Programme Director Research Profile: Lois Rowe

Beginning a series of profiles of the Programme Directors at each of the three CCW colleges, the Graduate School would like to introduce Dr Lois Rowe. Rowe is Programme Director for Fine Art at Wimbledon College of Arts. ‘I oversee the undergraduate Fine Art pathways as well as the MFA, MA Drawing courses and MA Painting, which is pending validation. Following a course review within the Fine Art programme earlier this year we are currently exploring new methodologies for teaching and finding ways through which staff research can more effectively enrich the student experience.

At Wimbledon we are interested in cultivating research around several key areas, which include performativity, collaboration, the materiality of painting and site-specific engagement. We organise an annual off-site exhibition called PARK within Wimbledon’s Cannizaro Park, which has been ongoing for over three decades. This long-standing, prestigious and unique exhibition invites a broad range of diverse responses to the park environment, playing a significant part in the development of contemporary public art practice. Student works include subtle, monumental, and interactive sculpture, performance, photography and video, and interventions with the fabric of the park and daily park life. The exhibition is accompanied by an education programme, which invites local school groups to collaborate with our students in workshops and art tours.  We also host an annual festival of performance each year, which is called Acts/Re-Acts. We are delighted to be working with our Practitioner in Residence Marvin Gaye Chetwynd again this year as we continue to extend and develop our projects with current students, alumni and staff.

I have exhibited my own work internationally since the late 90s. My research is concerned with the relationship between contemporary art and formulations of the sacred. I make narrative films and videos that explore sculpture, narrative voice and costume. The main focus of my ongoing research is on art that can be considered in relation to “numinosity”, a term that German theologian Rudolph Otto popularized in the early 20th century, describing the characteristics that are common to all religious experiences. The numinous was for Otto an “unnamed Something”, or an “X”. My PhD thesis, which I completed in 2012, argued that contemporary art that can be considered as numinous today similarly alludes to an X: a nebulous form of power that was, prior to our secular, current day, linked to deity. My thesis attempted to define the nature of such numinous power, particularly how it can typically neither be identified nor claimed by the viewer. Examples cited within the text to illustrate this dynamic were works by well-known “spiritual artists”, such as Bill Viola and James Turrell- artists whose work reinforces the idea that there is an inherent mystery present within the experience of their work, presenting a figuration of power that can never truly be accessed by the viewer.

My research draws upon Carl Schmitt’s definition of the sovereign as being the individual who decides upon the exception. I am interested in a particular claim to power through art that responds to a decision to turn away from established forms of legitimacy and instead develop one’s own legitimacy. Moreover, Richard Rorty’s concept of “ironism”— his term for putting things into one’s own vocabulary through an acknowledgement of oneself and language as contingent—is an ongoing theme in my research. I also respond to current issues and events for the online journal The Conversation.’

Image: Still from the film Argument from Design, Rowe, 2006

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *