Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Post MA-Ness What I Am Up To Now and What I Have Been Up To Over Last Few Weeks

Gone for something a bit bigger than a post it note - but that's because a post it note was okay for when I was writing this on a weekly basis but now it's more monthly a bigger piece of paper is necessary....now where to start......
Think I might go along with Julie Andrews and so start at the very beginning as it's a very good place to start - so will start at top of the page and work my way round. So PhD proposal - I have redrafted it after a bit more thinking and reading on my part and some very useful feedback and input from a chum who has just completed a practice based PhD herself.

I've had a positive response from most of the people/institutions I've submitted it to so far (still awaiting a response from one) and whilst it might need a bit more work on it the basic premise of it is okay and something they'd be interested in supervising.

PHEW!! This gives me a mix of yay and argh! yay in terms of I want to continue this study/work malarkey and argh! in terms of 'it's really difficult - will I be capable of doing it?'

Plus application forms have always made me feel a bit anxious - they can be even more scarey than a blank page. I wish I could just kind of click my fingers and skip straight to already got a place and funding if possible and have started it - that would make me very happy indeed.
But that isn't realistic so I shall keep on plodding through 
the next stage and then of course there's applying for funding too and interviews.
I use the word plodding because I often feel I am - literally because my knee is playing up again. But thankfully I have a referral to an NHS physio and fingers crossed they'll be able to help, I did see one privately and it helped a bit but not enough and I would rather see someone who is on a salary rather than commission and see what they can suggest - so fingers crossed they'll be able to help so I can move again and not feel quite so ploddy...or uncomfortable. 

The inspiration from friends is something I'm always grateful for - be it the recommendation of a film, book, painting, a way to develop a piece of my work, a new technique or simply just to hang out with as this art making and researching malarkey can be quite lonely sometimes. It's another reason I really miss the supportive atmosphere of college - to say nothing of the printing facilities, it was so lovely to be amongst other people also involved in creative processes which although different to mine either had overlaps or things I could learn from or things they could learn from me.

I'm still in touch with most of my classmates/chums from college but I don't see them as often as I did - and annoyingly I was too poorly to make it to the last sort of reunion that we'd organised but I did see them at the opening of Walking In Urbana by Karen Tobias-Green (currently on show at Leeds College of Art Blenheim Walk Campus) last week before going on to see Sir Christopher Frayling talk about Angela Carter and introduce a showing of Jean Cocteau's La Belle et Le Bete which was utterly magical.

Magical for lots of reasons - one it was lovely to catch up with arty chums I am missing seeing so often, two - on chatting with a chum getting ideas for photographic techniques that don't need traditional darkroom facilities and three Frayling is such an intelligent, thoughtful, insightful and engaging speaker and four - revolting and unpleasant portrayal of the money lender aside it's such a beautiful film.

I'd gone to see the film really - I first saw it a couple of years ago at the John Rylands Library in Manchester and seemingly anti-semitic moneylender portrayal aside completely fell in love with it - the chandeliers, the dreamlike floating, the fireplaces with human faces plus it's rather a lovely love story really.

Plus entirely by coincidence and luck I'd bought a copy of Angels Carter's In The Bloody Chamber in a charity shop the previous weekend and read the story so his discussion of Carter and her work made more sense to me than it would have done otherwise. But regardless I would have loved and enjoyed the tales of her calling the Arnofini Gallery in Bristol the Anal Finney, their asking Bath City Council to erect a plaque to Mary Shelly creator of Frankenstein and being told 'no, that's more Hollywood really than literature', her wearing lots of layers rather than having heating and her suggestion that children would learn to read best with a King James bible and a whip in the hand of the teacher. It's also interesting the way fashions change in academia and how Gothic Literature is acceptable in academic circles now in a way it wasn't in the mid 1970's  and how comparatively difficult it would be to try and study DH Lawrence now.

I've also really been enjoying the biography of Wilkie Collins that was on Radio 4 Extra earlier - in which I learnt that when he was a child in Italy with his parents they saw yellow sedan chairs going past which contained people who had cholera. (I've been reading a lot and talking a lot about cholera recently as I was asked to talk about it at a Death and Disease in Victorian Leeds study day at Leeds Museum) containing people afflicted with the disease, the amazing success of The Woman In White and how he lived in age of an increase generally in printed books as printing techniques changed and materials became cheaper.

I've also just finished watching the 1982 BBC adaptation of The Woman In White which I also really enjoyed - although I don't think Count Fosco was quite right - beautifully menacing and manipulative but not quite melodramatic and flourishy enough. The lighting wasn't right either, lighting looks much more natural in modern television dramas whereas this looked like big studio lights were full on the action - something my husband says is likely down to the camera then needing huge amounts of light to work whereas digital sensors now don't need so much.

The lighting was in huge contrast to the lighting in House of Frankenstein (1944) which I rewatched a couple of weeks ago. By contrast it is sublime, the shadows in the monochrome are just amazing. It's a terrible load of old hokum as a story and it just sort of fizzles out at the end but as an exercise in lighting design it's a masterclass. Plus Boris Karloff is always a delight for me to watch.

So as you can probably tell my obsession with the 19th century shows no sign of abating - (which is just as well as I hope to do a PhD in aspects of it) and the other thing I'm especially enjoying is reading Aurora Floyd by one of my other literary heroes - Mary Elizabeth Braddon. I am doing this as a read along on twitter with other Braddon enthusiasts and it's really good to be able to talk about it with others.  You can join in too if you want - just look up #MEBAread on Twitter.

I am still loving Twitter as a way to chat to people and find out what's going on locally and nationally. Plus the humour in the anti Trump movements is much welcome. I'm finding the news terrifying and depressing at the moment so it's good for my soul to see digital defiance.

