Pat Passlof: only one F (in Turpsbanana)

This BLOG is a response to an article in Turpsbanana issue 17, Pat Passlof: only one F (Reed, 2017)  featuring the artist Pat Passlof (1928-2011). The painter David Reed had visited the artist in her studio in New York,  had viewed some of her latest canvases and discussed her work.  Passlof was a dancer in her younger years, and her paintings remind Reed of jumping figures, full of animation and energy. The author describes her work as using complex exotic colours, having layers and glazes, and moving in between abstraction and figuration; not quite abstract expressionism, but using a combination of the abstract, figurative, historical references, and popular culture.

Passlof had written to her students “The best paintings are discovered – like continents and rivers – unexpectedly – in the working and from the working” (Passlof (n.d) quoted in Green, 2017), and Green draws parallels between her work and her teacher Willem de Kooning.  More interesting for me,  he says that her work is prescient and has close relations to many contemporary artists living and working in New York today. One such artist, Cecily Brown is a favourite of mine, and I have discussed her work before in Practice of painting 1.

I therefore decided to have a look at a couple of  works by Passlof, and one by Cecily Brown, and talk about them, concentrating on my personal response.

Fig. 1 Untitled 2010-11

passlof untitled 2010-11

My first response to the painting in Fig. 1 is that I really like this work; it’s pleasantly balanced, and has enough ambiguity and texture to interest me. It feels just right, and has a calm beauty about it. It feeds my imagination because it’s semi-abstract and I wonder about who the figures are,  are they men, women, children? And the figure on the viewer’s top right looks like a cupid or angel. And is it inside or outside? Or both? Overwhelmingly, the painting feels benign and calm, but also a little sad.

What was the artist trying to convey?  I don’t know, but it could be a bathing scene along the lines of Cezanne’s The Grand Bathers (1900-1906), but more gentle and detached . Or these may be children, separated from the earth, perhaps children who are no longer alive?  The feeling is one of these figures searching for something; something about themselves.

Fig 2. Untitled (circa 1950’s)

untitled circa 1950's Pasloff

Fig. 2  is more violent, harsh, unstable, and frightening- in a sort of parodic way- like The Wicker Man  – a film which feels ‘unreal’  throughout, but is shockingly dark and malevolent; and calculated. Viewing this painting is certainly not a restful pleasant experience.

 The colours and tonal values are contrasting much more, and my imagination sees a malignant clown, colourful exuberant costumes,  gnashing teeth, and a fight between strange creatures, but in a treacly atmosphere which prevents any escape. All that is a allowed is constant small sniping injuries; a war of attrition, and hatred. It reminds me of some of the Grotesque faces sketched by Leanardo de Vinci. Perhaps these are half human monsters.

If the picture were on a wall in my house it would unsettle me and upset me a little. I think it’s designed to shock or to reflect violence or unpleasant things. I ‘d prefer the first on my wall!

Fig. 3 Shadow Burn (2005-6)


Fig. 3  is more expressionistic and painterly, and quite abstract. It has a lot of energy as if the artist is trying to shock us – transmitted by heavy paint, diverse mark-making, fracture lines and planes of colour and tone. It seems like the artist really wants to shock us. She is confident, and impertinent – she knows her own mind, and is someone who’s not afraid to argue with us.

Though semi-abstract, I see a landscape, buildings, a body of water-it may be the country or the seaside. Now I feel there is a figure on the viewer’s left, probably a man, and he is being confronted by the scene,  as if it’s a place or a memory that he needs to enter, to learn and to understand, and to move on from, through some trauma. The feeling here is one of memory, shaky psychological or dreamlike states; and complexity; and a desire to resolve something. It looks like a disjointed, abstracted, kaleidoscopic scene, which may dissolve at any second into a sweaty wakefulness, or a feeling of falling and vulnerability.

What do I feel links the artists?

  • Semi-abstraction
  • Very painterly and gestural
  • Superficial confidence- with vulnerabilities close to the surface
  • An other-world-liness
  • A tendency to live within their heads, and be dominated by psychological phenomena
  • Emotional restlessness, and searching


Fig.1 Passlof, P (2010-11) Untitled (oil on canvas) available online at (accessed 4th April 2017).

