Aesthetics – Charles Tailiaferro

Taliaferro, C., 2011. Aesthetics: A beginner’s Guide. 1st ed. London, Great Britain: Oneworld Publications.

This was a recommendation from my tutor in feedback for part 2 UPM.

1 – What is Beauty?

Discusses Plato’s view of beauty as a universal goal. There was one form of beautiful that by liking or loving created its value and we should aspire to the next run of beauty as long as we are capable of lust before we get too old. Also, we only like/love those attributes which we don’t possess. This was countered by Ross’ view that “one which identifies beauty with the power of producing a certain sort of experience which we are familiar with under such names as aesthetic enjoyment or aesthetic thrill.” which stops something being automatically beautiful.

Also Frankfurt and his explanation of parental love being separate from the values of our children, we love them as our children with an understanding they are not more beautiful than others, and their value overall is not greater or existent on our love for them. So, love can be a force in itself that is separate from beauty.

Hume proposed the first recorded theory of beauty being in the eye of the beholder, Murdoch links love to a spiritual good in which there is an inherent beauty “in the warmth and light of the sun.”

the chapter ends  with Sircello “Loving beauty is of the utmost importance.”

2 – What is a work of art?

Discusses Plato’s ideas of works of art, ie the ship-builder as an artist with technical skill etc, then a poet, although this required more than apprenticeship in a single skill as it discussed other skills with some knowledge within it.

This all hinges on the object or picture eliciting an aesthetic response due to mimesis ie its recollection to something that we can recognise.

Tolstoy explained it as the artist ‘infecting’ the observer with an emotion they had lived through so that they too could feel it. You would have to be really confident in abstract art to guarantee that your infection is correct to the germ.

The next view of art was that if the artist said it was art then it was, Du Champs urinal is the key here. Although the definition of artist is someone who says they are one is a bit lame…

Art to convey an emotional response which is Tolstoy’s explanation over Dickie’s which is that it is art if the art-world says it is. Danto clarified it further as the art became art history and the observer had to have a knowledge of the symbles to decifer the signs in the art to understand them.

3- Art and Meaning

Do you look at art wholly by understanding how the artist wanted their work to be understood? This isn’t possible given the lack of writing accompanying every picture.

Brings us around to deconstruction theory and the history of the viewer looking at the work with their views rather than those of the artist, CS Lewis’s point about whether we look at art and let our views affect it over letting the picture slowly inform us is a good one.

4 – What Makes Good Art?

This chapter is really interesting in that its good to see a lot of the theories I’ve previously read about in other courses, come together into the same short (in comparison) piece of writing.

If the art produces a message that is not the same as the artist states is in the work, has the work failed? Apocalypse now has an anti war message that is overshadowed, however its still a good film. If the work has a backstory we are uncomfortable with does it invalidate the ‘worth’ of the art? Chinese view of copied art having as high a value as the original because of the value of the original, western view on forgeries as un-authentic (Benjamin) and lacking in aura. If the message the work has is one that makes us uncomfortable (Bacon) or we disagree with (Gauguin and his underage relationships with the girls he painted), again is it not good art? Value in this sense is emotive over financial.


5 – The location, ownership and dangers of works of art.

About ownership if changes have occurred to the work, also based on the fact that anyone could have made it/composed it/ written it, so working on that theory should the person who made it have any authority over it? the meaning of art if seen outside its intended location. Also, restoration, decay seen as classical or romantic, classical in that it shows the original intention, can be partially fixed and surrounding information showing it as it was originally intended, over the romantic view where the passage of time is shown as in all things must end etc.

Censorship discussed in this chapter, both  in that the artist wanted (their work to disappear or only be used for one occasion) versus society censoring work because in current times attitudes have changed and the work should not be created or historical works value as societies views have changed. I was watching something yesterday (genuinely can’t remember what) positing that art is holding feminism back because its so sexist. I still maintain there will be no issue with sexism when we stop feeling it’s necessary to study Freud.

6 – Cross Culture Aesthetics.

A look at the term aesthetics from a Chinese and Japanese view, submerging yourself as a creator in a subject enough to create without forcing as a means to create good art.

Rounds out the book well.

This is a good advert for spending the time creating lots to get the distance from your work.


