Contextual Research CPS 3302 Studio Practice 3301 Year 3

Contextual Post – Pat Saunders-White

Artist website –

Pat Saunders-White is a fine artist who enjoys working with clients to create pet portraits. She enjoys making art that makes people happy. By focusing on composition and colour, she tries to capture more than just the physical aspects of the animals. She uses a lot of contrast, black lines and whimsical cropping to draw in the viewer.

I feel that the subject matter of this painting relates a lot to my project as I have painted a lot of sheep and so I felt researching this artist was relevant. Although I wouldn’t expect the colours of the sheep and the red/blue background to work, the black outline breaks the two things apart and makes it effective. I love how the texture of the wool contrasts with the solid background colours. Though abstract it is still easy to identify the subject matter.

’The Four Clucks’ – Pat Saunders-White, acrylic on canvas

The subject matter of chickens for this painting was selected by one of Pat Saunders-White’s students. I love how this painting looks like an abstract drawing as it is really simple but the arrangement, composition and colours used work well. The fact the painting is a diptych also works well as it allows the viewer to spend more time looking and wondering why this decision was made.

‘Green Fence’ – Pat Saunders-White, acrylic on canvas

I feel that this painting resonates really well with my project but this painting is more of an abstract take on it which works really well. I would like to further explore experimenting with colours in my own work to hopefully achieve something similar as it really works and draws in the viewer as the colours work well together yet contrast with the black outlines.

‘Cold Hands’ – Pat Saunders-White, acrylic on canvas

I love the colours used in this piece as they are very bright and work well with the dark outline. Though simple, the irregular shapes in this painting adds to the whimsical vibe and adds more to the overall effect. The eyes make the cow look quite crazy which I find humorous. Though a different outcome, this painting initially reminded me of Andy Warhol’s serial cow imagery which is an interesting link.

How Pat Saunders-White’s work is influencing my project:

In particular, I am interested in Pat Saunders-White’s use of colour to explore animals and bring them to life. The colours used are often bright and abstract which makes them very eye-catching and evokes emotion from the viewers, with the colours being used to possibly portray how the animal is feeling or to show how amazing animals are.

The works above, particularly the last two of the donkeys and the cow in bright colours remind me of my work a lot in terms of animals being in enclosures/captivity and the animals making direct eye contact with the viewer. As this creates a lot of emotion, it is perfect to inform my decisions going forward and could help me to be more decisive about my colour choices rather than being random.

Contextual Research CPS 3302 Home Studio Practice 3301 Year 3

Contextual post – Cheri Christensen

Artist website –

Cheri Christensen is a fine artist who does a lot of drawings and oil paintings of animals. Her main focus is conveying the effects of colour and light on form. In particular, she focuses on capturing farm animals which are part of the reason that I decided to research her, as there is a great significance.

I like the way the brushstrokes add texture to the painting and make it seem like real feathers. I also love the colour scheme of this painting as it is very balanced with complementary colours. I always find it interesting to see the way different artists use colour.

Cheri Christensen does paintings of individual-focused animals as well as groups of animals in the same painting which is really interesting and something I hadn’t considered doing in my own work. However, this could take away the sympathy for the animals as they have company so individual animals may be the best idea within my own work. Lots of animals do survive by having company and I feel that Christensen truly captures animals in a realistic and beautiful way. The focus on lighting is very effective and I am drawn to the golden shades of the sun in most of the paintings I have seen.

The playfulness of this painting works well as goats are very playful animals. I feel that this painting resonates with me as I have painted a lot of goats in my project so far. The layers of colours are built up to create a captivating result. Again the colour scheme works nicely even though it is quite simple and I like that.

In particular with this painting, I love how the bright colours work well together yet contrast with the darker areas as it is eye-catching. I like that Cheri Christensen does paintings of zoomed-in segments of the animal as it allows her to capture a lot of small details and create a different effect compared to the full-body paintings.

Cheri Christensen talking about the 2021 show

Things I learned from the video:

  • Cheri Christensen was a part of the 2021 Texas Masters show, she discusses her love for backlighting
  • She does a lot of photography and considers the time of day vital, she doesn’t just go and rim light anything
  • The Colour is reflective, the weather affects the outcome of the lighting. She mainly wants nice sunny late afternoons
  • The fun yet challenging part of her process is finding the animals during that time period as a lot of them are free-range so it’s not guaranteed that they will always be there
  • She enjoys working with cool and warm colours to make her work pop
  • In some of her paintings, she combines using brushes and palette knives
  • When painting roosters in particular she likes to use mostly palette knives as it gives more energy and it’s more realistic as they are always moving
  • She uses a lot of paint as the texture is important
  • She sometimes paints while listening to music to get a rhythm going

Influence of Cheri Christensen’s work on my project:

I am interested in the ways that Cheri Christensen varies her focus on animals in her paintings – doing groups of animals, individual animals and certain segments of the animals like faces. As I explored earlier, doing a group of animals wouldn’t go well with my intentions for this project but I could always try to eliminate that option for my own project. I also feel that it could be interesting to explore doing segments of different parts of the animals that I am focusing on in my work to show variation.

