ operating system of pictopoiesis has correspondence with practopoiesis. Practopoiesis is Danko Nikolić’s neuroscientific theory of intelligence formation and behaviours arising from it. It involves a holistic, body and mind adaptive system. The full title of his original 2015 paper setting out the theory is entitled, Practopoiesis: Or how life fosters a mind. Correspondingly, a theory of pictopoiesis could potentially be titled, Pictopoiesis; Or how life fosters a painting’.

The second painting done during this MA, Mind Mirror was made with the notion of pictopoiesis and the disclosure of its poietic narrative in mind and it has a ccompanying text – the video made video was kindly noticed and appreciated by Danko Nikolić himself, opening up a practopoiesis/pictopoiesis conversation between us – a very interesting and novel way ahead (look into anapoiesis/anapoietic thought diagram, for example)

  • Pictopoiesis – an introduction and explication – Pictopoietopia.
  • The paintings themselves, in oil on aluminium, approx 125 x 125 cm).
  • Animations to be seen as time-based new forms. Screen-based ideally so can be transmitted online successfully. Installation design/arrangement integrating digital outcomes with the actual paintings. 
  • Emergent videos to which are added audio tracks/poetic narrations in parallel with the painting process, rather than as ekphrasis. Painting as Poetry in interchangeable form, screen-based (could also be projected so scaleable to large space)
  • Depliant giving some background to concept and biog

Work Plan 

(Time available (according to MA course calendar) being Nov 2018 – July 2019 = 9 months = approx 36 weeks)

  • November – April: Digital photographic capture of the progressive phases of the painting, whilst continuing painting. As much time as possible given to this as it is a very slow, integrated process, also sensitive throughout the year and during the day to conditions of light, temperature, daylength.
  • November – April Research and development of: artist map/books and Leporello (potentially wall-hanging or otherwise; also a series of oil on paper works (larger paintings are in oil on aluminium, approx 125 x 125 cm) also intended for the final show, in conjunction with the digital, so researching means of display of this component; and ‘Lines’ sub-project.
  • January: Editing, processing, and assembling of the timeline both gifs animations and digital photographic files. Refinement of gif forms involving further research
  • February: Prepare hardware and software for the final installation
  • March – July: Prepare high res. images for animations – very laborious as up to 30 per painting and 9 paintings – each image processed through light room, photoshop, and the timelines assembled and videos compiled using Da Vinci resolve (our in house video editing software)
  • May: Preparation of the audio tracks for the emergent videos in parallel with the production of the visuals. Also selection of work for the Summer Show, Camberwell, 11th-18th July 2019.
  • June: Prepare/pack/transportation of works etc and tools for Summer Show install
  • July: Finalise space (group collaborative), travel to London with everything needed for the show and build show 25th June-4th July. Invigilate show 11th-18th July, whilst continuing to promote the show, obtaining and assimilating feedback, building up a list of new contacts in the process. Restore space to as found and then dismantle, pack and transport work back after show (ends 18th July 2019)


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