Monday, 30 March 2015

MA-Ness Week 12 - Portfolio Hand In Time, Batteries, In The Flesh and End of Term Symposium

This weeks post it note,back of envelope and bit of cardboard rescued from a thankfully mostly empty recycling bin because I'd written a couple of things on it as I didn't have any paper to hand and wanted to remember it. 
And yes that is a purloined Leeds College of Art post it note....
It seems a bit odd to be writing this even though a round up of the previous weeks work is part of my usual Monday working habit - odd because it was the end of term on Friday and I am now 'on holiday' though my head doesn't seem to be able to quite compute that, not least because I've got a few things college-wise booked in my diary this week and because if I'm honest I'm not very good at completely switching off and I am often thinking of either new ideas or things I've promised to do and forgotten or things along these lines plus I am not actually going anywhere on holiday so it doesn't really seem like a vacation as such - maybe it will next week.
But I did treat myself to several glasses of fizz on Friday night - not least because it was Friday but also because I was celebrating handing in my portfolio for the Practice and Personal Development Module - it was a hefty tome to carry in, I filled an A4 lever arch file with my musings, deliberations and examples of my work and it looked like this:

Portfolio - projects were linked together with black ribbon as a nod to the victorian mourning custom of threading black ribbon through underwear plus it was the last of the ribbon I bought to tie the wedding favours together when I got married 6 years ago

It's open at the page that that is where I put a copy of the quotes I have on my workroom wall that inspire me - quotes from Elliot Irwin, Kurt Vonnegut, Man Ray and my beloved John Waters whose wise words about obsession help keep me going.

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 you 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.' 

Wise words indeed. 

Also I am very mindful of the words of my tutor who had said to me in a tutorial some time ago 'things always take longer than you think' and I have been trying to bear that in mind since - by giving myself as much time as possible when doing things - I hate rushing and stressing so I gave myself plenty of time to put it together. I did some constructive procrastination too - I tidied up a couple of shelves,put some new stuff on the walls - prints and postcards I'd got from the very wonderful Drawn By Light exhibition at the Media Museum. If you haven't been and you can go - you must for it is very wonderful indeed.

Again this is on complete contrast to the undergraduate me who wasn't as organised and did everything at the last minute and so wasn't as happy or as comparatively chilled either. Oh the advantages of being older and wiser and knowing myself better and what ways I work better. 

Once again I am so glad I decided to use this blog as my research journal and haver got into such a regular habit of updating it as it was then relatively simple but longwinded to put together the portfolio - I wrote an overview of what I felt I have learned over the last two terms, made blog into a pdf and printed it out along with copies of the speeches and presentations I've made and then examples of the work - digital prints on different types of surfaces of both film and digital pictures, cyanotypes, prints on fabric and the different methods of hemming - PVA glue is a wondrous substance, the different subjects of my photoshoots - though all deal with death and loss in different ways and I even snuck in a Spongebob sticker. I love Spongebob - he never fails to make me smile. 

It took me most of Monday to sort everything into plastic wallets, and all of my workroom floor and surfaces to then put then into a sort of chronological order and to decide broadly what was in and what was out and it was a mix of successes and failures (I included my unsuccessful lumen prints for example as well as copies of the images on the surfaces I don't think look as good though I was still slightly tinkering with this up to leaving the house on Friday morning. 

Though once it was in the bag to hand in (and thankfully I didn't leave it on the bus - my husband did say to me - can you imagine if you left it on the bus, which led to me holding onto it tightly on the bus so I wouldn't do this) I didn't look at it again - I just handed it over and signed to say I had done so.

It felt so good to hand it in - and fingers crossed it'll do the job in terms of the necessary academic hoop jumping to get a good mark too. In some ways the mark isn't that important as I am still learning with or without it but in others ways it is really important on a personal level - I would love to get a good enough mark to get a distinction, so fingers crossed it'll be okay though I won't know til near the end of May.

But Wednesday was also almost a day of great sadness and wailing and gnashing of teeth as I took my favourite 35mm camera (generously given to me by a chum) with me into college so I could go to St George's Field afterwards and take some pictures.  It was quite a bright day and it was almost warm enough to sit and enjoy my sadnwich in its peaceful surroundings - I didn't sit still for too long though as I needed to get moving again to warm up.

My fave go to camera is a Minolta 7000 D - it's quite heavy and clunky but it is also wonderful and I love using it - you can have it fully/part manual or automatic but the last couple of times I'd used it I'd noticed the shutter was sticking occasionally and the rewind didn't sound too healthy either. 