Fig. 2 Passlof, P (circa 1950’s) Untitled (oil on paper) available online at (accessed 4th April 2017).

Fig. 3 Brown , C (2005-6) Shadow Burn, (Oil on linen) online at (accessed 4th April 2017).


Cezanne, P (1900-1906) The Large Bathers (Oil on canvas) available online  at  (accessed 4th April 2017).

Reed, D (2017) Pat Passlof : only one F available online at:  (accessed 4th April 2017).

The Wicker Man (1973), (film) dir. Robin Hardy. UK, British Lion Film Corporation.




On aspects of my Learning in Part One.


  1. Project-Modernist art; 
  • A complex argument, but very enjoyable to read and respond to.


  • I began the discipline of making some notes on words or phrases which were unfamiliar to me


  • Words or phrases of special importance- these were listed as asked in the manual. It will be a good idea to think of these for each project- it will help me get to the nub of the argument, and allow me to summarise more efficiently. This applies to the ‘What are the authors main arguments?’ section too.


  • Difficult sentences: This was interesting, as it involved sentences which I found 2hard to grasp, and those on which I did not altogether agree with the author.


  • Who does he mention and what is his opinion of them? This question allowed me to think about the context of the argument, and whether the author used them to reinforce his argument.


  • I really enjoy watching films, but I have never thought deeply about them. It was therefore really interesting to relate my previous experience of film to some of the visual concepts here- especially from the horror genre which is one of my favourites- and which I often have to defend from those who consider it ‘mindless rubbish’ !

2.Project-Fetishising the object of your eye

  • The texts were a little more complex than the first text.


  • Some of the concepts were very difficult to understand. Later my tutor reassured me that to understand everything is not the goal here. This is an introductory survey of historical texts to introduce ideas, concepts, and context, and to give me a flavour of what was going on during these times.


  1. Project-Base and Superstructure 
  • This was one of the more straightforward texts to understand, perhaps because it was available on a website, and the website was keen to recruit anyone who had happened upon it and was interested in Marxism? This raises an interesting question – what advantages and disadvantages are there in using highly complex language and sentence structure to discuss ideas?


  • This was an enjoyable project which introduced me to both Marxism, and it’s use in the analysis of the media. Like many of the projects on this course, I enjoyed it because it was very relevant to the big issues of my life and the present age. The questions which I formed as I was reading the text allowed me to pre-empt those questions which I answered at the end of the Project.


  • At this point I began to use the Harvard referencing system for citation, bibliography, and illustrations. I am becoming more familiar with this but I still have a few uncertainties about particular aspects:


Ø  An incidence where there are three authors (someone quotes author 1 who has quoted author 2)

Ø  I sometimes make mistakes in the information/word order, or the style of text in references.

Ø  Sometimes I’m uncertain what the best author should be- for example in the case of web pages

Ø  Sometimes I cannot find the date of a webpage from which I took information.

I hope that as I progress my skill will increase and these uncertainties will be ironed out.


  1. Use of sources

At this point I made a conscious effort to improve my use of sources and my style of argument (see  BLOG posts i. ‘an exercise to improve my use of academic sources’ and ii. ‘response to tutor feedback on part one’).  I also realised that I needed to be a little more concise in my note taking, and to reduce the time spent on my projects.

My style has definitely improved over the course of part one, and also my use of sources (for example I am now saving every online source as a document, and I do not take notes whilst in that source document- it is easy for summary to subtly become plagiarism if one does). I have also worked hard to try and incorporate original thoughts into my writing. This seems challenging, but as the guide suggests, this may be because we may have expectations for the word original which are too high (Harvard College Writing Program, 2016). Improving my style and use of sources has to be a work in progress, and in particular I would like to improve my integration of sources, and begin to explicitly evaluate each source I use.

A major concern is that I am still making each project excessively long. This has to be addressed now!


  1. Project-Idealism and interpellation

 This text was quite a difficult one, but very interesting. In addition to discussion of Althusser’s text, I found it interesting to discuss the aspects of ideology within racism and colonialism using three excellent and powerful texts from the course reader.


Harvard College Writing Program. (2016). Harvard Guide to Using Sources [online] At : (Accessed on 13 November 2016).



