Monday, 2 August 2021

Work On Show - This Volatile State

I've got one of my matte medium image transfers on show as part of the Volatile State Exhibition - you can see mine and lots of other artists work by clicking  here

It's exciting to be part of a show again - though I've been quiet on here I have been showing some of my recent photographic work using a kids toy watch camera over on instagram - you can see that work by clicking  here

I know I have said this before but I am going to try and get back into a habit of posting here again - as well as it being a way to show my work, it also helps me organise my thoughts - a task which seems ever harder to do given the events of the last 18 months...


Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Beginning At The Other End, Dark Shadows, Collage, Walking, Grieving

This was a light refraction image taken on my trusty go to lomo camera phone earlier in the summer when there was still quite a lot of daylight. It makes me think of Covid virus images but in this case it's sunlight refracted through the patterned surface of a drinks tumbler onto my grey marbled kitchen worktop. My lomo phone camera (I do not have a smartphone) has become my camera of choice over the last few months despite its lomo limitations. Its very poor zoom, limited focus and lack of flash are outweighed by the fact that it fits easily in my pocket, plus it's very light in weight and it only relies on electrickery to take and transfer the images to the computer rather than chemical developing the film in our cold, slightly damp and not very nice garage before scanning it into the computer.

This is a close up of the doll I got from my Nana when I left home just over 30 years ago. The doll usually has a hat on as well as a peach dress and she guards a toilet roll under her faded crocheted peach dress.  This year she had a respite from toilet roll guarding duties and became a film star when I took her out of the toilet roll and put her in my mini studio and took photos of her.  She along with other images I'd taken became part of an experimental short film I made earlier this summer, when I took part in the Facing The Mind project. I got so much out of the project - it was both beautiful and welcome distraction from grieving and lockdown fears plus I learnt some basic video-editing skills and learnt a little about the Kuleshov Effect - you can read more about the project here and see some of the other participants work too.  


This is a still of Barnabas Collins as played so beautifully by Jonathon Frid in Dark Shadows - a daytime gothic horror soap opera which ran on american television from 1966-1971. In this image he is staring out from the Old House wishing harm upon his young relative David Collins. There were over 1200 episodes made and I've seen almost 700 of them so far. I started watching it this time last year and was instantly hooked on its dark grim storytelling, for all its shonky-ness in places (line flubs, scenery malfunctions, boom mic shadows) it is also completely compelling and often telling versions of stories inspired by the gothic classics - Dracula, Frankenstein, The Portrait of Dorian Gray, The Pit and the Pendulum, Jane Eyre to name but a few - I've now reached the Lovecraft inspired Leviathan storyline and I am loving every moment of it. 

I have fallen completely in love with Barnabas Collins - the reluctant and sympathetic gentleman vampire with the most excellent eyeliner and eyeshadow and almost all of the residents of Collinwood, the old house and Collins Port. I've joined online fan clubs, got audio versions of the books featuring the same characters but not quite the same story arcs and one of the soundtrack albums. The haunting theme tune by Robert Cobert perfectly fits the weird world dreamt up  (literally - the idea came to him in a dream) by Dan Curtis and fleshed out by writers like Sam Hall. The theme tune has become a kind of ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) in our house as hearing it takes us instantly to a calmer contemplative state in these otherwise fraught and frightening times. 

The other thing that has been helping to keep me calm and keep me relatively sane in these otherwise gruelling and distressing times is being able to go a for a walk as thank goodness the plantar fasciitis issues that were so crippling and disabling me are in abeyance. This is a picture taken on my lomo non smart camera phone and post processed using the basic free photo editing software that comes with Microsoft Windows. Being able to go for a walk around the nearby woods and bridlepaths continues to be an absolute lifesaver for me. Especially as my usual outlet for distraction and relaxation the Hyde Park Picture House has been closed for refurbishment and would have been closed because of Covid. 
I have tried to keep up with exercising at home and have gone to the gym when I could but I am hoping now that I can get a clear run or rather clear chest press and shoulder press towards my current goal of being able to deadlift 100kg. I've really learnt the value of exercise and a place to be able to do it over the last few months. 

Until somewhat ironically the start of the first lockdown earlier this year I was only able to manage about 10 minutes from home by foot, every trip out on my own had to be planned so that I could easily call a taxi to come and get me or get on a bus if need be. Needless to say the mix of pain, physical discomfort, lack of mobility and frustration that nothing seemed to be working in terms of making it better were really getting me down.  

Plantar issues severely limited my mobility and choices of places to go to and things to do whereas now thankfully I am mostly pain-free and it is either Covid related restrictions or my own choices to minimise my risks of catching Covid that put limits on where I want to go. It's almost a year since I have been on any kind of public transport, nine months since I went in a supermarket though I have been to the local shops a few times for things like milk, bread, wine and cake. For the rest we've been relying on companies who have diversified from supplying restaurants to supplying individuals. It's quite hard to eat a kilogram of hummous though but we went halves  on the kilo tubs of hummous with friends who live nearby and thankfully it now comes in pots of a much more manageable size. 

I can't tell you how much I am missing going to the cinema, looking/listening/absorbing in art galleries, sitting somewhere other than my desk to write my journal or read a book, treating myself easily to the occasional fancy decaff coffee as opposed to planning exactly where to go and queue and remembering to take hand sanitiser as well as well as wearing a mask. Carefree or rather comparatively carefree spontaneity is one of the things I miss most of all.

This is a close up of a detail of the piece I made in memory of my father who died earlier this year and which is part of the Arts and Minds Annual Exhibition - you can see it and the other pieces here. I have started making collages and including it as part of my practice after a prompt from the Facing The Mind project. I find it rather soothing to cut things out, arrange them on the paper and then glue them down.

