Assignment 4: Reflection on tutors’ feedback


Despite my delay of deadline by nearly one week and the festive days off, I received the formative report back from my tutor very quickly. Overall I left an impressive work for part 4 and my tutor thought that I already pre-empted the next assignment 5 and by that I would have completed the course by including aspects required now in this assignment. According to my tutor I put too much work already. She was quite concerned about the steam and energy I put into the coursework and that I may burn out before the end of my degree. Nevertheless, I truly enjoy working on this course, to experiment and find possibly new ways of visual articulation.

I am glad that my learnings and progress explanations were perceived as clearly outlined with my line of thought and benefits of my approaches.

My researches do exceed expectations and scope of a level 1 course. My tutor was impressed especially about my research on Sublime  that she considered as the beginning of a mini essay draft already and my note on Pallasmaa (moving images). I appreciate her support and her advise to slow down and to develop more carefuly an argument and to find applications in visual art.  She found my own learning conclusions ‘Review painting and sketches’ quite insightful. My tutor advised me to retain a balance between more pre-mediated prescriptive projects with more process driven projects

A) Feedback on assignment work and further thoughts

Interim stage – click here:
My tutor preferred the interim stage (6 segments, 30×30 cm each) versus my final one (12 segments, 40×40 cm each) as it has better cohesion in the group of paintings and for stylistic reasons. I am wondering why that is and I have to say that before submitting my assignment I was thinking of reducing the number of segments. I was struggling with my concept of one underpainted image across 12 segments and to reduce than for my final presentation the number of segments. I can see that latter approach might have its own right, as some paintings (e.g. ‘Linear Perspective‘ and ‘Squaring Up‘) had there own right and turned out differently than I initially expected.
Why this type of grid organization in preference to other cluster or narrative formats?
My tutor believed my cluster approach in project 1 Ex2 ‘Hard and Soft Landscape’ as more convincing versus my assignment grid. My rationale for my grid was that initially I felt the urge to have a format that could be used in multiple ways (like a jigsaw puzzle), to turn around and to place them together. I thought the square format as the best format for that – considering my two step approach of painting. Also I wanted the abstract pattern per each segment became a main element in the final images/grid.Eventually I went another direction and the final cluster as a grid became one way of presenting a landscape and my underpainted image acting as a kind of underlying meaning, but also as a restriction.
Grid & Perspective: Both seem to connect more with modernist ideas of space – so in some ways appear to be counter-positioned to subjective emplacement. This is a new perspective I haven’t looked at. My tutor suggested to look into literature on space place to negotiate my own position further.

=> Revisiting
both stages, interim and final, and discerning my final cluster with the most successful paintings I tried to come up with a similar cluster as in the exercise ‘Hard and Soft Landscapes‘. Considering also my tutor’s comments on finding “more random organized patterns and less rigid formats – like lines, or open-ended clusters”. For me this is quite a different presentation. Now rather an installation of individual paintings combined to a wider moment and narrative. But I find my process of experience and memory a bit lost here.
Stefan513953 - Part 4 - Assignment 4 - Re-Visited - Cluster #1

Stefan513953 – Part 4 – Assignment 4 – Re-Visited – Cluster #1

At this stage I did reflect more on my tutor’s comment “to stop working to same size and experiment with a more installation-based approach of differently sized images, which may also use a range of drawing and painting (and collage) approaches“. She suggested to look at works by the Northern Irish artist Craig Donald (b. 1987) (  as a good lead for this approach. I can see here that space can be extended beyond the pictorial plane of one painting, image. E.g. the exhibition wall acts as a another support, something like the space of my studio with various images flooding around, or like a site in nature where I depict a few small areas to work on. By that I can envision a spatial dialogue. One idea based on my assignment images – build on walk/path, water/river, rocks/mountain –  could be: background image (printed with a faded image my intermediate image – thoughts about this see below) and individual paintings placed on the wall within and outside of the image:
Stefan513953 - Part 4 - Assignment 4 - Re-Visited - Cluster #2

Stefan513953 – Part 4 – Assignment 4 – Re-Visited – Cluster #2

A next step could be to eliminate the background image completely and work with the left ‘void’. Perhaps a sequential installation as I’ve learned from Cornelia Parker now (‘blown shed by explosion’ in Chisenhale Gallery, London) – see below.

