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.....


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