South Devon Open Studios visits

First visit: Jenny Pery print maker

Date: 15th September

With: a photography friend

Setting: Jenny’s studio on artmoor

Location: Easy to access on a main road through Dartmoor; two light & airy workshop cabins with 2 presses.

Jenny made us very welcome and spoke about her m.o. She had a vast array of prints of her sketchbooks from her far-reaching travels. I rather liked the seals in her sketchbook of the Antarctic.

Examples of her work:

Jenny’s drawing from a photograph preparatory to making the wood bock for printing.
Summer Garden. Monotype. Jenny Pery
Barbed Wire. Etching. Jenny Pery.

Highlights:

Looking at her tools

Freddiee the 19thC printer
Jenny’s hand tools reflected in the mirror
Detail of Freddie

I had taken my microscope lens so I took the following images with my phone:

Screw thread
Detail of a metal surface
Detail of the printing press.
A second screw thread.

At this point Jenny asked me what I was going to do with the images. I do not know yet – apart from putting them on my blog .

Jenny has many sketch books and hand made books. She has quite a few print and poetry books but none that had contemporary poet collaborations that I could see. I asked her which came first & she said that there is a mixture of both in her work. She said that she has many poems rattling in her brain all the time.

What I took away with me about her work:

I enjoyed looking at her hand made books – perfect specimens reflecting many years of practising the skills.

Her sketchbooks are very much part of her m.o. and as much a part of her art work as the work itself.

I was very taken with her abstract work although much of her work is aimed at the conventional Dartmoor visitor – sheep, Tors, ideal landscapes. She is a very successful commercial artist who prides in having emerged from The Slade school of art.

What I took away with me about me:

I am hoping to develop my book making skills and starting to try my hand at print making. Jeny’s etchings were inspiring – I can’t wait to get to my October printing school.

The second artist we visited was Bridget Arnold from Princetown who specialises in cyanotypes. Although she was not as forthcoming as Jeny had been about her work, she has a wide range of applications for it: silk scarves; lampshades; key rings; cards; calendars; book covers and many other day-to-day useful items – but no quilts!

I was very glad to see that she uses salts in her work – much like Rosie Emerson does, but, unlike Emerson’s work, Arnold’s is invariably rectangular.

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Susie David exhibition review

What: Solo painting, film and sculpture 

Date: 20th September 2019

With: Photography colleagues

Where: Harbour House, Kingsbridge, Devon.

Curator: Susie David

Location : Harbour House is a very easily accessible space, constantly used by artists.

Setting: The exhibition of paintings of all sizes on the theme of water was very well suited to the setting – on a river waterfront.

Atmosphere: the white cube architecture was very well suited to the predominantly white, calm paintings.

All ideal for the subject.

Examples of the work

Seaweed – oil on paper. 2018

Highlights:

Susie was very welcoming and answered all our questions. I was intrigued because some of her paintings looked like the cyanotypes of Meghan Riepenhoff with all the colours and effects but Susie insisted that they were paintings inspired by the sea.

Seeing the paintings made me want to get on with doing my planned cyanotypes exposed to sea, seaweed and sand.

Susie’s sculptures, which I later discovered, were made from 3D prints of her drawings and then bronzed.

Water vortex 2 . Bronze. 2014.

What I took away with me about the work:

It was painted with meticulous attention to detail which made me feel that she had spent an eternity on it. I loved the textures of the very fine lines which were possibly done by brush but which looked as if they were the residue of water flowing over the painting at that point.

The textures, luminous parts and layers of paint were magical.

Although I really liked the work, I thought it was very commercial with a limited scope: it was not experimental nor was it breaking any boundaries which I would expect in an emerging artist. The white cube setting was also quite clichéd, in my opinion, experimental in the 1980’s but why not try something different in the 21st C?

What I took away with me about me:

If this is an example of the painting I admire, I am not a painter because I do not have the patience and I do not have that scope of imagination.

I must get down to my cyanotype experiments. 

How would I try to break cyanotype boundaries? 

How would I break white cube exhibition space boundaries?

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UWE MA Photography degree and BA Graphic Art & Photography shows.

When: 8th June, 2019

With: OCA students Anne B & Dorothy.

Where: Arnolfini Gallery & The MPF, Bristol

Curators: The students and staff UWE & MPF

Location, Setting, Atmosphere:

As they were 2 very different locations and 2 different shows: Arnolfini had the BA and some of the MA work, whereas the MPF had only MA work, the atmosphere in each was very different. The Arnolfini was very busy with many and varied exponents. The MPF was the opposite – nobody else in the room but us. The atmosphere was, therefore, contemplative but this was part of the MA photography selected by Martin Parr for his gallery.

Examples of the work:

Arnolfini:

I liked the use of tracing paper in this one and the use of different fonts in the text as well as how it was presented.
The incorporation of the display wall into the final presentation was interesting for me. (I recently saw this piece at The Devon Guild of Craftsmen exhibition with a £1300 price tag.)
This was arguably the most imaginative project of the lot by Ruth Broadway ‘A trace left behind.’
Tracey Stokes Hand-made books on ‘My Place’ were beautifully illustrated.
Elena Keenan ‘Untitled’ Biro Pen drawing was an exquisite example of meticulous drawing techniques.
This was very intriguing because it was a collaborative MA project involving students in different disciplines and one I would have loved to have been involved in.
The interpretation for the collaborative MA

The Martin Parr Foundation:

Highlights:

  • The huge variety of topics for the BA photography degree show from eating disorders to the changing use of language reflects to me the limitless range of what can be done with images.
  • I loved the idea of a collaborative MA. At my degree show, one of the visitors is an artist who asked me if I would collaborate with her on an MA. Although I already have an MA, I would love to collaborate. if nothing comes of it, it was still good to be asked & to know that this is something that can be explored even in Plymouth.
  • It was interesting to see a prisons project “Folly” by Jamie E. Murray, in the MPF MA exhibition “Tellers”. the project is described as “… a rumination on a series of conversations with individuals who have been incarcerated. Within these conversations the ex-prisoners spoke of what led them to punishment, how they navigated the prison environment, and their eventual transition from institution to freedom.” As with the rest of the media representations of prisons and prisoners, the images were very dark and the ex-prisoners looking down, which was very disappointing given that the prisoners are no longer in prison but in the open world.

What I took away with me about the work:

  • Sadness at the predictability of the MA “Folly”.
  • Exciting development about the collaborative MA projects.
  • A phenomenal range of work both within photography and within the visual arts expressions.
  • Most of the MA work I saw exhibited books.

What I took away with me about me:

  • I am very glad that I did the project I did for my BA photography and that I chose the aesthetic that I did because it is very different.
  • I appreciate a lot of different artistic expressions.
  • I am looking forward to collaborating with Tess on her MA.

Notes:

  • Don’t be afraid to use tracing paper again & experiment with different types paper and layout of publications.

Mary Barker ARPS : Altered Oceans

What: Solo exhibition

With: OCA students Dorothy & Anne B

Where: RPS building, Paintworks, Bristol

When: 8th June, 2019

Curator: 

Location, setting, atmosphere:

The location is much better than the previous RPS building in Bath which was not the best place to show exhibitions. It benefits from having the MPF next door so it has footfall from that.

Setting: The room was very dark with spotlights on the images which use colour very effectively.

Atmosphere: there is a deep darkness which sets off the mewl-like colour effects in this show. It reminded me of the exhibition “Land / Sea” by Mike Perry in Plymouth I saw in 2017 in which the found plastics which pollute our land and sea were aestheticised and put in frames:

More were arranged in picturesque grids:

or were put in vitrines:

Mandy Barker showed a different perspective but, in my opinion, maintained that aestheticised display concept to draw her viewers in:

I appreciated the annotated images which showed where she had gathered her material:

Highlights:

  • Seeing how effective altering the size of the images is. In this display, the colourful arrangements shown in an A0 + size had a far stronger impact on me than the same image smaller would have had. 
  • Having the prime material of research finds was also a powerful impact on what the exhibition was saying.
  • The research findings of this project were instrumental in showing that plastic pollution is spread over the entire planet & not just in India or UK or the Pacific ocean.

What I took away with me about the work:

  • It was exceptional photography in terms of use of colour, perspectives (metaphorical and physical), and composition.
  • The variety of the sizes of images on display did not make you feel that you were seeing the same thing over and over again but in different arrangements and colours.
  • The aesthetics lures unsuspecting people in to see the colours and objects only for them to discover that all that colour is thrown forward by the darkness of the message behind it.
  • It uses traditional photography to highlight a very contemporary catastrophe.
  • I can’t believe that with all our new technology, galleries still can’t overcome the reflected light blight!

What I took away with me about me:

  • It made me think about the role of traditional photography in contemporary practice: is post-photography as capable of showing up such Anthropocene disasters as traditional photography is? If so, can I challenge myself to convey the Barker message as strongly as she did?

