Assignment 5: Personal Project and preparatory thoughts

A first collection of loose ideas crossing my mind.


I was triggered by my tutor’s feedback after assignment 4, the reference to Cornelia Parker’s ‘blowing up the shed’ documentation and my reflection and personal experiences. In our neighbourhood in East Frisia (Ostfriesland, Germany) is a vacant old small residential building and the last tenant/owner obviously passed away. The building already deteriorated some time ago – with still somebody living in it.

Images from 2016:

I thought that I have taken already before a picture – but cannot find it. Also some time ago I was thinking to take a photo over time as I was envisioning a constant decline of the building. Now I find it the right time to take this subject up for my personal project at the end of this painting course.

While passing by that location (walking or riding) it always brought some strange feelings to my mind. Not clear how to articulate my experience and emotional responses. So unreal. There and not there. A kind of in transition or perhaps transcended already. It brought me to my earlier investigation of the sublime, process in nature and humans (from my clinic experience) and the unique atmosphere of the space of that location. I am thinking about the uncanny, the awe. Still wondering how to express it with the right words verbally. I learned earlier on that it is a good preparation for my paintings to think and write down free associations, words, phrases, a kind of brainstorming.

Key words (brainstorming) that comes to my mind while be on location:

  • Deterioration / Decline / Lost life / Unknown story / Sadness / Uncanny / Sublime / Awe / Reverence / Place / Nature taken back / Memories  / Not-recognized / Overseen / Unnoticed / Fate / Prayers / Process / Time lapse / Absence / Distance / Out-of-Body / Ghosts / Unreal / Haunted / Unhomely / Death / Touching

This do remind me of Sigmund Freud ‘Das Unheimliche (The Uncanny)’, 1919. Freud described ‘Das Unheimliche / the uncanny’) as a ‘Heimlich / hidden, familiar’ thing that has undergone repression and then re-surfaced from it. He distinguished the uncanny from the simply fearful by defining it as ‘that class of the terrifying which leads us back to something long known to us, once very familiar’. Freud cites Ernst Jentsch, who located the uncanny in ‘doubts’ about ‘whether an apparently animate being is really alive; or conversely, whether a lifeless object might not in fact be animate’ (Tate). I find this description quite insightful and adequate for my project. It reflects too a great extent my thoughts and feelings.

Coming back to the building it sounds so weird that a building just collapses. Why does no-one care? Or there might be other reasons behind?

In our neighbourhood many old buildings are so old, not conforming with current energy standards, never invested in renovation as it was and is for many just too expensive. Most people and families are constructing their own new homes on green field or in between old houses in smaller plots of land. It’s is like a turn in life – with the elderly passing away the buildings deteriorate and vanish.

What do I want to achieve with my paintings?

To visualize my personal encounter alongside the process of deterioration and memories and the notion of the uncanny.

Looking at Sublime and Uncanny once more:

Lyotard’s formulation is that the sublime is not a presentation of the unpresentable, but the presentation of the fact that the unpresentable exists (Morley, 2010, 65) or as a sense of the unspeakable and to address the limitations of our knowledge and our exposure of something repressed “Something outside the boundaries of what we are willing to accept about ourselves.” (Mike Kelley in interview with Thomas McEvilley, 1992 in: Morley, 2010, 204). A formed reality into which the sublime is ingressing.  Mike Kelley (1954 – 2012) is interested in ‘repressed memories‘ and in the exhibition The Uncanny at Tate Liverpool, 2004 Kelley “explored memory, recollection, horror and anxiety through the juxtaposition of a highly personal collection of objects with realist figurative sculpture” (Tate).

How to build on my strong points form previous parts?

I do think that the following aspects could be useful to apply to my subject matter – a loose collection that need definitely refinement and focus:

  • Personal encounter: Loose and expressive use of paint, series of photos as a collage base for painting, photos as base for painting (Gerhard Richter, Adrian Haire etc), Indexabilty (found material from location embedded in painting )
  • Process: Sequencing of paint application, Process of painting as a serial approach. Documentation (Claire Parker)
  • Deterioration: Not-control elements, documentation of painting, time based images
  • Memories: Aspect of non-recognition (e.g. use of Mylar), step separation of layers with monotype or photography reference, other mono-print techniques, books versus individual paintings, layers of meaning, narrative informs a body of work

Thoughts on formats:

  • series of single images or processed images, using mono-print and ghost print technique for fading memories => process
  • process of detioration as paint changes (see Cornelia Parker (b. 1956) ) => process
  • book (memory, more intimate, like a photo-book) => personal encounter, memories (see Tom Phillips)
  • box with single painting (a treasure box of collectibles?) => memories
  • Installation and to engage the viewer into an embodied ‘visiting of site’ i.e. Images hanging high to make the viewer looking up,low to make him looking down close to his/her feet etc. (see Graham Chorlton (b. 1953) ( => memories,

Possible way forward 

  • Mapping out visual ideas
  • Experimenting with different approaches
  • Interweaving my word associations with images
  • Exploring found material from site, use materials that may trigger associations with residential life and memories.
  • Look on how to incorporate human presence / absence, realistically or abstract
  • Decide on process as series, series as narrative, or other formats (avoid redundancy)
  • Contextualize my work along my painting journey (avoid over-research)

My personal project working title: The Uncanny – deterioration of a residential building and fading memories – human absence 

=> I will now go ahead and make a visual mind map of all my ideas to funnel down a complexity and to focus on my way forward. It will also be beneficial to use it as my working platform.





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