Modernism – Postmodernism – Metamodernism

This week’s art theory lecture was expanding on last week’s discussion about Modernism, Postmodernism and the cultural philosophy of Metamodernism.  I’ve spent some time researching it, there’s plenty of information online and Huff Post contributor Professor Seth Abrahamson has written several thought provoking essays on metamodernism.

The term ‘metamodernism’ was first used in 1975 by academic Mas’ud Zavarzadeh. Then around the 2000’s it began to be more widely referred to in culture. “By the mid-to-late 1970s it was clear that what the postmodern exertions of the 1960s had produced (along with much wonderful public policy) was an unanticipated side effect: a decay, disillusionment, and despair at the heart of American culture …” (Abrahamson, 2017). There was a need for an evolved cultural philosophy, and the internet played a large part in this shift. Cultural philosophies have a life span of about 50 years, but technological evolution often prompts a new cultural philosophy:

Romanticism ca 1790- 1850

Victorianism 1840 to 1900

Modernism ca 1890 to 1945  Modernists such as Picasso, Nietsche, Freud, Einstein, Schoenberg, Virginian Woolf were experimental and progressive in their artistic practices. Political and technological advances influenced their work, they stripped away facades and questioned and experimented. (The Age of Radio)

Postmodernism 1945 to 2005 The movement drew attention to contradiction, irony, meanness, scepticism, context and marginality – Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Robert Rauschenberg, Joseph Kosuth, punk rock, Brett Easton Ellis, Baudrillard, Derrida.  There was an overall cultural “sense of glee” at embarrassment, hope, enthusiasm etc .(The Age of Television)

Metamodernism reconstructs things by joining their opposing elements in an entirely new configuration rather than seeing those elements as being in competition with one another.” (Abrahamson, 2017).  Think GIFS, think Lego Movie, Team American, Buffy the Vampire Slayer , Shia LeBoeuf, Chris Ofili, Zarah Hussein, Olafur Eliasson, Childish Gambino, Billie Eilish…. Metamodernism  is generally referred to as oscillating between two extremes to create something new. It’s remixing to create a new outcome. (Which is what we experimented with in Stage 1 of the Foundation Course). It combines whimsy with spiritual depth, and is an unconscious cherry-picking of the best of modernism and postmodernism, it brings back the essence of humanity and interiority allowing self-expression which is both positive and negative. We are all individuals with an interior world. Are we entering an “I agree to disagree” era and moving away from “I am right, you are wrong”?

Interestingly, I couldn’t find any links to Metamodernism on the Tate Modern’s website. Is this because is it still classed as a contemporary and emerging movement, and not yet established enough for a genre in its own right? Is that what “modern”art is?

See ”What is Metamodernism and Why Does it Matter?”an essay by Greg Dember (May, 2020). He states that in the arts and in contemporary social trends there is a current complex sense of playful irony, and experimentation in the intricacies of being human.,4chan%2C%20Reddit%2C%20and%20Twitter

Group Tutorial feedback

It was lovely to see my peers progress since last week, we’re all very unique and different in our styles and practice, some students work purely digitally, some are creating an end-user blog on Friendship, others surface patterns for bedding, others books…

Today’s feedback was useful. I presented my minor changes following last week’s discussions. I have been finishing off the final details to my map and added stars and a sun in collage, and also tried in Photoshop- which gave more realistic results for envisaging how the artwork might look. I showed slides of the alternatives with and without, and discussed that I feel adding much more would make the final piece too busy. One comment was that I could potentially include a few more opaque stars across the top of width of the sky and size them differently etc in Photoshop first. I will try this as it may complete the finishing touch. I have also added some of my poetry handwritten in white on the tree trunk, Katie suggested that I could include some more elsewhere on the map. Perhaps I could put it on the path to the sea? Other comments were that it is a very calming and autobiographical piece of fine art that they can visualise hanging on the wall of a yoga retreat or in an art gallery…. I showed the screen shots of a couple of virtual art gallery simulations I have experimented with.