The question to me: Where am I, the viewer? Inside that space or still outside? Am I the narrator? Guiding the viewer through a story, my story, story of others? And how much space (physical and mental) do have the viewers to build on their own story? Understanding that the more I put into the space/frame the less space they have.

That leads to another aspect highlighted by my tutor about:

Self and relationship to environment: I included a kind of one stand viewpoint as if looking out of a window. I took reference to the notion of framed landscapes as a way of applying the same aesthetic convention when appreciating nature as when looking at a piece of art. See my reference ‘Unframed Landscapes: Nature in Contemporary Art‘ by Maja and Reuben Fowkes – who expanded on the more contemporary approach of ‘unframed landscapes’ and I was wondering how I can make a painting that doesn’t fit the traditional Albertian notion of art as a window (framing) to the world. In this context I can see a relation to Project 1.1 where I looked at different ways of looking out (to build on the title of this course part)

Intermediate painting: My tutor considered this a powerful image exploring the sublime through a monumental painting in contemporary loose washes of paint. She had quite some misgivings on cutting this up. My intention while making the assignment was to use it just as an underlayer with rather abstract patterns (from image of a fading memory). Indeed the painting took longer than a ‘normal’ preparation of a ground. Nevertheless I recorded myself making this large scale painting and pulled together the following video (process painting of sublime running)
Vimeo video (5:24 min). Available from:

Sublime is running from Stefan Schaffeld on Vimeo.

Cutting up the image: My tutor placed this point into discussion. She acknowledged the approach and principle of reorganizing smaller images in various clusters as a good exercise. However, she asked what might be the necessity for cutting my intermediate painting / image up? Could there be other ways to illustrate my ideas, rather than an iconoclastic approach? Could I approach this through a series of independent or successive images – as my sketchbooks seem to indicate?
=> I had to look up the word iconoclastic in order to fully understand the point: “destroying images, opposing their veneration, attacking beliefs“. I am wondering about my own statement and position with my assignment work: Am I an iconoclast and destroy (cutting up) my own image to make a statement about e.g. the sublime? I didn’t look at it that way and as mentioned in my post, it was rather about the underlying images and memories of sire that led me towards the cutting (destruction) and overpainting and re-assembling (re-construction). From the points raised by my tutor I do understand that I was not able to communicate my rationale clearly. Other possibilities? How to make my statement more successful and visually appealing? I think this leads further to serial process painting and narrative of process through various images, formats, and media. I do sense a gap here and would like to get more feedback and support on other options. (Question to my tutor).

Process painting – in a sense the process of painting my intermediate sublime painting and my progress of making various images – brings me by my tutor’s suggestion to:

Chance leads on to process:  The Surrealist aspect introduces elements of subconscious- deliberation; process painting and informel, tachisme and abstract expressionism, action painting – all these developed from the basis of Surrealism. My tutor highlighted that this could be another interesting area to research and contextualize in future work (incidentally it would work well with objectives of part 5).

B) Narrative, serial work, and work books (sketchbooks)

What are pros and cons (practically and conceptually speaking – implications for narratives) of working in books and working on a tableau of sort?
=> A very insightful question as it brings me spot on to my approach with sketchbooks, studies oil loose paper, and paintings on stretched or un-stretched canvas and speciality papers. With my sketchbooks #8 and #11 (smaller ones with each one having 25 images inside) I tended to work on one theme with restricted media and the intention to fill the entire sketchbook with such images. In between those sketches I worked in another sketchbook in parallel to elaborate my ideas. Eventually some of them turned into paintings on larger scale (e.g. ‘Aerial Perspective‘). Working on tableau sort of things is for me more of a meditation of ideas and thoughts and turning them into a hopefully meaningful work. I believe this is when my tutor phrases this as  “to retain a balance between more pre-mediated prescriptive projects with more process driven projects“. Sketchbooks, working in books format avoids to have one painting standing out. in my two mentioned sketchbooks the title page due to the open window in the cover stands out. Especially with sketchbook #11 I made this one at the end as I felt being too conscious and restricted in making a very fitting image. I can see now that my struggle here expresses quite well my approach to larger scale pre-mediated works.

