The sickness of being disallowed: premonition and insight in the ‘‘artist’s sketchbook”

Gaffney, Sheila ORCID logoORCID: (2017) The sickness of being disallowed: premonition and insight in the ‘‘artist’s sketchbook”. OAR: The Oxford Artistic and Practice Based Research Platform. ISSN 2399-5092


This article makes an original contribution to the histories of sculpture in Britain, a phenomenon that I argue has no register of identity formation within it. I use my own particular practice, positioned in terms of class and gender, as a case study. It articulates how I know, through experience of sculptural practice, that it is not uncommon for artists to bring seemingly incompatible ideas together in the acts of thinking and making, and therefore how they may not perform a straightforward logic in what they call their process. I reflect upon the way that I use content contained in old, personal sketchbook pages to make sculpture now. I bring together the work of American feminist Patti Lather, with the psychoanalytical ideas of Christopher Bollas to argue for the legitimisation of the contents of these pages in my work now. To do this I use the concept of Artistic Research developed by Hannula, Suoranta and Vadén (2005). Their notion of being positioned ‘inside-in’ practice, as the one who is doing the research, and their principle of ‘methodological abundance’, enables my cradling of what might seem incongruous or conflicting tools of interpretation for an artist. Lather’s work acknowledges power and discourses through which she analyses the bodies of knowledge which define and limit what we can say. In the essay I interface Lather’s transgressive categories for validity in qualitative research, developed from her use of Foucauldian theory, with Bollas’s particular model of human subjectivity, represented his writings. I propose that an artist can be both an intellectual and material bricoleur and Life Writing is the method I use to play out a way in which Foucauldian ideas can coalesce with psychoanalytical ideas, described as happening inside what anthropologist Tim Ingold calls the ‘thinking through practice’ of a maker (2013).

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