Visual Research Methods – Responding to Objects

This week we were asked to bring along an image of the exiting artwork we have chosen to research for our subject module. I have chosen to study Grayson Perry’s series of tapestried entitled ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’. We taped our images on the walls around the room and discussed our choices.

After, we received a small sketchbook, in which to make responses to the images on the walls. We each stood in front of an image and had 2 minutes to make a drawn or written response to the artwork. Then we ripped out our page and taped it to the wall next to the corresponding image. We then continued rotating around the room, capturing our first thoughts in relation to everyones chosen artworks.

By the end of the morning we all had over 10 responces to our artwork of choice. I was able to see these tapestries through fresh eyes. Most of my peers had never seen theses tapestries before, they had no information about any of the ideas or meanigs behind this series. They were only able to react to what they were able to see in the images I had provided, which in comparison the the real tapestries were tiny (many of the details would not be visible to them).


We were also asked to bring in an object (one that we wouldn’t mind getting broken). I brought in an old VHS tape in its case. Along with everyone else’s objects we ended up with a rather odd collection. These objects had no obvious relationship to each other (other than being brought in by a collection of art students).

We discussed the ways in which we could record these objects. An obvious way would be to take a photograph, however what kind of photograph would capture the object in it’s truest sense? A blank background and good lighting are critical to a clear image. It would also make sense to photograph the object from different angles.

Photographing an object on its own it a good way to make a record of it, but it is also interesting to see how an object reacts to other objects, in terms of scale, colour, material etc. But then begs the question, how do you arrange those objects. It depends what relationships you are trying to create between objects. There could be a sense of similarity or contrast between groupings.

Here are some examples, some of the objects people brought in included:

  • flower pot
  • work boots
  • plastic bottles
  • photo frame
  • glasses case
  • lipsticks
  • crystal varse
  • wine glass
  • keyring
  • wifi box
  • CD
  • polaroid camera
  • mobile phone
  • sparkly fake skull
  • ceramic fruit
  • german dictionary
  • wooden mechanical figure
  • plastic bag


These specific object could be oranges in many different groups:

  • plastic objects
  • vessels
  • technology
  • black objects
  • things with moving parts
  • purely decorative objects
  • objects of a certain size
  • etc.


Another question then is are these objects arranged as a cluster, or spread out in a grid?

All these question are things our tutors wanted us to consider as we chose a few of these objects and used them to make a sculpture or art work of some kind in groups.

Our group choose:

  • VHS tape
  • plant pot
  • wooden mechanical figure
  • work boots
  • plastic bag
  • glasses case
  • (we also had a collection of tools we could use to attach the objects, tape, wide screws etc.)

Our approach to this task began by us taken apart our objects, to see their potential, and play to see how they might fit together. It quickly became evident that most of our object could come together and make a rather interesting perhaps disturbing face.


We used the VHS take at the eyes and hair. The glasses case as the mouth. Parts of the wooden mechanical figure as the nose and teeth. The plat pot as the basis of the head. after deciding to display our head on a wooden stick we used one of the work boots as a stand to balance the stick in.

I think we all agreed that our objects came together in a way that we were not expecting, but really like. By creating a face we have given personality to collection of meaningless random objects. It has a sense of humour and horror, which together create a conflicting view, often containing shocked laughter.

It is fascinating how just orientating and arranging the same objects in a different way can vastly change the understanding and meaning of those objects. It is our personal perception, and how easily we are influenced by imagery which is why we were able to change the meaning of a series of objects.


Author: Crisiant Williams

I am a Fine Art student, studying at Cardiff School of Art and Design.

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