Response to tutor feedback on Part One


Peter has given a written report this time, but has suggested a video tutorial next time which sounds like a good idea.

My tutor has suggested that in the very full response I have given to assignment one, there were things which were not relevant to the question at hand. This seems a very fair comment.

To explain my approach to these projects, initially I began to summarise the texts through relatively isolated sentences, and a page number indicating the source page. At the end of the project I tried to summarise my knowledge by answering the questions posed in the OCA handbook.

At this stage I had felt very bogged down by the complexity of the average text in the readers (though this did vary). As I continued to work on the projects, I did not necessarily find them easier to understand, but I began to get better at working hard to understand the text. I was pleased to see just how much I was enjoying and understanding the texts, and a few projects in I was developing a slightly more comprehensive response to them, initially satisfied by added written notes or questions (often in italics to show they were my own).

As I read more of the texts I became a little more polished in my text summary, which developed into prose style and Harvard citations (including page number).  Additionally I started incorporating the many ideas that I was having into the text via extended prose. These  included both ideas of my own, contextual references to similar (or dissimilar) ideas by other thinkers, and (to my surprise) many thoughts about how the texts were written- their clarity, their language, their consistency, or the words and phrases used.

An interesting consequence of this collation was that I became a little better at indicating the different voices within my text through signposting. The main body of the text was simply summarising the author’s ideas (signposted by the text citation), my contextualisation was indicated by citations to other authors, and my own ideas were not subject to citations. I hope over part one that the different voices are becoming more  clear. I have not really thought about that technique much before, but began to experiment after reading The Harvard Guide to Using Sources (2016), and making notes and reflecting on them (see my BLOG – ‘An exercise to improve my use of academic sources’).

To return to my tutor’s comment, I think I’ve tried to enjoy the process of writing my texts, and have slightly taken my eye off the ball with respect to keeping strictly on the question. I hope this will become less of a problem if I concentrate on remaining relevant from now on.

My report has highlighted that finding out the ‘why’ of artist’s work is key, and that no one period or idea contains the right answer. Sometimes the former question seems the most difficult; after all we seldom have an artist’s view on exactly why he produced a particular work. More likely we extrapolate our thoughts about his general ideas, which seems a reasonable technique.

In my projects so far I have tended to use ideas from the essential texts I have read for the projects. It would be useful to try and broaden my use of citations to include other sources that I have looked at on the net, or in wider reading.

During my reading I have tried to keep an open and flexible mind on which articles to cite in relation to the ideas in the project texts. I’ve  followed my intuition in using both the ideas of others (and how they relate to the project text), and also my own ideas.  Indeed one of the exciting things for me has been how many ideas of my own (of course no idea is truly original) I’ve had.

I have consciously let these ideas flow and worked against the thought that I should not say them, especially if they look a little tenuous, or if they are critical of a text’s style or inconsistency. Instead I have taken the view that even if my ideas are non-sensical, or opaque to someone else, or that I am in the wrong (and ‘a more learned reader would see that’) , or that the text is not inconsistent, or the style is like that because ‘that’s how great thinkers express themselves’…….even if all these things are true, it’s better to have ideas and risk it (though some fail in the final analysis) than to be struggling to express myself.

I have also enjoyed being a little more creative with my own language and style, and even allowed myself to write slightly longer sentences than is usual for a scientist (which in another life I am), for added effect. This may also have contributed to the wordiness of some of my writings so far.

From a purely practical point of view, I am under a little time pressure on this module, and it will take enough time to effectively analyse the relevant questions for my responses, without addressing those that are less relevant.

My tutor has annotated my assignment, and has indicated that these are questions which It would be good to think about;/write about in my BLOG, which I shall try to do.

Learning Logs

Although my tutor is happy with my BLOG so far, he has correctly pointed out that I need to include some responses to exhibitions, websites and my learning process. This module is so different to my previous painting module that I seem to have forgotten to include these types of writing (with a few exceptions). I’ll try to remedy this by regular reflecting after my projects, and regularly visiting exhibitions and websites in the future. I will also undertake a brief review of my projects so far with a view to some retrospective analysis of my learning.