At times on Wednesday it stuck altogether and I had to switch it on and off again and kind of waggle it to get it to work again...I didn't trust that it had rewound the film properly and so asked the ever helpful Mark at the Photoshop on North Lane in Headingley (where I get all my colour films developed and scanned) to open it in the dark and I wasn't sure whether or not there would be any pictures come out at all. They had though- phew!!! and a couple I am really pleased with and they may well find their way onto a cyanotype near you soon....

Mark had a look at the camera and so did one of the chaps from the West Yorkshire Cameras Shop (the one in the Corn Exchange) who fortuitously was also in Lento's having a coffee. Both said the same thing - the shutter did appear to be sticking and to get it repaired might not be worth it - unless the camera had great sentimental value as it would cost a minimum of £30 just to get it serviced plus any parts and labour and you can buy the bodies for around £20....even though I'm not very good at maths I can do that sum....even if it is the camera I took Martin Parr's portrait on......

The first thing both chaps asked me was when it had last had new batteries in it and as I'd only recently changed them (2 films ago) we all thought it couldn't be that as they were so new.

But thankfully - it was the fault of the batteries as although they were (relatively) new they were zinc chloride ones which apparently are pants for cameras and what you need are alkaline ones - swapped to new alkaline ones and hey presto camera works properly again - PHEW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I had no idea about the different kind of batteries but have learnt this lesson well now and will only be using alkaline from now on. Even in my not very demanding alarm clock...

Cutting fabric prints at home was a breeze compared to the cutting out I did at the MA Symposium with students on the same course from Salford Uni - the scissors I use at home are left handed ones (bought from John Lewis many many moons ago) and they are one of the best things I have ever bought and I guard them with my life and keep them only for fabric. The scissors in was using at college on Friday - when trying to create an artwork mostly from things we'd found in a skip were right handed ones and they were tortuous to use. I have a lot of the cheap ones from Ikea that are suitable for left or right handed people - might have to take a pair in as I don't want that discomfort again - though I'm not likely to be making things out of a skip again anytime soon.

Bits of it were really fun - we were split into groups and my fellow ma-ers in my group both have very different practices to mine (painting and performance/installation)and it was fun to bounce ideas off each other, find out a bit more about each other and different approaches and it is always fun if dusty and a bit smelly to skip dive for materials and it was really interesting to see what the other groups came up with but I didn't like that we were being filmed whilst we were working - even though the camera people kindly told me they wouldn't film me or would edit me out - people waving a stills camera at me is bad enough but a video camera makes me feel very anxious and self conscious and I clam up and want to hide.

One thing I did discover though was my reluctance to walk on artwork - even when invited to. Another group were making a book and invited us to walk on the pages going into it. This felt vaguely sacrilegious - more sacrilegious than I had done something actually sacrilegious in the eyes of the roman catholic church many years ago. I think this is going to give me much food for thought over the next few weeks.

The other thing is the feelings of reluctance to hand over some of the pieces I'd been working on and in some cases handing in digital images of the work instead and also that even thought the internet has enabled us to have images of things at our fingertips about how we still prefer to see or experience things in the flesh - or rather mostly we do. Though it does feck me off at gigs when a lot of the audience seem to prefer watching it through a fecking smartphone screen or back of digital camera....I have been known to take the occasional pic myself, but they are occasional as I want to fully immerse myself in what is going on. 

This was brought to mind by a chum posting on Facebook a link to an article about the Cadaver Synod with a copy of the painting by Jean Paul Laurens - you can read the article and see a copy of the painting here and I commented that I would love to see it in the flesh so to speak.

Though I wouldn't want to walk on it - even if invited to do so by the artist....

Also went to see Tales of Hoffman yesterday at the ever wonderful and one of the best cinemas ever The Hyde Park Picture House - it was a feast for the eyes and ears, amazing sets, costumes and dancing. The doll sequence was especially wonderful and made me wonder if Michael Clark, Trojan and Leigh Bowery had seen it when they were little as there were visual echoes of it in their stylings in the eighties. Truly wonderful stuff.

And last but not least - I have finally succeeded in making a lumen print - I did this on Saturday whilst catching up with the housework I'd been neglecting this term - the dusting has been done, kitchen and bathroom properly cleaned as opposed to just tickled over with a disinfectant wipe,clean throws put on the sofa and that kind of thing. It's not a very exciting image but there is something visible on the paper which hadn't really happened before so next plan now I've got a better handle on the technique is to make a more exciting image:

And massive thanks to my ever patient and supportive lovely husband who managed to salvage this blog post from the hell of blogger not liking word and so copying over html language that made it look funny when it was posted but not when it was in the preview pane.......

Note to self when copying from word - do it as plain text or else it'll bugger it all up....

