Monday, January 18, 2016

Automatism In Art: a student organized and curated exhibit

Pitt State art student Robert Raio drove by an old school desk that had been discarded on a curb next to some other trash. "I saw the desk and felt I could make it into something more," he says. That desk has become the centerpiece of a new exhibition in the Art  Connectors gallery space on the second floor of Porter Hall. Automatism in Art: Shining the Light on Doodling, the exhibition organized by Raio and other student artists, features doodles created in sketchbooks by student artists paired with fully rendered pieces based on those doodles in various media. Visitors to the exhibit are invited to doodle on the desk, which sits in the center of the gallery space. 

The exhibit, which includes the work of several PSU art students and two recent alumni, features work in an array of 2D media. Frames and shadow boxes to display sketchbooks with the students' original doodles were created by PSU Wood tech students from the saw club. Along with the student work and interactive desk piece, the exhibition presents information on the history and significance of automatism in art, including this curatorial statement:

“In art, Automatism usually refers to the accessing of material from the subconscious or unconscious mind as part of a creative process- as seen in the surrealist movement.” 
– Tate, British Museum of Art.

Practicing this in art is a challenge. To constrain your mind to letting go of rationality in the moment, while mechanically letting your hands create is a subconscious and/or unconscious process. When connecting this process in art of the surrealist movement, artists by extension were standing up against the “norm”. They challenged themselves, and others to explore curiosity and creativity in a more fluid approach. Research in neuroscience, psychology, and design has recently concluded that people who “doodle” are often better at grasping new concepts, and staying focused.  Doodling engages “default” networks in the brain that would ordinarily go dormant without external stimuli. The artwork displayed in this exhibit did not start with a preconceived notion. The exhibited artists were asked to freely doodle in their sketch books, and to let go of artistic rationality in relations to automatism in art. The exhibited artists were then asked to create a final piece using their doodle or doodles as structural form within their own creative composition.

"Automatism in art is important," says Raio. "Once an individual understands automatism and how to utilize it, they don't need to find inspiration to start creating work. Doodling is doing." He adds that he looks forward to seeing what the students who participated in the show may create moving forward from this experience, now that automatism is in their "art tool box." In addition to inspiring more students to integrate automatism into their process, the success of the show has inspired others to make plans to organize and curate future student exhibitions.

Automatism in Art's opening reception was held at 4pm on Thursday, January 14th. The show will remain up and open to the public through February 5th.