Suggested reading/viewing

My reading so far has been concentrated on the 3 essential texts,  ways of seeing (John Berger), Art in theory 1900-2000 (Harrison and Wood) and visual culture: a reader (Evans and Hall). I have begun to read and occasionally cite ideas from the visual culture reader (Mirzoeff-the 3rd edition is the one I’ve got). It would also be useful to widen my reading to include regular visits to the OCA website, and the other websites suggested. I have decided to buy Art history-the basics (Pooke and Newell) because it looks like this book may put visual studies into a context of the Art that I am used to looking at, whereas the texts above tend to be more general.


Harvard College Writing Program. (2016). Harvard Guide to Using Sources [online] At : (Accessed on 13 November 2016).



Initial on-line meeting with my Visual Culture Studies tutor

Yesterday I had a very useful first meeting with Peter Haveland, my new tutor, and here are my thoughts on the meeting.

I was able to technically arrange and participate in the hang-out, which will enable me to take part in group hang-outs for visual culture from now on.

I learned that the old oca webmail does not work, and that I must use the new address This should help me with the difficulties I ve had accessing my e mails and entering the OCA site.

I have now clarified with Peter that I have a deadline of September 2017 to finish my current module.

I mentioned to Peter that I’d found the required texts quite difficult to read. Peter reassured me that they were quite difficult articles, but that it was not necessary to understand the whole of every piece. This is a level 1 course and it is sufficient to gain a broad understanding of the historical and political context which the articles were written in.

I also mentioned that I’d written rather a lot for most of my projects so far, including quite structured answers to the blog questions, and that I’d probably need to cut down the amount of written response, given that I have a deadline of next September. Peter looked at my wordpress blog and agreed that there was a lot of content, but said that it had all seemed to make sense, and that would have been a valuable experience.  He also said that there were very few projects and assignments which needed an essay style response, and that many of the assignments could be done by scanning and annotating an image or images. I definitely do need to stick to my assignment deadlines though, and will need to complete my projects more efficiently.

I told Peter that I needed to submit my Painting 1 coursework after Christmas, and would need to take a few weeks off in order to do so. I also need to reorganise and make changes to my Painting 1 learning log. Peter said it was important that I took time to make a good submission, and that it was ok to take time off to do this- and it should still be possible to complete my current module on time.

I discussed that my Painting module had not gone to plan and that I had needed an extension in order to complete it. Also my tutor had had to be rather critical, and I had struggled to produce good quality work. This had been a disappointment, but had also left me feeling a little that I did not know the difference between good and bad quality paintings. It had also become apparent that I no longer thought of myself as simply wanting to paint and be a painter, but that I’d begun to discover other areas where I was enjoying being creative (including my visual studies course which has been extremely interesting and stimulating so far). It was therefore possible that I might rethink my degree pathway following my Painting 1 experience. Peter said that a discussion of these things would be a valuable addition to my learning log for the painting module.

I told Peter that I intended to take part in a Visual Culture weekly hang-out with other students, because it would help me engage with other students, and also help clarify my learning so far on the module.


Reflections on Learning : Visual Studies course                                          

8th Dec 2016


Over the last two months I have been undertaking work on my Visual studies course. This has consisted of plenty of background reading.  I have begun to read articles in ‘Art in Theory 1900-2000, and ‘ Visual Culture: a reader ‘.  The first book has helped me gain a perspective on the politics, philosophy, historical factors which were shaping modern art and the debates around it. The latter book has been especially enjoyable. It has helped me realise that visual culture is concerned with topics such as sexism, racism, colonialism, signs and language, ideology and politics, and much more! This is the first time I have really begun to learn and understand these issues. During the reading I have been attempting to develop a more rigorous reading technique. This has involved

·        Increasing my vocabulary by learning the meaning of newly encountered words

·        Making plenty of annotations on the page to help me to work through and understand the complex ideas

·        Make comments about the articles themselves eg. their quality, characteristics (wordy v concise, clear v abstruse) etc.

·        Identify arguments about specific issues and various quotes which may be useful during my writing.

·        Identify any learning processes which I have developed

·        Noting any connections with ideas in other chapters/books

 I have been enjoying completing the projects by summarising texts, reflecting on the issues, and answering questions in my BLOG. I have begun to develop a way of summarising the text which allows my voice to be heard as well as that of the author. This has entailed summarising and signposting the authors words and ideas, adding relevant ideas from other authors (with correct citation and referencing), and introducing my own ideas and commentary into the same text. I hope it has become clear which ideas are my own. 

