Monday, 20 April 2015

MA-Ness Term 3 Week 1 - Lumen Adventures, Do Things Look Better In Colour and Reading

another purloined college of art post it note

Well back to college with a bang this morning - lectures as such don't start again for me til the end of the week but I thought I'd go in and get some printing and acetate copying done and the computer drop in room was packed - though thankfully there was one spare desk/computer so I was able to get all the stuff done I wanted to - namely copies of lumen prints I'd been experimenting with in photoshop.

I never thought I'd see the day when I began using photoshop so casually.  Partly because it is a potentially expensive piece of software and I would rather use more open source more easily available image manipulation software (I do still use the very simple but gets the basic job done Microsoft Viewer that comes as part of the Windows operating system so at least once you can afford a windows computer you have no further outlay - other than your leccy bill that is) but also because I think it can make people lazy - I often hear people say 'oh, it's not quite straight - oh well I'll sort that in post production' and I think 'NO - why not just take a more straight picture in the first place?'

But this probably also has lots to do with the way I take photos - my enjoyment (and frustration) is in taking or making the picture in the first place - not beggaring about with it afterwards on the computer aside from maybe a bit of cropping and brightness/contrast adjusting. I could think of nothing more boring than slowly editing an image - though using it to create a completely new image is fine (as opposed to correcting mistakes that could have easily been avoided with a bit more care in the first place) and what is especially good at in a way the basic microsoft viewer isn't.

But all this justification is a long winded way of saying I've been using photoshop a lot more recently - partly to get images ready for printing on fabric on the big fabric printers at college which need files in a v specific format and size and also to invert images to make them into negatives for printing onto acetate to make cyanotypes with.

Anyway I finally made a lumen print I was happy with HURRAH !!!! I then took a colour digital print of it as without fixing it will change and deteriorate over time (though to guard against that it is now in a plastic wallet covered with paper and kept in a folder out of direct sunlight) and then using photoshop I made it into an inverted b+w negative for cyanotyping. My husband keeps urging me to fix it but I love the fact that it is so fragile and so alive still - even if that life will ultimately lead to it potentially disappearing - I'm a fan of deliberate photographic decay.

I've also had a go at flipping images along the horizontal (one of my pieces I'm working with most at the moment is an image of angel from the top of a grave in the victorian part of Cleethorpes Cemetery - and I want to try and create a piece where you will walk between angels and this is now nearer realisation as I now have copies of the same angel but each pointing in a different direction) and adding a copyright notice too - this is a very crude example but I will work on it making it more to my liking - in terms of size and placement and text but I was getting anxious about putting images on the tinternet in case they get used without my permission (and payment!!) in places - and this is a small step to stop that happening - though of course someone else with better photoshop skills than me could easily take that watermark back off again I'm sure......   

I'm really pleased with how the lumen print now looks like its own ghostly x ray cousin though and will be working on this process more - this one is made from bits from an easter decoration I got for half price on Easter Sunday when I was walking back from having had a wonderful monochrome Hitchcock and Farley Granger fix at the ever wonderful Hyde Park Picture House.

 On Saturday I went for a walk round on Ilkley Moor and took photographs on colour and black and white film - and am chuffed with how they turned out - though a picture of some graffitti showing a very long hand drawn cock in yellow chalk which I took in b+w looks much better in the colour film version taken by my husband. It's a rare occasion when I say something looks better in colour as my usual mantra is 'everything looks better in black and white' but on this occasion I am happy to be proved wrong.

And along with taking pictures I also picked up bits of dead fern, fallen leaves and other bits of leafy detritus to make a site specific lumen print of Ilkley Moor - and depending on how that turns out I might make it into its own ghostly x ray cousin too.

Going back to my post it note - I've also been a right girly swot this week as in I have actually done a strengths,weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis of where I'm at practice-wise at the moment. It helped concentrate and organise my thoughts as well as remind me that I am still beyond glad not to be in that corporate soul sucking business world where business planning tools like that were used every day. Business speak - well any kind of jargon gets right on my tits frankly but some more than others and I dread being subsumed by it and using it without noticing but this can also lead to my not using approaches or techniques that could be very useful so it's something for me to watch both for and against in future. I mustn't let my initial dislike of something get in the way of its usefulness. 

