Independent Studio Practice

Aims of the course

Module Title: Independent Studio Practice

Total Learning Hours: 400

Issue Date: September 2015

Academic Year: 2016/17

Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.”

-Chuck Close



Module Descriptor: This Module is designed to develop students’ visual, conceptual, and technical skills through the production of resolved work. This will help to determine the direction and scope of subsequent project intent as they move towards the conclusive studio module Exhibition Project. Students will be encouraged to demonstrate their understanding of the importance and relationship of curatorial consideration to their studio based production through their selection of resolved work presented for critical review.


Visiting speakers which come via the Visiting Artist and Lecture Series (VALS) offer an additional opportunity for students to listen to and engage more distinctly in their specific practice and will help them to articulate and contextualise their studio work in a larger sense. These interactions can also influence the statement of intent: a reflective, concise piece of writing which details, evaluates, and contextualises each student’s self- authored project designed to identify and build upon personal aptitudes and strengths and articulate ideas clearly. An essential and transferable skill required for career progression as an artist practitioner. Students are also asked to consider their practice within a wider context of not only studio work but also within codes of practice such as research ethics and health & safety.



Problem Solving

You will engage in sustained self directed studio practice which will enable you to develop a studio practice in order to create resolved works as you move towards the Final Exhibition module. You are encouraged to use this opportunity to explore your artistic interests and experiment with varying techniques in the creation of these works. However, this is no longer a time for unfocused study. Your statement of intent will be seen as a guidebook for your study, and while you are allowed to stray from your initial intentions, you must also provide evidence in regards to previous works as to why your focus of study has changed.


Please note, just because the module calls for resolved works, this does not necessarily mean that the work completed during this module will all be completely finalized and ready for the Final Exhibition module. All these projects must be seen as being open to change based upon curatorial concerns and further guidance from tutors. For instance, smaller resolved works completed could be seen as a trajectory for a more ambitious final project. Major technical concerns and experimentation should be overcome and resolved, however there are a variety of factors which will continue to influence your work. A major one simply being what space your pieces will be exhibited in.


Throughout the duration of the semester you will.


Create extensive documentation of your own process, and of your finished works as it relates to your artistic goals and interests. Branislava will speak directly to the documentation process and what it entails.


Create extensive documentation of your work in reaction to a series of prompts which are given throughout the semester. A prompt is provocation designed to get you to create a piece which involves a certain conceptual limitation.


Creation of the Statement of Intent. In addition to your documentation you must also prepare a Statement of Intent which is constantly going to be edited and added to throughout the semester. This is a document which compliements all of your documentation.


Statement of Intent Requirements
Your statement of intent is a refined, edited record of work largely sourced from
the documented evidence of your process and development over the semester.
In many ways, you can think of the S.O.I. as a summary of your course
documentation. The S.O.I. does not replace the evidence you will submit as part
of your studio presentation, rather it will serve as a separate point of reference
analyzing these five areas of your studio practice.​Your S.O.I. should be in­depth
and include text and images. It must cover the following five areas:


1. 250 word description of your project:​This is in line with current funding proposals
where Arts Council England and others will start by asking artists to describe their
intended project. This aligns with professional skills development for artists in the
bidding culture that is a natural part of working in the creative arts sector. Practice at
this during the undergraduate programme should help you post­graduation when you
start to make your own funding application forms.


2. Research:​Research which demonstrates the context within which your practice sits.
This will be broken into two elements: Visual and Theoretical Research. Reference
points should come from books, magazines, journals, texts and the internet including full
academic referencing. Reference points should also be taken from lectures, study visits,
museum and gallery visits, visiting artists’ presentations, tutorials, studio discourse and
lived experience.


3. Curatorial presentation:​a consideration of how your work is effectively displayed in
a professional manner. You should demonstrate that you have considered various
methods of presentation and display. Thoughts and considerations about the audience
and/or viewer and how they will engage with your work are also important to discuss.


4. Techniques & Methods of Working:​a record of engagement with technical skills
and processes acquired through workshops and self­directed experimentation in the


5. Evaluation:​a critical self­reflective analysis of how the project has evolved and
where it might develop in the future.
You will have critiques throughout the semester. These will take place over the course of two days. You are expected to bring your work and present it to the class for feedback. This is not the time to talk about ideas or what you want to do. It is the place to show resolved tests, and works in progress.


You will have two presentations. During the first presentation you will get feedback as to how you have compiled all of your documentation, and work, and your ideas. And the second is your final submission. A presentation is a presentation of your work, in the space, with accompanying documentation.


You must document your presentations. In addition to creating a presentation within the space, you also need to make a DVD which is documentation of your presentation within the space. This is part of your final submission and needs to be submitted in addition to it.