One aspect of my studies which I have neglected is the researching of other sources of ideas on Visual Culture, other than the required texts. Regular reading of these sources of information will enable me to get a better understanding of contemporary issues in visual culture.

 I have therefore decided to look at some of the suggested sources. I will attempt to use these regularly to complement my learning and project work throughout the course.






An exercise to improve my use of academic sources.


During my previous projects I have spent some time making notes on the given essay/article, and answering the BLOG questions. I d like to try and achieve these goals in a more efficient and skilled manner- and perhaps a little quicker than my previous attempts. I decided to read a little about the ideas behind summarising, paraphrasing, and direct quotation, using the  Harvard Guide to Using Sources (Harvard College Writing Program, 2016).

As I read it struck me that here was a way that I could consider, experiment and improve my use of these techniques, and broaden my goal towards the best use of sources in general. Using sources will be so fundamental and common in my work for this module, that to take time to learn (or relearn) about the techniques would be time very well spent –especially near the beginning of the course. I therefore made a few notes on the ideas before beginning the next project

A summary of the Harvard Guide to using sources


Reading this introduction, I realised that during this OCA course I will be engaging in debates, through my written work, about various academic topics. During these debates I will metaphorically stand alongside, argue and discuss with other authors and academics. In order to efficiently engage, and with integrity, I will need to use sources correctly. Developing skills to use resources is not easy, and it will be an ongoing process, but as my use becomes more sophisticated it will allow me to develop stronger and more complex arguments. (Harvard guide to using sources, 2016: 1)

Why use sources

During an academic course one may use several different kinds of source, including letters, images, verbal conversations, quantitative data, or articles and analyses. One major distinction between source types is Primary and Secondary. Primary sources include fiction, poetry, original letters, photos, collected data etc, whilst secondary sources comprise data, writing and analysis that has been undertaken previously by another scholar. Some differences do exist between disciplines in the correct way to handle sources, though many principles are the same between areas of study. (Harvard guide to using sources, 2016)

What are you supposed to do with sources?

Most academic work will entail the posing of a question or series of questions, identification and understanding of different sources and opinions (which may agree or disagree with your ideas),the use of these sources to skilfully argue a position for yourself on the questions, which, importantly, involves your original thinking (my italics).

When considering sources one should ask how they help you understand a subject, whether they can be used as evidence for your argument, or against, and whether they require you to change/broaden your argument, or take new lines of enquiry. Your sources allow you to make original opinions and thoughts on debates that other scholars have also engaged upon. (Harvard guide to using sources, 2016: 3)

Writing ‘Original’ papers

Try to come up with some original thoughts in everything you write. If this seems challenging it may be that your expectation of original is too high.

Evaluating a source

Not all sources are created equal. The most reliable are those produced in peer reviewed journals or academic books, where there has been a process of review by experts. ( ? but what if the experts are censoring information ?). Not all written information is worth discussing. When you evaluate a source examine

  • How you will use it
  • The qualifications of the author
  • Why it was written –context , bias, function
  • What’s its scope- its width and depth
  • Is the information up to date?

When evaluating web sources- can you identify the author? If not can you identify where the information resides – is it a .gov, .com, .edu, .org ? Are there adverts on the sites? How may they be biasing the info? Does the author cite other sources for corroboration? Is the language used suggestive of extreme views? Can you find when the source was produced? Some sources can be timely even if years old. Others may be out of date quickly.


Using wiki has dangers. The website can be added to by anyone, regardless of credentials, knowledge, bias, or reason. You must always corroborate information from wiki with other sources. It is ok to use wiki to take a preliminary broad look at ideas, but its probably better to use an encyclopaedia which takes a broad view of things too.

Avoiding Plagiarism

Plagiarism is the act of submitting work that was done by someone else, whether intentionally or unintentionally. It’s serious. In order to avoid this you must use citations and references. This allows you to credit other authors for their hard work, and to provide information for those who want to consider the subject in more detail themselves. The ease with which we can get data from the internet makes it easy to commit plagiarism, especially if you are cutting and pasting information. Whilst it’s more obvious that an academic book or journal needs crediting, its also the same with every website, including dictionary websites.