My next steps are to prepare for hand in:

finish my artwork
gather everything I have made in Stage 3
photograph my body of work/ test pieces
review/consolidate my written Reflection and Evaluation on this blog, add to the Blog all photographs from my sketchbooks/scraps of paper

and have for hand in on 21st May:

Evidence of Stage 3 Final Major project in PDF or Blog form


Evaluation (Final summary 250 words)

Bibliography (Harvard referenced)

Signed ASAP form

Elements of Maps and ‘horror vacui’

As my artwork nears completion I am considering whether or not it needs any other elements added to it. Old maps drawn up by specialist cartographers had very little empty space. My Map of Mindfulness has a couple of areas at the top where I am wondering if they need some detail adding. (Sometimes it’s best to stop rather than ruin a piece of artwork by adding unnecessary details!) I researched elements of maps in Google and found a really informative article from the New York Public Library This explains all about legends, cartouches (I thought those only appeared on ancient Egyptian tombs), shields usually that of the patron, compass roses and whimsy. My map is mainly based on “whimsy” so it doesn’t need any more of that, I also considered a cartouche for the top right corner, replacing a sun. A compass rose is not really needed either as my map multi directional and spiritual, within the mind there is no “north”. A legend is not needed either as there is no distance in the mind, it’s infinite.

I watched a You Tube video posted by the New York Map Society of Chet Van Duzer (Cartography Historian, UC Berkeley ) presenting a talk on “Cartographers’ Fear of Blank Spaces: with savage pictures fill their gaps“. He discusses “horror vacui” (Latin – pronounced ‘horror vakwee’) of historical cartographers : “how empty spaces on maps were consumed by text, ships, sea monsters and other embellishments that were designed for that very purpose.” (Van Duzer, 2020). My self doubt has been solved. I have no fear of empty spaces in my work, and drawing on the theories of Composition and negative space studied in a spring workshop, I am satisfied with this.

Testing the sun and stars

I tested physically collaging painted tissue paper variations of suns and stars onto my map, and took photos. Then I asked for technical Photoshop assistance from my home tech support (lovely husband), so he/we digitally placed the sun and stars on my Map of Mindfulness artwork. This made a huge realistic difference to the overall composition balance. I asked for opinions (“better with/without”) from family, friends, and a few course peers on whether they were too much detail, and should the space be left empty or not. Some said that all spaces on a map should be filled in some way. This certainly seems to be the case in old maps that I have looked at online and in cartography books. My friend Syd recently posted a picture of his historical maps calendar on Facebook – it’s an old map by renowned cartographer Gerhard Mercator of ‘Scotia Regnum’ ca 1595 I studied the cartouche closely, and sketched a very rough idea for a possible cartouche for my map.


I’ve reached the conclusion that my map looks balanced as it is without any additional detail. This Map of Mindfulness is a metaphorical map, it’s not directional, the places on it are infinite and they only exist in my meditational practice, everyone’s “map” would be different. It’s not so much as charting the route, but is instead showing one of many journeys which can be spiritually taken in the process of mindful practice.


Group Tutorial Zoom Session with Katie Rewse and Reflection

I think I’m now approaching the stage in my artwork where I run the huge risk of over-doing it by continuing to add too much unnecessary detail. I have a couple more details to add – sun and starts in opposite top corners, which I will collage test first to make sure they are the right effects. I asked the group and Katie Rewse (who was hosting the tutorial today) if I should add some lines of my found mindful poetry. A suggestion was to take a colour copy of the artwork and test adding the words onto it first, or to use acetate. One of the group suggested writing in white pen, so it’s more subtle.

Katie also suggested that if I have a body of work that I could investigate presenting it in a 3D virtual art gallery setting – there are various websites which enable you to build and test a limited virtual 3D exhibition for free. I researched several virtual 3D gallery websites, two which were the most appropriate for my small virtual exhibition. and my favoured one Some of the websites were for official public art galleries and museums, and cost thousands of pounds to run.  There are not many which are free to use and there are fees involved for publishing and usage.