Helen Frankenthaler – Paper is Painting

Frankenthaler, H., 2010. Paper is Painting. 1st ed. London, Great Britain: Bernard Jacobson Gallery.

This exhibition catalogue has a good introduction to Helen’s work, which seems to be about simplifying pictures down to marks that can still create a reaction in the observer while not being totally recognisable, as abstract expressionism.

Helen utilises accidents in the paint, she owns them and you aren’t aware what is planned or accidental.

Uses colour as an emanating  light, like Paul Cezanne’s later watercolours (which seem to be about less is more).

I will admit that I have issues with abstract expressionism. they fill a space on the wall, but generally don’t draw me towards them. I like to be drawn into a narative that is more obvious. My personal exception is Rothko, the room at the Tate Modern, it is a reverential space designed to display the huge pictures at their best and it succeeds because of their size and the deadening impact they have on sound within the space.

Helens work seems to be the light fluffy version of this, she played with thinned paint soaking into the support, pooled watered down acrylics on flat sheets of paper then played with the paint as it dried, but overwhelmingly it seems to be lighter paler colours that are largely inoffensive. Take Untitled 1994, acrylic on paper, a 105.4X74.9cm a swathe of swimming pool blue washed over most of the paper, drying darker in some areas  rather than the same tint overall.

My Tutor suggested I look at Helens work in reference to potentially making my work more unfinished, there is certainly less to see in Helen’s work. I spent some time with a bunch of daffodils, (something that would be in my home as a seasonal item) and my response started with more finished images than it ended.

The question of how much information we need in the image to illicit a response from the audience is interesting. A full blown picture of a bunch of flowers gets questions like who are they for? or who are they from. The colour pages without line can get an emotional response based on personal likes and dislikes of colour and possibly a seasonal nod because there are certain colours we associate with those times of the year. But I’m not convinced there is enough to draw a conclusion to looking at a piece of work.

Linking this to Bachelard’s Poetics of Space, looking at the casket, or box or tin as objects “that may be opened” and actually starting that process

The picture on the left asks whats in the box that we can’t see, the picture on the right draws me to the black space with a straight edge like gravity. it seems to be a shadow at the bottom of a flower bed, it is asking what it is though in a way the daffodil colours didn’t and the absence of anything below it means there isn’t anything to to inform or suggest  whats within the shadow.

A problem I have with Helens work is that the titles don’t give a hint either. I get a response to the work, I admire the depth of colour, take page 35 Untitled 1994 as an example, Acrylic on paper with a deep teal getting thinner till it meets orange with heavy orange dribbles suggesting lines and what seems like a block printing the orange over the teal in places to suggest regular form in an opaque overlay. the bottom of the sheet is un-painted paper and this continues up around the left side. there is grey dribbled in a line at the top although this is barely visible. the picture is reminiscent of a storm over the horizon, I like it because I can put that image onto the painting though.




Research point – Part 4 Tondo and the interior & The poetics of space – Gaston Bachelard

Bachelard, G., 2014. The Poetics of Space. 10th ed. USA: Penguin Group.Roo S Waterhouse – Fine Artist. 2018. About Roo Waterhouse. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 13 May 2018].

Mark Fairnington. 2018. Human Eyes. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 13 May 2018].



This part of the course is mixing two things, the more intimate surroundings of the home and painting round or oval pictures.

The interior.

The interior implies a picture of part of my life, this can be as impersonal as the contents of my saucepan cupboard (as painted in part 1 of this course) or the private contents of my laundry basket. What we choose to show people on our shelves/floors and walls is a reflection of ourselves and through art a recorded history of things that are important at the time. However it could also be seen as a fear of the outside whilst inside is a safety and a surety in the stable unmoving nature of our belongings.

The course book suggests reading The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard, this is a book that thinks about the home space as a place we inhabit in our heads as much as with ourselves, the first chapter (after immense forwards and intros) looks at when we are thinking about our ‘home’ and how we think about it.

2-House and Universe. Chapter 2 is more of an overview of other peoples words on this space, how they describe it in different ways, as a safe haven or a mother that keeps them safe from the outside world. The peasant who dreams of a castle and the castle dweller who dreams of a cottage. How all the spaces in a house treat sound differently.