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Ma-Ness Week 11 Printing, Cyanotyping, Thinking and Stuff

Not such a snappy title this week but a slightly fuller post it note
this weeks post it note on background of openend up envelope that I used to stop the desk getting marked when I was experimenting with paint mourning borders around prints.
This week I have been doing a lot of printing - images, this blog, screenshots of stuff I'm working on, and have just taken advantage of this lovely spring sunshine by doing some cyanotypes too - sadly neither of the lumen prints I tried have worked particularly well (but one day I will succeed at lumen prints!!) and presentation stuff for inclusion in my Practice and Personal Development Portfolio which needs handing in on Friday.

I've experimented with printing some of the same images on different types of surfaces - the cyanoptype format is one I am loving - both as a process as I love its unpredictable and proper old school nature,the inverting of the image on the computer and then printing it on acetate, discovering and creating new images when putting them away, but tracing paper is my favourite paper to print on digitally as it has a translucency to it that I find really appealing plus it is also the cheapest so it's easy to get a good idea of what an image will look like in a large scale format for comparative cheaps before you go for it sizewise or on really expensive paper.

Canvas is the surface I was really excited to try but was really disappointed with the results - I still like the images on it but as a chum said surface-wise it looks like the now mass produced prints you get in supermarkets and that's not the look I'm going for.

I've had less distractions and appointments this week and so have been able to concentrate more upon putting together my portfolio to hand in (PHEW!!!) - and it's been really interesting to look back over the last few weeks and the kind of work I've been making and how my approach to it both in terms of thinking about it and doing it has changed though part of me is still slightly angsty that I haven't been doing enough reading (though I did finish Count Arthur Strong's Memoirs which are brilliantly funny - I especially love his confusion re Robin Hood and Jack the Ripper and he posits that the painter Walter Sick might have been responsible for the killings in 1888 in Whitechapel...) but hopefully I shall get some more reading done over the easter vacation.

I keep thinking about dissertation topics and first of all I thought about the possibility of something about the use of human remains in contemporary fine artwork but as a chum pointed out that might mean having to at least mention Damien Hirst and he gets on my wick so I'd rather not so now I'm thinking more of the portrayal of death in photography - especially since a brief look round the Drawn By Light photography exhibition at the Media Museum yesterday morning led me to fall even more in love with the work of Harold Peach Robinson plus this would enable me to fit in some Barthes quotes nicely thereby fulfilling the theory requirement course-wise so this is looking more likely. It's a long time to dissertation hand in but I'd rather be ahead of myself than horribly behind and trying to do too many things at once....

I was at the Media Museum to hand in my entry for the Drawn By Light competition - I didn't think I would win but I am pleased in that I can now say I have had work on show at the Media Museum, mine was entry 49 and here is a pic of it awaiting being pinned up on the wall: mine is the one in the middle, if a photo could also convey smell you would also be able to smell the strong stench of piss and skunk that surrounded us at the top of the car park but I loved how mine and my husbands reflection looked in the mirror and so stopped and stooped to take a picture......

I might not have been doing much reading recently (aside from Count Arthur that is) but I have been doing a lot of looking and a lot of listening - looking wise I watched the film about Hockney that was on the BBC recently, and I loved it - there were a couple of bits that stood out for me when he was talking about photography - IIRC he said that a photo is taken in a split second and even if you only look at it for 4 seconds that is longer than it took to make and in some ways this is literally true but takes no account of the time it takes to set up the photograph, develop it, print it though I suppose in these virtually instantaneous digital days that is less of a concern than it used to be and Mr Hockney is much more technically advanced than I am - I bet he has a phone that does tinternet for instance, never mind instagram and what have you. I do have a digital camera and there is a camera on my phone which I use to take aide memoire type photos or when I'm trying to sneak taking an image....

The other thing he said was paintings take longer to make than it does to see them and again this is probably literally true and as I'm not a painter I'll take his word for it....he also said that cameras see surfaces but they don't see space and a fellow ma-er also quoted him as saying the view from a camera is 'the view from a paralysed cyclops for a split second' which is also referenced here which made me both chuckle and both kind of agree and disagree with. Again it is literally true I suppose but there have been lots of photographs which may well have been a fixed view of something but they in turn have me me change my view about something...but I am in danger of getting myself tied up in theoretical and philosophical knots here so I'll stop other than to say I do love Mr Hockney and I still have a postcard of his work that I bought as a teenager from the Whitworth many many moons ago 'We Two Boys Together Clinging'. It's quite battered now and smells slightly of the damp bedsit walls it's been blu-tacked to over the years but I still love it both as an object and as a painting.