Collograph printing experiments

Today our fine art technician Kev instructed me in how to use the intaglio print press. (Despite the actual print bed being no bigger then A3, the print wheel was surprisingly resistant to turn.) I don’t have much experience of printing – only linocut – but have participated in  induction sessions in dry point etching and screen printing in the uni Print Room last autumn. Collograph printing is a completely new, exciting process to me, although the printing process in principle is very similar to intaglio/dry point.

Kev advised me on how to compose and prepare my print plates on greyboard (mountboard can also be used but locally it was sold in imperial size 0, so I sourced some A4 greyboard from Amazon). He kindly prepared my plates in advance of my print session,  as they needed to be varnished with 3 coats of shellac to seal them, (each coat takes time to fully dry before the next) and then he ran each of them through the press, and showed me embossed paper print previews showing the texture of each plate prior to me inking them up this morning. The image surface textures took well, and hadn’t lifted or distorted. The threads, ferns, egg shells and oat flakes remained intact and created some fantastic textures.

I created 3 collograph plates with textures of abstract organic/nature themes using a combination of crinkled tissue paper, found tree bark, paper doily, oats, dried herbs, pressed maidenhair ferns, eggshells and fine cotton threads from a canvas edge, and also made indents into the boards variously using pen lids, a craft knife and scissor blades. I also made a quick small square plate of an engraved leaf, with cut outs (inspired by my friend Lesley Watt’s collographs) which produced better results than I’d anticipated. The intaglio inks I used were Akua5 Speedball water-based in Prussian Blue, Lamp Black, Crimson Red, and Hansa Yellow, and were easy to clean up and wash off. These were first spread individually into small piles (like butter!) onto an acrylic palette, and each ink was applied to my collograph plates with an old toothbrush, then rubbed into the textures with scrim and then “polished” with some newsprint paper until I was happy with the spread and coating of ink on the plates.

The paper used for intaglio and collograph printing is done on thick paper which is pre-soaked in water and then blotted dry and kept damp until use. We only had 300gsm cartridge available at uni. To achieve the best results in the future I can use Arches paper with a heavy cotton content. The collograph plates are placed face-up onto a sheet of register paper on the  press bed, and then a sheet damp print paper is placed carefully in line over the top. The little press from the Illustration department has two blankets which are put over the paper-print plate “sandwich”, and a mini workout is then required to turn the wheel pushing the print plate through the rollers. It was an exciting and rewarding process. I’m very happy with the results of my first collograph print session. It’s certainly a print process I’d like to experiment with further, (and also chine colle). I don’t think the prints I have made here are ethereal enough to be collaged or fit within my artwork piece Map of Mindfulness. It was definitely worth experimenting with though. I will submit them as my body of work. I have to wait to collect them early next week as they need to be completely dried out flat, otherwise the paper will buckle.

Planning ahead for project completion

Once my collograph prints are made next week, I need to finish development of and complete my drawings, establish the final layout of my artwork, and paint in the surface pattern layers. I’m satisfied now with my dip pen drawings and artwork and will consider whether to include my mindful poems in the border of my map. 

The next issue to resolve is how to digitally present my “Map of Mindfulness” project online in its best light. I’m going to need technical assistance in photographing it – I anticipate probable issues with screens/colours and detail of my watercolour digitally which has always been a challenge with these mediums! I have already been advised that photographs rather than scans will give much better quality, and the images will need adjusting from raw photo format in Lightroom into Photoshop, and then be saved as a ‘pdf’ file. Scanning of the images would lose definition and colour. Unfortunately, digital presentation of my artwork is the required method for submission for assessment. I am concerned that aspects of my artwork detail may not be visually presented in its true and best qualities. I need to allow adequate time for this process to get the best visual results possible. 


I’ve been compiling my project Harvard bibliography using Mybib, has been a wonderful (free!) online tool. (Used successfully for my Stage 2 project). I will also add a separate reference list of artworks researched as I have studied and been inspired by several artists and their practice throughout my project. (I was concerned last week when I was online adding more reference details to it, and “Mybib” website showed an error message “content unavailable at this time”. Every reference I had entered to date was not showing. Fortunately, I had downloaded the major part of my referencing to a Word document a few weeks ago. My continued research has slowed down and become more refined during the second half of the project, so even if it had been irretrievable, I would not have had much to add thankfully. It’s all available again today – and backed up. A valuable reminder not to depend on technology and to frequently back up my files!