Although lighting is not something I am focusing on within my own work necessarily, I still find it captivating to see and learn from Cheri Christensen how she captures the lighting and how it can completely change a painting.

Cheri Christensen uses a lot of contrast with her colour choices which is an aspect of her work that I am very interested in. The colour aspect of my work is used partly because I enjoy working with colour, and partly to show the irony of people claiming to care about animals in captivity but never doing anything to actually help them. All talk, no action vibes. Although some could consider this making the subject less serious, I feel that it works well when the paintings are grouped together.

In some of her paintings, the animals are gazing directly at the viewer which is something I love to explore in my own subject as a way of making a connection with the viewer and making them uncomfortable or sad for the animals.

Contextual Research CPS 3302 Year 3

Artist Talk – Grace Ndiritu

Grace Ndiritu is a Kenyan artist who uses film and photography in her work. She currently has a show at Nottingham contemporary called ‘our silver city’ created with a group of curators, with some of her work featured in it, favourably reviewed in the Guardian. 

During the artist talk, Ndiritu was asked a range of questions to give us an idea of the ways she works and the thought processes she goes through which I found interesting. Summarised answers to these questions will be listed below:

Question One – why do you work the way that you work?

She has a background in textile art (origin study subject) then went to work in Amsterdam for a postgraduate study where she started making video art and experimenting with different things. This was a key factor, within textiles she felt restricted and knew that she wanted to work with a range of mediums so she bought herself a video camera and was self-teaching.

Family background – from rural Kenya and working-class Birmingham, lots of contrasts culturally and historically in her head, feminist family (political household) which shaped the way she made work from the very beginning. 

After she graduated she started living a double life, rural with wild animals starting to affect art practice but there wasn’t much room for discussions about spirituality in the art world at that time and so she felt people were rude or made fun of it. Doing guru spiritual things as well as having contemporary art shows. 2012 was when her art completely changed direction – started to add spirituality into her work and mix that with the political side of things. 

Question 2 – what is your ambition with your work?
Grace Ndiritu wants her work to always tell some sort of truth, authenticity is key but can have some added humor. Always thinking about some sort of truth. ‘the nightingale film showed at the icon in 2005 was made through a process where she had started to put herself into a state of trance which allowed the performative aspect to be more authentic as she wasn’t focused on acting or being theatrical. That’s how she got into video art. 

Image of Grace Ndiritu in her performance ‘Healing the Museum’

This image is from the performance series ‘healing the museum’ authenticity key in live performance work too.

Image 1 from a live shamanic performance
Image 2 from live shamanic performance
Image 3 from live shamanic performance

These are some images of live shamanic performances with different audiences in museums this aspect of having to tell the truth or be true is vital, comes through in her social practice projects working with different types of people like refugees, migrants, people working at UN or NATO or parliament. Ambition is important. 

Question 3 – who/what are you fighting against in your work?

Grace said this was an interesting question. Depends on what is making her angry at the time. In her ‘Healing the museum’ series she was fed up with museums and felt they were disconnected from the outside world both politically and socially so she came up with an idea of wanting to reintroduce non-rational methodologies into museums such as shamanism or meditation and to reactivate the museum back into being in a way, new audiences and energies. 

This came to a head in one example – a project from the GERT institution who were investigating the restitution of objects back to Africa (debate surrounding that) so a group of scientists, academics, museum directors, actors, and artists were brought together from Africa and Europe and had these close workshops over 2 years – African museum in Brussels, an ethnographic museum in Barcelona, Italy, and France. Idea was to debate and look at this issue, a very complicated issue. What was really fascinating was the interception of the social and the political and spiritual coming together, especially within her practice. 

In the background of this, remember in 2016 there was a thing called the macron report which was given to the French president about restitution of objects and then Merkle she wanted her own report so the gerta institute was involved in this new report, so she’d be involved in conferences in the mornings involving academic opinions and she decided to bring everybody into the general room (a room full of gems, minerals, precious stones, known as blood diamonds as they were materials taken from the Congo when it was colonised by Belgium) she got everyone to sit on the floor including the museum director who had never sat on the floor before so it was a big thing for him to do, but then for them all to meditate in that room together. 