I am an inveterate R4 listener and have been since I left home really I think initially it was because I was quite lonely and liked the sound of voices plus music radio tends to get on my nerves as they mostly don't play what I want to hear plus I would far rather hear John Humphries relate a tale of national woe than the false most likely drug induced bonhomie of a disc jockey first thing in the morning. Anyway I now can't remember the programmes I heard them in but these points stood out - there was an interview with Helen Sharmer (the astronaut) who was describing the docking with the space station and the relief on both sides of the airlock that it had worked and how that for her 'memories associated with emotion last the longest' and someone else said (but alas I cannot remember in what programme/context) that photography has been a major cultural change as it has changed the way we remember things, which has given me lots of food for thought - including is my love affair of (most) things victorian is because I can see photographs of the people of the time as opposed to paintings or drawings or writings?

Other food for thought this week has come from a chum sending me the link to this blog which is a fascinating and thought provoking read - and I am proud to say I am a morbidly curious person and would like to see more open-ness re human remains, burial sites etc - whilst still being as respectful as possible that is. And whilst I think he has a good point re the treatment of human remains as art in that it can be 'seriously weird or deviant' I would also argue that this isn't always the case plus when people have given their express permission for their remains to be used in such a way surely it is a way of carrying out their wishes.

The other blog post which I read this week but now can't find the link to was about the storing of digital information and what we are potentially losing as formats go out of fashion. The oldest camera I have got is a Kodak Vest Pocket from the 1920's which still works but I have a digital one from a few years ago which works on batteries and does take pictures but it is in effect useless as I can find no driver for it (and the only thing online I've been able to find for it are other people asking if anyone has any software for it - alas to no avail) and so I cannot take the pictures I've taken with it and it has no screen on the back. Though the very helpful and clever chap in the print room did say that MAcs have something called image capture (I am a pc using person and so unaware of what macs can and can't do - all I know is I find them unintuitive to use and had to get the chap in the library to come and show me how to get the mac I was using to print something..which he kindly did, he also had to fix the photocopier for me when the acetate I was copying onto jammed...) which may be able to get the images off it if we can find a cable to connect it with....

Unlike the latest lo-fi digital camera I bought last week - it was £6.99 and has a massive(!!!) 2.1 MEGA PIXEL capacity - it also comes complete with its own photoediting software and it also has a 1.5 inch preview screen and can hold up to 120 photos. It's aimed at children - well actually young girls who are into Monster High as it is emblazoned with logos and characters from it. I am looking forward to using it - if nothing else it should be a giggle.

What else - potential collaborations shaping up nicely, excited about going back to Media Museum for a proper in depth look round the exhibition and to finding out more about Mme Yevonde whose absolutely sumptuous and stunning colour images leapt out at me yesterday and made me go 'wow' as well as the lovely old black and white/sepia images by Harold Peach Robinson... and I wonder if the same gallery assistant will be on duty who saw me looking intently at one picture and said 'you're the gothic artist' from the Cultural Heritage event - it was very flattering to be remembered and we had a good but brief chat about our respective courses - she's doing an MA in Museum Studies and has just handed in her dissertation so fingers crossed both of us do okay in our respective assignments....

Other things learnt this week - cardboard stencils made from cereal packets (circle and coffin shapes) to paint cyanotype solution inside when prepping paper only work well once but then are no longer crisp around the edges so might need to get some made in plastic instead. PVA glue is going to be the way I hem my test fabric pieces - rolled hems are not for me and I am too heavy footed with a sewing machine, and I am so pleased with of my cyanotypes that I cannot bear to part with them so have taken photocopies of them to include in the portfolio to hand in instead.....I wonder what that says about me - I must point out it is not a reflection on the people who will be marking it and is entirely about my haptic possesiveness of objects.

Oh and brain knives - that is knives made for cutting fine slices of the brain so they can be microscopically examined are like very long very sharp palette knives...I got to hold one yesterday at a fascinating event at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery which looked at the way mental health and psychiatry was looked at around the time of the first world war. Fascinating.

Monday, 16 March 2015

MA-Ness Week 10 - Ongoing Deliberations Of A Happy Accident, Symposiums and Thinking.....

this weeks post it note -
found some yellow ones and thought I'd use those for a change

The eagle eyed amongst you may notice there aren't as many scribbles on this weeks post it notes and unlike the last couple of weeks when I wrote this blog post at the end of the actual week in which it took place I'm back to my more usual Monday. I've been both really busy am symposiumed (and if that isn't a word, it should be) out and also distracted by mundane everyday stuff like the fact that the boiler has gone on the blink and this is both inconvenient is also disruptive and potentially extremely expensive....oh well.