Plus I have put the people I follow on Twitter into different lists which all concentrate on different areas eg gothic studies, death studies, victorian studies, and I make a point of checking these lists at least once a week. Which is just as well as if I hadn't I would have missed a deadline for an art showing opportunity - which I haven't been successful in getting but it was really good practice to put together the application and now I have it in electronic format I can copy and paste it for other ones. I applied for two - one I've heard back from with a no and one I am still waiting to hear back from.

I'm hoping that now I have set up a better system of reminding myself about closing dates - a combination of printing off an A4 calendar sheet, electronic reminders on my phone, and notes in my diary. I had neglected to put details of the one I almost missed in any of those places but thanks to them changing their deadline by extending it a week I was able to put in a submission. PHEW!! The one I didn't get. Oh well - better luck next time.

In other news I have completely fallen in love with a painting called Maid Reading In A Library by Edouard John Mentha which was painted in late 19th -early 20th century and you can see a version of it here,  can't find out much about it or the man who painted it though as yet, so I'm going to ask the help of the college librarians as although I'm no longer a student I am a Leeds College of Art alumni and so can use the library facilities.

In redrafting my PhD proposal I reread some of my old notes about practice as research and they make much more sense now than they did at the time. A fact which is either explainable by my having learnt lots or my having been subsumed into academic speak - or maybe a combination of the two. Though I still find it difficult to define and explain as a process - it's more just something I do instinctively really rather than analytically. But I am going to have to get better at that if I want to succeed PhD-wise.

I also remain rather in love with Francis Bacon having seen a documentary about him at the weekend, and read a book of conversations with him published by Phaidon. The book is especially beautiful as it has prints of his work and the work that influenced him too so much so that I had to write down some quotes from it as they are givign me much food for thought:

 'photographs are only of interest to me as records...a means of illustrating something and illustration doesn’t interest me’....

’since the invention of photography painting really has changed completely...'

photographs were my aide memoire, they were useful to me simply as a tool’

'...cinema is great art, during the silent era the image had tremendous force’...

’a photograph can also produce emotions’.

‘the way people regard my work is not my problem, it’s their problem.I don’t paint for others, I paint for myself’.

‘I’ve probably been influenced by everything I’ve seen’

‘Life and death go hand in hand in any case, don’t they? Death is like the shadow of life.When you’re dead you’re dead, but while you’re alive, the idea of death pursues you.’

I didn't like the concealing of his then lovers death George Dyer until his exhibition in Paris had opened though. That's taking art too far.

The other notes on my sheet are TERMAGANT and RELICT - put there because I wanted to get better definitions for them. If I hear the word termagant I think it's some kind of bird but I know it isn't because of the context I hear it in - it does in fact mean:

  1. 1.
    a harsh-tempered or overbearing woman.
  2. 2.
    an imaginary deity of violent and turbulent character, often appearing in morality plays.

    and in medieval times it was the name incorrectly given to a god christians thought muslims worshipped.

Relict - I had thought could only be applied to women and meant they were widowed and didn't have any children but I think I had partly misunderstood it as it seems it can be applied to man or woman and is used to describe the surviving partner in the marriage when the other one has died.
eg A relict is the surviving spouse upon the death of the other partner, either husband or wife. The word refers to the survivor of the marriage union, not to the survivor of the other person -- as is commonly thought.

I also find it a desperately sad word - sadder than widow or widower as to me it also implies no longer needed.

Well I think I've covered all the points I want to make - I want to keep in a semi regular habit of doing this because it keeps my brain ticking over and once I'm back at college (fingers x'ed eh?) it'll make the transition back to it easier. 

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Post MA-Ness New Year New Start - Same Obsessions, Round Up and Thoughts/Plans For The Next Few Months.....

these are the books I got this morning from Meanwood Community Shop not just textbooks about the Victorian period but Victorian era texts too - namely Shirley by Charlotte Bronte and Mrs Oliphants Autobiography and letters in beautiful proper old editions that just exude old world-ness.
Meanwood Community Shop is in my opinion one of the best charity shops in Leeds - not just for their stock but for the work they do. There's also a picture of me in my graduation outfit I've had printed for my Mum - it was taken by my brother and made monochrome to tone down the hideousness of the blue gown and yellow outfit I had to wear also in the pic is my lovely supportive husband without whose support I wouldn't have been able to do the MA at all and my slightly garbled notes - note to self - get back in proper habit of leaving notes in one place/same notebook as opposed to different places so I can keep track of things better.

So 2017 is in its infancy just 4 days old and I've been meaning to write this for the last few days. I initially set up this blog many many moons ago so I could write about some of my obsessions like lovely old picture postcards, vintage Sooty and Sweep machines at the seaside, art shows and projects I was involved with and then its sole focus became being my research journal for the MA in Creative Practice at Leeds College of Art which formally came to an end last August when I handed in my last assignment. But that wasn't quite the end as there was getting the results and then of course the end of year show and then the graduation ceremony at the end of November.

My Mum came over for the graduation ceremony and was here for just under a fortnight which meant that my workroom aka the back bedroom had to become more bedroom and less workroom. It took me a good three or four days days to try and make it sleepable in again - but even so there wasn't really room to unfold the sofa bed (til them mostly in use as an extra temporary to long term bookshelf) but thankfully she is a very little lady and so could comfortably and happily sleep on it as an unfolded sofa.

It still has the same stuff on the walls (a mix of inspiring quotes, work in progress, pictures by other artists) but there are now double and triple piled bookshelves, see through plastic stacking storage boxes full of stuff and lots of mini portfolios piled up.

Yesterday and today is the first day in what feels like weeks but isn't that long in reality since I've sat at my desk and tried to get things in order again - after all this PhD proposal isn't going to write itself and I really need to do some work on it. I also have another number of projects I want to work on/through and it's taking me a while to get my head round what needs doing and when - cue lots of disjointed bits of lists as thoughts strike me so it's good to be slowly but surely getting back into the work habit I find most conducive and productive - ie sitting at a desk in front of a 'proper' ie desktop computer and deciding what needs doing and then doing it.

