Between Memory & Experience 02.2022

Between Memory & Experience 2022 114 x 119 cm mixed media assemblage. Processes. Sarah Chalkie Cloonan .

Revisiting Practice Critical Reflective Statement.

Joseph Albers – “Our institution attempts first to teach the student to see in the widest sense: to open his eyes to the phenomena about him and, most important of all, to open to his own living, being, and doing” (Albers 1934, p.3).

My critical reflective statement is to accompany a canvas and animation of my process accessible via a QR code. This will allow my audience to experience my ideas, whichever suits them best. I want them to explore, in agreement with Albers.

This is a snapshot of what I do and how I think – it is incomplete.

My artwork is a document of my work in progress. This is what keeps me open to new ideas.


Mine is a conscious practice. I often struggle to find the words to describe it. I capture a moment or produce things to explain. I explore my world like Stephanie Springgay’s ‘Foray’ (2011, p.636). I am strolling through my ideas, looking for answers to my questions. I am uncertain of the meanings I am finding until after the event.

This experience of making, reflecting, researching, and remaking allows me to connect my memories and feelings together. In this way, a synergistic outcome is created. This is where my thought memories and experiences come together into one new conscious perspective about something I already knew – a moment of Merleau-Ponty’s (2002) ‘phenomenology’.


According to Sir Kenneth Clark, the Keeper of Fine Art at the Ashmolean Museum and then director of the National Gallery 1934 -1945, ‘Art… must do something more than give pleasure: it should relate to our own life so as to increase our energy of spirit’ (Clark, 1960). Almost a century earlier, William Morris (1877) claimed that the true secret of happiness lay in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life by elevating them by art.

Therefore, in this current state of global uncertainty, in a world that, on occasion, has stopped making sense to me, I am creating ‘memento vivere’ as reminders to live. These conjure spirits from our past and future to provide a place to be. This is a place where we may ponder and evaluate essential ideas that celebrate living. Moving between the micro and the macro of our memories and experiences, the familiar may be made unfamiliar to be re-examined, reconstructed, and reclaimed. By reviewing critically our connections to the ideas, which add value to our lives, we may be reignited (Mannay, 2010). We are reinvigorated, so we may enjoy the everyday for all its magic. Like bell hooks (2012), we now imagine what is possible.


In Whitehead’s philosophy: “Theory of Perception” (Hooper, 1944), he writes that according to the ontological principle, ‘there is nothing which floats into the world from nowhere.’ This justifies my idea that I make to think – it is a way to immerse myself and explore my ideas. I do this, as from my experience, I know that I shall find answers that create new questions. Ideas and answers will float up. My artwork will reflect and document this process. Isabel Graw  (the Jewish Museum, 2015) states that it is ‘indexicality’ that makes art the vehicle or vessel of the artist’s intentions. My hand must remain visible for my work to remain an extension of myself and, thereby, proof of my existence. Each art piece or assemblage I produce is just a moment. I agree with the artist Amy Sillman, who claims that her still-life painting is just the last frame of an unseen film (Sillman. 2014). In juxtaposition, Win Wenders describes his photographs as the starting point of a movie (FondationBeyeler, 2020).

The process to knowledge.

My collected objects and images are curated, echoing Graeme Sullivan’s (2006) assertion that ‘if you do not know where you are going, then any road will get you there.’ Similarly, Albers (1934, p.1) quotes Rembrandt in stating ‘that to start, one must take a brush and begin’. These affirmations bring me great solace, as Atkins (2021,p16) suggests that ‘pedagogies that operate from the premise that all grounds of learning are important’. I am with no shortage of things that inspire and prick my curiosity. I often hesitate to start in case my ideas avalanche, and I drown in the unknown. My art pieces may be read like documents of exploration. They access parts of my memory and experiences that I cannot articulate in words. They summon feelings, responding to questions and narratives. In this manner, I can raise Rebecca West’s vessel to my lips (West, 1955) and, like Anais Nin (Nin, 2012), taste life twice. The narratives behind the jars, daughters, lemons, statues, emotions and objects and the questions that emerge from the subjects’ juxtapositions drive my practice. New meanings emerge through painting, photographing, tearing, sticking, and pasting. This is how I currently untangle my world, perpetuating curiosity and energy around me.

While making, researching, repeating, and photographing, I reconstruct and deconstruct until a surface is acquired. Through this layering and reforming, some sort of knowledge and understanding is acquired. I don’t need words or writing to enjoy this process, although the structure is essential to avoid repetition and reach a successful outcome. Writing, reflection, and documentation, in this case, are imperative. Success, I take to be an accumulation of knowledge allowing a firm direction that may be built on, compared and interrogated. The resulting piece is produced before the idea behind it is understood.

I respond alone or collaboratively using this kind of structure, thoroughly enjoying the process. The reflection, interaction and making within my environment and though my thoughts are in line with the pedagogic theories of Atkinson (2018), Bolt (Tara Page, 2018), Ingold (2013), Pink (2008), and Guattari although to pinpoint where exactly is going to take a bit more cutting and pasting.

Between Memory & Experience 2022 114 x 119 cm mixed media assemblage. Sarah Chalkie Cloonan .
Between Memory & Experience 2022 114 x 119 cm mixed media assemblage WIP. Sarah Chalkie Cloonan

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