Notes:

  • Am I equipped to make that step in terms of having my own research and prime sources?
  • Can I use Barker’s work to make my own post-photography work?

Next steps:

  • Meet my challenge? perhaps through the study of fault lines and lichen – or is that too far fetched? 

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Blast! Stephen Burke “The Lord’s My Shepherd”

Although we saw many exhibitions in a very short space of time, I shall focus on Stephen’s work. I would , at some time, like to investigate the work ‘Stories of home’ by Jon Tonks.

What: Solo within Blast! Festival of Photography

With: OCA Midlands group.

Where: West Bromwich,UK

When: 16th June, 2019

Curator: Stephen Burke (?)

Location, setting, atmosphere.

The Vine, Roebuck St in West Bromwich, is a pub / restaurant and the exhibition is outdoors. The setting and atmosphere are relaxed and informal, the many portraits, stunning. I loved the way the strong sunlight is allowed to play with the portraits, altering their emphasis:

And how much part of the place the people being portrayed seemed to be:

Highlights:

Learning about the football club West Bromwich Albion supporters; the fact that they sing The Lord’s My Shepherd whenever the players score was a revelation to me; how ordinary the people seemed – not so much of the laddish behaviour on display. 

The interviews with some of the supporters and the singing revealed a very strong emotional connection between the players and the club.

What I took away with me about the work:

I admire photographers who can make portraits work! Like Graham MacIndoe, Stephen Burke is a superb portraitist, in my opinion, because he makes you the viewer feel that the sitters are standing there quite happily about to talk to you or about to resume a conversation you were having just before the photo was taken.

What I took away with me about me:

I cannot do what Stephen or Graham do. This is possibly because I cannot talk to strangers about nothing in particular & I cannot put people at ease with a camera between us. I know that it is possibly a learned art, but it will take a month of Sundays for me to do that. I shall, therefore, continue to admire the likes of Stephen Burke and graham MacIndoe, and continue to photograph lichen.

Next steps:

Collect more lichen and invest in a microscope lens.

Notes:

It was great to meet up with fellow OCA students from the Midlands, to meet new ones and to be able to talk to the photographer in situ. I felt privileged to have had Stephen review my body of work this January because he could share his extensive insights with me. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly he grasped what my project was all about and how, just as quickly, he could see what was missing in it.

Thanks to Allan O’Neill for organising the day for the OCA West Midlands – I guess I am now an honorary West Midlander, although not quite a West From supporter – yet!


Anna Boghiguian at St Ives: first UK retrospective.

View all posts by annag1611August 8, 2019

What: A solo, multi-media exhibition.

With: I went with 3 others: 2 OCA students and a friend.

Where: Tate ST Ives, Cornwall.

When: 12th April, 2019

Curator: Carlyn Christov-Bakargiev

Location, setting, atmosphere.

  • A vast range of items to view, feel and listen to.
  • A vast range of media.
  • Local and international feel.

-ve: the recordings were indistinct.

Example of the work:

There was so much work, some related to St Ives, some to the sea. I had seem some of it in the Artes Mundi 8 exhibition in Cardiff last November. Boghiguian makes installations specific to the area where the exhibition is held.

The image above illustrates the denim sails & I learned that denim is so called because it comes from – de Nîmes, France. The motif on the red sails is the emblem of Nîmes.

The paintings were displayed in such a way that the lights did not reflect off the glass which is a first, for me, in a gallery.

The tin hut representing all things Cornwall: from the tin drums which used to sound with the soldiers going to battle, the ropes for the fishing, and various artefacts inside.

This was one of the many note / sketchbooks on display – heavy with experiments and ideas.

Highlights for me:

  • The sheer magnitude of the exhibition and all the forces of nature emanating from the artefacts on display. It reflected an exuberant vitality seldom seen in an artist’s expression in my experience.
  • The adherence to a sense of place. This was sometimes too obvious and overdone, in my opinion, but it was in the spirit of the exhibition.
  • The burst of brush-stroked strong and vibrant colours made it an exciting space to be in.
  • There was also a contemplative space particularly around the play :’A Play to Play 2013″ inspired by Dan Ghar (The Post Office) written in 1912 by the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore (1861 – 1941) which tells the story of a young boy who dreamt of receiving an letter from a king. The boy’s “separation and death are considered to represent India when it was under British rule (1858 – 1947).” (Notes in the information leaflet). The part I enjoyed most in this was the sense of theatre achieved through the positioning of the cut-out characters and settings inspired by props and used in terms of folk-lore theatre.
  • The super variety of sketchbooks she produced.

What I took away with me about the work:

It was everything else except a shy exhibition. It contained enough work to keep an army of viewers enthralled for hours. The sheer variety meant that there was something for everyone to enjoy and learn.

The sketchbooks were inspirational from the point of view that they were works of art in themselves. You could see the layers of graphite and chalk and paint on each page. 

The drawings were detailed and drew me in looking for the meanings of the details:

Part 1 of a triptych
Part 2

Part 3

Again, lines are expressive and important, much like the Jean Dubuffet “Grand Paysage Noir” 1946 in the permanent collection at Tate St Ives.

What I took away with me about me:

I could have spent all day there as there was so much to see and think about. I had seen 2 video interviews with the artist and she is as animated as her work. I had seen her work in Artes Mundi 8 in Cardiff and I was mesmerised by how she used every surface and volume of space to express herself. 

It was here that I decided I wanted to fill my exhibition space too – not demurely hanging photographs behind glass on the walls, but have sound / noise / music; voices; drapes; videos and a thousand other things besides photographic prints on the walls. 

It was here that I wanted to show I had life in abundance; that my ideas have life in abundance; that by talking / reading / looking you can develop a timid idea into a circus tent filled with excitement and breath-taking events.

Next steps seen in retrospect:

I applied what I had learned here to my exhibition curation three months later (See Assignment 5) All the time I was planning the exhibition, I kept thinking back to this artist’s 2 major exhibitions that I had seen and which most decidedly had informed my curation practice.

Tate St Ives: Haguette Caland

24th May 2019

We then went to see the Haguette Caland exhibition “Le corps découvert’, erotic art inspired by the human body.

Exhibition layout and atmosphere:

+ It was a huge exhibition of the erotic art by Caland starting in the 1960’s, and so there was a lot to see.

+ Line and colour were strong elements in the exhibition.

-ve: I felt that there was a lot of repetition in the work which watered it down and did not appeal to me.

Example of the work:

Highlights:

Her dress designs were very interesting, based on the kaftan and continued her interest in line and colour..

To Caland, the texture of the painted surface is very important. This is of interest to me because I have become very conscious of the haptic qualities of art in any form including photography.

What I took away with me about the work:

I liked the softness of the appearance of the work on show.

The unifying factor in my opinion was the subject which also happened to be the author of the work. This strengthens the voice of the artist but not necessarily of the work because, as stated above, repetition, in my opinion weakens the work.

What I took away with me about me:

I am not ready to analyse feminism and this exhibition was all about the the female body and its empowerment, I think.

Notes & next steps:

Carry on reading Abigail Solomon-Godeau & get a grip on feminism in art.

https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-eighties-huguette-caland-celebrated-sensual-feminist-art

August exhibition review:’Pest and the profound’ by Sarah Vaci

Exhibition: Pest and the profound.

With: 2 local art friends

Where: Artizan Gallery, Torquay

When: 31st July, 2019

Curator / ArtistSarah Vaci

Location and setting atmosphere:

3 stars: 

* Good to see the pieces hanging in the middle of the space to allow viewers to move all around the pieces.

  • In a well frequented place
  • Enough space for all the pieces.

1 wish: A few more pieces related to the ‘Pest’ project.

Example of work.

Sarah Vici (right) asking to local artist Sue Coulson.

Highlights:

  • Speaking to Sarah when she arrived unexpectedly about the underlying concepts . As her feminism roots are deep and this triptych subverts ‘iconic masculinity through the soft, feminine, organic nature of fibre.’ ( Press release), I asked her if we can talk about it some time. She will be exhibiting again in mid-September so I have arranged to talk to her about it then.
  • Having magnifying glasses provided to see the larvae pupate and eat away at the pieces.
  • seeing her other work which involves sculpture and photography.

What I took away with me about the work:

It was good to see so many concepts in one piece: corruption, gender politics / subverting masculinity through historically feminine textiles, power and gender identity, dynamic art work. 

It explores power and death, beauty and disgust.

The dystopian tribute portraits, placed in double-sided frames which allow the insects to breathe but not escape (another concept here – the death cannot go beyond the frames?) 

The decay is recorded via time-lapse photography – great idea. Who will go first: the piece or the Pests?

What I took away with me about me

I need to see power in simplicity in my work.

Notes & next steps:

Write to Sarah about the femininity angle of her work. I was surprised she had not heard of Abigail Solomon-Godeau.

