Annual Practice-led PhD Symposium

An opportunity for practice-led researchers in the School of Design and the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies to share research topics and methodologies.

This symposium is an important step in building a research community for practice-based research in Leeds that will continue beyond the end of individual projects. The idea is to develop relationships, networks, connections and collaborations into the future.

Dr Judith Tucker, Design and Professor Chris Taylor, FAHACS.

This event will be delivered via Microsoft Teams. If you would like to attend, please email

Flyer for Practice-led PhD Symposium 2020 with event details


  • 10.00–10.10 Welcome
  • 10.10–10.35 Marielle Hehir: Design
    • On Shaky Ground: Landscape, Paint and Change
  • 10.35–11.00 Benjamin Jenner: FAHACS
    • Generative Constraint and the Site of Language: Retaining the Object in the Absence of Vision
  • 11.10–11.25 Melanie Rose: Design
    • Moonscapes and Chalk
  • 11.25–11.50 Yuting Cai: FAHACS
    • Chineseness and Hybridity and Cinema
  • 11.50–12.15 Adam Stone: Design
    • Memory and the Uncanny in Everyday Place
  • 12.15–12.40 Hondartza Fraga: Design
    • Attending to Saturn
  • 12.40–1.05 Keiphe Setlhatlhanyo: Design
    • Examining motifs and patterns and cultural significance of basketry the Bobirwa region of Botswana
  • 1.05–1.20 Discussion


Marielle Hehir: Design

On Shaky Ground: Landscape, Paint and Change

Through discussion of a new body of work, this presentation will argue the pertinence of painting in responding to the conditions of contemporary landscape, specifically the climate crisis which scientists refer to as the Anthropocene. With the contemporary climate comes a new set of landscape aesthetics that are emblematic of the Anthropocene. This practice-led research interrogates the developing landscape aesthetic and considers how ‘painting in the expanded field’ may offer an experience which is not representational but that is like the experience of Anthropocene landscape.

The canal network is the site of research for this project. Through the presentation and discussion of research images, I will argue as to how these might be considered key sites in Anthroproscenic aesthetic. (Matless 2018) Often built alongside natural waterways, the human-built, largely concrete network links disparate areas of the country, and is a meeting point for the built and natural landscape. The stratigraphy of the surface of the landscape around the canal network will be discussed in terms of aesthetics and the various materials that are found throughout the site. The research addresses the notion of surface as a commonality between landscape and the materiality of painting. The discussion of fieldwork will lead into a discussion of how the fieldwork fuels studio practice. The presentation and discussion of practice research in the studio will elaborate on the ways in which the deliberate and un-intentional processes that form the landscape of the Anthropocene have influenced processes that are integrated into the making of the paintings. The material investigations conducted at the site of research inform the materials employed in the studio research and I will discuss how this may offer new possibilities for ‘painting in the expanded field’.

Benjamin Jenner: FAHACS

Generative Constraint and the Site of Language: Retaining the Object in the Absence of Vision

The art of jigsaw puzzling begins with wooden pieces cut by hand, whose maker undertakes to ask himself all the questions the player will have to solve, and, instead of allowing chance to cover his tracks, aims to replace it with cunning, trickery and subterfuge.

1. Without vision, explorations of environments foreground the temporality of navigation, drawing attention to the sequential, composite or collagic quality of sensory experience.
Under these conditions the explorer’s role as both recorder and archiver of sensory input is heightened, calling into question the extent to which a language can be said to adequately represent what is felt, heard, smelt, tasted, grasped as the constitutive, propositional components of a present tense reality. 
2. Perec’s puzzles, cut into configurations determined by the unique contours of the environment they describe, prevent an easy or repeatable approach to a spatial or cognitive problem, frustrating knowledge of an environment until all the puzzle’s pieces are in place, its gestalt (potentially) understood.
3. Thus, a parallel can be drawn between assembling a jigsaw and assembling a knowledge of an environment without vision.
4. Only the jigsaw, however, is governed by a system that defines its form, structure, and content.
5. How might we extend this constraint-based methodology for navigating space without vision?

How might we employ the jigsaw as an empirical model, strategizing language use and movement as relational parts in the construction of a cognitive embodied whole?

How might these relational parts offer a version of a whole whose index is cut from the temporality inherent in the dialectic between language and navigation and not through any prior subservience to an image? 

Melanie Rose: Design

Moonscapes and Chalk

The iridescence of a chalk path on a moonlit evening is an enticing subject that has been captured by artists throughout the history of landscape painting. The question of the moon as a subject can be traced back to the early medieval period compelling a twofold argument, firstly the moon as a deeply rooted symbol within the psyche (Page, p.21) which artists are continually drawn to and secondly the historical trajectory connecting South Downs artists Hitchens, Palmer, Blake, Turner and Constable back to van Dyke, Reubens and Galileo.

According to archaeologists, when constructed the prehistoric barrows on the South Downs would have been kept chalk white (Historic England,1998), creating spectacular sight specific monuments that would have dazzled in the full moon, this same inspiration was used by the artist Andy Goldsworthy in the artwork Moonlit Path (Kennedy, 2002) the making of which is not unlike the chalk carvings of The Long Man of Wilmington and the Litlington White Hose, both painted by Eric Ravilious.