I last posted on this blog on 9th November in which I was talking about the end of year show, the preparations for my Mum's visit and needing to get to grips with my PhD proposal. I didn't talk about needing a rest which I think was and in some ways still is just as important and still needed. I have had a few days of lovely peace and quiet over the festive season (once the worst of a relative's  health scare had passed) and it made me realise that wherever possible I need more of this resting malarkey or else I run the risk of becoming poorly myself. I've been struggling with anxiety and feelings of panic the last few months and these get appreciably worse the more tired I am. So proper rest and a holiday of some kind is now on the the to do list as well. I know some people find making lists isn't helpful but I find it better than not making one as then I'm not struggling to try and remember everything I have to do. It can get a bit depressing though when I look at it and realise how much of it is unfulfilled but hey ho onwards and keep on keeping on.

But back to the graduation ceremony - it was a strange and lovely day. Strange in that I'd never been to one before - I'd not gone to my undergraduate degree ceremony as I hadn't wanted to and so never had the obligatory photo clutching certificate so beloved of parents - especially parents who haven't had the same opportunities. My Mum had never forgiven me for this decision so if anything she was even more excited about the ceremony that I was. She said she felt tearful when my name was called out and I walked across the stage to get it. Or rather get a letter explaining there was a delay with the Masters certificates and it would be posted out. I have it now - albeit still in its stiff envelope and I teared up when I got it. I'm not entirely sure why - some of it though is sadness that such an enjoyable and wonderful time is over but fingers crossed there'll be a new similar chapter soon.

I might frame the certificate and put it on the wall but there's no point doing that until I've finished applying for courses as I'll need it to hand for that. It also felt very odd for me to have to wear clothes on the day that a) weren't my choice and b) weren't in a colour I feel comfortable wearing (ie black, red, purple, grey and maybe a bit of dark green). My antipathy to being told what to wear stems from childhood - the secondary school I went to was fantastically strict about uniform and a very hideous uniform it was too.   And worse than having to wear such a monstrous for me colour scheme was the fact that you had to pay for the 'privilege'.

It was beautiful to be amongst the wonderful Victorian splendour of Leeds Town Hall though - a building I love partly for its quintessential Victorian loveliness and the history of that period which has soaked into its stones but also for emotional reasons too. I got married there and also saw films and listened to organ recitals with a much missed friend Henry Tickner - who I know would have been thrilled for me on the day as prior to his untimely death he was one of my 'Man Ray People' - see previous post for an explanation of what being a Man Ray person means.  So it's a poignant building to me for many reasons and now I have another one to add to it.

After the ceremony there was much relief that the clapping was over and much needed food and drink could be had - which we had in abundance and then there was lots of merrymaking with my Mum til she flew home a few days later and then there was getting ready for Xmas. Though thankfully the bulk of that work ie a proper deep clean and sort out of the house had already been done in terms of getting ready for Mum's visit. Lots of stuff for the charity shop, lots of stuff for recycling and sadly some stuff for landfill too as it was too broken/unre-usable though thankfully there was relatively little of this.

So in short - hardly any art making or academic style working over the last couple of months really but I did go to a fascinating symposium at Leeds Uni School of Art in part about the representation of the Artic which has made me think again about the patience and skill of Herbert Ponting, the way we think we are seeing things that are original but often they are instead original through the lens of current fashions in restoration or viewing eg rewriting of intertitles, re colourisation or de colourisation of films and also perhaps most fascinating for me is the knowledge that the paintings made on some artic expeditions were done using lamps lit by seal oil and the colours look different under that kind of light. Same as all things can vary depending on what kind of light you are looking at them in/with....which in turn is making me think about Victorian light and shades thereof eg light from coal fires, gas mantles, candles and whether or not there is a difference (aside from smell) between the kind of light given off by tallow candles as opposed to beeswax ones and whether or not it can be recreated or approximated. As ever more reading and research to be done.

Also fascinating was the talk I went to at the School of English at Leeds Uni about the relationship between photographs, and their use in/mention of in Dracula by Bram Stoker and how photographs were used by and in the theatre in the late Victorian period. As ever much more research and reading to be done.

And in terms of reading - I am tremendously looking forward to this - a read along Aurora Floyd by Mary Elizabeth Braddon organised by Courtney Floyd of the Braddon Association. I have made a start on the introduction to the edition I have (the latest Oxford Classic) and can't wait to get started properly. I was lucky to be a recipient of some of Braddon's short stories for xmas including  The Cold Embrace and The Shadow In The Corner - both of which were delightfully creepy. I look forward to reading more soon. Gaskell and Braddon remain my favourite authors of the moment.

I've even taken some 'proper' photographs as in ones I've really thought about composition-wise as opposed to just snaps as an aide memoire and using a 'proper' camera as opposed to the one on my phone (though I do specifically use that on occasion - most notably in my John Waters homage piece 12 Belle Ends and a Douche) with my trusty Cannon film SLR and my new instant mini Fuji for which you can get monochrome film. A fact that makes me very happy.  I've yet to have the film pics developed (I took the pictures on Boxing Day - what better day to go to a former cemetery and I also took/made some more when we went to Whitby for a day trip between xmas and new year) but I will do soon. Part of the joy of the instant ones is the fact that they are instant - though the ejection noise made by the camera isn't as iconic and evocative as the one made by Polaroid cameras.