I am investigating feminism from Godeau – once I am armed with that rhetoric, I shall try to discuss it with Vici.

My review of my solo exhibition: One Year

I have been battling to reduce the word count of SYP assignment 5 which is a reflection on how I publicised my work. I decided I would approach the task differently by treating it as a normal exhibition review.

With all the headings and quotations, it comes to 587 words and it is all I really want to say about it. Why does the essay have to take me 2299 words over 19 pages?

The answer is quite simple: I have to defend and justify what I did, how I did it and why, it’s about how I resolved the issues raised at the assessment of my body of work. And that all takes words. There, now I feel better about it! I still need to lose 300 words! 

Review template informed exhibition review

Name: One Year 

Date: 1st– 12thJuly 2019

Venue: Cells, Devonport Guild Hall, Plymouth

Exhibition: One Year; Solo: Anna Goodchild.  

Attendance: 170 physically in the space.   200+ online.

Curator:  Anna Goodchild

Location setting and atmosphere

  • Excellent location & setting: a Victorian holding cells complex.  
  • Atmosphere: apt for an exhibition on UK prisons and prisoner identity. 
  • My wish:  I wish the trunking, pipe work, the random, heavy furniture which took up so much floor in an already small space had not been there.

Example of work:

Highlights:

  • The numbers attending in person and online.
  • The number and quality of reflections in the book.
  • The positive nature of the reflections indicating that people took their time and saw the different strands of the exhibition coming together.
  • Super reviews.
  • The technology worked, after many mountains to climb.
  • Collaborating with musician Deborah Johnson. 
  • Request to collaborate on an art project in January 2020.
  • The book worked so well & was well received.
  • The cell reconstruction was very well used.
  • The drapes were effective, dramatic and introduced an element of femininity.
  • The botanicals worked effectively in demarcating the seasons and in linking to the letters being read.
  • The botanicals in the book cover window brought the drama, the letters and the place together.
  • The quilt stimulated discussion.
  • The exhibition caused people to think about their prejudices.
  • I loved talking to the visitors about the work.
  • I was surprised at how many professionals – social workers, lawyers, magistrates, professional artists & photographers – came to see the work.
  • I was surprised at the number of re-visits and referrals.
  • Many visitors, old and young, liked to close the cell door to sit and listen to the readings and absorb the nature of the enclosed pace and then commented on how much they take their freedom for granted.
  • Comments like ”It’s very peaceful in here” and “It’s strange – you just don’t know this goes on in prisons.”

What I took away with me about the work:

  • The ‘broadcasting’ of the recorded letters worked in uniting the letters to the outcome possibly because, through the passive listening, the viewers could access the reading of the book, the tiles and the images. 
  • The many layers, instead of causing confusion, helped the visitors to take in the exhibition as a whole instead of seeing it as a lot of disparate elements.
  • What helped most, I think, was the division of the material into three separate spaces, united by the recorded readings, and the visitors could take the information in a bit at a time.
  • The viewers appreciated all the different elements. There was no single discordant voice which isolated an element as irrelevant, misleading or superfluous.

What I took away with me about me:

  • I loved talking to the visitors.
  • I was interested to see where they came from and how they approached the work.
  • I loved curating the work over its 12 months’ gestation.
  • I loved the help I received from various people involved in putting the exhibition together and up.
  • I loved getting all the positive feedback.
  • I am glad the reflections book worked – people wanted to write essays!

Notes:

  • Heterotopia in 3D = success in making the work gel.
  • Derrida’s comment about a ‘singular witness’ in photography is great.
  • Anna Boghiguian and Edmund Clark’s work are the singular most powerful influences in the curation of this exhibition.
  • Obrist’s comment about the function of an exhibition = not to illustrate what an exhibition is about but to create a new reality, was a powerful motivator in doing what I did.

Sandy Skoglund in Turin

Exhibition setting: Camera, Centro Italiano per la Fotografia, Turin

Date: 9th February, 2019

Curator: Germano Celant

Location and setting: In the national photographic centre, the spaces for the exhibition were more than adequate to house the 100+ pieces which had been on show in Brescia in 2018. there was plenty of space to walk around the installations. The lighting was excellent and the signage in keeping with Italian ‘interpretation’ practice.

Example of the work: 

Picnic on wine. 2003

Highlights

Skoglund’s work is incredibly varied: there are staged photographs featuring humans and other animals, sculptures, installations, ceramics , and mixed media work reflecting an all-inclusive, interdisciplinary practice. In her staged photography are echoes of Jeff Wall’s, and Gregory Crewdson’s practices in that the attention to detail is terrific. Unlike Wall or Crewdson, Skoglund has humour, playfulness and surreal colour in her work which make it appeal to viewers of all ages. 

Radioactive cats. 1980

The complex tableaux vivants have strong filmic qualities of domestic interiors as well as surreal scenography. In ‘Radioactive cats’, the sculptures become central to the presentation, while the complex narrative highlights the artist’s imaginative surrealism.

The dialectics between reality and fiction are seen vividly in Patients and Nurses (1982) which makes us question how safe the patients are. The nurses appear suspended in mid air – are they humans or mannequins? 

Nurses and Patients (1982)

I found her work on the seasons interesting given my current work as she explores the psychological effect of the seasons:

Her ceramic work too is surreal:

Eyeflakes from Winter, 2018.

What I took away with me about the work:

Skoglund’s oeuvre in this show spans 4 decades and yet there is a fascinating surrealism, a disquieting and disorientating take on human behaviour which holds it all together. The subjects and materials may vary but the enquiring approach is the same. It shows an imaginative mind not afraid to express its concerns in a very engaging manner which leaves the viewers to interpret the work as they feel moved to feel it. 

What I took away with me about me:

I loved the many ways Skoglund expresses herself producing cross-discipline work. I would love to see her sketchbooks, if she has any. her work is also multi-sensory: visual, olfactory (the smell of the wine in Picnic on wine 2003; texture and taste: her installation with jelly beans and paper butterflies:

Notes:

Don’t be afraid to explore more cross-discipline ways of working. Skoglund explored the blurred boundaries between the real and the imagined, and both are realised. Be realistic, it took her 40 years to get to this point – I am trying to do it all at once. But why should I put a lid on my expression?

Next steps:

Get cracking with the exhibition preparation!

Star rating: *****

The London Art Fair

It was great meeting up with fellow student Catherine Banks on this wet January day in London. After a catch-up coffee, we went inside the Business Design Centre to see the countless exhibits vying for our credit cards.

The first exhibit grabbed me immediately because of its presentation and content, and possibly because it reminded me of my own blobs resulting from my dye paintings, but these drawings were exquisite.

Freia Gabie: Thin air: ongoing drawings of military explosions taken from Google image search. 2015 ongoing.

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The next to attract me, again because of my own interest in organic materials, minerals and their visual effects on us, were works by recent graduate Catherine Pickop. Catherine was there to talk to us about her work, how she feels that images and processes need to stimulate all our senses rather than just the visual. She works with coffee grounds, mineral materials and textured paper or cloth. Her work comprises stills and film of the process. Paper is punched with holes and Catherine then rubs the organic or mineral material over it & the results catch your curiosity.

South West photographer, Susan Derges was very well represented and her new work is intriguing. She had several pieces in the show in which she uses chine collée. I had no idea that you could use this material in photographs as I have only seen it used, sparingly, in the work of Totnes print maker Val Jones.

A complete surprise in her work was this ‘Fruitbody No. 28’ which, because of the very reflective glass, was very difficult to photograph.

The work of Emily Allchurch ‘Ghost Towers (after Piranesi), a montage transparency on a bespoke LED lightbox, was a delight in the detail and the connections viewers can make between all the elements. It had to be 116 x 170cm for you to see all the different elements in it.

Finally, a series of mixed media drawings of silver Birch by a Swedish artist whose name I did not get but whose work reminded me of the architecture of Alvar Aalto, and the work of a Japanese artist who uses trees in his drawings of trees, held me transfixed by their simplicity:

Alvar Aalto’s Viipuri Library :

Mixed media silver birch by an artist unknown to me:

Possibly the most memorable items in the exhibition for me:

Kwansoo Kim: The White birch (47cm x 103cm) 

What I took away with me about the art fair: 

There is a huge variety of expression, some recycled from previous years, some derivative, some refreshingly new. The expression of an idea varies from the highly complex to the insanely simple. The work the artists go through in order to get to the point of showing their work lies behind the surface of the canvas, glass or paper, and we the viewers can’t guess at how much frustration, rejection, experimentation, inspiration from other sources, and analytical thinking has gone on. 