Having something to do with my hands has been very important in stopping my mind from racing or dwelling on things. Along with making collages I have been doing a lot of knitting too. I took this pieces title from a chapter in Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon as it seemed appropriate for a time post death and the beginning of grieving for a loved one.

I'm not going to call it a grieving process as process implies something orderly that can be managed and I don't think it's like that at all
. As ever Victorian sensation fiction has proved to be excellent distraction and that along with the support of my husband, family and friends, Dark Shadows, exercise and snuggling up with the cat is helping me get along.

I'm hoping to get back into a more regular blog habit again. I let one particular unsupportive and destructive naysayer get in the way of my writing it and I shouldn't have let their nasty negativity get in the way. Blogging is more important for me as a way to marshal my thoughts than who is reading it and whether or not it's 'good writing'. 

Thank you for reading. 

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

What am I doing now part 2

I've been keeping myself busy
- reading, making, doing and listening.

Reading wise - I've been struggling to concentrate at times but the last couple of days I have been really enjoying Have A Bleedin Guess (2019) by Paul Hanley - the story of the making of Hex Enduction Hour by The Fall. It's always interesting to read about others creative processes and Paul writes the best footnotes. I only got it on Sunday night - after the Brix and The Extricated gig at the Brudenell and it was really nice to be able to buy it directly from the person who wrote it and to be able to thank them for their previous book Leave The Capitol. I'm not sure how much you'd enjoy it if you weren't a Fall fan, but Fall fan or not I'm sure you'd enjoy Paul's descriptive incisive smart witty writing and his truly excellent footnotes.

I'm also reading Anne Tyler's Searching for Caleb (1975). I've not had the time/state of mind to get completely lost in this like I did with when I read her Back When We Were Grown Ups (2001) and A Spool of Blue Thread (2015) but am hoping to get lost in it some time soon. I became aware of her work after reading an interview with my beloved John Waters in which he praised her work so I determined to read some for myself. And I'm glad I did as I have really enjoyed the ones I've read so far.

Other books I'm dipping in and out of when I can include 17 by Bill Drummond (2008) which I bought recently from Oxfam in Headingley, and Cursed Britain A History of Witchcraft and Black Magic (2019) by Thomas Waters borrowed (like the Tyler) from the Leeds Library. I treated myself to membership when I became a student and I have continued to treat myself to it.

I was a fan of the KLF back in the day though I can remember feeling indignant about their burning of a million quid,  you can listen to a dramatisation of that event here and I recently went to see him and the documentary about him called Best Before Death (2018) at the Hyde Park Picture House. In that perfomance he questions whether or not he is suffering from White Saviour Complex and ruminating that he probably is, but like Waters, he makes me laugh and think which is my favourite combination.

Speaking of John Waters, I went to see him speak in Birmingham at the beginning of the month and he was as ever - funny, filthy, thought provoking and inspirational. Alas this time I didn't get chance for him to sign my book and so have a filthy blessing but having had afternoon tea with him this time last year I think it's safe to say I remain in a state of filthy grace.

Making wise I've been knitting - I've made some booties for chums who have had babies, they are my default de-stress knitting, I've also made some presents for family members (xmas is only a month away) and I've finally got round to making over an old turkish delight balsawood box, knitting a kind of skull creature and I'm still in the process of making some matte medium image transfers. I just need to wet the paper and rub it away and hopefully the image will be remain intact on the material. 

I didn't see lots at the Leeds International Film Festival but what I did see I really enjoyed. It included Haxan (1922) the scenes in which nuns are infected with devil worship are brilliant, but my favourite film seen as part of the festival was also the film which won my 'What The Actual Living Fuck Have I Just Seen?' Award for 2019 was Jesus Shows You The Way To The Highway (2019) and as I'm still not sure how best to describe it other than mindblowing, instead I shall link to a trailer for it here and you can make up your own mind. It's worth watching for the trailer alone.

Other things I've been listening to have included Drift Series 1 by Underworld which includes the very excellent 'Low Between Zebras whose opening lines of 'drift liberation, a happy wanderer journeying without purpose,travelling directed by intuition not target to move through places with no other objective than to experience the moment' really speaks to me.

I'm also mostly still watching the Horror Channel or Talking Pictures TV as it is a treasure trove of interesting films and listening to Radio 4 Extra as it has no news it is much less painful to listen to than regular Radio 4. The news is still mostly bringing me out in hives and other than looking at front pages of the news sections of the BBC and the Guardian I'm mostly trying to ignore it as it makes me feel so sad and helpless. 

I'm still gym-ing and am hopefully on track for my goal of being able to deadlift 100kg by xmas. 
Housework is a boring thankless sisyphaen task, I know I am better off by doing it as the end result is of benefit but the process of doing it is just boring and frustrating and so by writing this I have put off doing the dusting. Alas however I can put it off no longer and must get to it...

Thank you for reading.


Monday, 4 November 2019

Non PhD-Ness 3months on from cessation aka what am I doing now?

Notes for todays blog post and what I hope to cover....
Phone image of the Goth cabinet currently at Leeds Museum in the Broderick Room and there til February 2020, installed as part of the Festival of Gothika held on October 12th 2019. I gave a talk as part of the festival entitled 'Hidden Relics: Uncovering Hidden Histories in St George's Field'.
3 of the hoops I have made containing photographs I have taken and transferred onto material - including coffin lining material are hung around the neck of the Newky Brown Bottle promo item. Said item used to live in the legendary and much missed Phono nightclub... and a place in which I spent a lot of my time in the late 80's when I first moved to Leeds. 
Road sign image taken on toy digital camera - this is cemetery Road off Clarendon Road Leeds 6. It leads to one of my very favourite places namely St George's Field, the former burial ground that is part of Leeds University campus.
So pleased to have recieved this unexpected treat in the post from the never not funny Hacker T Dog aka Phil Fletcher. His brand of dog based meat paste fuelled slapstick, wordplay, cheekiness and proud northern-ness has helped me get through some really tough times recently. I am extremely grateful to him for making me laugh. I am also extremly grateful to my ever supportive husband Mr Pops, Mapp, my lovely friends and Paul at Crunch Gym in Meanwood for helping me get through it too. I can now deadlift (just by its name it is the goth-est of all exercises *grin*) 85kg and have a goal of being able to deadlift 100kg by the end of the year...lack of further illness and injury permitting that is.