So I shall start with the development of a happy accident instead - whilst putting away the prints on top of the copies of them I'd made on acetate so I could use them as negatives for cyanotyping (as I have said before the irony of being a self proclaimed goth and lover of all things dark being reliant upon sunshine to create images is not lost on me) I put one away upside down and as I looked at it I realised that I loved how it looked (you can read about it here) and so I have been further developing this happy accident by deliberately placing the acetate copies on the original printed images in different ways and then photographing with a digital camera the results, cropping or enlarging the bits of the resultant overlaid images that I really like and then making them into prints and copying them onto acetate to make new cyanotypes with. But when it's been prime cyanotyping weather I've been inside listening to papers so I haven't made any yet....

first cyanotype of this image
example of overlaid and further inverted in photoshop version

But I've also been experimenting with these resultant images in photoshop, the image above started out as one my husband took of me a while back at the Hepworth on film which I scanned the negative of into the computer. I didn't have the scanner set quite like we normally do and I preferred the vividness of the scan I did though sadly I cannot replicate it for other scans as I'm not quite sure what I did.

Initially I converted it into a negative for a cyanotype by inverting it and upping the levels and used that to make the cyanotype on tracing paper on the top, but by relayering the acetate on the print and then inverting that image I made the bottom one. I also discovered that if you then played with inverting it again and again - what was originally a b+w image on b+w film becomes a kind of yellowy or blue colour.

Obviously it's blue as a cyanotype but it's only been electronic versions of b+w images that I've been messing with in photoshop...might then try and make some further cyanotypes with those or print the resultant prints on fabric or tracing paper - must do some more lumen prints too.

So last term I was angsting more about doing more reading than doing, this term I've been angsting that I've been doing more doing than reading but it is great to be doing more doing. Though of course with this weeks symposiums I haven't been doing much doing either - other than listening and thinking.

Am hoping to rectify this inbalance of doing this week though and fingers crossed there will be some lovely sunshine soon instead of this not very bright grey murk...I could balance the light box on top of boxes of cat food again but I prefer to do it and get better results with direct sunshine. One of my fellow ma-ers told me he'd bought a sunbed for cheaps off Ebay and could do a cyanotype in about 4 minutes. And as tempting as that is I a)haven't got the money for that at the moment even if it is cheaps and b) I like the slow contemplation and ability to go off and do other things that ordinary sunshine cyanotyping takes and c)no room to store one - house already looks a bit like Steptoes Yard (though I would love and make room for a human skeleton and a bear) and last but not least d) buying a sunbed would be a step far too far for this darkness loving goth......

So the symposiums I went to - the first was an afternoon in the Treehouse at York University. Organised by the British Art Research School it featured papers on the memorialisation of anglo indian royalty, the visual portrayal of suttee in visual culture, the Fawsley Family representation in heraldic terms, an analysis of the role of animals in art - or rather the lack of analysis and appreciation of the role of animals in the creation of art, an analysis of some of the work by James Thornhill and his possessions and the 2 papers which made the most impression on me: the depiction of death in late medieval funerary sculpture by Dr Christina Welch and an analysis of the relationship between modern spiritualism and sculpture by Michelle Foot.

They made an impression partly because of the obvious enthusiasm of the speakers for their subject and the engaging way in which they talked about it and used slides which showed various aspects of what they were talking about well and partly because of the subject matter. I am visually drawn to cadaveric emaciated representations of bodies in burial shrouds atop of graves and the reasons why this representation was chosen by and or for the deceased memorial, the different symbols within them, their massive expense and how and why they rose in and out of fashion. 'Transi Barbie' will stay with me for some time as will her description of the work she is doing with anatomical artist Eleanor Crook - and you can read about it here.

I'm not sure when I first read about the work of Harry Price into the alleged haunting of Borley Rectory but it was that that got me interested in spiritualism (to read about - I have never participated in a spiritualist session) and again its popularity and comparative decline and it was interesting to hear an overview of this and see images of a very striking sculpture featuring a woman medium and her veiled spirit guide by George Henry Paulin but sadly I have no images for that - the speaker was given special access to view it and I cannot find an image on the web but you can read about his other work here.

The second symposium was practice led research phd ones at Leeds University - there were 8 in total and some were really heavy going word/jargonwise and I both struggled to follow and to understand them. Plus a couple of the presenters committed what is a big no no for me - namely read out some of their slides, I don't like this as I don't find it very engaging as I can read something quicker than someone can read it out to me (though not necessarily understand it) and I found myself doodling more and more in my notepad - a sure sign I'm not completely engaged with something. And I found myself writing a poem too - something I have not done in age, it needs a bit of work til I feel able to share it though.