I've also tried to make lists of all the projects I'm working on at the moment - where I'm up to with each one and what still remains to be done. I've filled out a couple of expression of interest forms (Kirkstall Arts Trail and Love Arts Trail) and also got a new list of images to get printed on glossy paper (though I think tracing paper will be hard to beat for a floaty ethereal look)and on adhesive too as I have some images I'd like to transfer to grave candles.

The other lovely thing I did last week was pick up a book again!! after feeling like I hadn't looked at one properly for weeks (though I had read a couple of books of wonderfully heartwarming and funny essays by David Sedaris and finished Still Alice for WI Book Club - not overly impressed with that one to be honest but here isn't the place to discuss it really) and I finally finished two and took them back to the library - one was about photographs not taken, one was about Baudrillard (not sure he's entirely my cup of tea though I like some of his ideas and approaches) and the very beautiful catalogue from the Drawn By Light exhibition at the Media Museum.

It really is a thing of beauty and wonderment and there are many gorgeous sumptuous images contained therein as well as some thought provoking bittersweet images too and I now have a whole new list of photographers to find out more about though top of the list along with Henry Peach Robinson and Fred Holland Day. It also includes a v handy easy to understand list of the different kinds of photographic prints with an explanation of which is which - a boon for someone like me who is an intuitive as opposed to technically knowledgeable photographer.

Along with lumen prints I also with the help of my ever patient, supportive and technically more competent than I am on a computer husband got pictures off my phone's micro sd card by using an sd adapter card device. I know how to use an ordinary sd card and how to get the images off it (the images in this blog post originally came off an sd card) but for some reason I failed to read the words ADAPTOR on the sd card adaptor in the drawer where things like the mp3 player cable is kept. DOH!!! For some reason although I looked at it a few times my brain just did not register the word ADAPTOR on it - I thought it was just the spare sd card but I've learnt that lesson now and have since made some acetates from images I took at the Whitworth the other week. It's a v basic camera phone but it's handy and I'm pleased with the shadowy self portrait images I've got and intend to make cyanotypes of them shortly.

I showed a portfolio of A3 size tracing paper images to some chums on Friday night and got very positive feedback from them - which was very gratifying to hear. Think I'll also take them into college for feedback from my fellow ma-ers at some point too. It's still quite a scarey thing sharing 'art' photos as opposed to 'just snaps of stuff' on Facebook when it's good to get likes but as they're almost invariably of either of my cats looking cute or the foxcubs down the bottom of the garden I'm emotionally invested in them in an entirely different way. One chum said that the 'art photos' were noticeably such because of the process behind them (almost all were film in origin before being digitally printed or made into cyanotypes) and because they are considered as opposed to just 'snapped' for in effect free on an sd card that quality of them shines through.....but part of me also is thinking these people are my chums and so might temper their criticism accordingly and so not give me the completely honest and constructive criticism I (think) I want.

Mmm as ever - much food for thought...and I'd best crack on with sorting out my printing from this morning.....  

Monday, 13 April 2015

Ma -Ness Week 14 or should I stop counting as it's officially the holidays......forms, exhibitions and deadlines......

this weeks post it note and notebook
I am a bit of a notebook junkie and so always carry one round with me in my bag (at the moment this is a supermarket own label one which is a moleskin wannabe complete with pocket at the back and an elastic enclosure.) I also have different notebooks for different different books I'm reading (and now all labelled on the outside with what books are noted within so I can find them theory....) and then there are notebooks dotted around the house - this one normally lives in the kitchen and is used for shopping lists but I had taken it into the living room so I could write down things whilst they were fresh in my mind.

They can be a mix of to do lists, shopping lists, inspirations, notes from others and that kind of thing - I like notebooks best with a spiral binding or an elasticated closure and I prefer them to be lined too - I do use plain papered notebooks too - but I use those to stick pictures in and so they become photo albums as opposed to notebooks.

It's been really lovely having a week away from doing things of a collegey nature - caught up with housework, tidied my wardrobe out a bit, have given myself the luxury of lying on the sofa just fecking about on the laptop, catching up with chums, going to the newly refurbished Whitworth to see the Cornelia Parker exhibition and taking lots of pictures on my phone camera, finally making it to a WI committee meeting and last but not least reading two David Sedaris books - When You Are Engulfed In Flames and Me Talk Pretty One Day - both of which made me laugh out loud at times.