What I took away with me about my work:

I can experiment to my heart’s content! As long as I let myself trust my instincts to go one way rather than another, I will be ok. The simplicity of expression of Kwansoo Kim or the complexity of Susan Derges’ work are at opposite ends of the image spectrum for me yet they are both valued by viewers and buyers. As individual pieces in an exhibition such as this, they are at the mercy of the curators as to where they are put and with which other artists vying for attention next to them. I can imagine what a tranquil effect several pieces by Kwansoo will have in an exhibition of his/her own. An exhibition of just Derges’ work will have a totally different effect. I can never see just one human sense in my work, perhaps it’s because I know more about my work than that of any other artist. Do I need to have such a complex exhibition involving sound, photography, poetry and film? Just as recent graduate Catherine Pickop uses sound, film, photography and print work to give insights into how she feels about her work process and outcome, perhaps I too have that right? Perhaps, rather than multi-disciplinary, my work too is multi-sensory?

Artes Mundi 8



Venue
: Cardiff Art Museum

Exhibition: Group

Date:26th October, 2018

With: OCA students led by OCA tutor Helen Warburton.

Location: Two positives:

a) it was all located in one building which is an improvement on AM 7 where it was spread over several venues – was funding a problem this time?

b) a wider range of discipline than in 2016.

One negative: perhaps because it was the first day of opening, the signage had fallen off in some of the spaces.

Highlights:

For me the work of Anna Boghiguian was the most outstanding because it summed up my 3 favourite experiences of curatorial scenography: ‘Soulèvements’ by Noémie Goudal in issue 95 of Source; ‘Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist’ by Emmanuelle Lainé at The Hayward Gallery, London, and Anni Albers textiles at the Tate Modern, London.

All three exhibitions broke the traditions of hanging the images on a wall. ‘Soulèvements’ was exciting because you could see landscapes as you experience them: one vista after another in visual layers, with the frames arresting you in your path as you walk through and past them in 3D.

Lainé’s work has gigantic photographs which start on the floor at your feet, go up the wall and take in the ceiling, confounding your spatial awareness, making you question where the room ends and the photograph begins.

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The Anni Albers exhibition curation had a novel way of linking the space with the work, and of creating a work continuum:

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In the work of Boghiguian, all these elements come together: as you make your own journey through the exhibition, you see through the sculptures and installations,

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into the mirrors’ reflections, along the floor and up the walls and so each story that you get out of the different trajectories is a different aspect of the scene.

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Everything becomes one: the worship of the meteors, industrial workers’ rights, the constructions. The complex tableaux play with layers and objects, teasing the viewer : is it 2D or 3D?

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You can only tell the difference by dancing around the objects and it becomes an installation in which the physical context and the image are one. You become a dancer in the rhythmical display and your body, reflected in the massive floor mirrors, becomes part of the image. The physical layers reflect the palimpsest of the author’s memories of being an outsider and, in participating in the dance around, through and with the pieces, you become, paradoxically, part of that experience of being an outsider.

What I took away with me about the work:

I really loved the complexities of expression which give the viewer the freedom to choose to be part of the experience or simply to be an onlooker. There is so much there that you can learn, appreciate and explore that a week would not be enough time to plumb the depths of the work. And that is all without analysing the effects of the strong colours which arrest you as you walk into the space.

The lighting, and the shadows it created, had a strong influence in how the work is seen and interpreted.

What I took away with me about me:

Colour is a big factor in my appreciation of spectacle, which this exhibition certainly was. The receding layers of information, objects: be they sculptures or industrial structures, create a theatre in which you can act, with which you can interact. In my limited experience of exhibitions, I think that this made the biggest impression. For my exhibition in July, I want to create a similar theatrical experience in which the viewer has a part to play. People will have an opportunity and space in which to reflect and write down their thoughts – hopefully the exhibition will have made people think a little differently about what they have seen and heard and tasted.

Next steps: 

Work out the details of my exhibition so that the ‘curatorial scenography’ will fully grip the majority of the viewers/participators at my exhibition.Boghiguian did not win the contest but it was for me the one which involved me most. The eventual winner, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, presented what I thought was the most poetic, pared down, conceptual film in black, white and grey that I have ever seen. The images I really appreciated were:’Smoke arose from the chimney against snow’ … ‘the colour of movement is black’ … ‘A storm of light that moved the trees.’.

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Positivity: Tray. HMP Wakefield.”I was going through the parole process – even though it was rejected I chose to do something positive.”(Exhibited artist)

I couldn’t just go to one exhibition, could I?

The only thing I like doing when I go to London is visiting the exhibitions – particularly if they are free.  This was the first time, however, that the ideas I got from so many of them coalesced.

The Anni Albers textiles exhibition at Tate Modern was the first – since when have these exhibitions become so expensive?  At £17 with a concession & without gift aiding, it’s now becoming a question of ‘do I go to the exhibition or get the book?’ – except that the books are seldom under £30.

It was an incredibly rich and vast exhibition where the highlight for me came near the end.  I love the work produced in the modernist abstraction era emerging from the Bauhaus because it is mostly cross-discipline – it is seldom just photography, sculpture, painting, architecture, furniture design or  textiles, but each artist has a mixture of several of them.  In this case it was weaving, drawing and photography, and for me, music but in particular, music notation.  The piece which gave me that sensation was:

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It gave me a sense of rhythm which I had never associated with weaving.

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The film links which appeared after this series of wall hangings emphasised that impression.

Another aspect which struck me was the absence of conventional walls demarcating the various rooms in the exhibition.  The rooms were separated by veil-like room dividers and these were to pop into my mind again when I was reading an article on Noémie Goudal in Source issue 95 (see below).

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What struck me about these was how the veils both separated and linked all the various rooms allowing the viewer to choose what is and what is not linked, in their opinion.   this also reprises the room dividers Anni Albers created for the dormitories in the Harvard Graduate Centre designed by Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus school.

” These woven pieces – likely prototypes for larger works – are portable architectural interventions that can be seen as a kind of experiment in modern living.” (2)

The woven pieces which I admired the most were:

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The last image is a wall hanging which has metal threads which I had not expected to see.  Albers used different materials o make her weaving not only more insulate but also sound proof.

“In weaving, Anni never limited herself to cotton or linen. Instead, she accessed plastic, metal, and wire as material to be woven. Through the juxtaposition of various materials in a single work, Albers was able to alter the perception of the surface. Anni saw worth in material through their capacity for visual effect. Material impacted the final impression of the work, all while sharpening her haptic sense.” (1)

This reference also resonates with a tapestry I had seen at the Arts Mundi (see below) and which would bring both exhibitions together.

Finally, the other work she did which struck me was her knot drawing, and embossing:

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I learned much more from this exhibition than I had imagined I would and I really appreciated how it would link to the Otobong Nkanga tapestry at Artes Mundi.

What I took away with me about me:

I learned a lot about curating a huge show:

  •  Using transparent material as walls / room dividers to bring the different ‘rooms’ or elements of the exhibition together.
  • Using elements in the exhibition as part of the curation: in this case, Albers was well known to use her weaving to make room dividers which was then used as a curation tool in her exhibition.  I think I have this in my exhibition in the form of the tracing paper carrying the prints of the material found on site at a specific time reprising the ‘One Year’ concept of my work.
  • Having material which alludes to rhythm followed by a series of films in the show which echo that aspect of weaving – i.e. creating links within the exhibition between  its different component elements.
  • Apart from taste, all the senses were there: you could see, smell, touch some of the exhibits, and you could sense the peace and concentration in the making of the pieces.
  • You could not escape becoming aware of the innovation of Albers’s practice.
  • There was a certain vitality in how all the elements of the exhibition came together.

References:

(1)  http://textileartscenter.com/blog/anni-albers-material-and-meaning/

(2) https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/anni-albers/exhibition-guide

 

Disrupted Views seminar

The 2nd October seemed a lifetime away when I booked my place at the ‘Disrupted views’ seminar at Hestercombe, so pre-conference research procrastination set in.  I had not seen the Sear exhibition before as it had all seemed too expensive to go twice.

Laurent Châtel, Professor of British Art, Culture and Visual Studies of the University of Lille, opened the event with his talk on ‘Prospect and Refuge, Open and occluded eyes in 18th C. gardens’.

The main points I learned from the talk were:

  •  we read and decode a garden
  • there is an art of / arrogance in hiding and / or framing what you want viewers to see
  • there is a dual narrative of prospect (I see this as the framing) and refuge in a garden
  • Hestercombe gardens are seen as paradise regained
  • the seeing of the restructuring of a landscape as an improvement or a restoration = a putting in order

Helen Sear’s talk and work:

What was the relevance of this to the exhibition?  Much of Sear’s work concerns the body and the landscape and recently, the body immersed in the landscape, and looking more closely at the managed countryside.  Sear appears to record what is there but how she does that is what brought her work into the seminar.  Although I had never assumed that her work was in the documentary genre, Helen said that her work cannot be seen as documentary because she has edited it all.  I may have mis-heard, but I never knew that self-editing precluded a work from being considered a documentary.