Example of the way they were sitting in the room – not an image from the actual day

 This image was taken in the museum of modern art in Paris – an example of what they were doing, not at the time though) some of the scientists and artists and activists from the Congo who were part of the project started to get very upset as they were tapping into the energy of the horrific nature of how the objects got to the museum and so the whole process became very cathartic and after the performance when we went back into the normal conference mode it made the conversation much deeper because it bonded us and we went through this thing together, so when we were discussing very practical things like the legal ramifications of sending objects back together to Africa, all the practical application of doing it. Been through a psycho-spiritual experience had a group bonding although you had people who were a very anti museum and people who were very for museums in the workshop so she found.

Image from ‘Healing Justice’ project

This image was taken from a project in Vancouver called ‘healing justice’ where we wrote love letters to strangers. Found and formed different methodologies by working with different types of people, for example doing holistic reading rooms where you read texts and meditate. Spent a few years coming up with ways of activating audiences in museums.
Ndiritu discussed how at the beginning of her artistic career she did one or two things a year but recently it has become very full-on (at least once a month).

Question 4 – where do you see yourself in five years? What does success look like to you?

Possibly moving away from social practice as it can be exhausting, she would like to publish more books (first book called ‘…modification’ which is a book of interviews with radical women, a hacker, a photographer, an artist, activists, we talk about everything including sex, money, interracial relationships and the art world. This is a project that is dear to her heart as she began it in 2013 and started doing the interviews self-funded and getting them transcribed one by one but it was really hard to find a publisher for them as not everyone is famous in the book. Found the stories really inspiring, worthwhile conversations)

Recently she started making films, many years she focused on video art

Exhibition of a range of pieces of video art at the Charles Cinema in London

This was a nice, fun evening, retrospective. Showed many pieces of video art at the cinema in London, price Charles cinema – in 2009. Over the years been working with Lux a lot (in London) but now she’s started working on longer films, films with scripts, and working with a team, much more technically challenging but you can do a lot more cinematic things. One of the films is in Coventry at the minute so if anyone is going to Coventry to see the turner prize it is in the same building, worth going to see as it is a lot about social practice and community groups whereas currently, the film is more time based, object-based which is a good contrast in the same building. 

The reason why she would like to continue those two things is that her favourite types of artists such as Mike Kelly, Jimmy Durham who don’t care about what medium they’re using, it’s more about the idea and so she really likes being able to work whether it’s writing, film, textiles or performance.
She likes a more wide ranging point of view.

Textile tapestries Ndiritu has made recently

These are some tapestries that she has recently made, as she got back into textiles her origin art medium.

’Our Silver City 2094’ – Nottingham Contemporary

This is an image from the show at Nottingham where some of her tapestries are and other people’s tapestries are exhibited. Created a space called ‘the temple’ on this wooden structure, kind of a museum display but as a place where we can have spiritual gatherings.

So for the inauguration of that, she did a shamanic performance called ‘Labour’ where she invited ten pregnant women to come in on the second and third trimester to go on a shamanic journey. Called ‘labour – the birth of new museum’ and the idea was to connect with the unborn audience and to think about different generations as obviously the show is set in 2094 ‘our silver city 2094’ so it’s about the end of the century.

All the babies born today are going to be alive and in 94 the world will be quite different. Interested in how to work and tap into that kind of energy and mind focus even now, even before they’re born to see how that develops as they grow up. All women felt the babies very strongly and got messages of what they needed to know the very powerful experience. The nice thing about the gallery, the temple space, is that when you go in you have to take off your shoes, quite a quiet contemplative place where you can sit on beanbags and sit for a while

Success is being alive and being able to maintain her practice and live off of it. Just keep going 

My opinion of Grace Ndiritu’s work and significance:

Although I am not involved in video art, film, or performative art, I found Grace Ndiritu’s exploration of different mediums very interesting and something I can relate to as throughout my personal artistic experiences, I have never been able to just use one medium and I often like to dabble in different mediums depending on my intentions.

I hope to start exploring different mediums in the rest of my third year as I feel that I have gotten stuck in a rut of using the same materials and I would like to make art exciting again.

Learning about Ndiritu’s use of different processes has inspired me and has reminded me that although we have subjects we specialise in, we don’t have to limit ourselves to those and can cross boundaries.