Cultivate an artistic practice. This is what is at the heart of this course. You must get yourself into the studio, and work on your art. Without this, there is no class. You have to take responsibility and ownership of your direction in the course, and this is a big change from the past when you were in HND and there were more concrete tasks given with definitive outcomes. The studio production in this course must be self motivated. I can’t tell you what to paint, or shoot, or code. That has to come from you. Contemporary Art is interdisciplinary which means there are a myriad of different media and ideas which can be employed in the creation of the work. This transition can come as a shock to some, and for those unfamiliar with self guided education it can seem that nothing is happening since the normal framework of a classroom has been turned on its head. Here is an essay which can be helpful which outlines the benefits of this model which is commonly referred to as the “Open Studio”. A portion of which is below.


“How then might the art school better reflect the conditions of contemporary art? How can art school curriculum apply the interdisciplinary, process‐based and collaborative logic of much contemporary art practice? One alternative to the discipline‐based model is that of the ‘open studio’ practiced . The open studio marks a significant departure from the structure of the conventional art school in a number of ways.   Firstly, the open studio is non‐disciplinary in its approach to art‐making: students are not streamed according to medium or discipline. In preference to notions of medium, students are encouraged to engage with the more urgent issue of practice – that is, the way in which subjectivity and process unfold as a continuum of enquiry in the art studio. That is, students are immersed from the outset in a studio framework that prioritises the essential problem of developing and sustaining an art practice. The tendency of most discipline‐based courses is to introduce independent practice in the final year of the undergraduate degree. Independent practice is treated as an advanced competency that develops out of the sound grounding in a specific medium to which most undergraduate attention is directed.




Module Aims:


This module provides the opportunity to establish a secure platform of subject knowledge and expertise upon which the proposed exhibition project can be planned and achieved. Particular attention is given to developing significantly advanced production skills that will be deployed in the material depiction of ideas.


Students will benefit from having the extra time needed to extend their capacity to communicate sophisticated, convincing and compelling visual ideas.


Indicative Content:


Provide students with the opportunity to advance skills in selectivity, discernment, and critique. Determine the trajectory of subsequent project intent


Learning Strategies:


As autonomous learners, self-directed study is an important part of this module enabling students to engage with studio practice and the putting together of their Statement of Intent. Staff initiated tutorials, visiting artist presentations, critique presentations of produced work are scheduled throughout the module. Students as both individuals and as groups have the opportunity to request additional tutorial appointments with programme staff and visiting artists.


Summative assessment will require students to present an extensive body of studio and workshop based research incorporating professional developmental studies and resolved specialist projects. Formative Assessment Feedback is by individual tutorial appointments.


Learning Outcomes


Knowledge & Understanding


K2. Deploy expertise in the advanced skills used to resolve visual and curatorial projects. Cognitive & Intellectual Skills

C2. Assure an effective translation from conceptual aspiration to material depiction.

C4. Have acquired sufficient practical and personal expertise to sustain their practice. Practical & Professional Skills

P2. Have an assured ability to prepare and realise a body of work that conveys an in depth knowledge and understanding of visual and curatorial practices. Key Transferable Skills

T2. Have acquired the practical skills and competencies associated with advanced learning development.

T4. Affirm an assured understanding of codes of practice associated with self-determined project intent.


Assessment Strategy

100% ICA – (250 words) Written Assignment (Statement of Intent) and Studio Presentation (Extensive Range of Development Work and Resolved Artefacts)

The ICA requires the studio presentation of project work that identifies selectively appropriate media and materials that will be deployed in the development and resolution of degree show work. The project chronology, ambition and outcomes will be recorded in the student’s Statement of Intent.

Formative Feedback: Students will have the opportunity to access informal and verbal feedback through tutorial appointments made with the module leader and/or module tutors. Individual and group feedback will be facilitated through critique sessions of in-progress and completed work.

Formative Written Feedback: for assessed work will be provided on the Programme’s standard Assessment Feedback Form.

Submission of an exhibition proposal in the form of a Statement of Intent (including an ethics and governance declaration). The Statement of Intent in the form of a reflective, concise piece of writing, details, evaluates and contextualises each student’s self-authored project and should include references to other research sources including artists and visiting speakers that have had an impact or influence upon the trajectory of their projects.

A studio based presentation of visual work evidencing selectivity and discerning critical judgement in the methodology applied to articulate exhibition project production intent.