Narrative and serial work: My painting progression and process in exercise ‘Hard and Soft Landscape’ by itself as a serial work and narrative. I.e. not individual and single images pulled together but one image over time and how it develops. That brings me to some works by Willem de Kooning  ‘Untitled V’, 1982 and Untitled XII’, 1982  (in: Elderfield, 2012). Multiple stages (up to 20) were photographed, at the artist turned the support even several times before getting to the final image. The time sequence is the differentiating element.
=> Serial process painting as a visualization sequence of time and time based phenomena, intuitive reference (e.g. disappearing and reappearing rock, dislodgement, associations with avalanche and entropy are coming up). My tutor linked this approach to the time dimension that print or photography can do so well. She intuitively associated the time sequence and the perception of the appearing and disappearing rock in my process sequence to Cornelia Parker (b. 1956). Cornelia Parker documented the shed being blown up by the British Army (Available from: ) and documented the follow up. Parker suspended after the blown up the charred remains of the objects from the shed as if in mid-flight from the epicentre of the explosion. In Chisenhale Gallery, London the intact shed was first exhibited for one day, than the explosion took place, and afterwards alongside the suspended objects a photograph of the intact exhibited shed was shown. I can see here various aspects to build upon: time based visualization of documentation of one moment, recalled sensations of an event, and the lost moment of the event. Triggering sensations and thoughts, memory, and her focus on light and shadow interplay of the final installation. In summary it is combination of time, space, process, and visual sensations.

This brings me to some new ideas and real events, objects from our neighborhood where a e.g. a buildings is deteriorating (old house after last owner passed away) or damaged and destroyed (railway bridge over river still not reconstructed).

C) Sketchbooks & Studies

My sketchbooks and studies turned out to be very strong with fluent, fresh and economic handling of paint. My mini series of ‘The Mountain Cries’  was convincing. My tutor suggested to introduce more space between single images so that “the work can breath”. Even to place them together in a non-traditional landscape vertical format of organization. She referred to thinking syntax – breathing spaces are needed in between words. I looked up the word ‘syntax’ and discovered that in linguistics syntax is a set of rules for structuring sentences and words. In Mathematics it syntax are governing rule of the behavior of mathematical systems.  Here it would mean to find how to structure images and clusters of images, presentation. I find this a quite fascinating analogy.

D) Project Work and further thoughts

  • I was surprised to receive quite a positive feedback on project 1 – Ex1 ‘Window’ and project 5 – Ex1 ‘Working drawing’ that turned out to be quite successful. I found them as too deprived and perhaps too illustrative. The difference in perception raises the question how I do discern my own works?
  • My tutor related my ‘Window‘ painting and my use of Mylar as mirror with a sense of  ‘non recognition’ to Lucy Skaer (b. 1975) who did a drawing based on the flash image in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006. The video recorded the flash strobe in darkness and the illumination of the otherwise invisible objects. I can see that work as a drawing or light traces. By that a visualization with new media of a well known environment (museum). The work was mainly a video but Skaer also based a drawing on this project. (Available from:
  • Painting from a working drawing – this is an interesting development, and quite successful. It may lend itself towards ideas for part 5? (Question to my tutor)
  • Project 2 – Linear and aerial perspective: My tutor found ‘Linear Perspective a strong work. The layout of sequencing and also upside down exploration in ‘Aerial Perspective’ as very interesting that goes somewhere.
  • She found my parallel project in exercise ‘Painting Outdoors‘ of the Found object series worth to explore further. Besides imprints of found objects to integrate found materials in a painting (see Anselm Kiefer) or to paint with pigments found on site.
  • Photo collage in exercise ‘From working photograph’ with more options to develop further. I agree that the used type set is not convincing and suitable (too graphic). I like my tutor’s suggestions to introduce handwritten text, what didn’t come up in the first place. I find it a new perspective (reference:  Anselm Kiefer or Cy Twombly). She referred to one of my sketchbook pages (p.11) were I combined text and image in an appealing way. Though my intention to annotate my sketches was more of a note taking approach.
  • Control and non-control in ‘Squaring up’: My tutor evaluated both paintings as successful and suggested to look at Graham Chorlton  (b. 1953)( He might offer another reason for how some tightness and control sets of runny paint more effectively. What can be said for control and not control at the same time?
  • Step separation in ‘Squaring Up’: A sequence that makes sense to my tutor, showing steps of making separated out. She related this to print through taking proofs of interim stages. Question how to do this in painting? One option could be through a technique which incorporates printed backgrounds (in a way like decalcomania as a kind of monoprint). Or through photo documentation that can then be printed out and further manipulated with paint. (References to  Andrew Haire; Gerhard Richter)