She uses occlusion very effectively, in my opinion. The hay bales, both cylindrical and cuboid, were arranged in the images in such a way as to occlude what the viewer would normally have seen.  She also removes the shadows in these examples, thereby flattening the images and collapsing the distance between the viewer and the viewed.  The long landscape, ‘Stack’ (2015) is presented in 32 vertical aluminium dibond panels and engages the viewer because the light changes the colours on the image depending on where you stand in relation to it.

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There were places where the landscape seemed to offer refuge to the viewer, particularly the 27 minute long film  ‘hahaha biota’ (2018) which dealt with people and animals in the environment in which potentially harrowing parts were changed to black and white where the rest of the film was in colour, in places highly saturated colour.

The film which attracted me most was the ‘Moments of capture‘ (2016) because it gave me many ideas for my work (see below).

One image which stays with me is the ‘Caetera fumus’ ( the rest is smoke) (2015) : an image of rapeseed flowers and twigs piercing the image.  It is inspired by Mantegna’s St Sebastian which Sear saw in Venice when she represented Wales at the 2015 biennale – the first woman to present a solo exhibition representing Wales at the biennale.  The twigs are supposedly piercing the image in the same orientation that Mantegna’s arrows are piercing St Sebastian’s body.  “Sear adopts this rather pessimistic idea of the transience of human life as a keynote for her show while mixing it with her obvious curiosity about the natural world. Her signature piece is the large scale video projection, company of trees(2015).”(BBC Arts – Helen Sear’s postcard from Venice) 

When I asked what the significance of the rapeseed and the twigs was, Helen replied, if I heard correctly, that it depicted the exploitation of people by consumerism.

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When I consider that St Sebastian was used as target practice by Diocletian’s soldiers because he refused to give up his Christian faith and did not die from all the perforations, I feel that I must have mis-heard the reply to my question.

At the exhibition I bought Sear’s book ‘Brisées’ which is a collection of processed images of circular or oval shapes with twigs.  The word brisées (French for broken) refers to the broken twigs indicating that game / deer have passed through that place in the forest.  To ‘French foresters, signify boundary markers – branches or stakes planted in the ground to define an area of timber now ready for logging.”(Sear)

The author of the introduction to the book, Jonathan P. Watts, writes:” Brisées is a rich and compelling metaphor, enfolding ideas about complexity, the gestalt whole, inside and outside, distance and proximity, visibility and invisibility, and attention economy.  It is under this sign that, in researching, thinking and writing this text, I enact my own brisées, trace pseudo-trails or risk crossing arbitrary boundaries in order to mark out wider and stranger trajectories in Sear’s work.  I also recognise the leisure, generosity and leniency in what one might call brisée-ing: following false trails in pursuit of the game might generate possibilities and questions.” (Sear)

Brisées is firmly in the vocabulary of venery, ‘an archaic word pertaining to the art, the act, or the practice of hunting, or the pursuit of sexual pleasure – the thrill of the chase.  The chase proceeds by close attention to nuanced detail in the environment.” (Sear)

Is it possible that the Caetera fumus is not about consumerism after all?  The theme of the seminar, open and occluded eyes, springs suddenly to mind.

The last speaker, Gareth Evans, writer, editor and film curator of London’s Whitechapel gallery, spoke of Cultures of Place and related walking through the countryside where, in looking down where you are walking, you experience a place / space rather than read it.  He referenced Wim Wenders ‘e-motion films’ ” Motion and Emotion: The Films of Wim Wenders (1990)” which I want to investigate further.  Evans also emphasised something which I have felt strongly and for a long time that landscapes are incomplete without sound and smells.  He mentioned film maker Ben Rivers whom I also want to investigate further.  Evans also spoke about how walking and films on walking  transcend space and time.

Reflections on the event:

I feel that I should have done a bit of research beforehand particularly about Helen Sear’s work which I found very accessible.

There were several film ideas which I want to incorporate in my work because it deals with how to depict the passage of time:

  • filming a windmill, a waterwheel, foliage moving in the wind;
  • while we were waiting for the Q&A session to start we filmed a slo-mo of pennies dropped in a pond and the ripples which followed;
  • photograph new growth in the forest.
  • attach to these the recording of the 4 horses walking outside HMP Dartmoor which I did last week.

References:

Sear,H. 2013. Brisées. GOSTBooks.

 

Luke Jerram: The Impossible Garden

26th September, 2018

Exhibition: Solo: Luke Jerram, artist / sculptor.

Date: 26th September 2018

With: OCA students Paddy, Liz & Dorothy.

Venue: Bristol University Botanic Garden

Location: + we had a superbly cloudless, sunny day and the plants were at their best.  The space was just the right size to invite exploration.

+ The exhibits were well-documented in the guide brochure and we could walk around at will making our discoveries by chance or by following the map.

–  There were at least 2 classes of primary school children which, had the space been any smaller, would have got in the way but they didn’t.

Highlights:

Although we went to see the art, I was blown over by the plants, structures and plantings in the gardens, and, yes, the art was good and in unexpected places (unless you had studied the brochure which I hadn’t).

The strongest sculpture for me was the door which is flat against the wall:

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0-15.jpegThe out of focus image in perspex.
0-3.jpegUpon reflection: Our brains decode what we are looking at.
0-26.jpeg“Glitch”:  Jerram’s first experiment in creating a 3D glitches object. “Luke: Are objects and images containing digital glitches new forms of visual illusion? …BVI:We are used to glitches in streamed digital video – caused by poor channel reception or buffering problems.  Blocks or lines in a video appear in the wrong position.”
0-25.jpegPixel Girl:BVI:”There are limits to visioning and one is our ability to resolve fine detail.  When we view the girl from far away we are unable to see the individual blocks that form this image.It is only when we look closer that we see the individual blocks and that there is something unnatural about the sculpture.”
0-10.jpegShrinking device: Luke: I like the way objects of a different scale seem to shift our sense perspective … Does sitting on this bench make you look small?  DO you feel small when you sit here?”

What I took away with me about the work:

As a photography student, I am well aware of the importance of vision / sight so this exhibition was very important because it made me realise how much I take my vision for granted: I assume that everyone can see and perceive perspective, focus, scale, the way I do.

The quote in the brochure by William Blake is very pertinent here : “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is.  Infinite.  For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”

Jerram states that the quote by Blake reminds us that our senses are ‘just filters to the world.’  By this I understand that our perception is a conglomeration of many filters, not just physical but also cultural, psychological and emotional.   By presenting the work as he has, Jerram makes me acutely aware of the many different ways that people do not see as I do and that by interacting with the exhibits, you can still have fun.

What I took away with me about me and my work:

Part of this has been shared above but what I found really innovative was the way digital glitches are represented as sculpture.  The ‘Glitch’ bench invites you to examine and interact with the sculpture.  Indeed there was a sign saying ‘YES, you can sit on the bench.”  This encouragement to interact with the work is enlightening.  In my exhibition next July, the work I present will be interactive in a way that the work itself evolves as people touch it.  This is not a new concept at all but so many exhibitions have so many ‘do nots’  that people are forced to remain passive, observing the work from far.  Because viewers are historically excluded from the work in front of them, I am hoping that by touching it they will remember it better.

One of the first sets of images I made for my body of work were precisely glitches formed by buffering problems where the pixels or blocks of colour have been misaligned.  I thought that this ‘misrepresentation’ was in line with my point that because people are fed the same biased view about prisons in the mass media, which reinforces that historical Schadenfreude, they have been culturally forced into their shrinking cavern  and they will therefore see prisons in no other way.  This ‘glitchy’ view will, in my opinion, represent that incomplete picture of a perception of prison experience.

Notes:

I do want people to touch my work in the exhibition.

I do want to see if I can include my ‘glitchy’ images in my exhibition.

I love the playfulness of this serious message.  Is this approach appropriate in a project on prisons?

Reference: 

Brochure produced by the University of Bristol: “Helping us see the world from a different perspective.”

 

Vanessa Winship: ‘And Time Folds’ (2014)

Having seen Vanessa Winship’s work Georgia: Seeds carried by the wind at the Hereford Photo Festival in 2011, I had not prioritised this exhibition as one not to miss in my limited time in London.  I had wanted to see the Tacita Dean work at the Tate but it was no longer showing so I decided, at my tutor’s suggestion, to go to the Barbican which is one of my favourite exhibition spaces in London.

I was not interested in the Dorothea Lange work because I felt I knew it better than I knew Winship’s.  It was just as well that I had made that conscious decision before I went because there must have been thousands of images – far too many to take in in the time I had.

Curated by Alona Pardo, the Kinship exhibition has so much more depth and breadth than I had imagined.

Venue: Although the Barbican is my favourite exhibition space, I thought that the signage in this exhibition was lacking.  The person handing out the space map was not there when I started so I found myself at the end of the Lange exhibition.  When a steward saw that I was looking for something, I managed to get started.  I raced through the Lange exhibition just in case there was something that would grab me but I did not have enough time to look at the hundreds if not thousands of images.