Assessment Criteria

Detailed task specific assessment criteria will be published on the module’s blackboard site and in the module guide but in general, students will be assessed on the degree to which:

100% ICA (K2, C2, P2, T2, T4)   Written Assignment (Statement of Intent) (K2, T2,T4)   The ability to independently apply a sophisticated range of research methods using appropriate specialist sources and discursive contexts is articulated in the Statement of Intent.  The ability to independently plan, manage, review and evaluate key aspects of own learning and development is articulated.  The ability to propose a selectively appropriate choice of methodologies, strategies and technologies for the production of high quality artifacts.   Studio Presentation (C2, P2)   The ability to independently evaluate and apply theoretical knowledge and concepts in visual and curatorial contexts is materially evidenced.  Advanced production expertise in the use of appropriate materials, applied strategies, processes and media for the successful development and depiction of ideas is materially evidenced  That research ethics and project consent are embedded in the process of production and display of textual and visual artefacts






What Painting Is by James Elkins talks about the studio and compares it to an alchemist’s workshop. (available in school library)

Inside the Artists Studio talks to artists about materials, techniques, and processes. 

Making Contemporary Art are interviews with artists asking simple questions about their process. (available in school library) 


Gorky’s Granddaughter is a series of videos of studio visits and short conversations about the work.

Nathan Lewis, July 2011 from Gorky’s Granddaughter on Vimeo.

What do artists do all day talks with artists about their process and shows them working in their studios.



In the Make is a video series profiling West Coast American artists. 

Studio Practice




#ffffff Walls features an inside look at artists’ studios and their artistic practices. is a Czech web series focused on contemporary art.

Go Fucking Work Chrome plugin which blocks time-wasting websites.



Artists Decoded talks with young painters in the LA/San Francisco art scene.

Savvy Painter interviews painters and talks about their creative process. 

Song Exploder

Previous student blogs

Tommy J




Today’s lesson:

Selected Reading:  I was Jeff Koons Studio Serf

You are about to begin a studio production class.  It is not a lecture class, however there will be occasionally lectures. It is also not a series of technical tutorials with specific tasks. Even though we do have a technical assistant to help with problems which you will encounter.   This is a hands on course which must be directed by you, and your area of study which will inform your working process.  Different lecturers have varying areas of expertise. They are here to facilitate, support, and even at times assist you in your work.

The class meetings are required and to be used for working on your projects as well as to engage in individual sessions with lecturers. The critiques are especially important as this is where we will periodically present the work we are developing and gain feedback from the entire class.  Missing critiques is treated as a serious offense and will affect your grade accordingly.

At the end of the semester you will make a studio presentation which is a small curated selection of your documentation and working process in the studio, with some finalized as well as works in progress.  This will be created in your working space, and will help form the bridge between this class and the exhibition production class.  This small, personal exhibition of works (we will refer to it as the studio presentation) should be focused on the creation of a specific conceptual as well as technical pieces.

Remember that much of what you are doing is not only exhibiting finalized works, but also the process and developmental stages of creating the work. So get into the habit of documenting the trajectory of your work. There should be a clear path that builds upon itself and resolves itself into finalized work. Essentially, we need to see the sketches, experiments and even failures to get a clear vision of how you see your work developing, and also to see the intermediary steps which make up the daily studio practice you are engaging in.


Robert Smithson: Site – Non- Site



This following resource below represents ways of looking at the world in terms of a dialectic between Site and Nonsite.

Site, in Smithson’s term, is a space as it exists to be experienced directly in the world.  (For example, this studio, as you sit in it )

Nonsite, then, is the same space as it is re-presented.  ( A photo of you sitting in the studio )

In the text below you will see Smithson’s dialectic of Site and Nonsite. What questions is he asking?  What discoveries are made?  What is he doing with this work?

As you walk, you are drawing a line through space.  As you re-present this line to the class, you present Nonsites, to borrow Smithson’s term.  Please, however, do not borrow Smithson’s methodology directly.  The point, instead is to find original ways of re-presenting space, and how this can stimulate new ways of experiencing, looking, and seeing, both for you and for your audience.


Cezanne and his contemporaries were forced out of their studio by the photograph. They were in actual competition with photography, so they went to sites; because photography does make Nature an impossible concept. It somehow mitigates the whole concept of Nature in that the earth after photography becomes more of a museum. Geologists always talk of the earth as ‘a museum’; of the ‘abyss of time’ and treat it in terms of artifacts. The recovery of fragments of lost civilizations and the recovery of rocks makes the earth become a kind of artifice.




Photography squares everything. Every kind of random view is caught in a rectangular format so that the romantic idea of going to the beyond, of the infinite is checked by this so that things become measured. The artist is contorting, distorting his figures instead of just accepting the photograph.

I do think an interesting thing would be to check the behavior of Cezanne and the motivation to the site. Instead of thinking in formalist terms – we’ve gotten to such a high degree of abstraction out of that – where the Cubists claimed Cezanne and made his work into a kind of empty, formalism, we now have to reintroduce a kind of physicality; the actual place rather than the tendency to decoration which is a studio thing, because the Cubists brought Cezanne back into the studio. 