From my assignment work and approaches in part 4 and considering my tutor’s comments and suggestions I can see serial aspects and painting as process as a way for further exploration. I am wondering how I can push the appealing progression of my painting approach in exercise ‘Hard and Soft Landscape’  further towards a deliberated narrative. Also how to use various presentations of single images (paintings, or even in juxtaposition with drawings, photographs, prints, or handwritten text) to convey an appealing narrative and satisfying visual image. I do see the aspects of time and space as crucial in my approaches. I need to be clear how to incorporate those and which medium would be more appropriate. Further I do sense that I need to overcome my barrier of thinking series as a collection of single final images (see my photographed painting progression) or in a similar format. I do get more and more an understanding that a narrative is much wider than I initially thought of.

A common theme since part 3 is my interest in the Self and others (inter subjectivity). I am now taken her advise to take this aspect wider and to involve more the viewer with his/her own set of experience and option for identification (see my posted painting ‘Linear Perspective’ for critique in OCA discuss forum).

My tutor guided me towards some interesting and strong aspects in my body of work from part 4, e.g. sequencing of paint application, step separation of layers, building on not-control elements, and the aspect of non-recognition. Additionally the new perspective on format: grid, clusters, books.

The for me most appealing aspects in my approaches are process and layering aspects. Alongside rather conceptual thoughts of memory and embodiment, and to convey a multifaceted meaning to the viewer.

Points for contextual researches:

  • Sense of ‘non recognition’: to look up Lucy Skaer (b. 1975) – who made a drawing based on the flash image in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Available from:
  • Documentation of process events: to look up Cornelia Parker (b. 1956) who documented the shed being blown up by the British Army – and the follow up documentation. Available from:
  • Control and not control: to look up works by Graham Chorlton  (b. 1953) on how some tightness and control sets of runny paint more effectively. Available from:
  • Photo documentation and subsequent painting:  to look up some works by Andrew Haire (b. 1991) (Available from:  and Gerhard Richter (b. 1932)
  • Space place:  To look into literature onto negotiate my own position further and consider my subjective emplacement ad the modernist ideas of space.
  • Chance leading on to process:  Research and contextualize further the area of surrealist aspects of subconscious-deliberation; process painting and Informel, Tachisme and Abstract Expressionism, Action painting.
  • Text and image: Look at Cy Twombly and Anselm Kiefer for use of handwriting in painting

Next step to assignment 5

Self-portrait with environment

My tutor suggested to look further at figure and space (environment) and to go beyond the idea of a self-portrait. I could build my assignment 5 on my revision and consolidation of the grouping/serial aspect from assignment4, and possibly with further elaboration of integrating found materials in my painting (or to paint with pigments found). For more focus I could utilize the mentioned exercises in part 5 to develop my assignment work.

Her suggestion is to look at landscapes with human elements as provided a shortlist of artists:

She thinks that the idea of Self-Portrait could end up as a terribly self-conscious work. The self may be enshrined in archetypal themes in above references, but it is heightened to a larger, wider perspective which allows identification for a wider spectatorship.

Some useful reference points might by the direction I pursue in project 1 From inside looking out and the project Painting from a working drawing . 


  • Elderfield, J., Mahony, L., Frankel, D., Coddington, J. and de Kooning, W. (2012) De Kooning: A retrospective. 2nd edn. New York, NY: The Museum of Modern Art.

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