I'm not sure how much of this was the presentation skills of the presenter or my misunderstanding/un-understanding of what they were saying, but there were a few good bits that stood out - Louise Atkinson's overview of her most recent curatorial projects, John Rooneys research into his Journeys on the A664 (which included pictures of the orange buses on my childhood and reminiscences on my part about Manchester...)

and most local Adam Stone's Site Orientated Investigation which included tantalising details and glimpses behind the scenes at the Merrion Centre (which also gave me the opportunity to see a copy of the Merrion Centre 50th birthday book with my name in it - though it contains none of the photographs I took though hopefully some will figure in the upcoming a celebratory commercial document I knew they probably wouldn't be interested in my uncommercial photography style but they used the phrases 'we will pay you whether we use the images or not' and 'you retain full copyright' plus it was worth it for a nose about behind the scenes though sadly I couldn't persuade them to let me into the old Odeon cinema...) there were also intriguing images by Fillipa Dobson and Jo McGonigal. It also gave me food for thought as to whether or not to pursue the research led phd route myself.....but am really getting ahead of myself there as need to get my MA first.

And then Friday was the most enjoyable of the symposiums (though of course you could just be forgiven for thinking that that is entirely institutional favouritism on my part - but it wasn't) namely the one at Leeds College of Art on The Process Continues which included presentations which looked at the teaching of art and creation of undergraduate art syllabi, the work of Tom Hudson in Brazil which included footage of a person being in/being an art work whilst smoking a fag (oh the days of being to smoke on the job) an overview of the National Arts Education Archive, Writing As Archive, and my two favourite presentations - Embodied Dreaming In The Archive by Sheila Gaffney in which she talked about the work she created and the inspiration for it when she was artist in residence at Cliffe Castle and which looked at how memories can be made tangible. My other favourite was Personal Archives and Oral History by Paul Bennett Todd - beautiful photographs of objects treasured by his grandfather which he curated after his death and words about those objects and what they meant. Both were heartfelt, revealing, moving and inspirational.

All of which is giving me (as ever) much food for thought - in terms of the work I do, how I present it, how I explain it to others, what form it takes, and how much to deliberately reveal of myself and how much you unintentionally reveal too...and how I've still not rearranged the archive visits I've been planning (I was beset with abcess related toothache and tooth removal and so had to cancel my visits) and that must be top of my to do lists for tomorrow.

Other thoughts occurring to me are to do with coincidence - namely last week when my fellow ma-ers were doing their presentations one of patterns inspired by urban graffiti made me think of some of the designs revealed at the 1951 Festival Of Britain as they share a similar liveliness and optimism and both are lovely and as a throwaway remark I said I was a teeny bit obsessed with Skylon. Because I am and you can see images of it here.  And then another fellow ma-er talked of his childhood and his memories of Skylon and its influence upon his sculptural work - I am envious of his experience of Skylon in the flesh as it were. What a fabulous thing it was.

The other thing I've been thinking about (again thanks to a fellow ma-er) is plumbers block or rather the idea that only artists and writers get a block as people like plumbers or nurses don't have the luxury of developing a block and just have to slog on through and whilst I think that's partly true I also think people can fall out of interest with their job (and some people never have the luxury of having a job they are enamoured with to begin with) and so slogging through is what you have to do. I have got into a much better more productive habit of starting work (and I have lots to do over the next few days as it is portfolio hand in time in couple of weeks) and keeping notes and planning to do work but today I have really struggled with it - it took me til after 3pm to get settled to do this and it's taken me over 4 hours to write - as I have been so distracted by non art other stuff going on which is hopefully resolved now....

And if you've got this far - thank you.....


Monday, 9 March 2015

MA-Ness Week 9 and a half - Happy Accidents, Experiments in Hemming and Curating-Ness

I try to be organised and get things done in a timely and sensible fashion eg going to post office on same day as going to supermarket as the post office is on the way and that kind of thing hence today when I'd finished ironing my husbands work shirts I left the iron plugged in and had a quick experiment at using wondaweb or rather generic instant hemming material from local shops habadashery section and magic tape as hemming device on the silk organza I did some practice prints on last week.

Getting ready to cut and iron 

end result on sample piece from edge of test piece
Tis fiddly stuff but so far the wondaweb/generic instant hemming material is winning as is it the least visible, most flexible and least fraying - but of course it does mean that I will need to account for this when printing images so as to leave a big enough edge around images so it can be hemmed this way. It's still slightly fiddly but I think it will be better for both my sanity and fingers than trying to hem it either by hand or by machine.


