Dr Vanessa Corby

Associate Professor, School Research Lead: Fine Art

School of Art, Design & Computer Science

E: v.corby@yorksj.ac.uk

T: 87 6749

Dr Vanessa Corby

My research creatively draws on the material operations of art to reveal the means by which artistic protocols, culture, history and the social may be rethought and represented. I trained as a painter in the North East of England in the early 1990s before undertaking a MA (1995–97) and PhD (1998–2002) in the theory, history and criticism of art at the University of Leeds.

My writings about Tracey Emin (2007), Eva Hesse (2006, 2010) and Sally Taylor (2011) have considered the ways in which art practice negotiates the ideologies that define cultural memory. In those texts I proposed a rereading of their historical moment of production to articulate hitherto silenced experience of born of class, ethnicity and sexual difference. My research has employed a hybrid methodology that combined tools of cultural studies, feminist analysis, psychoanalysis, the social history of art, sociology and knowledge born of practice.

This transdisciplinary mode of scholarship has drawn attention to the role of art historical discourse in the construction of ‘meaning’ for works of art. As such my present research is exploring the potential of art making and the physical presence of the audience at the point of art’s reception to critique the uses to which psychoanalysis has been put by the history and criticism of art. This work has been facilitated by my involvement in a community of artist-scholars dedicated to the concept of 'artistic research.' The theoretical framework that the notion of artistic research enables configures a space in which art practice may be relieved of what, as Mieke Bal noted, has been its traditional, subsidiary status as illustration to historical and intellectual argument. Instead artistic research conceives of creative production as a generative, hybrid mode of enquiry whose form is implicit to the new knowledge it produces. As such its value resides not only in its potential as research but in the opportunity for dialogue with the traditional discourses of the academy that it presents. Vanessa has examined several PhD and MPhil theses for UK Universities and is External Examiner (Art History) BA Hons Fine Art at the University of Sunderland.

I currently co-supervise two part-time, practice-based PhD students who are undertaking research that examines (1) the impact of coupledom for artistic collaboration (2) the negotiation and representation of trauma in the theatre image. I offer Research Degree supervision (PhD by traditional thesis or practice based) that specifically engages with the material nature of arts practice and the discourses that shape understandings of drawing, painting, sculpture and sonic installation. Please send expressions of interest to me directly via email: v.corby@yorksj.ac.uk 

Further Information


Postgraduate Teaching Expertise

PhD Supervision

October 2016 – September 2021, Jules Dorey Richmond, The Practice of Coupledom (Lead) with Professor Matthew Reason

October 2016 – September 2021, David Richmond, Trauma and the Theatre Image with Professor Matthew Reason

October 2008-October 2012 and August 2013-May 2014, David Matcham Artistic Research: Defending the indefensible Full time, Main Supervisor Professor Gary Peters (Head of Research, Faculty of Arts, YSJ). Awarded with minor modifications.

MA Fine Arts

Curriculum development, delivery, assessment and moderation. 2013- Module Director Questions of Practice and contribute to Practice in Context and Independent Project. 2008- Module Director Composition and Form, Independent Project and Creativity and Knowledge 1


2019-20 Book Making Contact with Matter: Art, Sensation and the Social, single authored book project (first refusal I B Tauris)

2018 Article ‘Sniffing Around the Studio: Canine Companions and the Space of Making’ working title

2018 Article ‘Sonic Architecture and the Primacy of Vision: A psychoacoustic critique of the Modernism of James Turrell’s Deer Shelter SkySpace’ with Michael Ward, (Leeds Beckett)

2017 The ‘Ticklish Problem’ of Archaeology: Constructing the legacies of Ancient Egypt for the thinking of Sigmund Freud, 6,000 words

2017 Article ‘Colour and Contestation, The Paintings of Virginia Bodman’ (ACE funded exhibition catalogue) 6,000 words


2016  ‘Art Matters: Studios, Material Diversity and Neoliberalism, Aesthetica: Future Now

2014  Book Review ‘Steve Baker Artist I Animal (2013), Journal of Visual Studies, DOI:10.1080/1472586X.2014.941588

2011  ‘Say What You See: The Drawings of Sally Taylor’ in Sally Taylor: Drawings, (Arts Council England and Ryedale Folk Museum).

2011  Co-Editor, JAR 0 Journal of Artistic Research (Bern)

2010  Eva Hesse: Longing Belonging and Displacement, London, I B Tauris. 95,000 word monograph.

2007  ‘Something to Show for It? Preliminary Notes on Termination and Creativity in the Work of Tracey Emin,’ in The Sacred and the Feminine: Imagination and Sexual Difference, Griselda Pollock & Victoria Turvey - Sauron eds., London, I B Tauris.

2006  Encountering Eva Hesse, co-editor with Griselda Pollock, Prestel Press, London and Munich. Essays by Renate Petzinger (Museum Wiesbaden), Elisabeth Sussman, (Whitney Museum, New York) Alison Rowley (University of Huddersfield), Phyllida Barlow, (UCL, Slade).

2004   ‘Eva Hesse from the Collection of Dr. Sam and Ruth Dunkell,’ Modern and Contemporary Art, Bonhams, London.

2003    ‘Who is Dorothy Beskind?’  El Temps De L’Art.

2002    Making Sense of the City: Films and Photographs of Artists in New York by Dorothy Beskind, Exhibition curator, catalogue essay, editor, (University of Leeds, Art Gallery).

2002   ‘Prismas cambiantes,’ La Vanguardia, Vanessa Corby and Griselda Pollock.

2001   ‘Don’t Look Back: Reading for the Ellipses in the Discourse of Eva Hess[e],’ Third Text, issue 57, winter 2001-2002, p.31-42.

