Research Point: ‘Insomnia'(1994) Jeff Wall

In preparation for Assignment 4 I looked at Boothroyd’s 2012 Beneath the Surface post on the OCA website. This is a very helpful entry point into thinking about the structure, content and nature of the critical essay required by this next assign,went. Writing is not new to me but I am more accustomed to technical objective writing where evidence based facts are the source of the documents I produce. Preparing a thousand word essay on a creative theme presents me with some uncertainty but also an interesting challenge.


Copyright Jeff wall

In considering Jeff Walls 1974 image ‘Insomnia’, Boothroyd demonstrates some of the tools that might be used to review, deconstruct and then assemble meaning around a single image, as well as offering a possible structure for an essay. Although short the piece provides some basic description ‘in practice’ to the concepts of denotation and connotation as well as examples of signifiers and the signified. Most importantly it does set out as sort of essay plan idea by example.

This could be summarised as:

Introduction the image and the artist, some background  and links to their range of work

Literal description –what is in the image, a literal description, describing the place, the settings, the light and colours

Interpretive description –what the elements of the image might mean, to the author and the viewer, an exploratory discourse on the the layers of meaning within the imgae

A personal link for the authorher own work in Oxford, connecting this work to the authors own practice

The works contextwhere the work sits in the genre, the influences on the artist and links to wider works,

The central theme of insomnia -literary links and how this  work might connect to contemporary society, literary reference to Shakespeare as an example of intertextuality

The scale of the work -how its sits in our culture and a short subjective summary of its meaning

Although a very simplistic review on my part  of the structure of Boothroyd’s post, I found it helpful to deconstruct what she had written as a starting point for considering how I might structure how I might write about a chosen image.

I also looked at the use of specific text in this post and used the simple but i find helpful approach of creating a word cloud from the entire work. This is a technique i use in my working life to add some additional insight, I need to share the caveat that this is a very personal approach but I find it helpful, without reading too much into the activity.


A starting point but more thought needed I think!


Boothroyd, S. (2012) Beneath the Surface found at: (Accessed February 2017)



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