Oh my poor neglected blog, which I haven't really looked at or updated recently. On checking I updated it last in June 2019 when I put up some images of work I've made, and prior to that it was November 2018. Annoyingly (for myself anyway - it might have been a blessing for readers *grin*) I let someone who I should not have paid any attention to niggle away at my self confidence, especially in connection with writing this blog.

Sadly though I let their rude, unsubstantiated and contemptuous opinion of blogs and blog writing overtake both the compliments I have been paid with regard to it but more distressingly and stupidly I let it get in the way of how useful I find writing it as a way of collating my thoughts.

So I am hoping to get back into the habit of regularly updating it, maybe not as regularly as when I did my MA (which was at least once a week) but maybe once a month. Like when I first started my PhD at Huddersfield Uni in September 2017 and which after a lot of thinking and discussion with the head of department I decided to withdraw from before the start of the new academic year in September 2019.

I withdrew for various reasons both personal and institutional but the bottom line was it was making me increasingly stressed and unhappy and had been since the start of my second year. Difficult circumstances external to the PhD were also having a negative impact on my mental health and so my ability to study and I was unable to secure the help and support I needed to deal with those issues at the time. Circumstances that thankfully are now resolved and long may they stay that way. I'm hoping that physio is going to help with ongoing plantar fasciitis problems though. Not being able to get out and about as much as I would like to has been and continues to be really limiting and horrible.

I had started a PhD for my own satisfaction as opposed to 'I've got to do this because I want a job in academia' and I am still deciding what steps to take next - if any in a formal academic context. Steps being the possibility of transferring to a more traditional history based PhD as opposed to a practice based one as one of the areas I was finding most difficult was writing about my work in a way necessary to highlight the practice based elements of the research and what was original about it but I am still undecided about this and still thinking longer term what is the best thing for me and my work.

I am still unhappy about leaving things unfinished as it were, especially as it plays into negative feelings I have about my own abilities and makes imposter syndrome feel far too real for me but I have no regrets about not returning to Huddersfield Uni, that was definitely the right decision for me.

However I also realised I needed a break from all things academic/research related and so for a lovely few weeks over the summer I was lucky to be able to do things like pursue other purely photographic interests namely seasides, watch and listen to Count Arthur Strong who like Hacker T Dog never fails to make me smile, I went to see the wonderful and awe inspiring Carter Tutti, listened to bands like Snapped Ankles, The Psychological Strategy Board,Brix and the Extricated, and went to the cinema A LOT (might have to do a separate blog post about the films I've seen and enjoyed so far this year)in other words I gave myself very much needed rest and thinking space.

Outside of a specific academic context I am still continuing my research into the history of some of the women buried in St George's Field and Victorian Mourning Culture and still making photographic based work inspired by or connected to it. You can see some of my hoops featuring images I've taken of St George's Field in the Goth Cabinet in the Broderick Room of Leeds City Museum until February next year.

I am still at my happiest when wandering round a Victorian era cemetery, researching its context and specific history and making work inspired by it and that process. I am very glad that I have not lost that love or my enthusiasm for my subject matter. I still want to learn more.

Nor have I lost my love for Victorian era sensation fiction and over the summer I read (for that read could barely put down) East Lynne by Ellen Wood. Oh my goodness, what a page turner of improbable occurrences, coincidences, vividly written events and characters and I enjoyed every single sentence of its gripping improbability.

When trying to describe it to the Darling Roses WI group I said it was like Jackie Collins but without the explicit sex scenes though there is elopement which is almost the same given the time in which it was written (1861) and every bit as enjoyable though you do have to make sure your 'suspension of disbelief muscles' are in good form before you start reading it.

So that's where I'm at and a bit of what I've been up to, I'm still in the midst of planning and researching my next steps but I hope to blog about it on the way.

Thank you for reading :-)


Saturday, 8 June 2019

PhD-Ness - Part 13 Year 2 Some Work So Far...

It's been just over 6 months since I've updated my blog. For various reasons I got out of the habit but I've decided to try and get back into the habit. It's a good habit as writing up what I've been up to is a good way for me to a) collate information b) keep track of the progress I'm making and c) be able to show examples of my work. 
This post is a mostly visual one with examples of what I've been working on over the last few months and a few words about each piece. All of the pieces shown have been made in connection with my research into the history of St George's Field, some of the people buried there and Victorian mourning culture. I'm interested in the past, how we view it and how we can collaborate with it. 

Close up of memorial decorative detail on a stone nearest the Chapel at St George's Field. B+W film image. Flowers were often used on gravestones in the Victorian era, sadly this stone is missing the name plate so I cannot tell you who it was for. There is something about the fading flower covered in spiders webs  against a backdrop of decaying stone that I find aesthetically pleasing and I am repeatedly drawn to it.

This is a matte medium image transfer of Anne Carr's grave. It was made using a print of a 35mm colour photograph I took of her gravestone on January 18th 2018 on what would have been the 177th anniversary of her death. I laid a yellow rose on her stone in tribute to the work she did with so called 'fallen women' who would often be made to wear yellow when housed in a workhouse. I am especially interested in the work, life and death of Anne Carr. She was the founder and Presidentess of the Female Revivalists Friendly Sick Society and she preached sermons inspired by the New Testament around the country as well as encouraging people to take the Temperance Pledge and forgo the 'demon drink'. 

