Visual Art is Not a Science: Acknowledgement of Inadequacy and Recognition of Strength

By:
Nancy de Freitas
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In the visual arts and in some forms of design, creative practice opens up a domain of new knowledge and understanding about ourselves and about the world that is understood through the interpretation of poetic artefacts. This paper speculates on issues of ‘research’ and ‘new knowledge’ in the context of visual arts practice in postgraduate research degrees. A dilemma arises for artists and designers as researchers when they struggle between the need to protect the integrity of their individual practices and the need to fulfil the academic requirement for a robust and convincing theoretical text. This can result in a struggle between artistic autonomy and institutional/academic authority for those artists who believe that the artwork, through its own presentation, embodies a form of legitimate knowledge accessible through interpretation.

The ideas discussed here have come out of a recent study of the studio research methods of postgraduate art and design students. It investigated students’ understanding of active documentation as a research method within their creative practice and sought to identify the forms and processes that constitute that activity. The focus was on the students’ own perceptions of the role that documentation played in their practice-based research including perceived positive or negative impacts. The results revealed some of the ways in which new researchers in art and design begin to understand and ultimately take control of their working methods, including the generation of new artworks/artefacts, the implementation of acquired knowledge and communication about significant processes. It appears that this control may lead to greater confidence in the construction of meaning which in turn strengthens the argument for the primacy of the creative work in the research process. It is a challenge to the prevailing interpretation of academic legitimacy in relation to the domain of poetic and artistic knowledge and interpretation.


Keywords: Methodology, Art/Design, Practice-based Research, Documentation
Stream: Teaching and Learning
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Nancy de Freitas

Associate Professor, School of Art and Design
Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies, AUT University

Auckland, North Island, New Zealand

De Freitas is an associate professor in the School of Art and Design, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand. Her current research deals with practice-based methodologies for artists and designers. De Freitas did her undergraduate work and first degree in Communication Design at the Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto. Her postgraduate studies were at the University of Auckland where she obtained a Masters degree in Fine Art. Since that time she has been active as both a professional artist and academic. As a professional artist she has exhibited her work in solo and group exhibitions, including major installations at regional public galleries in New Zealand with support from University research grants and private sector funding. As a university academic she has been involved in assessment and curriculum-based research and in the development of innovative collaborative teaching strategies for art and design.

Ref: H06P0560