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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Painting as thinking ; painting as conversation : an examination of learning through painting through studio visits with Canadian artists Shields, Alison


This dissertation discusses contemporary Canadian painting practices through a cross-Canada research journey, from the west coast to the east coast, visiting approximately 125 artists (who work primarily with the medium of painting) in their studios. Through in-depth interviews with artists about their artwork, process and communities, and exploration of the studios through photograph documentation, my doctoral research examines: How is painting a way of learning? As practice-led research, this research is generated and analyzed within the perspective of my own painting practice. I analyze the research through the lens of new materialist theories to examine painting as performative by drawing from Bolt’s (2007, 2013) discussion of materiality and the performativity of art practice and through the lens of Barad’s (2007) discussion of diffraction. The research is presented as a series of propositions that present qualities of learning through painting with examples from artists interviewed. As a performative practice, these propositions discuss painting as an emergent, embodied, material, affective, relational and experiential process of learning. They propose that through the material process of painting, artists learn about themselves, others and their relationship to the world in which they inhabit. Photographic interludes extend the discussion by presenting the space of learning, the studio. The final chapters present my own paintings that evolved in relation to the research thus revealing a generative relationship between practice-led and qualitative research methods. This research is conceived, developed and analyzed through my lens as an art educator. Within the context of rapidly changing education that includes inquiry-based, experiential and creative approaches to learning that are often at odds within a system that continues to rely on measurable objectives, and within the context of increased emphasis on digital technologies, I propose that this research has significant implications. This study contributes to research about artistic inquiry within art education particularly as it relates to material practices, and highlights the necessity for embracing uncertainties, ambiguities, messiness, affect, embodiment and material engagement within the creative learning process.

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