This is a 35mm black and white film image of the Chapel building at St George's Field, taken with a fish eyes lens. I've been making work in and about St George's Field and researching its history and the history of some of the people buried there since 2013. This image is part of a series called Once and Now.
This is an anthotype of the same film image made with weeds collected from the site.
This is a lumen print of the same film image of the Chapel.

This is a 35mm black and white view of the view through the entrance to the site nearest to Clarendon Road.
Comfort in Sorrow
This is an installation I made for the Living With Dying Conference at the Live Art Bistro in March 2018.
It consists of muslin soaked in a solution of dirt from St George's Fields for 3 days, along with a mix of prints of images printed on coffin lining material (generously donated by Luke Howgate and Sons, Dewsbury) and dried roses.  

digital picture of reflection pic taken in the rain in April 2019 

Another b+w film image view of the entrance to the site nearest to Clarendon Road  

An experiment with printers ink, rollers and leaves collected from the site.

Matte Medium Image transfer of a 35mm colour film image of the tomb of George Thwaites and family. He was an innkeeper and lived on Vicar Lane in Leeds. He died in 1855 of inflammation. This image was left on the site for 4 weeks.

A reworking of the Comfort in Sorrow installation for the Death and the Sacred Conference at Manchester Metropolitan University March 22nd 2019
Work in progress - rubbings of various parts of the site. One of the things I'm interested in trying to achieve is a kind of collaboration with the site. 

view of Once and Now - show at Kapow Coffee, Thorntons Arcade, Leeds October 2018-November 2018
2d printed and framed work
Close up of hoops - images are 35mm film images heat transferred onto on coffin lining material and hoops covered with purple and grey bias binding, purple and grey are colours associated with Victorian mourning.

works in progress - matte medium image transfers of 35mm film images of the Chapel at St George's Fields 

Monday, 19 November 2018

PhD-Ness Part 12 year 2 Doing, Reading, Looking, Doing, Afternoon Tea-ing with Heroes

This was my fifth encounter with one of my all time heroes - my 'filth elder' and 'Pope of Puke' John Waters - after his excellent show at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool on Saturday November 10th. I also had the incredible treat of going to afternoon tea with him the day before at the rather lovely Hope Hotel. I adore Mr Waters and his work - he makes me laugh and he makes me think which has to be one of the best combinations ever.
I usually shy away from being in front of the camera lens but I make an exception for Mr Waters - partly because I still can't quite believe I have met him and so I wanted photographic proof. This pic was taken by my lovely ever supportive husband.
I have been a fan of  Mr Waters and his work since I was 15 and saw an advert for Pink Flamingos (1974) (a film of his I didn't actually see for a long time after I became a fan) in the promotional booklet for Palace Video my Dad brought back from the video shop (remember them?)  and though I love all his films my favourites are Serial Mom (1994) ,  Cecil B Demented (2000) - sadly though I found out in conversation with Mr Waters that none of the cinemas featured in that film exist anymore and I also adore Polyester (1981)  - I am ever so slightly in love with the dastardly Todd Tomorrow played so beautifully by Tab Hunter....
If I could have told my 15 year old self that one day my fifty year old self would be sat next to him I doubt very much that she would have believed me but she would have been thrilled to think that such a thing could even be a possibility....and also very relieved that her fifty year old self in spite of being beside herself with glee just about managed to be coherent, didn't spill or drop anything at the afternoon tea and was also able to thank him for making her laugh and think and for being such a fantastic ongoing inspiration.

Post it note, signed afternoon tea menu, hoops I'm working on and with

I'd got into a habit of updating weekly again but after a conversation with my tutor who advised that my writing energies would be better directed elsewhere - namely into the actual writing I have to do for this Phd malarkey, so although I like to think that my blog is also academic reflexive writing I have been concentrating upon writing about the methodology I am using for my research into uncovering the hidden history of women buried in St George's Field.

Albeit with limited success so far in terms of a word count and structure I am happy with so I thought I'd do a blog post again to try and clear/order my thoughts again before I face my methodology chapter again or rather part thereof. progress has been further hampered by coming down with cough/cold/flu lurgy over the past few days meaning I have had next to no concentration span as opposed to a fairly limited one and so not made as much progress as I would have liked nor have I been able to go for my usual weightlifting sessions but as I woke up this morning without an immediate coughing session, an earworm of 'Long Live Our Love' by The Shangri Las, and an opening sentence that I'm pleased with fully formed - I'm hoping I can make much more and better progress today. 

But I also wanted to make a note - albeit in brief of the exhibitions/galleries I have been to over the last month:
Manchester Art Gallery Feb 2018-Jan 2019 Annie Swinnerton:Painting Light and Hope r
wonderful to see an exhibition of paintings by a woman, my favourites amongst the paintings on show were her portraits - especially the ones of Reverend William Gaskell and Dame Millicent Fawcett, and a society portrait of a young lady in a gorgeous black dress as well as her sensitive and expressive portraits of working women.
Walker Art Gallery permanent collection Liverpool
Utterly stunning collection of paintings - huge Victorian narrative paintings as well as portraits and thought provoking medieval religious art too. The medieval altar piece triptych Master of the Aachen Altarpiece 1485-1515 has a skull (one of my favourite motifs at its base as well as bits of bones) and one of the most graphically gruesome crucifixion scenes I've ever seen. The thieves also being crucified either side of Jesus had had their thigh muscles cut in order to prevent them standing up but it was paintings from the Georgian and Victorian eras which had the most impact for me.

The Ruins of Holyrood Chapel 1824 by Louis Daguerre (yep that Daguerre of photographic invention fame) made me exclaim 'oh wow' out loud and I looked at it from various viewpoints for ages - I still want to walk amongst its exquisitely painted moonlit remains, I also stood and gazed with wonder at Fourniers Funeral of Shelley 1889 and I spent a good couple of hours just sitting gazing at 18th and 19th century treasures. Huge narrative paintings and works by Waterhouse, Alma Tadema, Holman Hunt, Rossetti and other Pre-Raphaelite wonders - just visually drinking them in. Simply stunning paintings. Also pleasing to see some paintings by women as opposed to just paintings of women as well as a highlighting of LGTBQ artists and subject matter.