On the top floor, I started at the place where I thought it started but I was wrong but carried on regardless.

There were 3 highlights for me:

  1. Top of the list is seeing her journal extracts with photographs in She dances on Jackson, which were not directly related to the writing, for example her email of 5th September 2011.  In the email she writes about her visit to her father and all the time is thinking about her forthcoming trip to the USA.  The image next to it is of a cityscape taken from inside a room, through the louvred window, as if she is inside but wanting to be outside.  That is what I read in it.
  2. And Time Folds (2014): this deals with her relationship with her very curious grand daughter and how she is experiencing the world.  Unlike the other images which were in black & white, these were in colour marking for me, a sea change in how she was seeing the world, possibly through the eyes of her grandchild exploring new worlds.
0-1.jpegI took these photos not realising I was not supposed to and before I was told not to.
0-2.jpegI took them because I was going to explore what was being conveyed here with a possibility of using the method with my own images of letters from prison.

The way the And Time Folds images were curated was totally different from the way the rest of the work was.  I liked the different sizes of images put together; the image of the child’s hand prints included marked a difference in the subject – Winship appears to take a new road in her expression.

3.  Finally, in Georgia: Seeds carried by the wind, Winship includes images in which she looks up at trees losing their leaves but holding on to their seeds.  I found these images inspiring because, in the middle of portraits,  she uses metonymy to deliver her message. In the introduction to the series she writes in her own poetic language: “This is the place where I buy from a kind of messenger the seeds of the imagination, wrapped in scraps of paper of old music manuscripts.  That is until the wind and the rain carries them away.” (Exhibition catalogue) .

What I have taken away with me about the work:

The portraits are very subtly done, & , in their simplicity, do not not take anything away from the subjects.  There is a gentleness about them all that makes you feel like you want to speak to them.  They seem to embody Winship’s advice to photographers not to rush their work, to take time over it and this, in my opinion, comes across in the images.

What I take away with me about me:

I tend to rush my work – I feel I can’t waste other people’s time, because I feel that their time is more precious than mine, that I have no right to take it.  This is possibly why I am never satisfied with my portraits and so avoid doing them.

I want to experiment with my BoW by putting the images in different relationships to one another.  I have tried overlapping them but they lose the aesthetic of the book which is part of the BoW.

The journals and related images are intriguing so I shall dig through my 4k images of prisons to see what else I can use to accompany my letters.

Notes:

A terrific exhibition with lots of constants but also some divergence in presentation.  The curation was chronological, as it had to be because of the series of works, but the most recent, unfinished series, had a joyous arrangement of images which made for a great finale but not placed at the linear end of the work.

Resouces:

Winship, V. 2018. And Time Folds. Mack Books.

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20th August, 2018

Azzedine Alaïa:The couturier

I can’t say that the design museum has been a place I have always wanted to visit because it makes me think of highly complex technical stuff which leaves me rigid.  But this time, it had a couturier exhibition and, given the surreal publicity poster,

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I was curious about the scale of the items on show.  so I thought I would try it out.

The scale of the dresses epitomised what is for me the inaccessibility  of the fashion industry: WHO is that tall?  They were sculptural forms to me more than they were garments that someone sized -6 would wear in their dreams, perhaps.  There were, in fact, images of real living beings wearing them.

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There were details of the textiles which I liked:

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Another aspect of the exhibition were the screens behind the exhibits which were designed by different designers.  I particularly liked the intricacy of this one:

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What fascinated me more than the actual garments were the images reflected off the mirrors at the bases of the mannequins:

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These three dreams had fascinating reflections:

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What I took away with me about the exhibition:

Exhibitions like this,  where pieces are meant to be serious artistic expressions, can take you out of the real world into a world of fantasy, luxury, playfulness.  Azzedine Alaïa (1935 – 2017) loved to exchange ideas with artists, architects, designers, sculptors and photographers.  I think his creations were more plastic art than wearable fashion items. On exploring volume he states: “Making the right volume is a technique that is just as complex as any other.  It demands good mathematics.” (Catalogue) This reflects the idea that his approach is technical and the aesthetics follow.

What I took away with me about me:

I love the interplay of volumes when they are straight, reflected or distorted, and the effect of light or its absence on them and in them.

Reference:

the exhibition catalogue.

 

19th August, 2018

Permutations: an interactive artwork in Dartington.

Exhibition: An installation involving architecture and music.

Curated by the composer and the architects involved.

The music for violin was composed by Freya Waley-Cohen and the acoustic chambers were designed by architects Finbarr O’Dempsey and Andrew Skulina.  The music was played by Tamsin Waley-Cohen.

There were 6 chambers in the performance space and there were 6 pieces of music.

Permutations is described in the press release as ‘an interactive artwork and a synthesis of architecture and music.  It invites the listeners to explore a new work of music through playing the acoustics of six adjustable chambers.  Audience members can treat the space itself as a musical instrument: the listener becomes the performer.’

I loved how the 6 chambers were placed seemingly randomly in the performance space.  I also found myself distracted by the interplay of the architecture in the place rather than how the music responded to my movement within the chambers.  The ceilings in the chambers were reflecting light and sound and they were interesting aesthetic elements of the whole:

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The outside of the chambers were made of wood laminate and that added to the aesthetic of the whole with the occasional mirror squares adding interest as they reflected and echoed what was going on inside:0-1.jpeg

The wood panels pivoted so you could walk in and out through any of a number of swivelling panels and this affected the music.  I found that there were so many people coming in and out of the chambers that I was not convinced that the music reacted to the people’s activity.

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The press release states that the composer and architects were muses for one another.  There is a lengthy biography for the composer but nothing about the architects.Although I thoroughly appreciated the novelty of the idea of an audience creating the music arrangement, I am not convinced that that in fact is what was happening.  Because I have no ‘control’ to verify the assumption, I cannot decide.  the chambers as structures were great to photograph.

Because I am hoping to have either a piece of creative writing or a music piece linked to my exhibition, I came to this with an open mind to see the possibilities.

I recorded this short extract of my experience in the performance space at Dartington.

 

27th July, 2018

Fashioned from nature: V&A museum, London.

On the hottest day on record, I walked to the V & A Museum from who knows where, trying to stay in any scrap of shade along the way, Citymapper in one very sweaty hand, and pulling a travel bag in the other.

I decided on this exhibition because I thought there would be some pertinent ideas for my 2 days of OCA study “The environment and art”.

Curator: Edwina Ehrman

Venue: Apart from it being excessively hot despite all the electric fans, the exhibits had a lot of space around them so regardless of the numbers of visitors, it was easy to get from one stand to another.

Examples of exhibits:

1.jpegTextiles are designed from nature.

1-2.jpegCreating dyes from natural products reducing water pollution.

1-3.jpegOne size fits all reduces the amount of stock stores keep.
1-4.jpegBranching out = title of the piece.

1-5.jpegSelf-explanatory.

Highlights:  The emphasis was on sustainable fashion and focused on the environment, recycling, reusing, refashioning clothes instead of dumping them in landfill sites.  It is quite topical today as the fashion house Burberry hit the headlines last week because it burned £28.6m worth of clothes last year to protect its brand. Stella McCartney, one of the main exhibitors in the exhibition, said in an interview what she says in the exhibition, that we should be buying more responsibly, investing in items of clothing rather than buying them for 1 or 2 uses before we throw them to landfill.

What I took away with me about the exhibition:

There was a lot of repetition, almost to the point where it became a mantra, about sustainable fashion – now that all the fashion houses have made their millions from built-in obsolescence in the fashion industry.  It being an industry, fashion has to have a revenue or it will cease to exist.   As such, it was a bit like Nick’s solution to the current climate change crisis which I was to hear on Saturday, and that the answer is to return to the ideals of an agrarian society.  He could only say that because he, an economist=diplomat, still enjoys the trappings of a neo-colonialism and enough money behind him to see him through his writer-in-residence year off.   In this exhibition, we are told to mend our own clothes, now that needlework is off the school curriculum and now that instant, single-use clothes have been the making of major high-street shops.  We also see in the press that the charity shops have been selling their unwanted second-hand clothes to third world countries but that now, those same countries are refusing to buy them.

What I took away from the exhibition about me:

I thought that what the exhibition was about did not affect me as I do not often buy clothes & I certainly do not buy clothes for the sake of buying them – I wear the same clothes until the fraying becomes too obvious.  When I came back home I looked through my wardrobe and found that, yes, I do wear the same clothes, but I also found that there are a lot of clothes I have not worn for years – what shall I do with them?  Cut out the useable parts and make different items from the pieces?  Shall I throw away those that are too frayed to make anything new from them?

Notes:

I was very pleased with the one link I made between the natural dyes promoted in the fashion exhibition and the dye I made myself two days later in the botanical institute.  With the dye I made some prints.  What shall I do with the prints?

