05/02/2015 “Smells like Teen Spirit” – Subcultures and Street Style

For this Term of Constellation we had to choose between 8 options, I chose to do Cath Davies option “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, due to the fact that last term, I found her constellation session to be by far the most engaging, and helpful towards constellation in general. She instructed us in her own method of analysing images and using academic text in essays, and i found her way of teaching to be really understandable and helpful, on a level which only one or two of the other lecturers sessions compared to. I found her to be the best tutor for me personally to learn from, apart from which, I also found her sessions to be based around fascinating and interesting topics, and her way of thinking inspires me to look at mine and other peoples artwork in a different light, how every decision you make, tells a narrative.

In Caths first session, after giving us a basic description of what would be covered during this module, such as analysing different subculture styles such as goth, punk, the teddy boys, hip hop ect, and how they’re outfits and clothing choices make a statement, and she would teach us how to unpick all the individual pieces to create a wider statement about various issues such as race, class, politics and many more.

During the lecture we looked at “Identity expression within visual and material culture”, and how gender, race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, youth identity and anti -establishment values are being expressed visually through fashion and body manipulation. We also started to think how subcultures recycle style and material objects and generate new meanings through the change in use, or by the people who have adopted the object or clothing into their subculture (“Recycling the past”).

We also covered how Tattoos can be used different by all different subcultures and be adapted to the subcultures style, but how tattoos are also regulated by gender appropriateness, placement on the body, and the persons class and the generation they grew up in. For instance, in the 60’s tattoos had very traditional connotations, such as a sailer would have an anchor, where as in modern society lots of people get tattoos for the superficial qualities. But subcultures took tattoos as another mean of making a visual statement, and a good example of this are the 1980’s ‘Skin Heads’

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These images of a modern tattoo design, meant to be visually appealing and literal body art, rather than a statement.

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A image of a previous ‘Skin Head’ and his facial tattoos, which lots of skin heads had done to show the skin head subculture identity.

During this constellation essay, we also looked at the Madonnas Iconic corset outfit from her ‘Blonde Ambition’ tour, made by Jean Paul Gaultier, for Madonna, which he teamed with a masculine two piece pinstripe suit in order to alter the conations of the different items in the ensemble. The trouser suit is associated with success/power of businessmen, where as the corset is pink, made of silk, but is worn as outerwear(layered over her trousers), which tends to suggest powerful women, which Madonna is renowned for.

As well as this, the Corset was made with a huge difference compared to a normal corset, the cone shaped breasts, which are their to make a statement, the element of that makes the outfit unforgettable, which also amplifies the powerful, in your face, boss like image, enhanced by threatening appearance of the spiky cones, rather than the traditional image of breasts being soft, girly and comforting for men. Gaultier appears to have taken reference in his designs from the Victorian style corset, when women were controlled by the men of the time, and where women were seen as a thing of beauty, rather than equals. He did this by using similar materials and design, but he’s adapted the style to give it a new conation by adding the cone breasts, and the belt, and things that suggest power.

As an artist I believe this is a brilliant way of making a statement with your work. by using things that once had a very traditional/set conation and then changing it to create an entirely different meaning, is genius. I will aim to do this, so that I don’t just conform to the rules so that I don’t upset people, because if you do that you can’t make a difference to the issues that matter. Jean Paul Gaultier helped Madonna make a statement in her blonde ambition tour, which ultimately people will remember for generations as a turning point, and I think as an artist this is something we have the power to do if we make an effort and are passionate.

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During this constellation session Cath talked about the importance of ‘theoretical underpinning’ in any analysis. She was referencing to any essays we were to do in the future where we are analysing images, or any topic. The type of theoretical underpinning we’d use would be dependent on what point we’re trying to support, for example to avoid making sweeping statements we’d use academic sources to find someone else who’s made a similar point, or we’d find research we’re they’ve argued against our point and we’d make arguments why we disagree and find other academics that support that. Cath thought us to use ‘Cath Columns’ to ensure we have academic theory to support every statement we make based on our analysis. Having learnt this I realise that perhaps ‘The Baby Cage’ essay I did didn’t have enough/the write academic underpinning, for example I could have found a piece of academic theory about how the composition of an image can change the perception of the image.


Study skills session with Cath Davies- (13/11/14)

Cath Davies’ study skills session was on her approach to analysing other people’s work, as well as her own, as well as how to analyse with the use of theoretical underpinning. She taught us her method of analysis, where you breakdown the analysis into three columns titled; “description”, “analysis”, and “theory”. The first column is the description of the image, and to describe the image in its most basic form, listing all the different parts of the image. The next column is analysis, where you take every point made in the description column and you think of all the possible connotations associated with the different parts of the image, as well as the cultural and symbolic meanings. You follow the analysis column with theory of what the image might suggest based on the analysis of the image and then you must provide evidence from the library to find theoretical underpinning of ideas and analysis with academic perspectives on your take on the image. In addition to the first three columns, Cathy said that if you wanted to take your analysis a step further, you could add a fourth column called “your practice”, which is used along side analysis and theory. She made it clear the importance that theory and analysis must remain very different, and that theory should only ever be used to back up your analysis, and this is a helpful piece of information to remember when using it in your practice.

A Literal Phenomenal in Art & Design- (20/11/14)

Dr. Mahnaz Shah’s lecture was about the difference between the literal and the phenomenal. She spoke about the artists in history that have pushed the boundaries on what is excepted in both the art world, and as society as a whole, are the artists most renowned and refered through history, and are the artists behind the most well known art in the world.

She also talked about existentialism, which she quoted Rudolf Arnheim “Visual perception is visual thinking and therefore a cognitive activity”. This made me think of the power a visual creation can have, and how you can push boundaries and create something completely unique, which can change perspectives on something or someone, something I must take into consideration when creating illustrations, it’s important to consider how audiences perceive your work and what I want them to take away from viewing my work.

I am applying this idea to my current project on personification, where I’m using inanimate objects and I’m bringing those inanimate objects to life, so my viewer looks at them as more than what they are but experimenting with mediums, composition, textures, and drawing styles to make them feel alive, and so they look like the embodiment of soldiers in World War 1.

Theo Humphries’ Study skills- (30/10/14)

-“isms”, History, close reading and speed reading

Theo spoke about writing essays, and that whenever you write about something in an essay, and you claim that to be the truth, you must find evidence and reference it to support your claims which ensures your essay is academic, correctly informed (no false claims) and accurate.

Theo’s study skills was very helpful in reference to Illustration, as he mentioned important references to art essays, by saying that when you write about artwork, that saying “modern” references artwork from the 1850’s-1950’s, and that anything after this period should be refered to as “contemporary “. Aswell as this, he mentioned which three main categories you should consider when comparing artwork; aesthetics, Geographic/Temporal, and conceptual.

Theo Humphries also said that you should never say “The history of…” as this implies you have summarised the entire history and all the different takes on the subject, which is pretty much impossible to do as that would mean including every individuals opinion of the event that occurred, and referencing people and things that although were effected by the event that occurred, had no impact on the future events that directly followed the event. So rather than “The history of…” you should always say “A history of…” .

Theo’s advice on close reading was an effective and helpful, he suggested circling words you don’t understand, then finding their meanings, and by highlighting key words and sentences in the text you are looking at, re-writing it in terms you up fully understand and then creating a short summary in your own words.

Mayanz Shah’s study skill session- (23/10/14)


Mahanz Shah told us to think about line, colour, form, structure, and volume when thinking about questions within art. When thinking about these questions she told us to consider the current art and design issues and themes, where the cross overs between disciplines fall? Mahanz mentioned this by saying how set design could be considered product design, or as a sculpture. This can easily be applied to Illustration and the way I work, one of the biggest question facing illustrators of today is “What is the future of Illustration? And What is it?” This questions the traditional role of an illustrator as a book illustrator, and makes people question what they think they know.

Study Skills with Jenny Godfrey-(16/10/14)

Jenny Godfrey’s study skills was about analysis of images, and she said that when you analyise an image, you must make sure you cover the context of the image, cultural association, ethical associations, and the aesthetic value and technical factors, and that you should apply these analysis methods to my own work as well, you you can be reassure that people view your work the way that you intended them to, so that you can show a clear message in your work.

Study Stills with Alexandros Kontogeorgakopoulos- (9/10/14)

Alexandros Kontogeorgakopoulos study skills session was helpful, as it was a talk about essay structure, and gave some useful tips, for example, the abstract at the start of a paper should tell you what the essay is about in a short summarised sentence. Another point is that generally when you research a topic someone else will have done it before you and published, so you should always look into their findings, what their take from it was, and that you should consider referencing them in the essay, by doing this you have more academic understanding of your subject, because you’ve looked at the findings of other academics, plus your showing a broader take on your subject matter.