Mention of Whitby reminds me of another place of Victorian era pilgrimage I have found and another one I want to visit - namely a blue plaque from Whitby Civic Society on a building on the end of Hudson Street near the Royal Hotel proclaiming that Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) novelist and biographer stayed there in 1859. Whitby though it is known as Monkshaven in the novel is the place central to the action in Sylvia's Lovers, which is apparently 'the saddest story' she ever wrote. Given that 'barrel of laughs' (Cranford stories aside and even they are bittersweet in places) is not an epithet I'd give to her work so I think I'll wait a while to read this. Another one of my xmas presents - I was very lucky indeed this year.

I must also make time to visit her house and home of the Elizabeth Gaskell Association in Manchester too. For me there is something tremendously exciting about being in the same physical space as your heroes have been. I felt the same excitement standing in the entrance to Oakley Court knowing Peter Cushing had stood in the same spot for many of my favourite films.

One of the things I normally do on the start of a new year is write a list of all the famous folk I think are likely to die in the next 12 months but frankly 2016 has been so full of deaths of folk that meant something to me that I didn't bother. I'd more than had my fill, especially when my work is often so death focused/inspired - or maybe loss focused is a better description. Anyway the latest death to make me sad was that of John Berger whose Ways of Seeing I recommended just a week or so ago to my brother who wanted tips on how to take 'better' photographs. I loved the way Berger's writing challenged me to think about things differently and the way he spoke to and valued the contribution of women in his Ways of Seeing programme. The way women are treated, portrayed, discussed, viewed, represented in programmes is something I am increasingly aware of and excised by so if you haven't watched his Ways of Seeing on Youtube - please do. It's eye opening and beautiful. RIP John Berger and thank you.

So my immediate plans include thinking about and making a proper plan re my PhD proposal, getting some discipline back into my next few days in terms of working on it and and also preparing for the Death and Disease in Victorian Leeds I'm co presenting at and a Gothic Transformations Conference too. So although the immediate college related pressure is off and I must take advantage of that by building in some proper down time there's still lots on and very glad I am about that too. Though it is a bit strange writing this knowing I am no longer being examined on it in an academic sense and don't have to hand it in.

So anyone who's got this far and even if you haven't - here's hoping 2017 is full of loveliness and very little horrible-ness indeed. 

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Post MA Show-Ness, What Next? Looking Back - what would I do differently? ....

(Un) Hidden In The Grave IV
burial plot sized lumen print on silk, muslin soaked in solution of graveyard dirt, images printed on coffin lining material in embroidery hoops wrapped in colours of Victorian mourning and dead flowers.

Not so much a post it note but more a list made during a break at the very interesting Heritage and Theory Conference held at Leeds Museum last weekend, some unused photocopies of imagess which might have been transferred to coffin lining material if the ones pictured above hadn't worked - it doesn't always and ticket from one of the films seen at Leeds 30th International Film Festival. Haven't got passes this year but have taken advantage of the 6 tickets for the price of 5 offer instead.

So it seems a bit strange writing this as I've got out of the habit of not writing it every Monday very quickly but it is still roughly once a month and I'd like to keep it at that kind of frequency - providing I can find things to write about that is - might need to reinstate my post it note habit. But habits aside I felt I ought to write up where I'm at now this MA malarky has come to a kind of natural end as the show is over now too and the only formal bit left is the graduation ceremony (at which I have to wear a PALE FRIGGING BLUE gown...I haven't worn pastels since I was able to choose my own clothes and I know it's a very very minor thing in the grand scheme of things but ugh!! pale frigging blue - why can't they be black??? - I mean I know why but my point stands) though I hope to stay in touch with the friends I've made on and through the MA course. One of whom helped me enormously this week when I was mulling over potential PhD plans.

I have been so busy with the show that work on my PhD proposal has gone on the back burner a bit but it remains my goal to do one next. And I have a new way of thinking around my research question thanks to a chum so I have a new focus now which I'll try to mull over the next few days - whilst also trying to declutter, tidy and generally sort out the house too. My Mum is coming for my graduation and it needs sorting out before she gets here. I'm trying to do it one room at a time - but so far my workroom (where she'll be sleeping) isn't finished and it's already taken two days...but it's getting there...albeit slowly plus it'll be in a better state to start again when (all being well) I will be preparing work for next years projects which along with a Phd also include: presenting at a death and disease in Victorian Leeds day, a couple of conferences (need to write abstracts and see if they get accepted) and speaking about my work in the context of dark tourism too.
But in terms of what's immediately next on my agenda : house sort, graduation, PhD proposal, and perhaps most importantly of all rest too. This time last year I was working on my dissertation and struggling with dealing with both the practical and the emotional aspects of bereavement. The last two years have been amazing in terms of what I've learnt, how my work has changed and developed, how my thinking has evolved but it's also been really bloody difficult at times - physical health problems have also been prevalent - a knee injury has severely impaired my mobility at times (as well as being bloody painful) and it is still having a negative impact at times but hopefully it'll continue to improve further and it'll be back to normal soon.

I've been thinking about what I'd do differently if I could go back to September 2014 and there's a few things - first of all I'd hope that the loved ones who died during my time at Leeds College of Art didn't - that goes without saying but as that is also something I cannot control or change so the things I could have controlled and changed include:

  • tried harder to stay in a good exercise habit - not helped by poorly knee either but it had gone by the wayside before then...and it's proving hard to get back into...
  • read more - I read loads but I didn't read as much Barthes as I could/should have done and I got out of the habit of reading just for pleasure. I am kind of getting back into it as in the Victorian era novels I am reading give me enormous pleasure but they are also a research tool - especially when they deal directly with mourning practices (whole section in My Lady Ludlow by Elizabeth Gaskell which I'm on the verge of finishing) and I need more Jackie Collins type nonsense in my life.
  • tried harder to stay in a better eating habit - too many evenings especially when working on my dissertation were given over to the lure and ease of either take away or ready meals which are not healthy. I've been trying a lot harder over the last few days - made a lot of soup for instance but I want to get back in the habit of making things like lasagne, mousakka and trying out new recipes too instead of just tried and tested favourites.
  • spent more time in the library - I took lots of books out of the library but didn't always get through them, maybe I would have if I'd set myself goal of reading them in situ.
  • practiced more in the darkroom and got something decent using liquid light - got lots of cyanotypes I was happy with but liquid light and b+w print making remains something I can do but I find it very tricksy and not second nature - it's not vital that I do this as I prefer making cyanotypes, lumen prints and anthotypes more but I'd like a bit more technical savviness.
  • See also photoshop - aside from using it to invert images to make negative versions of them I still find it hard to use. Mostly use the Windows 10 photo viewing and editing software as I find that much more user friendly.
but things I am really pleased with -
  • I got burial size prints on silk.
  • learnt several new techniques
  • learnt a lot about art theory - as opposed to art history
  • learnt how to speak and understand artspeak better
  • met some lovely people and made good connections with them
  • learnt to jump academic hoops successfully.
    had the privilege of visiting various archives and handling many primary sources
  • wrote and read papers at academic conferences - if you'd told me a couple of years ago that I'd be doing something like that at all, let alone without feeling like I was going to have a heart attack I'd have thought you were on crack. 
  • showed my artwork at academic conferences.
  • had a solo show at Lentos.
  • I kept going even when I didn't especially feel like it.
  • I set myself the goal of getting a distinction and achieved it.

    So all in all (bereavement aside) the last two years have been amazing and I am still incredibly grateful that I had this opportunity and was able to take advantage of it - thanks must go to my ever patient and supportive husband, my lovely tutors, workshop technicians and librarians, Mapp who (ignored) listened to my practicing various talks in return for treats, and my friends who both helped directly with things like references, referencing and who listened to me going on about stuff and who came along to events and shows too. I have some friends in particular who I call my Man Ray friends - see below.

    I'm reminded of the quotes I have on my workroom wall which help me lots and there are some in particular which I keep coming back to again and again:

    'You don't need a huge audience, you only need 5 or 6 people who care and support you, don't worry regardign idealism and practicality. Try to get paid for what you do but don't worry if you don't. Just keep on working, you'll make up for it in time.'
    Man Ray

    'You can use all kinds of obsession. You can use obsession for humour, you can use it for style, you can use it for fashion. Obsession is great if it brings you pleasure and helps make your living doing something you love. It's only bad if you make the same mistake over and over with some obsession that brings you unhappiness'
    John Waters

    'To practice any art, no matter how well or how badly is a way to make your soul grow, so do it.'
    Kurt Vonnegut

    And thanks to you too for reading these posts.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Post MA-Ness - Degree Show - 12-7pm each day til November 6th Studio 24 Mabgate Leeds

(Un) Hidden In The Grave IV
lumen print on silk,coffin lining material, dead flowers, graveyard dirt

This is my work for the MA degree show - currently showing at Studio 24 66-70, Mabgate Leeds, show also includes work by other artists from the MA course including portraiture, sculpture, fabric design, textile art, painting and graphic design so something for everyone really - come on down and see it in the flesh as it were.
Open each day til November 6th from 12-7pm.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Post MA-Ness, Gothic Festival, Framing, Victorian Programmes on TV, Bleak House and that kind of thing

this months post it note hastily scribbled on, some notes on key national and legislative events from Victorian era made with lovely fountain pen on my fave vellum notepaper, copy of Mary Barton with post it notes for mentions of death/death customs, mostly obscured copy of Bleak House bought from Oxfam shop on Oxford Road on way back from Whitworth Art Gallery on Friday which will be similarly annotated (plus Bleak House features spontaneous human combustion as well as being in part inspired by real life murder case known as the Bermondsey Horror in which Patrick O'Connor was murdered by Marie and Frederick Manning) and copies of the brochure for the Gothic North Art Exhibition currently on at 70 Oxford Road and which the pictures below are currently on show at though without me stood next to them looking a bit gormless and uncomfortable as I hate having my photo taken....
My work as part of the Gothic North exhibition at 70 Oxford Road - included are some of my prints on coffin lining material, including one washed with graveyard dirt and an overlaid digital print.
It's been about a month since I've written and a lot has been happening within that time - some if it good and some of it not so good. The good things involve exhibtions, books, films and the like and the not so good is a mix of lurgy, labyrinthitis symptoms and panic attacks. So in order not to let the not so good things outweigh the good things I decided I'd best write up what's been going on  plus it's also a good way of collating and clarifying my thoughts about what is next on my horizon and also a way to blow my own trumpet a bit about things like the Gothic North Art Exhibition. An exhibition which features my work and that of the Manchester Gothic Arts Group.

So I'm looking at my diary to see what I have been up to - I've had a mooch round Armley Mills Industrial Museum and taken some pictures, which was lovely. I've been to see lots of films at the ever lovely Hyde Park Picture House - including Enough Rope - which was another in the Patricia Highsmith adaptation series - no-ones write murderers quite as cold and disturbing like she does, Hunt for the Wilderpeople which was both poignant and laugh out loud funny (I especially enjoyed the priests talk over the coffin) an Odourscope version of L'Age D'Or which was both smelly and still somehow shocking to see a monstrance left on the floor of a taxi, the Ron Howard documentary about the Beatles which was also very interesting. I also introduced my husband to the joy of The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires - Hammers attempt at a martial arts bloodsucker movie with Peter Cushing. In many ways it's extremely shonky but nevertheless I love it.