Next steps:

Develop the links between nature and my extended BoW via the dyes, somehow.

 

24th July, 2018.

A talk by Kevin Tole – painter

The Signpost 7 exhibition at the Cube Gallery in Portland Square, Plymouth University, has a variety of artists exhibiting and every Tuesday afternoon, one or two of them talk through their submissions.

This afternoon, Kevin Tole spoke about his time on offshore oil rigs and the images he took which then inspired his paintings.  Kevin is a self-taught painter who did two years of HND studio ceramics at some point in his career.  He started painting after he had been made redundant and said that he was comfortably off enough to not to have to sell his paintings.  He also said that if he were to advise people who wanted to become artists, he would tell them to get a ob and virtually get into it as he had done.  This did not sit well with the other artists in the audience who do make there living out of their paintings.

The photos that Kevin showed us were fabulous – much better, in my opinion than his paintings – except one which had super haptic qualities.  He took as his subject the deck of the oil rig with its lines, corrosion, water reflections and equipment.  He stressed the need to look around you and see the exciting in the mundane.

Three of his digital images which I liked because of their composition, colours and textures were:

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Kevin dismissed these images in preference for his paintings:

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Kevin spoke about the point at which your painting talks to you as a point at which he is pleased with the work.  I asked him if there was something he was trying to say through his paintings & he said that that was a difficult question.  I suppose I am not a painter so I don’t really know enough about the medium.

The next artist to present her work was professional portraitist Jo Beer from Cornwall.  She has twice been featured on Sky Art’s Portrait Artist of the Year (2013 & 2016) TV series.

Her portraits were unusual but she said she is hesitant to do commissions because people want to be seen in certain clothes, in certain poses.  She takes photos of the sitter and then develops her portraits from those.

I did not feel that I was altogether pulled in by the portraits on display but the others there really liked them. Jo works in oils rather than acrylics because she prefers the smooth finish that oils give.

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I am glad I went because Kevin’s photos spoke to me of seeing the extraordinary in what are some people’s ordinary surroundings.  He also spoke about a friend of his taking photos of manhole covers and exhibiting them on a massive scale.  I too have taken dozens of images of manhole covers & the only thing I have done with one of them is to print it on a T shirt & I was very pleased with the result.

 

 

Spike Island: Cecchetti, Mania and Paul.

Alex Cecchetti: At the Gates of the Music Palace. “The molecules in rocks, plants, and water, those in a glass, in a table, or in a hand, all of them are instantly vibrating.  Light vibrates too.  If something vibrates it has to make a sound.  And if everything has a sound, then the universe is an orchestra, happiness must be a form of accord, a note we get all together.” (From the exhibition brochure)

Curator: Vanessa Boni: focus on the relationship between storytelling, gesture and sound.

Venue: Spike Island: This is an enormous exhibition requiring chambers which will do justice to the sound generated by visitors to the spaces.  Colour and music are important in the exhibition and are catered for well.   There was only 1 thing I would have liked to have seen = some signage at the lines installation – there were explanations at all sections leading up to the ‘erotic cabinet’ but beyond that, at the lines and sound, there was no explanation or introduction.

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IMG_1675.jpgSinging line (2018) Alcantra, glass, metal, copper, story, wind chimes.

IMG_1721.jpgAs an installation this had a superb rhythm and life of its own. “A ribbon is hanging from the ceiling and resting on top of copper strips.  When a breeze blows in, or you walk by, the ribbon swings and sings.  If you wait long enough a bird will come to tell you a story or a poem and reveal the secrets of the curves.” (Exhibition brochure)

IMG_1685.jpgThe glass bird beaks make superb, fragile sound chambers, and the water phone – the rods at the top of the chandelier – is mesmerising.

Highlights:  The highlights for me were the chandelier and the lines.  The others were perhaps a little gimmicky.  The 8 channel sound system is great if you like technology, and relaxing on the ‘sea bed’ was interesting but I felt self-conscious with all the other visitors coming in and out.

I like the idea of sound reacting to the movement of the visitors.

What I took away with me about the work:

I love the cross-discipline aspect of the work: sound, light & movement interact together really well.  You have to know your media well or you need to have access to people who know how to make it work to your advantage.

The line drawings have given me the courage to use my rock fault lines as images in their own right for the exhibition.

What I took away with me about myself:

That I also respond well to a cross-discipline approach.  Cecchetti the artist (is he related to the ballet dancer, I wonder) worked from a principle that movement and therefore music / sound is basic to existence and his work demonstrates it all very well.  Had the exhibition  been about just one of the elements, it would not have had the same impact or held my interest.

Notes:

Get to an allotment, perhaps, and record people working since I can’t record prisoners working, & use it as a sound track for my projected image installation.

Rate the exhibition: 4.5*

Andrew Mania: Snapshot of a Collection.

“Mania explores identity, sexuality and nostalgia through portrait drawing.  he juxtaposes vintage photos (1923 – 48) selected for their aesthetic or mystery, with sensual drawings of Mania’s friends and acquaintances.”(Brochure)

Curator: None given.

Venue: The room was the smallest space in the complex and seemed to diminish the value attributed to the collection by the centre.  Who decided on the size, position, access?

Highlight:

Given my idea to make a quilt for my exhibition, I really enjoyed seeing the quilt.

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Unlike the different elements of Cecchetti’s work which appeared to have been made by experts in their field, Mania did not appear to have the same ethic in his work: the quilt was badly finished: the edges did not match and the corner badly finished.  My quilt is not going to be as complex as this one but it will have to be well made.

What I took away with me about the work:

Mania lives with his vast collections and the quilt is one of the items.  “He makes frequent use of fabrics, second-hand frames, interior objects and backdrops; in this he conjures an intimate, decadent aesthetic that nods to the tradition of the aesthete.”(Exhibition guide)  I don’t know if I agree that there is sufficient justification for the exhibition to exist other than pandering to the self-indulgence of the artist.

What I took away from the work about me:

I don’t like self-indulgence.

Notes:

Make sure the quilt for my exhibition is well made.  The beauty of quilts is their precision sewing so is Mania trying to echo the Navaho Indian imperfection in a rug to let the soul of the makes escape?

Rating: 2*

Zoë Paul: La Perma-Perla Kraal Emporium. “Zoë Paul’s work examines our relationship with tradition and history.  She often works with simple timeless materials and techniques – clay, weaving, drawing and bead-making.” (Exhibition Guide)

Curator: Not given.

Venue: A cavernous space with 7 main exhibits, well-spaced so that you do not bump into anything.  It gives a good sense of community inter-action, allowing the crafts displayed to flourish.

Highlights: The enormous 8.5m long beaded curtain “ Land of the Lotus Eaters” is spectacular in the detail.

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IMG_1739.jpgThe beads reference our digital era.

IMG_1727.jpgCommunity bead making inviting conversation. Parma-Perla Kraal Emporium: a long industrial style marble banqueting table – is positioned opposite the curtain.

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Ceramic cups for herbal teas sipped while bead-making or conversing.

Paul is interested in how advances in technology affect social rituals.  her wool tapestries, woven across discarded refrigerator grills, are inspired by the  arrival of domestic electrical appliances.  In the exhibition, the grills are presented either side of the bead curtain, which depicts people coming together, and reminds us of the things that can divide people.

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What I took away with me about the work:

People and communities, histories and traditions are at the heart of this work.  I really enjoyed seeing the complex expressions of the concept.

What I took away with me about me:

I find that there is a place for tactile work in exhibitions, that people want to interact with the work on show.

Rating: 5*

 

 

PhotoIreland in  Dublin, Ballina, Co Mayo, and Roscommon.

It wasn’t the best introduction to Dublin and Ireland.  I had been so looking forward to seeing this country that everyone seems to love from the minute they touch down.  Could it be that I don’t drink beer in any colour or degree of frothiness, or Guinness?  Could it be that I had had a 9 hour delay at Copenhagen airport and only landed in Dublin at midnight instead of early afternoon?  Could it be that the hotel I was staying at had 3 nightclubs going simultaneously, that my room was on the first floor with every fibre of its boudoir décor amplifying the throbbing noise, and that as soon as the music stopped thumping at 5am, the beer barrels started rolling and being dumped outside my bedroom window?

I walked 17 km on my first full day in Dublin.  Most of it was spent looking for the venues.  Take the Laia Abril ‘On Abortion‘ exhibition, for example.  The venue was given as ‘The Copper House, St Kevin’s Cottages, D8.  I could see where D8 was (much like the arrondissements in Paris).  But what street is the Copper House on?  I asked one of the people standing outside a school – nobody knew; I went further up the street to another group of people – ditto.  One hour later, I saw a sign to The Copper House pointing to a dead-end lane.  Finding the door bell was another adventure into the unknown!  I know that technology is moving on at a pace but even my Citymapper app could not cope! The incomplete venue information does not stop there and I could relate more tales of unwanted adventures but that’s not the reason for writing.