( what are the rules about websites from extremists, pornography, or illegal websites?).

  • Verbatim Plagiarism occurs when you directly quote someone else’s words without quotation marks, and a citation, even if they are within your own ideas.
  • Mosaic Plagiarism occurs if you use many sources, and inadequately paraphrase, or lose contact with which ideas come from which author and which are your own.
  • Inadequate paraphrasing: You must completely reword the ideas of the source. It’s a good idea to put away the source whilst you think of your version, and check afterwards for any plagiarism. Don’t use a source if you don’t understand what it says- you are more likely to quote verbatim, or misrepresent someone’s ideas.
  • Using other student’s work: If you discuss work in a group situation it is ok to get feedback, and to bounce ideas off one another, where ideas are thought of as from the group/collaborative and not individual. It may be appropriate to say something like ‘I acknowledge the help of Group X in generating ideas around the subject’. Although it is ok to have collaborative discussions, it is usually not ok to collaborate directly in the production of particular answers to questions/ data analysis.
  • Also: Not referencing paraphrased work, or referencing direct quotes,
  • Common knowledge: The only things that don’t need referencing are facts and figures which are common knowledge. These are widely known by educated people, or a group of people, and are not someone’s  own ideas. So, water =H2O, Hastings= 1066, etc do not need citing. Ideas and concepts well known to others are usually not considered common knowledge however. Only direct quotes of universal knowledge need not be cited

(can i think of an example?)

PS If in doubt provide a reference- better than the trouble you’ll find if you don’t !


Avoiding plagiarism

  • Keep track of your sources, and save a copy of electronic sources
  • Don’t reword sources so many times that you lose track of the original source info
  • Paraphrase carefully and always give citations immediately (not later)
  • Set enough time aside for dealing with sources
  • Don’t cut and paste directly into your work.
  • Keep sources and your own work separately
  • Keep careful copies of Source-notes-draft-finished essay, and keep track of the route you took from left to right.


Integrating Sources

Every source must be used for a specific purpose and the reader should know what that is (check again before submitting). In order to know what you will do with the source think about what it meant to you as you encountered it. Was it context for the debate, evidence for or against an opinion, did it complicate the argument and make you think again? If so- it will probably be taken as such by the reader too. Choosing the relevant parts of a source is important. The work should primarily be about what YOU think, and so others’ work should not swamp the piece. Always think about the source’s role- and you may then need to quote or use less of it in your work. Think of an essay as a conversation in which you participate with other academic’s who you will need to represent correctly!

Summarising, Paraphrasing and Quoting

  • Summarising: you will need to provide the reader with just as much detail as you think is necessary for your argument. Don’t provide too much which will make your points obscure. Reference and citations needed
  • Paraphrasing will give more detail than a summary ( about the same level as the original text). Unless for a specific reason, you should paraphrase rather than quote directly. Make sure you are using your own words and are referencing correctly.
  • Quotations should be used only for specific functions, such as giving a reader an idea of the language used or the authority provided by the quotation. Use short quotes and only to add to your argument, use a long quote only when arguing about the quote in detail.

The nuts and bolts of integrating

  • Topic sentences: Introduce the topic of each paragraph with text in your own voice about what the paragraph is about.
  • Framing source material: when you use a source you should begin with a sentence explaining why you are using it, and end with one about what you take from the source in forwarding your argument- both in your own words/voice.
  • Signal phrases: these show the reader that you have changed from your voice to another’s eg. Spelke argues , Sandel notes , Lue confirms (the exact wording can tell the reader about the attitude of the source).
  • Using quotations in your own sentences. This can be done, and you may need to add your own words in brackets to allow the quote to fit your text. Don’t use too many brackets- instead alter the quote or sentence.
  • Ellipsis: three points (…), can be used to indicate that you have omitted some of the text in a quote. If used you must not change the meaning or idea behind a source.
  • Block quotations: use these if more than 4 lines long, and don’t use quotation marks-use indentation to the right and left. Introduce and follow your quotation as described previously. Use double quotation marks for a source, and if there is a quote or speech within it, use an additional set of marks eg. At this point, the man has criticized the girl for her attitude. She responds, “‘I was trying. I said the mountains looked like white elephants. Wasn’t that bright?'” (182).
  • Use of [sic]. Use this to show the reader that an error in the quotation was in the original text, and is not your own.Bibliography
  • Harvard College Writing Program. (2016). Harvard Guide to Using Sources [online] At : (Accessed on 13 November 2016).
  • eg. In his letter to the editor, Harding admonishes his audience to “rite [sic] while you can, no matter the sacrifice” (23).