As you can see the post it note which lives next to the computer is fairly blank The Kirkstall Art form note on the notepaper is underlined because I forgot to write the deadline in my diary/do a reminder on my phone and so it was only thanks to a reminder email that I remembered to do it in time - so learning point there: write deadlines in diary as well so you don't forget!!

Have also made the deadline for expressions of interest to the Love Arts Festival too, signed up for a conference at Sunderland University and done two lots of washing and made tonights dinner - so it feels like the lovely days of doing feck all last week are already far away but it's all positive exciting stuff so am not complaining.

I think it did me good to consciously take some time out though - and one of the things I want to get better at this coming term is a better work/life/study balance and making time for the gym and catching up with people and most importantly DOING NOTHING for a bit is going to be high on my list of things to to achieve this term.

So alongside with (hopefully) learning lesson of putting deadlines in diary (I use a paper diary which is purple and fastened close with an elasticated piece of black ruffled ribbon of the kind I used when I made a veil to wear at a friends funeral - I like it because it looks vaguely victorian funeral to me but a chum said this week it also made her think of a garter which made me smile too) I am hopefully also learning the lesson of DOING NOTHING occasionally. It's good for the soul, but equally it's good for me to have goals and structures and I am still finding the do social media on tablet in bed before I get up and get dressed prior to sitting down to work at main computer approach more productive as I am getting less distracted by online stuff - though of course if it wasn't for being online I wouldn't hear of half the things I get involved with or do. I'm also a big believer in mailing lists - have heard of loads of stuff just by signing up for mailing lists.

So lessons like writing stuff down aside (as opposed to trying to keep it all in my head - which doesn't work nearly as well as my brain is like a sieve at the moment but it does mean I need to look at my diary and lists or else I won't remember either) what else have I been up to? Well in spite of it being good bright prime cyanotyping weather I haven't done any - though I have got some acetates to use as negatives but it looks like we're in for some good weather over the next few days so I hope to do some more over the next few days.

But I did take some photographs on my phone camera at the Whitworth and at Manchester Museum on Saturday (the Easter Island head exhibition was interesting but there was mention of how the heads had been mentioned in popular culture but I couldn't see any mention of Squidwards' house which would be a terrible oversight if that were the case - unless for copyright reasons it couldn't be included) and I hope to get them off the micro sd card later - I was especially intrigued by the shadows cast on the walls by the single light bulb source in Cold Dark Matter:An Exploded View and the remains of bits of objects. I used these to take a series of shadow based self portraits which I hope to make into cyanotypes.

I am not comfortable in front of the lens and if I'm honest am occasionally  uncomfortable behind it too, but I like taking self portraits either in shop windows, water sources, shadows and that kind of thing - I like the shapes they make and the fact that they are 'kinder' than traditional photographic self portraits as they don't show the things I don't like about my appearance in such sharp close up or relief and I can continue in my belief that I look okay as the reality of my not looking okay which close ups and photographs throw into such sharp unavoidable relief is avoided that way.
Which makes me think of the verse from the book of Ecclesiastes 'vanity, vanity, all is vanity'.....

Anyway back to the Cornelia Parker show - I really liked the mix of humour, challenge, physical presence of the works themselves and the way they were presented. I especially enjoyed Cold Dark Matter because I liked the light, I like objects and it was interesting to see what bits had recognisably survived and what had not and how it had changed and the way it moved slightly as people walked past - have decided I prefer things to have a slight bit of movement about them - hence my current preference for printing on tracing paper and hanging by bulldog clips as the images then have a bit of movement about them and I love that she persuaded the British Army to help her - there were also pieces made with help by HMRC and Greater Manchester Police - a sawn up sawn off shotgun which made me smile. I find it fascinating that institutions not known for their creativity have been up for collaborations like this but along with the smiling was bittersweet poignancy and repurposing too - the bullets melted down and made into wire and used to make grids and pictures, the use of her own blood and the rorshach butterfly like pictures made from dissolved pornographic tapes. 

All of her work made me smile and made me envious of her incredible powers of persuasion too. The War Room - the walls hung camouflage tent like with what is left behind when the poppy petals are stamped out was especially moving. It makes me want to go back and have another look round when it's not quite so busy - though it was lovely to see so many people there.

