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Number One (Lavender Mist), 1950, Jackson Pollock. Source: jackson-pollock.org

Dictation of thought without control of the mind.

What were the aims of the Surrealist painters? Is it possible to wholly understand automatic experience beyond one’s own? How closely did the artist’s pursuits relate to the theory of Surrealism?

To find the answers I attempted to think like a theorist and felt as though I was floating into a black hole. My preoccupation with art theory stems from my love of art making itself. My connection is not so much with words but with the visual. It is under this pretense I examined the problematic tendencies of surrealist theory and the place of automatism.

I once had a…


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Chanoyu is rooted in Zen Buddhism ideals, actualized in Japan by Chinese in the thirteenth century. After the imperial court and shogun treated chanoyu with little aesthetic and major entertainment value, Sen no Rikyu re-informed the concept totally. He affirmed the national identity of Japan by removing religious Chinese components. Naturalism was to be the encompassing theme reflected in the aesthetics, utensils, and environment. This was broken down into notions of respect, purity, tranquility, and harmony. Also, beauty was to be sought through personal involvement. …


Rendering the depth of Japanese life to a simple flat picture plane

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Tales of Genji, image source: harvardartmuseums.org

To present a range of functions to contemporary audiences within the format of a scroll was a major problem for artists of emakimono. The first issue is how a picture scroll is read for monastic or contemplative uses. Then we explore the problem of how continuity is established in historical and legendary narratives. We also see the issue of how realism is depicted in descriptions of court life and poetic portraits. Composition, colour, line, perspective, and style are used to communicate these functions to the spectator.

Closely inter-related is the problem of how emakimono could be used as a vehicle…


A collection of photos, videos and notes from a cocoa tracing trip in the Pacific Islands in an effort to spark a curiosity for where things come from.

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400 million tonnes of cocoa is produced each year. 70% of that comes out of West Africa, and less than 2% is produced by the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. This experience represents just a tiny fraction of the world of cocoa but it is a truly important part of chocolate making and consumption.

To begin, plants are cloned in an effort to nurture excellent genetics rumoured to make the…


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There is no question of the value of his craft. From the time he was an exhibiting artist in the 1870’s to today, Tissot’s paintings, sketches and prints have been sold for sizeable amounts. Essentially it is a matter of taste and knowledge when it comes to admiring his style and subjects. Sacheverell Sitwell denoted his works as “skill-fully representative and utterly unimaginative,” yet others see him as a master of the “nuances of genre painting.” Tissot was ridiculed for the same reasons he is championed. The state of the art world today is certainly a different place to that…


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“The history of art is a history of vision, but also in a whole new way of seeing and conceptualising the world.” — Martin Kemp

The Della Pittura was conceived by the perfectionist Battista Alberti in the early Quattrocento. His motivations both personally and for artists led to an intellectualisation of the arts and saw it earn a status that remains a domain to marvel at. The debate as to whether Alberti was the first theorist of art lies between the tensions of originality and attribution. …


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If Ukiyo-e was to be personified as a person I think “the girl with the kaleidoscope eyes” would be a perfect fit. The poetry of John Lennon painted the picture of a captivating woman with a sparkling disposition. His compelling portrait leaves us wanting to be in her presence if only for a few minutes. It parallels the desire to jump through the picture plane of an Ukiyo-e picture into the thriving metropolis of Edo and experience the floating, fleeting world for oneself.

The alluring pictorial character of Japanese art from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was idiosyncratic. Content, function…

Anna Campbell

Essays and memoirs about little wonders

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