Surface materials and aspects of care:
A study in modes of being in a visual art practice
Submitted in fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, 2015
School of MECA
Creative Industries Faculty
Queensland University of Technology
This research extends from a critique of surface as the under-acknowledged partner in the making and viewing of drawings. Within a practice-led approach I explore ways of responding to and engaging with the peculiar qualities of surface materials and through this creative inquiry, reveal a broader ethos of practice. The particular qualities of surface materials – paper, fabric, board – lie in their shallow extension, their detachment from any substantial form or depth, and, as such, their equal availability to ruin and expression. In any interaction with such materials a constant negotiation of these terms insists upon a kind of care that does not entail preservation so much as an enlivening of matter. In this thesis, I propose that care arises as a mode of being between the artist and work, the work and beholder, and even between the parts of the work. The thesis therefore proposes a mode of being that situates the art practice within an ethical framework, premised on an ontological equation, taken from Heidegger, of care with being.
While care, as a theme in art practice has been explored explicitly through a range of contemporary practices, these have largely engaged the medium of performance or ritual. This current research seeks to show how care is operative in material practices, where the particular qualities of those materials generate the terms for care as a particular mode of engagement that is reciprocal and intransitive.
Key words: surface materials; care