It has made me want to return to Liverpool to spend more time there - partly to drink in the wonderful surviving Georgian and Victorian architecture, to walk on the waterfront and go to the Tate and St James Cemetery but also to visit the International Slavery Museum based there so as to get a better understanding of the impact of slavery as well as a much better understanding of the history of slavery and its role not just in the history of Liverpool but the UK as a whole.

Along with trips to Liverpool to see one of my living idols I've also been to York to see the paper trail of one of my dead idols - Ann Carr's will written some 3 months before her death is kept at the Borthwick Institute at York University. It was quite something to be able to hold it in my hands, and see her signature. She leaves everything to her partner Martha Williams who is described throughout as Ann's Sister in Christ. Ann's signature is very thin and frail looking compared to the rest of the writing - presumably done by her solicitor. It was a fascinating document and a real privilege to be able to read it and I am very pleased it has survived.

Well I'd best crack on - I've made some good progress on my to do list so far but still got a huge amount to do which aside from writing also includes going back to St George's Field to recover some of the matte medium images I left there to see what impact being in the field has on them or even if they're still there...

One day my to do list will not only be shorter but also completed in a timely manner....

Monday, 15 October 2018

Phd-ness Part 11, Year 2, Doing, Reading, Doing.

Some instant pictures of St George's Field taken yesterday in the rain, my post it note for this week, an old photo taken of me (can't remember who by though) in 1987 in what I think must be St Marks Churchyard which I found whilst sorting out old boxes of stuff, and aside from the fact that I am much more likely to hide from the camera and be behind the lens taking the picture these days and the fact that I have eaten a lot of pies between then and now I don't look all that different really as in same hair colour, similar clothes, similar jewellery and load of bracelets on right arm, same love of grave monuments - though my appreciation of them these days is different and I don't think I would lean against one in such a blase manner these days.

Also pictured is one of the necklaces I made yesterday out of 'doll parts' available from Poundland as part of their Halloween range and some ribbon and silver beads I already had in. My friend and fellow artist Hayley Mills-Styles has a necklace she made out of a porcelain dolls head and that inspired me to make a dolls part necklace for myself. I painted the red nail varnish on the dolls fingers with a fine red permanent marker before threading them onto black ribbon using a darning needle.
It's been a week of tidying and sorting - hence my finding that photograph and some others also featuring me in St Marks Churchyard. I lived in Woodhouse when I was a student and used to cut through the churchyard to get to lectures and loved it as a space but purely on an aesthetic level then. I had no idea or appreciation of the wider history or practice of Victorian mourning culture then. I don't think the graveyard space is accessible anymore though, the last couple of times I've been there it has been cordoned off with metal fencing and signs saying it isn't safe.

Back in the nineteenth century there was great rivalry between the respective reverends of St Marks and St George's Field, they disagreed with regard as to who provided the best burial services as well as on religious grounds. St Marks was a Church of England site and the people who were behind St George's Field were Non Conformists. 

It's also been a week of rummaging about in libraries - namely the collection of maps and trade directories from the nineteenth century held in the Local and Family History section of Leeds Central Library. I know have a better idea of the size and location of the Leylands, exactly where Ann Carr lived and worked (I thought it was at the back of the Reliance but it was actually nearer down towards Regent Street) and it was a thrill to see her name and address and Martha Williams (her partner in Christ) in the trade directories along with the times of the services at the Female Revivalists Chapel.  10.30am, 2.30pm and 6.30pm on a Sunday and 7pm on a Monday evening apparently. Sadly though I am no wiser as to the age of the cobbles aka setts on Lower Brunswick Street and whether or not they were contemporaneous to Ann but I've still learnt a lot more about where she and Martha lived so I'm happy about that.

Along with rummaging about in libraries and breathing in that delicious smell of old musty books (which apparently is actually the smell of the paper decaying) I also attended a very excellent talk on the history of Central Library, a performance of Frankenstein at Leeds Library which was great - and unusual in that you as the audience followed a silent but expressive Viktor around the library whilst listening to an excellent adaptation on headphones and I went back to St George's Field after not having been for a while in the rain yesterday and took some pictures using my Instax mini 70 and a colour film disposable camera I got a long time ago. I'm not one hundred percent certain where it came from but I think it might have been from a seaside tat shop in Cleethorpes and it has a 'develop before 03-2014' stamped on the bottom. It has flash as well and amazingly that bit of it still worked - I used it because I wanted to take pictures in the rain and for the flash to reflect off the raindrops. I still have 9 pictures to take before I get it developed. I don't know what film speed it is as it is just labelled 'high speed'.

I also collected some leaves whilst I was there, some of the yellow ones I left as offerings on Ann Carr's grave and some I brought home and experimented with/on using black printers ink and this was the result. I'm quite pleased with it and husband really likes it. Part of the reasoning behind this kind of experimentation is I'm trying to capture something of the actual physical essence of the place, something a little bit more than site specific. Think I have a lot more experimentation to do before I find a way I'm happy with. I might try watered down acrylic paint next time instead.

I've also been doing some experimenting with kinetic drawing/mark making (where you line a tube with paper and enclose it with chalk or soft pastel) and I have made some progress with that as I've got a new container to put the paper in and thanks to doing more sorting and tidying workroom wise I've found some thin paper it will work better on. It's a pad of Daler A3 layout paper which is 45gsm and some 20gsm lighter than the 75gsm printer paper I had been using. I plan to do different walks around St George's Field with the paper and pastel in their tube at the bottom of my bag.