William C.Lipke



Site Selection


I’m interested in making a point in a designated area. That’s the focal point. You then have a dialectic between the point and the edge: within a single focus, a kind of Pascalian calculus between the edge and the middle or the fringe and the center operating within a designated area. And usually when you focus on it with a camera, it becomes a rectangle. The randomness to me is always very precise, a kind of zeroing in. But there is a random element: the choice is never abolished.


I would say the designation is what I call an open limit as opposed to a closed limit which is a non-site usually in an interior space. The open limit is a designation that I walk through in a kind of network looking for a site. And then I select the site. There’s no criteria; just how the material hits my psyche when I’m scanning it. But it’s a kind of low level scanning, almost unconscious. When you select, it’s fixed so that randomness is then determined. It’s determined in uncertainty. At the same time, the fringes or boundaries of the designation are always open. They’re only closed on the map, and the map serves as the designation. The map is like a key to where the site is and then you can operate within that sector.

-Robert Smithson


Francis Bacon. 1970s /Michael Holtz /sc
Francis Bacon. 1970s /Michael Holtz /sc



Cayuga Salt Mine Site


This was the first interior underground site that I did, the one in the salt mine. There you have an amorphous room situation, an interior that’s completely free. There’s no right angles forming a rectilinear thing. So I’m adding the rectilinear focal point that sort of spills over into the fringes of the non-descript amorphousness. Then it’s all contained when you shoot the photograph so you have that dialectic in that. On a topographical earth surface you don’t have that kind of enclosure. There’s a sort of rhythm between containment and scattering. It’s a fundamental process that Anton Ehrenzweig has gone into, I think his views are very pertinent in that he talks about this in terms of containment or scattering.






An artist in a sense does not differentiate experience into objects. Everything is a field or maze, and you get that maze, serially, in the salt mine in that one goes from point to point. The seriality bifurcates. Some paths go somewhere, some don’t. You just follow and what you’re left with is like a network or a series of points, and then these points can then be built in conceptual structures.


The non-site situation doesn’t look like the mine. It’s abstract. The piece I did here utilizes the same dialectic of the site/non-site, except the one controlling element is the mirror which in a sense is deployed differently. There’s an element of shoring and supporting and pressures. The material becomes the container. In other non-sites, the container was rigid, the material amorphous. In this case, the container is amorphous, the mirror is the rigid thing. It’s a variation on the theme of the dialectic of the site/non-site.


I’m using a mirror because the mirror in a sense is both the physical mirror and the reflection: the mirror as a concept and abstraction; then the mirror as a fact within the mirror of the concept. So that’s a departure from the other kind of contained, scattering idea. But still the bi-polar unity between the two places is kept. Here the site/non-site becomes encompassed by mirror as a concept- mirroring, the mirror being a dialectic.


The mirror is a displacement, as an abstraction absorbing, reflecting the site in a very physical way. It’s an addition to the site. But I don’t leave the mirrors there. I pick them up. It’s slightly different from the site/non-site thing. Still in my mind it hasn’t completely disclosed itself. There’s still an implicit aspect to it. It’s another level of process that I’m exploring. A different method of containment.


The route to the site is very indeterminate. It’s important because it’s an abyss between the abstraction and the site; a kind of oblivion. You could go there on a highway, but a highway to the site is really an abstraction because you don’t really have contact with the earth. A trail is more of a physical thing. These are all variables, indeterminate elements which will attempt to determine the route from the museum to the mine. I’ll designate points on a line and stabilize the chaos between the two points. Like stepping stones. If I take somebody on a tour of the site, I just show them where I removed things. Not didactic, but dialectic.


Oblivion to me is a state when you’re not conscious of the time or space you are in. You’re oblivious to its limitations. Places without meaning, a kind of absent or pointless vanishing point.




There’s no order outside the order of the material.

I don’t think you can escape the primacy of the rectangle. I always see myself thrown back to the rectangle. That’s where my things don’t offer any kind of freedom in terms of endless visitas or infinite possibilities. There’s no exit, no road to utopia, no great beyond in terms of exhibition space. I see it as inevitability; of going toward the fringes, towards the broken, the entropic. But even that has limits.

Every single perception is essentially determinate. It isn’t a question of form or anti-form. It’s a limitation. I’m not all that interested in the problems of form and anti-form, but in limits and how these limits destroy themselves and disappear.

It’s not a matter of what I’d like to do, but how things result. There are strict limits, but they never stop until you do.

James Turrell






The module guide is designed to support your studies in the Independent Studio Practice Module in Year Three. It contains information that will help you to understand the structure, content, and delivery of the module and the kind of learning experience, aims, and outcomes you can expect. It is also a useful resource document that will give you advice on how to get the most out of this module.