VA5008 - Art Practice 4: Understanding Research

What will I learn on this module?

You will learn about key themes related to historical, theoretical, and critical developments in and influences on contemporary art practice relevant to an understanding of recent debates and developments, allowing you to contextualise your own studio practice within the terms of history and theory in preparation for Level 6. This will allow you to develop a deeper critical understanding of the relationship between form and content in your own art making and you will learn how to develop a professional understanding of appropriate technical and conceptual strategies for the production and presentation of your artworks.

You will develop the ability to reflect critically on the historical and contemporary relationship of artists to society at local, national and global levels, and develop competence in skills enabling you to undertake critical visual analysis, independent research, and present findings through the medium of discursive writing.

This module enables you to learn through the work of your peers and position your evolving practice against contemporary frameworks and theoretical ideas in current art practice. Through the learning you will develop the intellectual and practical skills required to start to assess your own work and studio position allowing you to take responsibility for the development of your visual enquiry. All of your learning underpins your studio practice with a strong subject specific knowledge base and the range of strategies aims to engender your confidence in identifying and understanding new knowledge in relation to your practice.

How will I learn on this module?

This module enables you to connect, and embed, your practice within theoretical and historical contexts. You are encouraged to see all aspects of the teaching and learning (including both writing and art making) as supporting each other, which is integral to developing a critical practice. Independent use of the studio for the testing and production of artworks is a crucial part of your learning. Central to all your learning is how you process and reflect on your production and experiences in the learning environment. This happens through on-going formative feedback provided to you verbally during individual tutorials, group critiques and seminars.

The lecture and seminar programme are designed to give you a critical overview of key themes, concepts and debates in relevant areas of the history and theory of art and culture. These will familiarise you with the context of contemporary fine art practice at a more sophisticated level than is possible at level 4 and will be supported by seminars in which your participation is mandatory.

Tutors have subject specialist knowledge in the history and theory of visual art, as well as art-making processes such as painting, photography, sculpture, print, moving image, social practice, installation and sound. Your tutors will work with you across the semester providing a continuity of dialogue to support your studies.

Peer learning happens through group critiques. You will collectively present work in progress for open discussion. Group critiques link you to peer interests and encourage you to consider and explore the intellectual, technical and creative research mechanisms underlying your approaches to production of art works and alert you to audiences and spectatorship. Further peer learning happens through the seminars, which will aid in your development of key communicative skills, the practice of visual analysis and argument. They also provide an important opportunity to test out your ideas and raise lines of inquiry in a comfortable environment, which offers the opportunity for formative feedback.

Time management is regarded as an important professional skill and you are expected to organise your research in an appropriate manner. You will be expected to undertake independent work in preparation for the assessments for this module and seek support from your tutors where necessary.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

You are supported with the provision of a studio space, and access to specialist technical facilities, materials and resource areas. Technical facilities include the wood, construction and casting workshops, the print studio (including screen-printing, etching, lithography), the Mac lab and digital print (including industry standard digital imaging, moving image and audio software), analogue darkrooms (black and white and colour processing and print) and digital photographic studios. You have access to specialist materials in all workshop areas. Resource areas include our technical resource centre, University Gallery and project spaces. You have twenty-four-hour access to the university library and its digital resources.

Your learning will be supported by subject specialist academics and by expert technicians. Academic support is provided by four individual tutorials, two group critiques, seminar and lecture programme. Your learning is clearly mapped out on the module page on the eLearning Portal. This includes your assessment brief, guidance notes and key dates for the semester to help you organise and plan your time. Other teaching materials, notices and guidance are made available to you through the eLP. This is accessible to you on campus or externally through the Internet. You will have a university email that we contact you through. All timetabling is through the online University Timetabling system. Reps represent you in weekly meetings with the Programme Leader.

In relation to your self-directed research, you will be expected to identify examples and case studies to work with that are relevant to you individually and utilise skills and concepts learned. Nevertheless, you will be clearly guided in the appropriate parameters and methodologies of this self-directed research either through seminars focused on the requisite research skills or by the provision of check-lists of learning goals. You will be encouraged to discuss your chosen examples in seminar sessions to identify appropriate methods of analysis. To support you, we provide you with on-going formative feedback through the teaching you receive.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:

1. Demonstrate, through both art-making and writing, an understanding of the role of wider cultural influences and contexts upon contemporary art.

2. Demonstrate through both art-making and writing, an understanding of theoretical and historical concepts within modern and contemporary art practice.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:

3. Evidence a critical understanding of appropriate technical and conceptual strategies for the production and presentation of art works.

4. Be able to visually analyse objects and contextualise representations in relation to wider art historical and theoretical frameworks.

5. Independently manage their studio and creative research time to participate in the development of a self-established critical practice.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):

6. Demonstrate an appreciation of cultural difference and how it is represented in contemporary art practice, and an awareness and facility in appropriate referencing of visual case-studies, scholarship and scholarly debates.

How will I be assessed?

Summative Assessment (100%)

You will be tasked with the production of a 1500-word essay in response to a list of questions, a presentation/exhibition of works evidencing the evolution of your practical and intellectual skills through self-motivated research-based practice (you will also submit sketchbooks/notebooks), and a 500-word critical reflection on the artwork you have produced.

Summative Assessment Feedback
You will receive verbal feedback from your studio tutor in your studio, alongside your presentation, within seven days of the submission deadline. Feedback is individual and provided in the context of the assessment criteria given to you at the start of the academic year in the module guide. Written feedback is provided on the eLearning Portal within 20 days of the submission deadline.

Formative FeedbackTo prepare you successfully to undertake the summative assessment(s) on this module, formative assessments will be set by the module team. These may take the form of in-class tasks or projects, developmental activities undertaken between classes, or learning exercises/activities set over a longer period. Feedback (written and/or oral) will be provided to help you learn from, reflect on, and develop in light of these formative assessments.

MLOs: The assessment tasks test all MLOs





Module abstract

You will experience modern and contemporary fine art practice within an exciting historical and theoretical framework. Having learnt about what artists have done and why in recent decades, you will be able to think about your own studio practice in relation to key issues and debates, identifying ways forward in your own research and practice, and practice as research, in order to engage with the wider world and contexts. The studio is the primary location for making and learning and acts as a place for connecting critical processes of thinking, making and creative speculation. You will learn through individual tutorials, group critiques, a seminar programme, a lecture programme, independent study and your own independent initiatives.

Course info

UCAS Code W105

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years Full Time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Arts

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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