Plus it was a lovely walk down memory lane going to the Whitworth too - that was the gallery just up the road from the college where I did my A levels and it was interesting to see how it and the surrounding area had changed and equally how much of it has stayed the same. It was also lovely to see artworks by William Blake, Peter Blake and David Hockney which I had bought postcards of many many moons ago - though it is somewhat of a shock that a 25p postcard is now 80p but I suppose that's inflation for you....

Other works which made me stop and stare were the water piece by Cai Guo Qiang - very contemplative and if I'm completely honest it also made me want to have a paddle...and an utterly incredible portrait by Bernadine Gompertz of Heinrich Wilheim Ernst which was made out of hair on silk - the patience and embroidery skill needed to make that made me breathless - utterly incredible and when must it have been done? surely at the height of summer when the sunlight was its strongest as the thought of doing that in the evening by candlelight gives me a headache and eyestrain just thinking about it.... you can see a picture of the image here and it's really interesting to think it is made out of human hair. Making things out of human hair was not at all unusual or regarded with an 'uck' factor in victorian times. Whereas I suspect if you said you were going to use it today as a medium some people would be squicked out by it - in spite of the popularity of human hair extensions.....

Also on my list was a bit of a to do list - which I've done almost all of bar one email, and I need to fill in my diary too but the other note is with regard to bulldog clips - so far I've only seen them used to hang pictures by being clipped onto the pictures corner and then the silver arms lifted up and threaded with fishing wire/string and hung or pinned to the wall but this was cord strung across the gallery with the bulldog clips placed over the top of and the pictures then placed in the grip of the bulldog clips. It reminded me of that stuff that was very popular for hanging xmas cards in my childhood - namely red or green striped very thin string and little red plastic pegs - the gallery version was much more robust though unlike the xmas card version which collapsed at the slightest breath or slightest closure of a door. I really liked it as a way to hang images and so hope to use it myself soon.

Well I think that's enough for today - going to ease myself back in gently as it were, hoping to catch nup on some overdue reading this week and I may even make some more cyanotypes....  

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

MA-Ness Week 13 - Archive Visit, Tutorial, Laibach, Filmy Goodness and Finally Relax.....

this weeks post it note and ticket

So term officially ended on 27.3.15 but I didn't feel like it had ended for me til Thursday 2nd April as I was still doing lots of collegy stuff - had a visit to Bradford University to look at a collection of condolence letters from the 1920's and 1950's, a tutorial and lots of sorting out and then finally on Thursday it was long lie in time and just catching up with myself - or rather catching up with what felt like terribly overdue housework - not quite a deep spring clean but certainly deeper than a quick wipe round with a disinfectant cloth which is all I had been doing for the last few weeks and clearing the washing basket too. 

This was followed by a weekend of gig going - went to see Laibach on Good Friday and very marvellous they were too, and three films at what is probably the best cinema in the world namely The Hyde Park Picture House and you can see what they've got on here. I saw A Matter Of Life And Death - one of my all time favourite films - I fell in love with the giant staircase and the somewhat camp and dandified french aristocrat who lost his head when I first saw it as a child and it was the second Powell and Pressburger work I'd seen in a week. Strangers On A Train is a monochrome work of wonderful by Hitchcock - from the opening scenes focusing on the two main characters shoes, the depiction of madness and the somewhat frank but wonderful bloodthirstyness of the sentators youngest daughter and last but not least I Am Big Bird - a documentary about the man behind/inside Big Bird and Oscar The Grouch from Sesame Street - I adored Oscar when I was little and even had a copy of a record he made called I Love Trash and it was a beautiful heart warming life affirming film and made me remember how much I loved Sesame Street as a child - I adored The Count and the Cookie Monster and Bert. Wonderful film making.

 And two of those films made me tear up - I'll leave you to guess which one didn't and the clue is it featured an engraved cigarette lighter, trains, tennis and the very beautiful Farley Granger and equally delicious Leo G Carroll.....