Mid Point Review Critique

It was wonderful to see some of my peers work and their progress. Not being on campus has been very difficult both inspirationally and socially, and of course not seeing everyone’s progress and artwork, other than in our small Zoom tutorial peer group sessions. We are all so different in our ideation and styles. The few times I have been to campus to collect materials I have seen a handful of other students, and we’ve had a brief opportunity to discuss our projects with each other.

My mid project review with Camilla Pugh went well, I was nervous that I’d not achieved much to evidence to date in the development my final artwork.  However, I was pleased that I seem to be on track.

Is the subject context clear? = Context in the project is shown well with the subject matter

What are the intentions of the project? = Intentions with the nature and well-being shown well through the project.

Is there evidence of idea generation? = Idea generation, printmaking, prints of leaves, drawing, painting, broad response.

What research has been gathered? = Research is strong which has helped move the project forward. Research is relevant. Sources are cited. Research has been used to develop ideas.

Is there evidence of experimentation? = Strong evidence with hand drawn, printmaking and mixed media pieces

What evidence is there of problem solving? = Problem solving is evident through looking at materials and testing.

Has the original idea (outlines in the project proposal) changed? = No

Have changes in timetabling been noted? = Yes

Is there evidence of planning and organisation? = Yes

Is there evidence of contingency plans = Yes

Is there evidence of ongoing evaluation and reflection shaping the project? = Yes

Is there research & planning of final outcome for presentation to intended audience = Yes

Researching & Experimenting with Collographs

Following further discussion on developing my artwork in my recent tutorial on 15th April, I have decided to experiment collograph printing to see if it might be another dimension to add to my artwork.

There are so many instructional videos on You Tube and I found an inspiring one by Mael Matthews, (a senior art educator for TES), I created some A5 print plates from found items at home – aluminium foil, string and brown paper, and was fairly satisfied with the outcome, although I did think it looked quite simplistic. It was difficult to know how deep to carve into the grey board, and how much layering to build up onto the plate. The pvc glue I used was very watery, and the string and foil didn’t completely adhere to the greyboard I’d bought. I had to recoat those sections with more glue, which became very hard when dry.

I arranged to see our Fine Art technician, Kev and met for a detailed discussion about what I wanted to achieve. He gave me helpful advice and showed me examples of abstract collograph prints and print plates. We discussed how to build up a collograph print plate, what works and what doesn’t. (The string detail from my test plate I made from the video is too hard, and it will tear the paper when printed, so I can’t use this plate in the intaglio press. Another issue is not being able to print onto my actual map background layer paper, which is hand painted, first with gesso, then with a blended wash of watercolour. I can’t print directly onto this as the paper needs to be soaked in water and has to be completely damp prior to printing. Soaking the paper would wash away my watercolour layer, which is an integral part of my map.

We discussed the possibility of creating smaller plates onto cartridge paper which could be collaged onto the map. I suggested wet-strength tissue paper, but this would also tear. The colour of the print ink will need to be fairly pale or mid-tone – I’m concerned as many collograph prints I’ve researched appear to be quite ink-heavy – does there need to be that much ink in the plate to get a good print? Test printing this will be the only way to find out. Following Kev’s knowledgeable advice I made three further print plates, using egg shells, soft thread from bandages, paper doilies, dried herbs, found paper and pressed ferns. These need to be coated with 3 layers of shellac to seal the plates, (some of the detail might lift off in the process). Kev will prepare the plates with shellac layers, and when they are fully dried I will book to use the intaglio press with his supervision next week and see how they print out. Will the egg shell become further crushed? Too small? Will the detail I added register on the prints? It will be interesting to see the outcomes of my prints next week and what works well. Perhaps I can incorporate a successful print in to my final artwork ….