Happy Accidental Layering - please ignore reflection of light bulb....
I was putting some of the images I've been using for cyanotyping away last week in A4 plastic wallets in a folder when the image I had taken of a chum dressed in a Marie Antoinette inspired costume applying lipstick and by accident I put the see through acetate the other way round on top of the original image and this created another image which I love the look of and I hope to make another cyanotype of it soon - when it stops raining that is and I get to a photocopier to copy it onto acetate. You can just about see his ghost face either side of the image. Can't wait to get started on that one......

And last but not least for week 9 and a half thoughts on curating-ness, went to see an exhibition at the White Cloth Gallery on Saturday featuring photographs of urban exploration by emerging photographers. Some of the individual images were beautiful - especially ones of abandoned factories where nature was reclaiming the old machinery and winding green tendrils round no longer used wheels and cogs by Jemma Roe, I also especially loved the one by Joe Stenson of an autopsy table and the one of a skull diagram and old siemens manual by George McConville but I suspect I loved these because of their subject matter as opposed to their actual aestetic. It got me to thinking about the overall space and how it had been filled - it's not quite the traditional white gallery space as it has columns and windows in places you might not expect and it is also a bar that serves food so there are sofas and tables and chairs in one of the rooms. Not all the pictures were the same size, the bulk were in the same black with cream mount frames though and as far as I could make out they weren't put up in a all by one artist first or all one location together. It made me think about how I would have put them up in the same space - if finances weren't a factor then I would have have had a few of the images blown up massively and put alone on main walls and then filled the surrounding walls with a victorian style salon approach of everything on wall at once. But once again it got me thinking about context - not just the context in which images are made and then how you show them......    

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Ma-Ness Week 9 Ongoing Adventures of Cyanotyping, Printing On Fabric, Potential Collaborations, Showing and Accidental Delete

this weeks post it notes
 Once again in attempt to both get ahead and keep up with myself I find myself typing this ahead of my usual Monday afternoon schedule, and I have had so much to think about this week - have been doing more cyanotyping and am reet pleased with both the process and the results and getting a bit more practiced each time I do it - both in terms of judging when it is ready, where best to place the acetate, and where the best and strongest sun is in the house at particular times and what kind of paper gives the best results. 

Tracing paper is still gorgeous but fiendishly tricky, water colour is uniformly good and reliable, this weeks piece on newsprint worked when last weeks didn't - suspect that was due to taking it out of the sun too soon and the leftover print from the the colour digital printing I had done last week has worked but also gone a funny kind of greeny colour - in a way I like but am not sure if it is reproducable.

10.15am is the optimum time in the kitchen to start one off now - plus I bought a bigger frame so I can do now do 2 A4 sizes at a time but I need to keep a slightly closer eye on it so that as the sun moves round no bit of it goes into shadow - I can do 1 A4 on top of the boiler, and up to 3 on the floor in the dining room which by 12 can be increased to 4 - depending on how strong the sunlight is - I can get up to 8 done a day. But the light isn't full on enough downstairs by 2pm which means I have to bring them upstairs for the last blast til about 2.45pm when it's moved on...

Lucia helping keep an eye on things for me
This process is also done under the supervision and assistance of my feline assistant Lucia who likes to keep an eye on things for me....and make sure that she is represented in almost all of my photographic work by being the fluffiest of cats and her hair features and has to be photoshopped out of almost every single scanned negative - in spite of my constantly wiping both scanner bed and film. But I not only have to make sure the sun hasn't moved round enough for them to go back into shadow but also to check that either she or Mapp haven't decided to take up residence on them. Cats are according to a chum 'heat seeking missiles in fur' and as it begins to warm up weather-wise I suspect I will have to increasingly guard against feline intervention.

End result of cyanotype in process in top left of above image- husband being all proper photographer on Filey Beach last February 
As I've said before the irony of a goth being reliant upon a sun (well uv and sunlight has strongest and best amount of uv) reliant process is not lost on me. I am also loving the fact that it is for me a real mix of 19th,20th and 21st century processes - in that the cyanotype process itself was popularised in the 19th century, I am using film which was popularised in the 20th and then the copying of the scanned image which has been inverted in photoshop and printed and copied onto acetate is a late 20th and early 21st century process - how is that for a time encompassing way to do things?
It is also a defiantly old school not completely uniformly repeatable art form which in this age of mechanical reproduction makes me smile. It also makes the bathroom and the back bedroom aka my workroom look like a strange laundry where only blue and white things get washed...and it makes you slow down and contemplate as it is not a speedy process at all..... 

