Slade School of Fine Art



Play as Evolving Process in the work of Eduardo Paolozzi, Philip Guston and Tony Oursler

Elly Thomas

In this practice-related study I use a range of play theory to examine the creative processes behind the work of Eduardo Paolozzi, Philip Guston and Tony Oursler. All three artists express a need to create a semblance of life.

For Paolozzi, this desire is articulated as an attempt to "go beyond the Thing, and try to make some kind of presence" for Guston it is a need to create "an organic thing that can lead its own life" and for Oursler this manifests through a fascination with video's ability to transform the "inanimate to animate...". The desire to animate matter is explored as the persistence of animistic thinking during adulthood. Creative processes themselves are examined as a continuation of childhood play. The presence of the cartoon or toy within the artist's work will be understood to stem primarily from the need to animate matter, rather than as a stylistic end in itself.

Paradoxically the study explores play through the work of three artists for whom childhood is not a subject of focus. Stepping away from a retrospective or biographical approach, I want raise the question of whether it is possible to explore childhood play as a living presence in the now. Can one examine childhood play as a group of activities, objectives and perceptions that may continue, evolve and inform the creativity of an adult artist, rather than as processes tied to the past? I am also interested in what this framework would offer a practitioner, as much as a viewer or art historian. Can an understanding of childhood play offer a window onto a non-regressive way of working that is relevant to the immediate present?

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