I also had a road trip to Beverley and Hull to see a very wonderful exhibition about Mary Elizabeth Braddon followed by a trip to The Deep. The exhibition on Braddon is on at the Treasure House,  Champney Road in Beverley until November 19th and is well worth a visit as it details her life, has some yellow copies of her novels and is really interesting. The trip to The Deep afterwards was less exciting though as it smelt vaguely of nappy bucket to me and wasn't a patch on the Aquarium in Barcelona which I went to a few years ago, but am glad I've been and the part of Hull The Deep is in had all sorts of interesting Victorian era buildings near by. There is a lovely toilet block near the Minerva public house (the MInerva itself opened in 1829 and so is Georgian) which I had a bit of a meander round and made a note to go back and visit properly and have a proper menader round. I did enjoy seeing the penguins at The Deep though - not sure what kind they were but they defintiely weren't Emperor ones. Saw a stuffed Emperor penguin at Manchester Museum on Friday - they grow up to 1.22 metres in height and compared to all other penguins I've seen this one was huge. There are lots of live frogs, lizards and suchlike in the Vivarium bit of the Museum - my favourite bits though were the plaster cast of the Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton and the mummys with their exquisite painted wooded face covers which somehow still look very modern indeed.

Along with going to see lots of dead things in jars and cases at the Museum we also fitted in lunch at Bakchich which was delicious, and a look at the Elizabeth Price Curates exhibition at the Whitworth before heading back to 70 Oxford Road for the formal opening of the Gothic North Festival and the accompanying exhibition.

It was especially lovely for me to be part of an exhibition in my home town in a building that I went to see lots of art in when it was still known as The Cornerhouse and also to be part of a self proclaimed and proudly identified as gothic exhibition. Plus I learnt some hanging and framing tips from the team who put up the pictures - allowing a gap between glass and image will protect the image better, and using a piece of card masking taped to the wall and held out at 180 degrees from the wall whilst you're drilling holes captures most of the brick dust which can then easily be put in the bin.

It was also especially nice to have someone else put them up - albeit to my instructions as a) I'm not very good at getting things straight even with a spirit level and b) the way they were put up ie with screws and mirror plate fittings as last time I put anything up was at Lentos and the work could only be affixed to the uneven rough wall was with blu-tack which isn't ideal as it's not very secure plus it has a tendency to dry out in cafe settings as there are big fluctuations in temperature and humidity and so things often need re-attaching. Apparently my work fell on customers a couple of times...so it's just as well they were only mounted paper prints and not heavily framed ones. I doubt that'll be happening in Manchester though as they are very firmly attached to the wall.

My obsession with the Victorian period shows no sign of abating and I am especially looking forward to the new series starting this evening on BBC2 called The Victorian Slum, I've enjoyed the series called Railways: The Making of A Nation too though I have also been tutting at the tv with that one - as I do with many documentaries that show clips that appear to be of what they are talking about but can't be eg film that purports to be of a railway being built but can't be the railway they are actually talking about as it was built before film was invented or just showing clips or photographs without an onscreen list of when/where it was from.

But maybe that is more forgivable (as there is usually a list of sources in the credits) than the purely fictional series set in Victorian times - the latest series of Ripper Street which apparently is set in 1897 had Inspector Reid using a camera which wasn't invented til 1900 and far too close to the subject as it was the kind of camera with a minimal focal length of five foot. I understand that there is such a thing as dramatic licence but that's taking it too far if you ask me....it's also the perils of watching tv set in a particular period when you are both a history and an analogue camera nerd.

There's been a lot of work over the past few weeks to get stuff ready for shows (framing stuff in a way you're happy with takes almost as long as making the work to begin with - well it doesn't but it feels like it) and I'm still working on the piece/s for the MA degree show which opens on the 27th October at Studio 24 Mabgate and is on until November 6th. I've still to buy a few ingredients for it too - things like fishing wire, white acrylic paint, some hanging hooks and that kind of thing. 

One thing I'm not looking forward too though is the wearing of the graduation gown as it is PALE FRIGGING PASTEL BLUE. WITH A YELLOW AND WHITE HOOD. Of all the colours for it to be - if I do decide to do a Phd then maybe I need to check what colours the gowns are before I sign on the dotted line so to speak.....oh well best crack on - after all Bleak House isn't going to read itself and neither is the broom handle going to paint itself white.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Post MA-Ness - Distinctive Relief, Work On Show, Elizabeth Gaskell, Conferences-Ness and What Next?

Image of burial plot size piece (7ft by 3.5ft)- part of ongoing work for degree show (October 27th November 6th Studio 24 Mabgate Leeds) image printed on it is a digitally reinverted lumen print of a grave ornament from St Matthew Cemetery Chapel Allerton - two other pieces the same size but in different colours have also been printed. Image taken at St George's Field.
Post it note which looks very neat indeed - written in archival quality ink with the fancy fountain pen I treated myself to for finishing the course, next to copy of Mary Barton with a post it note on the page where there is a mention of death/a death/death practice/death belief in the text.

Cholera burial ground in York just opposite the railway station
View of some of my work on show at Lentos Cafe, North Lane in Headingley - on show til September 30th.

It seems rather strange writing this - for the last two years it was my habit to sit down on a Monday and write up what I had been up to the previous week. But all that changed on August 12th when I handed in my portfolio for assessment, it was the last formal part of my time at Leeds College of Art on the Masters in Creative Practice course and I haven't written since then. The good habit I got into of writing up each week what I'd been up to was no longer needed for assessment purposes (for the last two years I have been using this blog as my research journal) and so it was one less job to do and it's been quite nice having one less thing on my to do list - though that list hasn't got any less really.

I haven't quite decided what I'm going to do with this blog now - I don't think I'll do it every week but I think I'll try to do it once a month instead as a round up as well as a place to advertise what I'm up to. I think that might be the way forward with it.

Although it's a month since the course formally finished I haven't really had a proper rest yet and I have been running round like a blue-arsed fly. I have been doing mundane things like catching up on the ironing and attending dental appointments and suchlike but I've also been busy writing a paper (my third proper grown up academic paper) which I presented at the fabulous Death and Culture Conference at York University and that took some considerable time. I also had some of my visual work on show there too - some of my coffin lining prints which went down very well. I've also put up a mini show in Lentos, as well as working on a draft phd proposal as well as feeding what has become my considerable Elizabeth Gaskell habit (I've now read North and South, Cranford, Ruth and Mary Barton and have just started Wives and Daughters) and on Monday I attended a very interesting conference on 'Pernicious Trash' at Leeds Trinity University which focused on the 'lower brow' literature of the Victorian period including broadsides, sensation fiction (including my beloved Mary Elizabeth Braddon) shop girl fiction and that kind of thing. It was fascinating - as was the Death Conference - the practice of dissection in the medieval period and the death practices carried out in Hong Kong were especially interesting.  

So as you can see even though college may have formally finished I'm still just as busy in lots of ways and I am currently working on - putting together some of my images to be used as a backdrop for Bunker 13 on September 24th at Eiger Studios in Leeds, aformentioned phd proposal, the work I'm submitting for the third Gothic Festival In Manchester in early October, the burial plot sized work for the MA degree show, the death and disease days I'm helping out with at Abbey House Museum and Leeds City Museum and the Love Arts Festival Conversation...I think that's everything - oh no I'm also working on some images for the Dark Arts Journal too...and then there's the graduation ceremony in late November so I'm looking forward to a proper rest and some decent time to sort stuff out in December...but at least the last two days I've been able to have a bit of a lie-in.

Plus I have been suffering from mounting tension with regard to my results, I worked really hard to get my portfolio into as good a state as possible prior to hand in as I was aiming for and wanted a distinction grade ie over 70%. I joked that I sweated blood but it definitely felt like it at times. And thankfully my hard work paid off as I got the grade I was after....though I didn't find it out until early afternoon on Monday as I don't have a tinternet phone and was at a conference at Leeds Trinity University so had to wait til lunchtime before I could log onto a computer to find out what they were.

Cue much shaking, relief, disbelief, pride, giddiness and all round general 'oh thank fuck for that - all that hard work has paid off' type feeling and immediate phoning of husband to tell him - he more than anyone has supported me over the last couple of years and I'd have never got through it without his amazing constant and supportive help. I then over enthusiastically celebrated when I finally got home (hour and half later than planned thanks to bus cancellations and so no buses from that end of Horsforth from 6pm til 7.45pm) by drinking my own bodyweight in fizz again and telling all the people who had helped me get that result over the last couple of years.

So as a result most of Tuesday was spent in a hungover state before going to the Hyde Park to see the new documentary about Gary Numan Android in LalaLand at the Hyde Park where some black treacle flavour ice cream and sitting in the dark watching the screen worked wonders in perking me up. Film was quite interesting too - always good to see someone else's creative process and the way he writes songs was quite fascinating as it involved a visual element too. It looked like he played around with noises on the keyboard, made a guide vocal of just sounds as opposed to words, then drew a kind of morse code as to where the words would go and then wrote the actual lyrics. Fascinating, it was also interesting to hear someone else talk about their battles with depression and panic attacks and how that impacted upon his creative as well as day to day life. But it wasn't a very impartial documentary (in as much as any documentary can be impartial - it can't but some can be more objective than others) and this was definitely more of a celebration - the director who was there for a Q+A described it as a bit of a love story and a road movie. There was no mention or questioning of his political beliefs for instance or cosmetic surgery. It was entertaining though - the dog turd with a kitkat in it, the conversation about 'good' serial killers and the putting on of make up prior to going on stage all made me chuckle.
Plus as I've said even a not so brilliant film is made all the better just by dint of seeing it at the Hyde Park which is the most wonderful cinema and my very favourite place for watching a film.

So what next? well a proper clean and tidy and sort out of the house and my workroom is high on the list, as is the to do list for the next few days in terms of sorting out images and what have you but I think more than anything I need a proper rest for a couple of days or so and let that distinctive relief well and truly sink in. 

Thursday, 11 August 2016

MA-Ness Week 18 - Endings and Beginnings, Slogging Through Fog, 41 Hours To Go, Treats and Heartfelt Thanks

This weeks post it notes - including one with the fancy fountain pen I've just treated myself to for getting to the end of the course, a copy of a book I've just bought as I have become seriously addicted to Elizabeth Gaskell, a postcard of the painting Hard Times from 1885 by Sir Hubert von Herkomer chosen because a) I think it's a wonderful evocative painting and b) because I feel like the little boy sitting on the ground next to his mother ie dead tired... I hope the family portrayed in it went on to have less hard times but I suspect in reality the workhouse would have beckoned....

It's taken me a while to get round to writing this - partly because I have been concentrating upon getting my portfolio together ready to hand it in tomorrow. This is the big and final module - this is the 60 credits on its own module so I've been totally concentrating on it and its contents for the last few weeks so I can make it as good as possible. I want a distinction parly for my own satisfaction at successfully jumping that kind of academic hoop but also because I am hoping to do a Phd and if I get a distinction that should make that goal a little bit easier to accomplish.

I've followed the same template as I used when I handed it in this time last year and got a distinction for it but I have (hopefully) improved it further by being a little more discerning about what I've put in it as well adding little overviews for each of the projects I've worked on. I also wrote a general overview of my work over the last couple of years complete with proper harvard referenced footnotes and sub headings. I started work on that document about a month - six weeks ago and a lovely chum of mine helped me out on Monday night by helping me put the final touches to it in terms of inserting said footnotes and referencing them using the Harvard Reference system...which I think I've now more or less got a grip on how to do properly.  I know I used them for my dissertation but I was in such a state of brain fog at the time that I wasn't sure if I was doing them properly or not.