Reflection on the exercise

Completion of this exercise has made me feel much more confident about the process of using sources within my work. I have been writing essays in various capacities for a good many years (on and off), but this work has clearly shown me that there is a way of summarising and paraphrasing effectively and using sources correctly. It has also reinforced the idea that sources should be used with care and for a reason, and that they should not obliterate my own voice during an argument, and this is exceptionally important.

From a very practical sense, I have been worried that I have been taking far too long to complete each of the projects in Part one.  I now feel happier and more confident that in future projects I can summarise text and answer BLOG questions more succinctly and skilfully, which will maximise my efficiency and save valuable time. Additionally the process of evaluating, selecting, and integrating sources for my final assignments will be less daunting. All this would comprise a significant improvement in my work, and I will keep these issues under consideration and review over the next projects and assignment 1.

A visual analysis of images found in online newspapers.


I have been on the Visual studies course now for about 5 weeks and progress has been a little slow. I have found that the different tasks I need to keep up with are quite daunting. These include

  • Individual Projects – reading, note taking, BLOG answers
  • Supplementary reading – eg from The Visual Culture Reader, Ways of seeing,
  • Keeping a learning log/sketchbook

Because of the different nature of this course compared to my Drawing and Painting courses I have found that I have not been keeping a learning log over the last few weeks- it’s as if the shock of a different style of module has taken my brain off course.   These tasks, which seemed ‘normal’ for the other courses have seemed less natural.

So tonight I ve decided to begin by having a look at a few images from an online newspaper, simply to get me thinking about Images, and talking about them. I will talk about them in the same way as I did with my Painting/Drawing Modules. This will include my thoughts on the images, whether I like them, and to explore some theoretical concepts which may underpin them. I will also begin to properly use citations and references in my written work, in order to maintain academic integrity.

Image 1.

Image 1: Actress Eleanor Tomlinson: Power, passion and the girl who fired up Poldark (2015)

Our Sunday evening screens are sizzling thanks to actress Eleanor Tomlinson, who beat a string of hopefuls to win the coveted role of Demelza. She tells Daphne Lockyer how delving into painful memories from her past helped her get into character



Eleanor wears CHIFFON DRESS, Bora Aksu. RINGS and EARRINGS’

Image 2: Eleanor Tomlinson: We’re seeing more strong female roles (2016)


 Image 3: Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark (2016)


The large colour picture (image 1) on the left is clearly a glamorous shot of a pretty young actress. Do I like it? Well, she is very attractive, but I am cynical about this image, and don’t like it within a newspaper’s pages. This actress is starring in Poldark, a popular new TV series, which also stars a dashing and handsome male lead. The text above tells us that she helps to make our TV on Sunday Sizzling, the text below tells us about the adornments of her body. Despite using the lurid language sizzling, the text continues by telling us that she got this important part by beating many rival actresses, and the article goes on to discuss how the actress used her overcoming of childhood bullying in her school in Yorkshire, to inform her performance. One therefore presumes she is a talented and conscientious actress.

This is all well and good, but Image 1 looks very similar to any image we might see in a girlie magazine, or a Renaissance nude, albeit with her clothes on. Image 2 is more reserved, but still shows the actress in a figure hugging dress, with her breasts and body shape notable obvious. It is juxtaposed with a small caption which once again, seems to compliment the actress by welcoming ‘more strong female roles’.

Despite the indirect compliments about her acting talent, in the text, Image 1 is actually a very commonplace example of images of women reproduced over the last several hundred years in Western art, painting, photography, and other media (Berger,1972: 57). Berger (1972) discusses at length the symbolism behind this sort of representation of women in pictures, and the convention of how women and nudes have been depicted over the centuries. With regard to the power relations within a picture he states that a man’s presence is ‘dependent upon the promise of power which he embodies’ (Berger,1972: 45). In contrast a woman’s presence ‘expresses her own attitude to herself, and defines what can and cannot be done to her’ (Berger,1972:46).