I've also been experimenting with printing my images onto fabric - in this case silk organza as it has exactly the floaty ethereal other worldly look and feel I want, sadly it is also rather expensive (test prints cost nearly £6) and also rather fiddly to hem and I am going to have to experiment with different ways of sealing the edges against fraying - hemming by hand as I don't trust my sewing machine or my rudimentary sewing machine skills to sew a fine enough and straight line by machine, using magic tape on the edges, bondaweb or wundaweb and a solution of painted on pva glue....will try all of these soon and report back on their results..... and note to self - sort out white balance on digital camera as the fabric is a lovely shade of grey not yellow as this picture would have you believe.   

inverted memorial image for Henry next to gravestone close up on silk
So what other things have I been contemplating this week aside form a home production line of cyanotypes? well the memories provoked by noise after watching a documentary about Joy Division on BBC4 over the weekend as it featured not only one of my favourite bands, and lots of old footage of my home town but (almost) best of all actual noise of a old fashioned drop record and needle down record player.

And that sound took me right back to when I was given my first record player and the anticipation of what sound would come out of the tinny little speakers after the click, drop and connecting scratch and hiss and how although most record players with that mechanism make the same initial mechanical noises the noise that they then make is entirely dependant upon whatever record the person using it chose to play and whatever music the artist and producer created.

Same as a camera really - they all make a similar noise (even if that noise nowadays is a sound effect on a mobile phone as opposed to an actual shutter) and yet how different is each picture that comes out afterwards.

Plus it made me wonder about noises that I love and don't hear very often anymore except in my memory - record players that drop both disc and needle (the turntable we have is of the kind where you put the arm down yourself) the sound of Mum's metal knitting needles clacking (must record them if I get chance) and the sound of the door into my grandparents kitchen which had a squeak all its own - it'll have been long since oiled or sent to a skip though by now.... 

Project-wise - got a provisional yes from osteoarchaeologist to working together and meeting together next week to discuss potential plans - tremendously excited about this, got a yes from Kirkstall Arts Trail to being one of the artists work on show (YES!!!!! - very excited about that too)but got a no from the anatomy dept of the Medical School to my asking for an interview to discuss how the use of anatomy and perception of it has changed over the years - oh well, at least I got a reply of no rather than no reply at all.

Other things on my mind this week - the death of the lovely Leonard Nimoy who as the delectable Spock formed a bit part of my childhood died and his last tweet is worth repeating:

Life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had but not preserved, except in memory. 

RIP Mr Nimoy.

What else is preying on my mind this week - my clumsiness at accidentally deleting things off my memory stick - thankfully copies rather than originals but even so, it made me squink with anxiety when I realised I'd done it and because it was off my memory stick it was just deleted straight away as opposed to being sent to the recycling bin where I could have refound them...note to self - breathe and check before pressing buttons (it's like that old dressmaking adage - measure twice, cut once), the other thing I'm thinking of is how comparatively little reading I've done this week compared to doing and how hopefully that will all even itself up over the term but as a result of feeling bad of not doing enough reading I made myself go to the Brotherton to do some reading and absorb some it's lovely 1930's book soaked art deco gorgeousness, only to find it full of chattering students clattering away on laptops and bloody mobile phones with wires trailing so that they could charge up said items for free on uni paid for leccy.

Hopefully it'll quieten down a bit when term ends....the Art College Library is lovely in terms of the books it has, the extremely helpful and knowledgeable staff but it is also quite noisy and like an oven. Makes you feel like you're having a hot flush all the time which is not pleasant.

Also voodoo lillies came to my attention this week - a chance hearing of the phrase on R4 led to me looking them up and they are quite beautiful looking plants that stink of rotting flesh - I want to find one now...and see if they are as bad as described and if they are, could I incorporate them into my work somehow..........

The other thing that is on my mind this week is a conversation I had a with a chum in which I said I am totally owning goth cliche and (mostly) getting away with it (eg my putting of images of my beloved Peter Cushing in presentations) and she said it isn't cliche if you love it which I do and also in Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd August says to Lily on page 208 of the 2004 edition by Headline Books 'Actually, you can be bad at something Lily, but if you love doing it, that will be enough' and that is giving me a lot of succour and optimism in defeating the ever present but getting slowly but surely quieter and less insistent Captain Paranoia and this can only be a good thing.

....unless of course I go too far the other way....

Other exciting things are - had another guest blog post published on Unofficial Britain about my love of victorian grave poetry and you can read it here and I might have thought of a topic for my dissertation. Need to run it past my tutor first though.

So it's a mix of all go, all slow as the other joy of cyanotype is you can't rush it and it forces you to slow down and ongoing lots of exciting, thought provoking studies and opportunities...and long may that continue.