Anyway with that done I spent most of Tuesday at college printing it out along with the final images I wanted to include. I thought I had got myself all organised and sorted image-wise for printing but I hadn't - I had taken the images off the camera memory card that I had taken of my burial shroud size piece blowing in the wind at St George's Field on Sunday but I had only transferred them to the laptop - I hadn't put them on my memory stick or on google drive. ARGH - nor had I taken a picture of it on my phone. DOH!! I had put a picture of it on my Facebook page but social media sites are kept behind a firewall during lecture hours at college so you can't access them unless you have a smartphone - which I don't. Cue husband coming to my rescue again by downloading the image off Facebook and emailing it to me - it's not the best resolution but it's good enough to see the piece of work so PHEW I didn't have to come home and go back in again....

I have still one or two final final touches to make on my portfolio - namely printing out the submission lables and putting in some file dividers but I had otherwise finished putting it together by 7pm last night. I felt such a huge sense of relief that such a massive job was done, and with plently of time to spare before the deadline of 3pm on 12.8.16. I hate rushing round like a headless chicken at the last minute and finishing it last night meant I had 41 hours left in which to tinker with it, put in anything I realised I had forgotten and also be able to take a massive breath and so finally after what feels like a very long time indeed of feeling stressed about it relax a bit.  If I'm completely honest I may also have teared up a bit.

Part of me still just still can't quite believe what I've achieved and been able to do over the last couple of years, especially with the additional challenges of dealing with multiple bereavement and health problems over the last couple of years....but I got through it, in part due to my own determination and the course being an excellent focus to distract myself from the sad things going on but it is also thanks to supportive tutors and college staff, supportive and encouraging friends and last but by no means least thanks to my ever supportive and lovely husband who has been so supportive and encouraging, not just on an emotional level but also on a practical and financial level too. I don't think I'll ever be able to thank him enough really. Thanks must also go to Mapp who has listened (albeit not very closely and with no feedback) to every presentation or paper I've done but most importantly has let me fuss her when I've been feeling rubbish which frankly has been often.

A lot of the time thanks to non course related events it has felt like I've been wading uphill through treacle with a very heavy backpack, but it has also been the most brain stretching, challenging, thought provoking and rewarding time. I've been able to poke about in all sorts of archives, read all sorts of fantastic books, potter about in the darkroom, learn lots of new techniques and got to print burial plot size pieces of work - so what's not to love?  And I must remind myself of the overall joy of the process and what it brings to me when I'm sat in front of the computer cursing the fact that it has frozen yet again and all I can say is 'oh for fucks sake, just fucking work!!!' and all I want to do at that moment is sack the whole thing off and go and watch rubbish telly.

There has been some fantastic stuff on the radio recently - there was an excellent programme about leeches with Sir Christopher Frayling, an Infinite Monkey Cage about Frankenstein that was also very good (though I have otherwise somewhat gone off that programme and I can no longer take Professor Brian Cox seriously since my husband pointed out he has the same vocal phrasing as Philomena Cunk) and I have been taking time out from slogging away at course related stuff to go the pictures - seen some wonderful films like South Riding (1936) and the truly mind boggling Author: The JT Leroy Story (2016) -  though if I'm honest one of the most boggling things is how anyone could have believed Laura Alberts alter ego Speedy was british as that was one of the worst british impressions I've ever heard. I must write up my proper reviews of them whilst they are still reasonably fresh in my memory. Going to see films at the Hyde Park is one of my very favourite things to do - plus I love the fact that if you go to see a film at the cinema rather than watch one at home then you are less distracted as your only job is to watch the film and you don't have to answer the phone/check email/catch sight of the pile of ironing still undone.

One resolution I have made is should my phd plans/hopes come to fruition is that I will write my bibliography as I go along, something which I hadn't done this term and it was a right slog and pain in the arse to write it up earlier this week. A task which should have been easy but which became somewhat pained and led to a lot of procrastination and social media checking whilst writing it (I can thoroughly recommend Hacker T Dog on Twitter  as he or rather his handler who I suspect is a man called Phil Fletcher is hilarious) and I don't want to have to do that all in one go again. It's been made harder though because of the really noisy and invasive roadworks going on outside too - from 7am til 7pm there has been the sound of drilling, or the noise and vibrations of rollers making the tarmac flat and it's been going on for the last two weeks and is scheduled to continue for at least another two...

Another resolution would be to make meals in advance and freeze them as I've put weight on as I've been eating less than sensibly and reaching for easy comfort food as opposed to making healthier food from scratch.

One thing that did happen though this week or rather last Sunday was the first time I've felt unnerved in St George's Field. Along with taking images of my burial plot sized print, I also took pictures with my new pinhole lens and I wanted to take some amidst the clump of graves and trees in the corner nearest the transport studies department which is being refurbished.  It was quite a windy day and as I set up the camera on the tripod at the edge of the clump the branches above began groaning and squeaking as they rubbed against one another in a really alarming 'I'm about to break and come crashing down' kind of way so I moved to another spot sharpish. It really felt scarey and a bit threatening at the time though now I'm thinking oh for goodness sake it was just wind on the branches.

It didn't stop me going and getting a pizza from La Besi though for lunch and taking it back there to eat. Though we sat nowhere near the offending branches. Eating pizza there after taking pictures on a weekend has become a bit of a habit for me and my husband and it's one I'd like to continue. Though I will need to up the amount of exercise I'm doing in order to offset them....

I'm not sure if I'll keep up the habit of writing this once a week when I no longer need to for college purposes but even if I don't write so frequently I think I'll make a point of writing it at least once a month as although I'll no longer be at college as much I still have lots of academic and arty stuff on and I'll need to record what I'm up to somewhere, plus if all goes to plan potential phd-wise then I'll be no doubt writing about that.

Fingers crossed........