Accordingly image 1 (and to a lesser extent image 2) seems to tell us that this talented actress is presenting herself in a stereotypical way, to be seen by a male audience, that she is quite aware of this, and that it will be to her own benefit. Image 1 is all about the woman’s beauty and her availability as a sexual object-there is no other characteristic explored; No reference to her artistic excellence, any humour or human empathy, nor indeed to any of the suffering which befalls her character Demelza.

Instead, she is reclining, accentuating her breasts with her left arm, showing the outline of her large hips and pelvis, and seems to be about to tap on the floor, as if waiting for the viewer to do something. If we combine this with the powerful stare with which she meets the viewer’s eyes, we can see that this image is pretty much all about sex and her availability for it.

The gaze can represent many things, including power, magic, and the metaphor for devouring the object of one’s gaze, using eyes, mouth, or with a penis, and all in relation to sexual intercourse (Fenichel, 1999: 327-328). Freud discusses the primeval scoptophilic (or libidinal) aspect of the gaze (Freud (1905) cited in Fenichel, 1999: 329). The male gaze of the viewer of this picture must be extremely scoptophilic and strong for the girl to meet it with these eyes.

She herself may be a strong (in this sense feminist- In this sense anti-hierarchical?), but this article picture is not. Perhaps she is strong, and the media have cynically projected onto her the role of a subjugated female under an oppressive hierarchical male stare.   This would fit with a classical Marxist view of the mass media which tells us that they are actually controlled by the economics of society (Chandler,1995:2). In this case the actress is subjected (knowingly or unknowingly?) to a still mainstream bourgeoisie ideaology of male sexism-whether it be from the advertisers who buy copy space in the online paper, or the dominant male hierarchy of the newspaper’s staff themselves.

This classical view (the economist Marxist view), could be further developed by noting that on on level the text accompanying images 1 and 2 may allow us to think that the media are (as some cultural Marxist’s think) liberal and able to show autonomy from the economic Base of society. (Curran et al. (1982), cited in Chandler, 1995:2). Perhaps they are championing the interests of women ( here represented by ‘strong women’), or the working-class, or any subjugated minority.  However, this may be what Althusser would call a false consciousness (Chandler, 1995: 3) pedalled by the paper, but underpinned by the sexism of the dominant ideology. In view of the extreme dominant sexist ideology behind images 1 and 2, I find it highly ironic and cynical that the juxtaposed texts appear to be welcoming this actress’s talent and her inclusion in the upsurge of ‘strong female roles’.

Ironically this series of Poldark has been criticised for female sexism- in the mass hysteria supposedly caused in women who watched the male actor Aidan Turner using a scythe and revealing his muscly chest (Image 3). However if we compare the images of the actress above with that of Turner (Image 3), I think the journalist Alice Jones has it right when she points out that no sexism is valid, but when it comes to the sexism involved in the portrayal and consumption of men and women, the power dynamics are frequently not the same (Jones, 2016) .

‘ Men are rarely objectified in a way that strips them of the power they wield. Their flesh is muscular and ready for action – it is not the passive sexualised nudity of so many women on screen and billboards’                                                                              (Jones, 2016).


Image 1: Actress Eleanor Tomlinson: Power, passion and the girl who fired up Poldark (2015) [photograph] At: (Accessed on November 5th 2016)

Image 2: Eleanor Tomlinson: We’re seeing more strong female roles (2016) [photograph]. At [Accessed on November 5th 2016]

Image 3: Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark (2016) [photograph]. At [Accessed on November 5th 2016]


Berger, J. (1972). Ways of Seeing. London, Penguin Books.

Chandler, D. (1995). Marxist Media Theory at (accessed on 5th November 2016). p1-11

Fenichel, (1999), ‘The scoptophilic instinct and identification’ in: Evans and Hall (ed.) Visual Culture :a reader. 327-328). London. SAGE Publications ltd. 327-339

Jones, 2016: ‘Poldark may be hunky but he shouldn’t be objectified’ in The Independent [Online] at: (accessed on 5th November 2016).