One of the things I've been thinking about this week and especially after catching five minutes of Coronation Street (a programme I have been conscious of since being in my mothers womb as she has been a fan and avid watcher since it started) is memorialisation. The character Jim McDonald was looking at an old photo album looking wistful and Liz McDonald pointed out to him that it's only the good memories that get put in albums. Leaving aside that this is a soap family and so had more than their fair share of traumatic events I think the point still stands.

So as ever - lots to think about, lots still to do. Maybe I need to be more like my beloved John Waters who in an interview I saw this week writes everything he need to do in a day on an index card and crosses it off as he does it. Referenced in his artwork '308 Days' currently on show in his retrospective Indecent Exposure at Baltimore Museum of Art. My to do lists remain frustratingly mostly uncrossed off....but I did write and get the slides ready for the talk I'm giving about my work on Friday 19th October at 6pm upstairs at Kapow and I also did quite a bit of reading.

Programmes/films watched

various promotional interviews with John Waters for his retrospective Indecent Exposure.

Books Read
see previous entry

Exhibitions visited 

Films Watched
Lenz H (director) 2018 Kusama Infinity UK Magnolia Pictures
Utterly gorgeous, uplifting and thought provoking film about the life and work of Yayoi Kusama. Featuring a mix of footage of her works,exhibitions and happenings, interviews with her and gallery owners, friends and critics. Also interesting in terms of the relationship between mental health and creativity and how being creative stops her from killing herself and the obstacles she battles with in terms of being a Japanese woman in the western art world.

Monday, 8 October 2018

PhD-ness Part 10 Year 2 Doing, Showing, Listening, Study Level Differences, Brain Weasels and Potential Collaborations

View of my show 'Once and Now - part of the Love Arts Festival, on until November 3rd upstairs at Kapow 15 Thorntons Arcade Leeds 

some of the things I use to make work on a day to day basis - now thanks to workroom reorganising, bookcase buying and wardrobe wrangling all on their own shelf and easily located and used  

Some of the books I'm wading my way through on the new shelves 

this weeks post it note with the programme from the exhibition, and two of the books I bought this week - the Lee Miller one is from the now closed Lee Miller and British Surrealism that was on at the Hepworth which I visited this weekend and was very marvellous indeed and a book on modern photography I bought from the John Ryland library when I went over to Manchester to listen to Royal Photographic Society member Gilly Read talk about early Victorian photography at the Cross Street Chapel - a different building to the Cross Street Chapel Elizabeth Gaskell went to (that one was destroyed by a bomb in 1940 and it has been rebuilt twice since then) but in the same location. The books full title is 'Why it does not have to be in focus' by  Jackie Higgins and published by Thames and Hudson and I am finding it really interesting as it's a list of different modern photographers, with an image, a brief outline of their work, some quotes, similar pieces to look up, the kind of equipment they use. I am finding it very useful and I wish there was a companion volume called 'why it does not have to be pretty' which I could give to my Mum as her usual response to the work of mine that she has seen is 'oh that's nice' and then on closer inspection 'oh no it isn't!! why can't you do something pretty??'. 

So as you might be able to tell from the above images last week was a particularly busy one - I spent a day in Manchester listening to an interesting talk by Gilly Read on early Victorian photography and some of the photographers working in Manchester, I spent a day in Huddersfield doing some printing and attending some PGR Informed Researcher Lectures - the series this year is looking especially useful from a practice based/practice led PhD point of view. I'm really pleased about this and hopefully it will still be in time to help me with my studies. There was some training and lectures last year (ie in my first year) but there were initial issues over location of the lectures and the lectures as a whole felt much more slanted towards and more relevant for traditional style PhDs.

The lectures last week were especially thought provoking and interesting to the point where it led into a spiral of thoughts along the lines of  'I'm not clever enough for this' and 'how am I ever going to get my head around this?' and 'oh how am I ever going to get this sorted?'. To compound those feelings there was sadness on the way home as the trains were delayed because of someone killing themselves on the tracks described as 'emergency services having to deal with an incident'. This made me feel especially sad - that someone should have felt so sad and desperate that they chose to do this and the terrible effect it can have on the train driver, passengers on that particular train and the emergency service personnel who are called in.

It took me some time to regain my equilibrium the following day and to feel more positive and on top of things again, or to at least have a plan to feel more on top of things again. I am still working on my research plan alongside continuing to do the more straightforward archive delving for information on some of the women buried in St George's Field. Last week I paid someone else to do the delving for Ann Carr's will at the Borthwick Institute at York University and in return they sent me a colour A3 photocopy of that remarkable document. Written in October 1840 just three months before her death Ann leaves more or less everything to her 'sister in Christ' Martha Williams, who according to the document is actually a Quaker. By then Ann was seriously ill and fading.

I need to read it again and write it out so that it is easier to read. The faded to brown ink is mostly legible but bits are only legible by slowly and painfully making out each word or by getting the gist of the sentence so that the bit you can't read either suddenly makes sense or narrows it down to a few words it could be until you hit on the right one. It also has the signature of Ann - faint compared to the rest of the document, and the signature of Martha Williams and the witnesses bold in comparison. I am going to make an appointment to go and see it in person now, it is an amazing document and fills me with awe and wonder that I will be able to see and maybe even touch albeit with gloved hand a piece of paper they both touched.

This to me is magic, that such a thing has survived. I don't literally believe in magic but there is a tiny part of me that hopes there is some kind of apotropaic quality to seeing and touching such a document, not in an evil averting kind of way but in a good luck bringing kind of way. I think the power of touch or actually being in the place where someone from the past and long dead is really important even if it can't cure scrofula*. I think it's part of the reason that tourism is still thriving in an age when you can do virtual tours of almost everywhere and anywhere. I think it's a very human thing that wherever possible we need to see and touch things for ourselves. Although understandable and something I abide by it always seems sad when there is a sign saying 'please do not touch' next to what appears to be a fantastically tactile object in an art gallery.

