Henry Coombes Brief – 1st Year SEA – GSA – 2011

The Conscious Subconscious

The artist, too, has to face chaos in (their) work (Ehrenzweig, 1967: 5)

During this project we will investigate and attempt to understand and unpack the role of intuition in the making process. According to Ehrenzweig (1967) The Hidden Order of Art, making is a mix of conscious and unconscious scanning, of control and loss of control, influenced by both materials and process – the resultant work is a complex mix/coming together between materials, process and our engagement with those processes – being in the experience.

[…] a purely conscious control of the working process is neither desirable or possible. (Ehrenzweig, 1967: 57)

• Studio workshops (with Henry Coombes)

Studio Workshops aim to create a working situation which should appear – at least on the surface –  to allow little to no time for thinking or conscious decision-making, by encouraging a diversity of states of intuition. Through the arising works and your reflections on the process, we will discuss this push and pull of conscious and unconscious. There will be an exhibition of the project, which will be arrived at through these processes of exploration and will form the basis of our discussion at the critical reflection.

Accidents are useful if they displace control from conscious to unconscious levels of the mind. (Ehrenzweig, 1967: 60)

One of the intentions of the project is to ‘unsettle’ how we do things; engaging in ways of working where we cannot predict the outcome, however, become more aware of the ways in which we make decisions and the influence that materials and process can have within that. In many ways, we could argue that in such an exploration, the brief becomes superfluous; is something that offers guidance or direction still necessary in such a context? Can the conscious and unconscious operate together? How do these contradictions work in practice? These are the kinds of questions we hope to pose over the course of the project.

And then there is a moment of violence and destruction, followed by the creation of a mysterious beauty. Emptiness. Cai Guo-Qiang

The Studio Workshop with Henry aims to extend and induce a state of intuition. You will be asked to search for a piece of discarded rubbish, which, you will be asked to respond to as a reference point and catalyst for a new piece of work. The process is designed to offer starting points that create their own ‘chaotic’ energy and momentum that should drive the work through a journey over the 6 days of the workshop. Expect to use materials as diverse as clay, scrim, wood, plaster, paper, charcoal graphite and video. This workshop will be punctuated by a series of surprise interventions during which you will be encouraged to trust your instincts and intuition – there will be no time for indecision or preciousness – the ultimate aim being to show what you can achieve if you put your fears to one side.

To support the Project you’re asked to research examples of artists whose practice you feel relays this dynamic – this should be ongoing in your sketchbooks and research journals, as your ideas may change as your own understanding of intuition develops and shifts over the course of the project.

It is important that you find your own ways of recording this process – how will you reflect on this, there will be start and end points that you may not be aware of as they happen, how do you document these and ensure you can present the rigor of your learning at assessment? For example, do you capture moments through writing, drawing, photographs, video? Do you work with others in your group to capture and observe this dynamic and share documentation?



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