The first exhibition I stumbled upon was not part of PhotoIreland but it drew me in.  It was a sculpture installation in the Temple Bar Gallery entitled “Knock knock” by Hannah Fitz which she developed during her year long residency after winning the Recent Graduate Studio award.

The venue was ideal: plenty of space not only for the sculptures but also for visitors to move between the sculptures and see how they were made, and appreciate the use of solid colour.

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Highlights of the installation:

  •  The curious sculptures of tables and chairs which seemed to eschew their usual purpose and assume a life and story of their own.
  •  How everyday objects ‘become caught in the stillness of sculpture’
  • The gallery commissions writers to write their responses to work exhibited in the gallery.  For this exhibition, Doireann Ni Ghriofa was commissioned to write an essay which was available in the gallery.  I was to see this practice again in a gallery in Roscommon.  The essay reflects on an aspect of 18th century Cork history and an imagined, apocalyptic nightmare experienced by one of the citizens whose lover had been murdered.   This poem introduces the essay:

“Last night such opaque reveries

appeared to me,

come midnight in Cork

as I lay awake late, alone in bed;

our bright-limed home tumbling,

the Garage all withering,

no growl left of your hounds

no sweet chirp of bird-sound”

The last paragraph gripped me very strongly:

“Above: a clot, a cloud, gushing away in silvers and deep greys, could be a flood suspended over us today – all our meltwater elsewhere, opaque, bared.  Our pasts are deep underwater.  Our pasts are clothed in layers and layers of clay.  Our pasts are sunken, submerged in elsewhere.”

What I took away with me about the work:

  • I loved the freedom which the use of the space gave to the installation which allowed it to live.
  • The title of the work is the opening line of an awkward joke and that awkwardness is evident in the installation.  The joke creates an expectation which the exhibition sustains: there is a feeling that expectations are not met and it is that feeling which I think creates the magic in the installation.

What I took away with me about me:

  •  I love playfulness and imperfection in a work.

Notes:

I have subscribed to their newsletter because I felt that I could learn a lot about their curating and ideas on how to promote artists.

Copenhagen exhibition: ANOHNI:Miracle Now

27th June, 2018

On 29th May this year, I only had 25 minutes to look at ANOHNI’s Miracle Nowexhibition before I had to catch my train to the airport.   The assistant kindly let me off the £7 entrance fee as they had not finished adjusting their projectors.

Curator:  Juliana Engberg

The venue was a former church, indeed there were enormous signs stating “This is NOT a church” – it seemed a little over-stated to me but the exhibition title could, it could be argued, have led people to believe this was a religious treatise.

Two good points about the setting: it was a very central location so easily accessible on foot (like everything else in the city) and it had the space on which to project vast images and films, as well as space to put other art work.  One negative aspect was that it was a very dark, cavernous space.  Perhaps the flip side of that idea is that it is very womb-like and so relevant to the topic of terrestrial/mankind regeneration.

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Highlights of the exhibition:

I wasn’t aware of the intricacies of the forethought / background to this project so it has taken me a while to put my own thoughts together about it.

Anohni is deeply involved in the effects of the anthropocene age on the world: the rapid extinction of many species, fossil-fuelled mechanisation and urbanisation in particular.

She also dwells on the mind-body dichotomy which privileges intellect over intuition and which sees nature as merely matter to fuel a modernist, machine life.  Her work is informed by the split between geosophical (earth centred ) and theosophical (God centred) awareness.

What further interests me at this point in my artistic development is her fascination with lines.  To Anohni, a line has a life of its own & she states “I try to listen to a line like I’m almost asleep.  Am I watching her, or have I become her?  Sometimes a line emerges from within itself, like a ruptured vein.  I just try to keep listening.  A line is energy, a cut in the sky, a hole through which manifestation pours.”(Interview with Anohni)

Anohni’s aim is “to evolve, experience and perform the cycles of growth that emerge from meditating on all that connects.  Her quest is to bring attention to the plight of the environment, to find a language, both visual and performed, to make a space for transformation and understanding.”(Interview)

Although I did not have time to reflect on the work in situ,  I can see how those works that I do remember seeing relate to her philosophy and to the title of the exhibition.  Much of this work was part of her 1995 exhibition, and the message is as relevant as ever.

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What I took away with me about the work:

The films shown looked like they had been made in the last century as evidenced in the degraded quality of the film, the jittery presentation and the strong AIDS theme.  The sombre theme did not result in a sombre production, however, and that brought me in as a viewer more positively, in my opinion.

There were newspaper articles from the 1980’s about the incidence of AIDS:

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What I took away with me about me / my work:

I did not see any relationship between me and the work at the time because I had not had the time to research the work beforehand.  What I have taken away since reading up on the artist and her work is how relevant the focus on lines is to my current experiments with fault lines in rocks and rock formations.

I have posted my experiments on Facebook and I was very excited when fellow student Gesa Helms pointed out an exhibition at the Tate Modern  by Doris Salcedo, ” Shibboleth 1″ (2007) which had inspired her work.  The original use of the term shibboleth is about separation and exclusion which is where my prisons and prisoner identity theme comes in.  Salcedo underpinned her work by the following statement:

“an attempt to address the section of humankind that has been left out of the history of modernity, and kept at the margin of high Western culture … I simply want to address this issue from the perspective of art, analysing the role art played in the formation of the stereotype of human beauty.”

(Salcedo in Tate Modern 2007, one-page insert between pp.64 and 65.)

In Tate’s book The Unilever Series 2000–2012, the installation is described as a reflection on geographical divisions that were significant locally and globally:

It was a fault-line that could be read in the local context (dividing the old industrial half of the building from the museum; London’s economically deprived south from its salubrious northern counterpart) as much as on a global scale (the division between the economic Northern and Southern hemispheres).

(Stephenson 2012, unpaginated.)

The concept of the line has, therefore, become even more important to my work in my mind and I shall be following it up in relation to my exhibition next year.

 

 

Sarah Gillespie ‘s Open Studio exhibition Dartington

15th June, 2018.

Dartington artist-in-residence, Sarah Gillespie caught my attention because her work reminded me of the shimmer / absence that fellow OCA SW student, Liz Nunn is trying to capture in her work.  Whereas Liz is taking her inspiration from the Australian Aboriginal concept of shimmer / absence, Sarah states  “I make paintings, drawings and engravings that aspire to a quality the Japanese call Hosomi. Hosomi describes an emotional delicacy and a determination to slight nothing, to see and understand the beauty in all things. The practice requires less self-expression and something more akin to an emptying of the self, a stepping aside, to make a lens of oneself – open the subtler depths of beauty to which we are so often blind.”

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” these visual observations mingle with memory and reflection: winter trees become skeletal presences, pinpricks of light seem to dance like fireflies on mud and water, autumn leaves, shimmering in the breeze, become angelic messengers caught in a tangle of branches.”( Richard Davey essay)

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I was also trying to find inspiration for my forthcoming foray into prison gardens and how to represent those.

The highlights of her Open Studios exhibition for me were the silver point drawing of a leafy tree – you can see most of it, but there are traces of it which have to be exposed to the air for the silver to make its presence seen.  Sarah coats a sheet of paper with a special substance.  She then traces her outlines with a silver pen and the marks it makes will react with the air to expose the lines.  Sarah has gone over some of the lines with graphite pencils and charcoal to accentuate them.  What impressed me most was the subtlety of her method.

What I took away with me about the work:

  •  Surprisingly, its photo-realism appealed to me.  I could not believe that some of the work was oil on canvass because it had none of the usual solidity of an oil painting.
  • The darkness of the outcome to me is at odds with the ‘subtler depths of beauty to which we are often blind’ – my concept of beauty has more light than darkness.  yet, the details of her paintings make you look deeper into the surface, makes you look for that beauty:

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What I took away from the exhibition about me:

  • I was surprised at how attracted I was to the dark images & thought that I might try that approach to my prison garden images as an antidote to the whiteness of my BoW.
  • I normally stay clear of photo-realistic images but somehow, these made me see them in a new light & I really appreciated them.

The setting:

Dartington opened the Aller Park just for Sarah’s artist-in-residence year.  The site had been closed since the 1970’s.  Sarah was very happy to have been given the studio space for her work and exhibition and actively encourages others to take up the spaces.   The positives of the setting:  there is a lot of natural light & it is making use of a perfectly good site.  A negative: ?

Notes:

  •  I would love to be in a space for artists but I have a perfectly good space in my house already.
  • I would like to try photographing shimmer and absence in my prison garden images.
  • Sarah told me about the Landworks initiative on the Dartington estate.  It is an initiative in which prisoners on day release are encouraged to grow their own food and eat at a table with members of the public on certain days of the week.  I have an appointment on Monday with the manager of the scheme to see what goes on there & to see if / how I can get involved.

Next step:

See Chris , manager of Landworks on Monday, 11th June.