Along with the excitement of seeing Ann Carr's signature albeit in facsimile form, I also had the excitement of hearing about early photographic methods and photographers based in Manchester at the talk by Gilly Read at Cross Street Chapel. Not only did I learn a little more about the early photographic pioneers and why the cleaning of daguerreotypes should only be left to professionals with experience on how to clean them but I got to learn that information in the space that Elizabeth Gaskell worshipped in and where her husband was minister over 100 years ago. In the wall of the building is the remains of the fulsome headstone her husband Reverend William Gaskell had had erected for her. Damaged during the bombing raid in 1940 it is missing its bottom left hand corner but is otherwise readily legible.

Along with this excitement there was also the thrill (for me anyway) of the official launch of my show 'Once and Now' (title taken from North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell) upstairs at Kapow in Thorntons Arcade on Thursday. I should have taken a clicker counter and so properly counted everyone who came but I did make a list as soon as I got home and I could remember 31 and not all of the visitors were friends though the majority were. I was very nervous but it went well - something I should perhaps ascribe to the halloween themed sweets I was handing out to visitors. Their positive response and asking of questions about the images and the stories of the people named on the stone sin the images also helped me feel more on track again. A couple of artist friends who came along have also asked me if I'd be interested in working with them on collaborative pieces and I would. That would be a whole new world of excitement and learning.

So I didn't do much doing last week, in fact the matte medium transfers I started making the week before are still waiting for the paper to be rubbed away with tepid water and I haven't taken any new pictures for a while, despite having a couple of new to me cameras to play with, but I have been doing a lot of listening and a lot of showing and a lot of thinking and a bit of reading.

One of the things I've been thinking about is the differences between MA and PhD levels of study and how you evidence it. Both require commitment and self direction, the PhD even more self direction is required as unlike the MA I did it is not taught. The postgraduate lecture series I attend is not subject specific but general PhD process specific. I am absolutely loving the picture making and ferreting about in archives side of things but finding remembering the books and articles I've read more difficult - in spire of making notes about them and am unsure on how best to reference them in this blog. I'm also unsure as to the purpose of this blog and who it is for. It is a way of advertising my work on the internet and a good way for me to get my head around what it is I've been doing but am not sure it serves the same research journal purpose it did when I was doing my MA and whether or not that way I write on here is suitable for PhD inclusion.

So as ever much food for thought.....

Programmes/Films Watched
I accessed a documentary through the kanopy website of films through my membership of Huddersfield Uni library for my husband to watch about space, it didn't have a narrator as such as it was made of clips of footage shot at the time either on the training programme or in Mission Control. I didn't really pay it any attention other than being fascinated by the man who was smoking a pipe at his desk in Mission Control and the differences between hairstyles of those who appeared to be from a military background and those who didn't. There were no women in the footage at all, despite there being women who worked for NASA at the time, neither did there appear to be anyone from a minority ethnic background when there were ethic minority employees. 

Books Read
Higgins,J (2013) Why It Does Not Have To Be In Focus UK Thames and Hudson
Clayton,E.(Eds.).(2018) Lee Miller and Surrealism in Britain UK Lund Humphries in Association with the Hepworth Wakefield

Exhibitions Attended

Miller, l. (2018). Leed Miller and Surrealism in Britain. [visual art ] Exhibited at the Hepworth, Wakefield , 22 June 2018- 7 Oct 2018 .I have long been a fan of surrealist art, I fell in love with the work of Rene Magritte on seeing the homage to his painting The Pleasure Principle on the cover of The Pleasure Principle by Gary Numan. So it was exciting for me to see a Magritte cloud painted face of Napoleon's death mask high up on the wall. There were works from a range of artists and publications in various formats - prints, recreations of objects - most notably for me the bracelet around a mannequins forearm made of little false teeth set in pink resin by originally made by Miller, as well as the lobster topped telephone in white, a typewriter with nails glued to the keys, and the recreation of the metronome by Man Ray with the eye of Lee Miller atop it. There was also a painting by Leonara Carrington called Pastoral which portrayed delightfully spectral beings. There also many photographs by Lee Miller ranging from ones of her fellow surrealists including Carrington, her partner Roland Penrose, and one of her most infamous photographs where she is bathing in Hitlers bath shortly after his defeat.

I think this is where I struggle most with writing this blog - do I keep it in what I hope is an accessible un-academic jargon free format or do I write about what I've seen in a way that is more properly academic but also a way that I feel is a more inaccessible more academic art english kind of way with in text citations and references? I don't know....

But here are some of the quotes and notes I made in my notebook as I was walking around the Hepworth.

The writer William Plomer (1903-1973) said in an article in the London Bulletin after an exhibition opened just after the evacuation from Dunkirk 'culture foreshadows events,sustains hopes and invigorates the human heart'

The painter Ithell Calquhoun (1906-1988) was expelled form surrealist circles because of her interest in the occult.

Max Ernst's sculptural bird was called Loplop.

Stephen Gill photographer buried some of his work where he took the pictures so that 'maybe the spirit of the place can also make its mark' which I find both intriguing and inspiring. I am going to have to find out more about him and his work.

Perhaps the most disturbing and powerful piece though was Millers photographs of a cancerous breast removed from a patient and photographed upon a plate with cutlery placed next to the plate and on a napkin.   

* in years gone by it was believed that the touch of a royal personage either by you touching them or them touching you could cure disease most notably that of scrofula aka tuberculous cervical lymphadenitis.