Ephemeral Land Art, Mindful Poetry and ‘Eco Style’ printing

In frustration, and wanting to continue developing my artwork during the Easter break, I returned to my hand-rendered layout testing, this is the way I enjoy working and feel most creative. I painted (watercolour) grey-blue swirls and waves of the surface pattern layers directly onto the sunset wash of the map background. Adding another layer over the map patterns created depth and emulates the layers of mediation process. I’ve got a new fan brush and have been practising painting the twisting “rope lines” creating pathways flowing out from the face image – do they work? I think so?

My biggest concern now is that if I hand-render my artwork and then make a mistake it might get ruined and I might have to start over again. (Like when monks worked on their book/bible illuminations. One of the unpredictable joys of doing analogue artwork?!)

On a small section of layered background map I have tested combining my images and drawings to help me get a feel for the final image, I painted in a light wash of watercolour over the tree trunk and wall to visualise how it would all look together. This had given more depth to them. The tree does not need to be so large or even be complete figuratively. I’m now thinking perhaps drawing in a section of tree branch or half of the tree could also add more impact.


Also, I have been researching and reading Zen poetry and mindfulness poems and have enjoyed the poems of Danna Faulds, a well-known yogi and mindfulness poet.

Being Present’ by Danna Faulds

 Breathe, relax and feel;

take time to slow down the pace of life.

Watch the rise and fall of moods,

the birth and death of dreams.

Feelings and sensations seem so real,

yet they shift like changing clouds,

and flow with the high tide out to sea again.

Allow it all to be, no need to grasp or push away.

Present with each moment, the whole of you,

body, mind and soul, open to receive.

I recently created a couple of ‘found ‘ poems composed from random words linked to the process of mindfulness which I cut from magazines. Perhaps I could paint or write/illuminate my short poems into my artwork- above the face? Or maybe in the border of the map?

Poems On Maps

There are some very interesting search hits on map-based poems or poems written on maps. Whilst further researching cartography, I discovered an emerging artist called Gommie, whose mentor is Kate Bryan. Ollie Gomm/ “Gommie” spent a year travelling on foot around the British countryside using Ordnance Survey maps to navigate his way and writing mindful poems onto these maps and he creates artworks from them, it’s a really interesting and pleasing concept.  He writes about things said in conversation with people he meets and his thoughts at the time.

 Leaf Mandalas & Ephemeral Land Art

Nature provides a soothing, restorative balance and its ‘raw materials’ are a source for unlimited inspiration. I have researched Andy Goldsworthy a British sculptor, photographer and environmental ephemeral land artist who works with nature in nature. . He creates beautiful nature sculptures /leaf mandalas and natural land art using only found items such as twigs, leaves and pebbles in situ from the natural environment.  I experimented with creating fern/leaf mandalas in watercolour wash or print with watercolour. See for beautiful images of Andy Goldsworthy’s work.

Eco Printing Effects

Eco printing also creates some beautiful natural outcomes, but involves hours of boiling/steaming leaves bound into papers or cloth, and weighted by large stones in a old pan, with added rusty nails for depth of colour. Not wishing to fog up my kitchen, wreck a perfectly good saucepan, and not having any rusty nails to hand (!), I reflected on how I might achieve a similar effect. I decided to experiment with watercolour, ferns and tissue paper and I achieved some pleasing effects. My outcomes were quite similar to those of Eco prints. I will test collaging some sections of the watercolour prints I made on my test map. The colours of the leaf and fern outlines are not quite dark enough to show up well, and I will continue to develop this by using darker shades.

Also, I’ve been reading a book called “Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art” by Peter Barber and Tom Harper – many old maps have compasses (rather like a mandala) and grid lines radiating from them, with text. Not sure how this would look, could I incorporate some of these lines, or would that be too much detail? It might result in a very busy piece of artwork…. The hand-inked maps and legends

This week I’ve been further experimenting with my artwork detail by testing developing and drawing stars, using chalk pastels and acrylic inks, India ink wash and Paynes grey watercolour. These will be faded into the top left-hand corner section of my artwork map.