The moon was and is a symbol used in painting to signify “industrialisation, modernity, time, nature and change” (Pasachoff and Olson, p.25) the way artists have employed the moon echoes back to  Galileo who at the time was a significant influence on artists having had “artistic training” (Pasachoff and Olson, p.15). Reubens met and painted Galileo and the moon in 1604. There is compelling evidence that Turner and Constable were inspired by field sketches of London made by Reubens and van Dyke (Wiggins,2019) that ultimately set a formula for composition and underlying abstraction (Wiggins,2019)

This trajectory will be explored further by examining contemporary painters on the South Downs, using the moon/chalk paths as motifs that explicitly testify to times of uncertainty and change.

Yuting Cai: FAHACS

Chineseness and Hybridity and Cinema

This research paper discusses the concept of Chineseness and its hybridity in contemporary Chinese cinema. In this paper, the concept of ‘hybrid Chineseness’, which is concerned with the issue of Chinese cultural identity, constitutes hybrid imagined communities when foreign elements are introduced. My main concern is the fact that Chineseness as a Chinese cultural identity has the same object but different cultural modes in the different areas of Greater China (mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau). Accordingly, ‘hybrid Chineseness’ in this research has three main aspects. First, I focus on how Chineseness was constructed and experienced in 1978 in mainland Chinese cinema, specifically through a group of Chinese-dubbed Japanese films, which successfully attracted the Chinese public after the stringent restrictions of the Cultural Revolution; that year was also when economic reform was instituted by Deng Xiaoping (then leader of the Communist Party of China). In this case, I analyse how Chinese dubbing served as a cultural filter to hybridise foreign elements with local culture and memories to constitute hybrid imagined communities in cinema. Second, I analyse the ‘hybrid Chineseness’ in the Taiwan New Cinema Movement, especially concerned with the hybrid gap between mainland Taiwanese and local Taiwanese in cinema. In particular, I explore the relationship between mainland Chineseness and Taiwan Chineseness in the hybrid environment of Taiwan. Third, concerning the historical event of the 1997 Hong Kong handover, which was a significant moment between Hong Kong and mainland China, I discuss how Hong Kong cinema between 1984 and 1997 reflected a new imagined community of mainland China. By doing so, on the one hand, I hope this research paper contributes to the post-colonialism discussions on the issue of Chineseness in Chinese film studies. On the other hand, considering the term ‘hybrid Chineseness’ to be a cultural hypothesis, I use the concept of structure of feeling and skopos theory, together with a post-colonial, anti-binary perspective of nationalism/nation, to discuss the dubbed sentences and actors’ lines in specific films, instead of conducting a general analysis of several films. I undertake my research from the post-colonial perspective of an anti-binary (for example, are you Chinese or not?) position to discuss different Chineseness between mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Adam Stone: Design

Memory and the Uncanny in Everyday Place

Surveying the activity of memory and the uncanny within my current practice research on the Merrion Shopping Centre in Leeds, this presentation will triangulate a selection of paintings made during the latter stages of the study in relation to places of memory and personal connections to the Centre. Intersecting with this narrative of the Centre as a “layered location(s) replete with human histories and memories” (Lippard, 1997, p.7), I will also examine, through the lens of current events, how notions of the familiar unfamiliar experienced through site visits to the abandoned Merrion hotel and derelict Odeon cinema have added an unexpected perspective to the research.

Hondartza Fraga: Design

Attending to Saturn

My research seeks to revisit and redraw the connections between three thematic pillars: Saturn, melancholy and drawing. A revision of a constellation between such trans-historical and trans-disciplinary objects/subjects is guided by a research agenda consisting of two main areas: the relationships between Saturn and melancholy and between melancholy and drawing. Saturn is the remote object of observation and the set of raw images from the Cassini mission to Saturn is the primary source material for a new body of work that addresses the effects of scientific material on art practice. Drawing, situated within an expanded practice, is the method and the discipline to which this project seeks to contribute.

This paper addresses my live encounter with Saturn alongside members from the Leeds Astronomical Society on a summer night in June 2018. This turned out to be a key event for the research, as it redefined my relationship with Saturn and the Cassini raw images. Through the drawing works produced before, during and immediately after this event, I will address the melancholy aspects of, on one hand seeing Saturn first-hand and on the other, making art in response to such experience. My personal account is situated within a collective history of imaging the planet, addressing the inherent paradoxes in the visual encounter and the process of recollection, reconstruction, recreation and representation through art.

Keiphe Setlhatlhanyo: Design

Examining motifs and patterns and cultural significance to basketry in Botswana case of (Bobirwa region)

Cultural heritage embodied in traditional crafts is an integral part of any nation which reflects the culture and tradition of a region. In Botswana, traditional motifs/patterns appear in several art and crafts, for example basketry, pottery, traditional houses, beadwork, weaving, and woodcarving. The study was conducted in 2 villages in bobirwa region. Therefore, this paper sought to understand symbolism of cultural motifs and patterns in Botswana their cultural significance, to identify essential heritage elements within the motifs and their possibility to be adapted into contemporary design. The weavers employ cultural motifs they learned from their mothers and their own creative motifs inspired by their lifestyle and from surrounding. The study found out there is little understanding of symbolic meaning of motifs and the basket weavers are more focused on aesthetic and colour rather than the narrative. In examining the symbolic meaning, cultural significance, essential elements and applicability to contemporary concepts, this paper will demonstrate, using findings based on qualitative research approach following Miles and Huberman method; data reduction, data display and conclusion drawing. The study employed visual analysis of motifs using E. McClung Fleming model, a series geometric forms, zig-zag and wavy lines are common with different interpretation through ages of participants and different style of weaving techniques with the two villages.

Keywords: culture, heritage, motifs and patterns, basketry, Bobirwa region Botswana