The intro by P.F-D set out how the use of materials is itself a key art practice.
The first speaker, Neil Powell, set out the origins Absence and Presence in Japanese sculpture with particular defence to mono ha [ = school of things, it was a relatively brief movement (1966-1972) ]. It was interesting to learn of the ontological concerns of mono ha, e.g. something and nothing (1968) which was real life, real time manifestation of absence and presence - escaping from illusion & narrative. The concept that "thing are not just physical" was also thought provoking. The fact that mono ha reconnected with idealism and spirituality seems to resonate with something of my own practice; but that mono ha did this without attachment of language does not - as I am exploring the use of including text as embedded elements in some of my works - in addition to any further textual statement such as a pamphlet or artist statement.
The second speaker, artist Mark Harris, presented an engaging overview of his recent work of the last 6 years. This was with particular defence to Material, Incident and Transformation. It was interesting to learn of his use of found objects [books, books covers, images] and how he has increasingly fragmented these as elements and materials in his own work. For instance he is now using the book covers as panels to make larger collages. This has has helped to inform my ongoing reflections on my own work and how I should best utilise the found obits from the beach and the found images from paused TV etc, together with images I have made, photographs of the beach and printmaking. I was also attracted by how MH has used making prints to do something different with the image - how it seems to somehow close the circle - e.g. - an original unique painting is made into multiple copies in that it is included in a book, but that book is now rare, almost unique - found by MH in a charity shop who then makes it unique again by using it, making a unique collage/painting which is then scanned and multiple lamb prints made. This encouraged me to continue in my exploration of using my prints label or document each of the various collections of detritus from human activity of the same 200m stretch of beach. It has also prompted me to reflect that I might be able to use some images of significant historical paintings that I recently found in a charity shop. In the later seminar I was rather surprised at how relaxed MH was about how his work is received and viewed; he deliberately leaves title open to provide space for a range of interpretations - thus not giving any prominence of his own intent. This I have mixed feelings about, I enjoy being able to discover and find meaning in a work for my self; but if the work is addressing a particular concern or issue and is an expression of the artist's position then it seems a pity to give deliberately ambiguous title/information that obscures the effective communication of that position.
The final speaker was artist Sarah Mackillop, who uses and represents found objects. She employs only limited transformation - not irrevocably altering the found objects so that they retain their own integrity in themselves, and indeed some return to their "normal use". Thus her practice challenges the standard definition of materials as being a substance from which something can be made. The objects can change physically by being exhibited - e.g. fading from the effect of light. SM's minimal transformation of her found objects has further encouraged me as I consider how to us the objects, or the actual bags of objects I have gathered from my repeated visits to the same 200m stretch of beach.
It was also interesting to view the first 15min segment of a documentary Joseph Beuys - Transformers. His work is concerned with forms and substances rather than symbols. This I found quite challenging as my work is concerned with substances and symbols - the found objects are both. But I liked his definition of thinking as being concerned with forms and ideas - this resonates with my practice where I think through making work [and, actually, by writing my journal].