Conferences and Conference Proceedings

2018 Formless, Bataille and the re-materialisation of the social’, Panel The Confluences of Anthropology and Art History in Art, Materiality and Representation, Royal Anthropological Institute, The Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, British Museum and the Department of Anthropology, SOAS, 1-3rd June 2018.

2017 ‘A Feminist Space at Leeds: Looking Back to Think Forward’, symposium 15-17 December, ‘”Painting out patriarchy”: The matter of the maternal and the work of Virginia Bodman and Griselda Pollock.

2017 ‘The maternal line’ with Lucy O’Donnell and Sally Taylor, Drawing Conversations 2: Body, Space, Object, Institute for Creative Enterprise, Coventry University, 8th December. 

2017 ‘Materials and Making: Smithson, Egypt, Barnsley and Me’, Ancient Egypt in Yorkshire: Lecture Series, Cooper Gallery, Barnsley, 4 November, invited speaker. 

2017 'Drawing Matters', One-day International Symposium, convenor, co-organised with Dr Lucy O’Donnell and Sally Taylor, 14th July, 2017. 

2017 ‘The Sedimentation of the Social: Smithson’s Egypt and the ruins of the death drive’ and invited roundtable discussant, Society of Literature, Science and the Arts, ‘Empathies’, Basel, Switzerland, 20-24th June.

2016   Aesthetica Future Now Symposium: Panel Chair Session 9, ‘The Future of Art: Talent Development and Responsibility with Dani Burrows, Delfina Foundation. Portfolio Review session. 

2013   ‘Matrixial Memory, Phallic Forgetting: Migration and Mothering in the Case History of Eva Hesse,’ The Cultures of Memory, York St John University (host), Syracuse University, UCL and Massey University,  

2010   ‘American Cultural Memory and the Absented History of Eva Hesse:

Testimony and the resituating an artist’s of practice,’ Witnessing History: Holocaust Testimony from the Scrolls of Auschwitz to the Present, University of Leeds.

2009   Creative Practice/Creative Research: Materiality/Process/Performativity. An International Symposium, York St John University, convenor, April 15-17. Plenary speakers: Estelle Barrett (Deakin), Barb Bolt (Melbourne), Bracha Ettinger (European Graduate School, SWISS).

2008   ‘Common Sense: Class, Creativity and the Everyday in the Work of Richard Billingham,’ College Art Association 96th Annual Conference, Dallas 2008

2007   Contemporary Issues and Material Culture, York Museum’s Trust Symposium, November. 

2007   ‘Makers and Making Between Trauma and Cultural Memory,’ panel co-convenor, with Dr. Elsa Chen, UCLA, Contestations, Association of Art Historians 33rd Annual Conference, Ulster University, Belfast.

2006   ‘Couched in Aggression: Darwin’s legacies for Freudian theories of Creativity.’ Evolution: Biological, Cultural and Cosmic, 20th Annual Conference of the Society for Literature, Science and Arts, New York.

2006   ‘Matrixial Memory, Phallic Forgetting: Migration and Mothering in the Case History of Eva Hesse,’ panel paper, and Chair of Session ‘Post-Trauma, Post-Memory: History, Representation, Affect’ at The Afterlife of Memory: Historia/Memoria/Amnesia, Congress CATH 2006, AHRB CentreCATH, University of Leeds.

2006   Yorkshire Society, Annual Dinner, Speaker.

2005    ‘“…What You Need is A Nice Cup of Tea Dear” or Tracey Emin; Speaking Experience Beyond Cultural Memory,‘ Mothers and Death: Ethical and Aesthetic Issues Around the Lethal Mother-Child Relationship, University of Bordeaux III, 1-3 December.  

2005    ‘Something to Show for It?: Preliminary Notes on Termination and Creativity in the Work of Tracey Emin,’ The Sacred and The Feminine, AHRB CentreCATH, University of Leeds, January 14-16th.

2004    ‘Staying Alive; Trauma, Creativity and Survival in the work of Eva Hesse,’ CAA Annual conference, Seattle, February 2005. Paper accepted but could not attend conference due to serious injury.

2002    Encountering Eva Hesse, A split site conference to coincide with the 2002 Eva Hesse retrospective at Tate Modern, convenor, co-organiser with AHRB CentreCATH, University of Leeds and Tate Modern in association with the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds.

2002    Encountering Eva Hesse: Then and Now through changing Prisms, a joint conference paper with Griselda Pollock, Eva Hesse: Kontext - Materialität – Rezeption, Symposium Museum Wiesbaden, Germany, 30th August – 1st September.

2002    “‘The Academic’ as Masquerade: Terror and Belonging for a Working Class Woman in Academe” panel paper presented at Translating Class, Altering Hospitality, Congress CATH 202 International conference, AHRB CentreCATH, University of Leeds.

Professional Activities

2017 University Research Committee, YSJ.

2017 Research Degree Examination Panel.

2017 Research Ethics Committee Sub Group Committee.

2017 School Management Team

2017 FHEA Mentor and Assessor, YSJ.

2016 Studies in Material Thinking, Journal Peer Reviewer

2015-16 Research Excellence Framework Steering Group Committee, UoA 34 Lead, YSJ

2014-2017 Staff Mentor, New Colleague BA Fine Arts, Faculty of Arts, YSJ 

2014 MA Annual Programme Evaluation Review (author)

2014 York St John University Student’s Union Teaching Award

2013 Admissions Tutor BA Fine Arts/MA Fine Arts

2013 Exceptional People Teaching Award, York St John University, (Fine Art Team)

2012 PhD funding consultant, The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, (NOW)

2010-12 Society for Artistic Research (YSJ Institution Membership Coordinator)

2010-11 BA Fine Arts Internal Review & Revalidation (author six programme modules)

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