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  • Writer's pictureRitchard Allaway

20/02/23 - Defining Practice

Updated: Feb 21, 2023

20th February:

Defining Practice: Writing an artist statement…for 2894th time.

‘Where is your statement?’
‘Can I have that statement I asked for last week?’
‘I keep asking you for that statement and I still haven’t got it’.

I have been quite useless of late, by late I mean the past eight months. Gareth has been asking me to produce a simple statement about my practice to help the research project progress, and yet I have only just managed to write one. I will be honest, one thing and another just got in the way of me writing this statement, but it is odd for me to not write a statement. Over the years of my exhibiting career, I have written many artist statements, identifying what my practice was about and who I was etc, and yet, for the most important academic qualification, I cannot provide a simple statement when requested. Strange indeed, but that request has been fulfilled and I find myself quite pleased with the outcome.

To put this blog entry into context, I was asked by the PM1 panel to define my practice, one with boundaries and clear direction.

1. A clearer definition on the practice within this research. Is it land art? Is it environmental art? Is it performance? Installation? Photography? It can be plural, but it needs to have boundaries and definitions. Without this, it is impossible to contextualise the practice, therefore difficult to define the potential of new knowledge.

I found this feedback to be a little odd, because I thought I knew exactly what my practice was. Clearly the presentation evidenced my practice as just photography, and performance, and installation, and land art, and environmental art, and sculpture, and sound art, and film… oh, maybe some boundaries are needed after all. This feedback was what I needed, it was clear my practice had not been defined throughout this PhD, my fingers were in too many pies, and I could hear Gareth in my head saying, ‘I told you I needed you to write that statement’… sorry. It is interesting to hear when other professional artists and academics at this stage in my career and after a decade of exhibiting, to state that they are unsure as to what is my practice. I had for so long been working as an installation artist who worked with artificial light and space. I had fixed boundaries with my practice for a long time and when I entered the PhD programme, my boundaries opened up. I said to myself, that I wanted to use the PhD as a platform to open up opportunities within my practice, I wanted to explore new mediums and technologies that could create new outcomes which in turn would somehow bring me back to installation and light. I do still want to attempt this, and my sketchbook (scraps of paper doodles) exist, and my research journey is an in-between, working as a mechanic, placing materials and thoughts together to find an outcome.

During the research stages I have explored various methods of photography, film, audio, sculpture, and performance. My idea was to explore and or revisit mediums, and I could produce outcomes that would feed and develop the research aims and objectives. I have become a mixed media artist and I have had no worries doing this, I was under the impression this was ok. It is ok by the way to do just that, but I can see how it can look maybe not messy, but a little less controlled. It was and is for me to bring my practice into focus and how I did that came from my supervisory support/advice and my research question. I stated in my last blog entry that how things clicked into place once I figured out my research question and after I reviewed the question, I was able to use it as a platform to work from. Within the question was context, concept, and technicality. My team put it to me that within a statement, three things were needed and that working in a trilogy is always helpful. The practice should have three things going for it, but the statement should contain three factors.

· Context
· Concept
· Technical

The context would give a setting to the practice, the concept would state my ideas and how I would be looking at my idea through a method(s) of practice, and lastly, the technical would demonstrate what acts of practice evidenced my outcomes and or gathered ‘data’ to apply visual theory. Today I was telling my first-year group about the trilogy structure, but I placed it to them in this way:

· What are you doing?
· Why are you doing it?
· How are you doing it?

This is clearly in laymen’s terms and for a level 8 (first-year students are level 3) PhD programme you would think this to be said a little too simple, what happened to all the academic spiel? Well as I have learnt throughout this journey, keep everything simple, and simple everything has been kept during the PM1 referral. Below I have shared my statement and looking at it, I am happy with it. I am still a little unsure about the second paragraph, I do believe there is some flexibility to be had with the concept, possibly a little more information, but then again, I am trying to be concise. I do know some amendments will be made in the next few days and of course, over the many years of my practice, it will change again.

The practice examines solo/lone encounters with specific landscapes in northern England and southern Scotland that demonstrate notions of remoteness and generate sensations of intimacy. There is a need to explore feelings found through and within the landscape allowing for a possible re-contextualisation through writing and other acts of practice. Working with an autoethnographic methodology I have been able to position my research within a literary and artistic field. This reflective practice analyses phenomena from experience. Reflection is evidenced within the form of a live blog, found at,

I am looking at practice through landscape aesthetics, environment, and materiality. I want to be able to reimagine the embodied experiences I have encountered from the time spent within landscapes as forms of installation.

The research journey requires and utilises multiple methods such as photography, performance, and installation which I collate as acts of practice. Performance works as an act of practice in two ways, first as a form of embodiment - in other words an approach and action - and secondly, as archival research - a means of collecting and collating material (evidence). Photography operates similarly, in that it generates artworks and is a mode of reflection. My aim is to combine the acts of practice and use the archival material to construct installations.

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