3-Drawers, Chests and Wardrobes. Is about drawers, wardrobes and boxes. storage items, things we deposit stuff in. filing memories, or hiding them behind warm coloured wood. of boxes as unknown content that is richer in possibility than fact, the locks as things that can keep us from those contents. It seems a very positive view and doesn’t mention Pandora at all, but then this book is about the warmth of the home over the uncertainty in negativity.

4-Nests. I thought this would refer to a way in which we choose to live in a space, my husband accuses me of nesting in rooms regularly, I don’t over cushion, and the objects I put on display are carefully thought out. The chapter was more about the language we use to describe nests and there creation around the bird rather than being built and then moving in like a bricks and mortar property, although the analogy of a nest to a thatched cottage was marked. Also, the link between the fork in the tree that the nest sits in, apartment living?

5-Shells. This is more defensive than nests, the suggestion that crushed shells still have the potential of the curved shape if made back up again. The mythology around them is darker. Still using the same thought on construction as the nest where it is smooth on the inside from constant touch, implies a vulnerability not present in the nest as it is returned too while the shell is in constant habitation (?). Analogies with designs for forts and architecture with a view of hiding.

6-Corners. Arnaud “I am the space where I am.” Great quote better viewed in a corner, the author is right, a lot of lines take up the negatives of corners, the dust and the old and unwanted taking up the space, spider living in the corner dreaming about being a ladybird? it could be this negativity that has helped create open plan living? What is lost in the corner?

7-Miniture. Looks at the language of Lilliput and the experience of being up high and seeing the world small below and the feeling of superiority and better than in this miniature experience. brings up the value of images experienced within an understanding of time, of hearing the grains of sand in an hour-glass over our incomprehension of passing time in the sound of the ticking of a watch. Deals with the words of sound of silence. Read in the back garden listening to bird song from before 6 to after 9 on a sunny Sunday morning.

8-Intimate immensity. The immense described through the forest, the sea, the plain and the reflection in water or an eye. Vast as an overused word by Baudelaire to mean many things. How a plain can be comforting to one and a scary expanse to another. I’m finally getting to grips with the power of this book in its use of language, are we when we create large images trying to make observers of our work feel small? is this a power trip on the part of the artist?

9-The Dialects of Inside and Outside. This chapter talks of difficulty with inside outside, from a personal point as we cannot see ourselves to make considered judgements. Discusses doors as the route inside or out, half open etc. The vastness of outside versus the potential for everything daydreamed inside.

10-The Phenomenology of Roundness. The physical round of shape, of growth, of a rounded self and education, of the rounded form of a bird, of its life. This chapter brings home the relevance of this book to the research. We have the interior dissected as the content, and the tondo explained as the rounded form.

Putting shelf into the search engine of Saatchi brings an eclectic mix to the fore, the staged have to be discarded first whether its painted better than real life (Simulacra, or putting a rosey glow on your belongings. Think Facebook and Instagram) This is more honest, paint what’s there without moving it first.

Annabel Dover paints single objects out of place, ie no background or setting, which relies on her add on writing to define why the object is being represented at all,

Roo Waterhouse calls them Shelf Portraits, which sounds right. As Roo puts it, these objects “which we gather around ourselves, the external proof we supply, both to those around us and to ourselves, that reassures us of our existence as individuals in the world.”


Painting in the round creates its own focus, the above pictures are inspired by Mark Fairnington’s work, his paintings of eyes as a part of a face, be it animal or human are a hyperrealistic view of a part of a life. I get a sense of these eyes peering back at me, possibly looking through something to do it, in which case am I being looked at against my wishes? without my knowledge? These eyes are my children, painted with oils on window mount cut-outs from my local framers, its a good exercise in using oil paints, but these are the eyes of real alive children, not the glass eyes of museum exhibits that Mark has painted in his animal tondos.


This is a photo I took at Mottisfont, they don’t always have the servants attic opened, but they did this day. Apparently, one of the former gentry, who lived there, kept a crocodile in the bathroom on this floor, which is what this is set up to represent. However, the act of peering into the room seemed very tondo-esque. I quite like the humour of seeing something you wouldn’t expect to see and that it is looking at you.

Combining the two elements of interior and tondo creates a greater intimacy in looking at the contents of my home, I now get the relevance of different areas and the questions I can ask myself in these spaces.

The size of the tondo will create its own problems as it plays with our view of scale of objects, making us miniature over the items I paint, I’ll deal with these as they occur.