One of the things I included in my portfolio hand in - which I am still feeling surprisingly calm felt good to put it together as it gave me a good overview as to what I've been up to, what I hope still to get up to and it was good to meet with my tutor on Wednesday and do a kind of term overview and plan for next term too - though it seems that next term is much more left to own devices than the previous two and if I've read the course details correctly online then there isn't anything to hand in either until December when it's dissertation hand in time.

This is also part of the reason why I am doing a blog post in 'holiday time' as I want to stay in the productive habits I've got into over the last few weeks but whilst also achieving a slightly better balance with other things like proper exercise (as opposed to just walking to and from college, the cinema and occasionally into town) and making healthier more interesting meals - there have been a lot of 'kiddie' type teas this term ie oven chips, fish fingers and the like and whilst they are tasty they are not the healthiest things to live on long term...hopefully I'll manage a better balance of these things this term and I think the fact that the weather seems to have turned/days got longer daylight-wise might also help with this.

So back to what is on the note - inspiring quotes - well more or less covered that in last weeks post, though it was copy and pasting them from the word doc into this post that proved really fecking difficult as it cocked up all the settings and made it so that although the text was perfectly legible in the create post window, it was invisible and illegible in the view actual blog page window - ARGH!!!!!!!!!! A bit of googling made me realise what the problem might be but not a way to fix it but then my lovely ever clever computery whizz kid husband came home and showed me how to paste and copy using plain text and huzzah it worked. This along with taking a screenshot of powerpoint slides may well just be two of the most useful computer related things I have ever learnt.

There's two phrases on there which I wrote down because I liked 'forensic mental' and 'civic mental' which both featured in Louis Theroux's documentaries on BBC4 last week which saw him interviewing patients and staff at a mental hospital - he was interviewing people who had been found 'not guilty by reason of insanity' and who had been sent there as opposed to prison. It was a thought provoking and intriguing couple of hours which at times made for uncomfortable viewing but I really like the way he interviews people and the way he seems to treat all with respect and dignity.

A couple of months ago I was a speaker at a Cultural Heritage Show and Tell Event at Leeds Museum and also there was one of the archivists from Bradford University Library and she told me that she was in the process of cataloguing the condolence letters related to Dmitrije Mitrinowitz who you can read about  here and would I like to see them? Yes was my immediate answer - partly because I thought they would be inspiring - they were and partly because browsing about in an archive is one of my favourite things to do and I wasn't disappointed - they were a delight - they looked and smelled of old, had worn creases, were written in ink - one in a kind of dip in the ink letter as it was black and then grey and then black again within paragraphs, or typed on beautifully embossed letterheaded paper, had double lined envelopes, some were written on traditional black bordered mourning stationery, there were telegrams, stamps from around the world,  letters that opened like pages in books. letters from book sellers thanking his widow for all the trade he had given them, photographs, postcards, and condolences from all different kinds of religious leaders but the one thing they all had in common was the very heart felt sentiments of affection for the deceased and offers of help for his widow.  

They were very inspiring - both in terms of the way they looked and they way they smelled, plus the special collection unit itself is way down in the bowels of the Joseph Priestley library and it was a delight to be away from screens, noise and just cloistered away for a few quiet hours just soaking them up. They have given me ideas for new types of cyanotypes and also I want to experiment with different ways of artificially aging my ever watch this space for progress.....

Along with filmy goodness this week there has also been noisy goodness in the form of a Laibach gig at Manchester Academy. I was a bit anxious as I had not been to a Laibach gig before and wasn't sure what to expect - I didn't think they'd pull the trick of letting off military strength teargas like they apparently did at one of their gigs a few years ago but as they walk a fine line of subversion and re-appropriation I was a bit concerned that some of the audience might be there because they thought they really meant it - in the same way that not everyone got Alf Garnett as a character.  Yopu can read about them here.
I needn't have worried though - it was a glorious highly choreographed evening with a really striking back projection and prerecorded audience interaction and lots of really noisy synths - which I love. They played a lot of Spectre - their latest album and I especially enjoyed their cover of See That My Grave Is Kept Clean which I am thinking of using somehow in my work too....

And speaking of music my very talented chums at Zeistgeist Zero have launched a crowdfunding scheme for their latest album - being creative doesn't just need time and talent - it also needs cold hard cash and if you can help then please do - you can read all about their project here.

Right now for an afternoon of reading some David Sedaris - absolute bliss :-)