Monday, 1 October 2018

PhD-Ness Part 9 Year 2 - Making, Doing, Changing Place of Working, Feeling Bit Overfaced, Show Preparation

this weeks post it note and things I've been making

Preview of Once and Now - part of the Love Arts Festival - upstairs at Kapow Coffee Thorntons Arcade Leeds - official launch Thursday 4th October 5pm - 7pm 

It's been a busy week - even if the post it note is only filled from two thirds of the way down - I've been doing a bit of painting of Halloween goodies I've bought from Hobbycraft. I think I might still add some features to the coffins (handles made with silver pen) and then use them as jewellery boxes. I might glue a skull on one of them - I've made some of the skulls into brooches thanks to brooch backs and UHU glue. I'm quite messy though when it comes to glue but at least they haven't fallen off as yet...

I've also been doing some more matte medium transfers - this time in colour as well as black and white and pictured are two I completely finished last week, the ones I've been working this week are on canvas and still at the stage where the paper is on them - I haven't photographed them as until the paper is wet and rubbed away they just look like paper. The images underneath the paper are in colour.

I've been doing some doing as I've been struggling to read/write and formulate some thoughts on my working methods and how best to co-ordinate my research plan. I've made some progress but not as much progress as I would like but after reading and re-reading 'Ere the substance fade: photography and hair jewellery' by Geoffrey Batchen (his chapter in Photographs Objects Histories - On The Materiality of Images by Elizabeth Edwards and Janice Hart 2004)  and struggling to make sense of it or rather failing to take in all the points I think he was trying to make in it, I decided to take it to a local cafe (Tandem in Meanwood) and try and make sense of it there.

I'm not sure whether it was because I'd read it before or if my brain was in better shape that day or if it was the change of location so I didn't get distracted by the tinternet but it suddenly began to make better sense to me. He's talking about the absence of jewellery that contains images of loved ones in the histories of photography though they have been written about in material culture terms. He then talks about their physical characteristics, how they are photography in motion and a physical trace of the people in the photographs - especially when hair is included in the jewellery along with the photograph and become talismanic in some way. Fascinating.

I think I am going to try the tactic of moving away from my desk when I am stuck with something - when it's something I can do away from my desk. Reading and thinking I don't need to be at my desk I could do that in another room in the house. I usually use commuting time to do reading.

But I think the biggest thing I've been doing this week is getting everything ready for my show Once and Now which opens officially upstairs at Kapow Coffee Thorntons Arcade this Thursday from 5pm-7pm and will be on til the end of the month. It was lovely to be able to afford to get them properly framed - and I am really pleased with the job North Leeds Framing did for me. I wanted them to be reminiscent of Victorian era mourning cards and have thick black borders and after advice and testing of various backing card colours I decided on the cream. Cream isn't normally a colour I'd consider as I am very wedded to black, white, grey, purple and shades thereof (the colours most associated with Victorian mourning customs) but I am very glad I was persuaded to try it as it really brought something to the prints - the bulk of them are printed on transparent medium either tracing paper or acetate so the colour of the backing paper really makes or breaks them.

I've been trying to write this post for most of this afternoon, along with some details to go with the the images in Kapow and I've really struggled compared to last week when it just seemed to flow much better. Though part of the reason last weeks post seemed so much easier to write was because I missed off the programmes/films watched/books read/exhibitions attended section.

Oh well - here's hoping the words and the comprehension flows more easily this week.

Programmes Films Watched:

Cousins M (writer,director,producer) 2018 Eyes of Orson Welles UK Dogwoof
An amazing film which more than once made me go ‘wow’ as the images contained in it were so stunning – it was the story of a man who knew Welles film work really well and who wanted to see through Orson's eyes by looking at his paintings and drawings. Split into different sections it covered aspects of his professional life – onscreen, onstage, on radio and his personal life interspersed with clips from his films and interviews. His daughter now in her 60’s also features along with views of his paintings/drawings of places and what they look like now. The soundtrack was a mix of traffic noise, Welles himself speaking, narrator speaking, conversation, or the sound and sight of an ink pen scratching on the surface of a piece of paper, some of the drawings/images were somehow animated to see how they were put together – some monochrome, some alive with colour but all expressive, revealing and joyous. Wonderful to watch. Really must watch his version of Macbeth that has been on the tellybox for ages.

Varda A, JR (directors) 2017 Faces/Places France Cine Tamaris

Absolutely enchanting and beautiful film which follows Adnes and JR deciding on a plan of driving around villages in his large format printing seaside van gogh studio style van, taking pictures of ordinary people and pasting them on walls – including a woman who is the last in a row of cottages lived in by miners with stories of their fathers hard and dangerous work in the mine,then onto a woman posing with a parasol saying how she found it difficult afterwards because she is a shy person and so many people came to see her photo pasted on a wall, farmers – arable with machines who does it all on his own proudly emblazoned on the side of his barn, chemical process workers in a big chemical plant – glorious to see fish pasted large on the side of the water tower (fish Agnes had taken pics of directed by JR as she has problems with her eyesight – the scene of the injection into her eyeball made me proper wince/flinch) chatting easily to people gathering for a picnic/photo session in an abandoned before being finished village, a picture of Agnes old now dead friend on a bunker abandoned on the beach, pics of her eyes and feet on the side of trains, goat farmers – one who burns off the horns of the goat and one who doesn’t – the one who doesn’t was better and favoured, an utterly glorious romp around the Louvre with JR pushing her in a wheelchair – a nod to a scene of one of her films, a pilgrimage to Cartier Bressons grave and 3 women upon the sides of shipping containers. Devoid of complicated art- just a really beautiful connection between Agnes, JR and the people they photographed and worked with – including between JR and his team. Completely feel good – asked why they did it, why not? And also to see where their imagination could take them.
Enchanting.  It was also a kind of friendship love story between her and him – especially when let down by Godard who also wore sunglasses all the time when he reveals his eyes to Agnes only and we see them blurred – same as her. Really heartwarming - left the cinema with a big smile on my face.

Elizabeth,E.,& Hart, J. (2004). Photographs Objects Histories on the Materiality of Images London:Routledge 

Slowly but surely slogging through this...see above

Exhibitions attended: