Monday, 29 June 2015

MA-Ness Term 3 Week 11 Keeping Going, Tidying, Bookmaking, Catching Up With Myself, Grave Pictures/Rubbings and Modern F**king Bins.

this weeks post it notes with extra post it notes and bookmaking tool for smoothing edges (forgotten name of it and this isn't a bone one but a plastic one...want to get a bone one though )  
mini book made from stuff that would have otherwise been thrown out
cyanotypes in the wash - some worked better than others...
me doing a grave rubbing in St George's Fields - photo taken on 120 fuji velvia by husband on a Rolliecord from 1957 and then processed in garage...
Still finding life heavy going at the moment and generally feeling rather low but have been taking bit more easy by rearranging some appointments and taking time to concentrate upon doing things that make me feel more fulfilled - namely taking pictures and making stuff. And also by having some days in which I did precisely nothing except a bit of washing up and ironing and watching rubbish on the telly or dipping in and out of a book - am reading I Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson (recommended to me by a tutor) and it is very good indeed - delightfully grim and disconcerting and I am about halfway through now and I really hope Merricat and Jonas survive intact..... 

 Thankfully lurg seems to finally completely abated and whilst I'm a bit concerned that I have a few submission deadlines coming up - I think I'm going to be okay meeting them as I have rearranged some stuff for this week to make sure I can meet them without having to get stressed at the last minute though it is a bit of a bugger the college library being closed for staff development this week as there is loads of photocopying I'd like to be doing and I'm loathe to do it elsewhere as it is cheaper and easier at college....but it'll be fine to do it next week....when I was an undergraduate I always left things to the last minute and I was determined as a postgraduate that I would try and do things where I left myself time to do things at a pace that wasn't stressful and I try to be as ahead of myself as possible plus I'm also much better this time round at saying 'I could do with some more help and guidance on this' or 'I need to rearrange things' which also makes things much easier.

One of the biggest and on reflection most productive things I did last week was tidy my workroom - went through all the stuff that had accumulated at the lefthandside of my work desk and put all the out of date flyers in the recycling, sorted out all the pens in the pen pots by throwing out all the ones which no longer work, and so created some better more organised space to work in as well as just generally tidying up and sorting. Plus I can now sit on the sofa and read if I want without having to move piles of books though the end of the sofa is a more or less permanent book pile - but at the moment it consists of a much smaller pile of books I have finished reading but need to add to my bibliography before I put them back on the shelf.

However I have yet to properly sort out all the digital printing I had done the other week into my portfolio ready for hand in and that's a task for later this week I think. Hand in date isn't til middle of August but like I said for reasons of stress avoidance I like to be as far ahead of myself as possible with things.

But once I'd done some tidying I felt like doing something more traditionally creative and as the sun was bright I did some cyanotyping - the sun has changed direction so much since I first started doing it that instead of the kitchen window I now do them in the hallway and on the landing though they do also go in the downstairs back window too. I did 4 and am quite pleased with some of the results - I plan to colour photocopy them and then trim the results - so that I can remove the bits of my brushwork that aren't the best and then blow them up to A4 or A3 size. My brushwork has definitely got better but it still needs a lot of practice/improvement. I must make a date to go back to the darkroom and prep some more paper too. I must experiment with trying it on fabric to do list never gets any shorter.....

I also want to copy onto acetate some of the grave rubbings (see picture above) I made on tracing paper with a big chunky graphite pencil at the weekend and so make them into cyanotypes too. Some of the remaining monuments at St George's Fields have the most heartfelt and laudatory inscriptions on them with phrases like 'fervid eloquence' on the monument of a preacher and I realised as I was rubbing that I could rub words individually and so make found poems in a sort of bastard offspring of the Burroughs/Bowie cut up technique.

Made 28 rubbings in total and discovered that granite monuments make for much smoother end results and it might have been useful to have had some masking tape to hold down paper at the corners when it got a bit windy and I don't like getting my hands dirty and I forgot to take wetwipes. Part of me wonders if I can ever be a really good artist as I am not good at getting my hands dirty - getting my fingers sticky with glue or paint makes me feels uncomfortable unless I can wash them clean again fairly quickly. It took a lot of scrubbing with the nail brush to get rid of the last bits of graphite from in and around my nails when I got home. But I am well chuffed with the results and am keen to go back and do more - on bigger paper this time...and maybe I'll wear latex gloves too....

St George's Fields is one of my go to places in Leeds for both a battery recharge as well as a place for creative inspiration - it is so steeped in its victorian origins and I continue to be fascinated by its overall history as a place and I also want to try and find out more of the individual stories on the names on the monuments there too - not the great big ones but the subscription graves that have been laid flat to line some of the pathways. Luckily my husband loves it too - and we decided we'd go on Saturday to take some pictures and have some lunch there.

I have two big learning points from our trip on Saturday - make list of what you want to take night before so that when you get there you have everything you need and don't have to go home and waste good light whilst you go home to pick the 35mm camera you were planning on using....even if it did give you opportunity to pick up tracing paper and graphite which you hadn't originally planned on taking. I took a little folding step this time too - which helped lots but my other learning point was if you are using props then it helps if you have an assistant to help you move things, help you carry stuff so me and my husband have come to an arrangement where we're going to take it in turns to be one anothers assistant.

I (finally) took 2 cameras my beloved Minolta 7000 from 1985 and shot a roll of Agfa Vista ISO 200 (from the poundshop) which I had developed and scanned later that afternoon at my go to place for ordinary colour film developing The Photo Shop in North Lane in Headingley and I also shot a roll of 120 Fuji Velvia using the very lovely posh medium format camera I've borrowed from college - got a few 'money shots' (see previous psots for definition)  but also learnt that my pale mauve organza sadly doesn't look pale mauve (one of the colours of mourning in victorian times) when photographed and the differences in the end results of the film pictures (didn't take any digital - not even on my phone) are astonishing - different shades of sky and green even though both taken at the same time, this is due to the difference in the quality of the film itself - not just in its original state and its age and storage but also the processing and the fact that they were taken on different cameras and in different formats.

And as for the 'money shots' I took I did have a Kanye West like confidence moment sitting in front of the screen last night looking at the ones I've taken recently and said to my husband 'I totally win at taking grave photos' as one of the ones I took of a victorian monument in the rain in Scarborough and I cannot wait to get printed up and he said it was because they are of something I love and if it's something you love then that love will shine through and so you get good work....and I think he has a point.

The fuji velvia was home processed in the garage by my chemically proficient husband and I then scanned it in. The grass on the velvia looks lush but a bit anaemic on the poundshop 35mm.... I hope to get some of the images printed up soon and some I've already post processed to black and white and inverted to make cyanotypes with....can you tell I like making cyanotypes?

I like it as a process for all sorts of reasons - that it rose to prominence as a technique in victorian times, but mostly that it's such a relatively forgiving process and you don't need to be completely exact with developing times - me and numbers don't get on at the best of times and so I find developing prints in the traditional way in the darkroom tricky where you have to be so much more exact timewise. Plus I have been trying out different kinds of coloured paper to paint the solution onto to try and get away from the all blueness of cyanotypes - am liking both red and grey but I've also been researching (after seeing Sharon Harvey's wonderful work you can read about it here) how to make different coloured cyanotypes so I need to get some washing soda, some coffee and find a couple more trays.....

Plus some of the acetates I've made to make cyanotypes with work really well as pieces of work in their own right.

And before I forget other lessons learnt - clean glass frame before making a cyanotype, and resize images in Paint before inserting them into presentations....and when making bookmarks out of the backing paper from 120 film - cut the sticky back plastic lots bigger than it needs to be as that gives you bit of wriggle room when it comes to putting them together.

Making bookmarks out of backing paper and leftover sticky back plastic aren't the only things I've made out of leftover scrap materials this week - on Wednesday in an attempt to both lift my mood and practice the rudimentary bookmaking skills I'd learnt the previous week I made a little photo book (see photo above) using offcuts of tracing paper, card and thumbprints of images. I'd printed screendumps of images I'm working on for my portfolio but I'd printed two copies by mistake so I cut them out and stuck them in to the little book I made with a drawing pin and some embroidery thread. I have a guillotine at home (got it from Aldi a few years back) and it's not good at coping with more than one or two pieces of paper at a time so instead I trimmed the edges using a scalpel on my lovely new cutting mat - need to work on my scalpel skills as well as my brush skills but for a first attempt I'm pretty chuffed with it. And as a former mentor of mine from the Place and Memory Project pointed out - 'there's not much that is more satisfying than making your own book'. I really need to get working on my memorial book next.

Not sure where I heard or saw this over the last few days (memory is like a sieve at the moment) and it was the point that people make art of what they fear the most - in which case I must fear death and loss the most and I'm not sure I do fear death as such - unless it is painful and drawn out - but I do fear death and loss of loved ones, and I do feel as a society that we should be a bit more open about talking about death - if only in terms of telling our loved ones what we want to happen in the event of our deaths and making a will. Mmm will have to give this more food for thought.

Costs for this week - graphite pencil was approx 70p, purchase and processing of 2 35mm colour films was £12, can't remember how much the b+w film cost to buy as bought it as part of a job lot from someone who was clearing out a load of film they weren't going to use and not sure how much it cost to process either and I'm not sure how much the velvia cost or how much it cost to process (both the b+w and the velvia were done in house - or rather in garage and workroom) and the matte medium and dylon image maker I bought came to just over a tenner. I also bought some mini canvases £3, a new paintbrush £2 and more plastic wallets £2. So just under £30....not too bad considering.....

The other thing I did this week was attend a conference at Leeds Met entitled Gendered Bodies in Visible Spaces - the keynote speeches by Marvina Newton on the Regulation of Black Womens Bodies and Professor Rosalind Gill on 'Love Your Body But Hate It T: Contradictory Subjectivities In Post Feminist Times' were enlightening, thought provoking and depressing. As was the workshop I attended on Subverting Corporate Beauty Ideals by Glen Jankowski and Dr Nova Deighton-Smith which involved looking at magazines and advertising and what a smack in the face that was - I haven't read the sidebar of shame in the Daily Heil for a very long time (weaned myself off it a year or two ago) nor have I picked up a copy of Heat in a long time and wow I'd forgotten quite how dreadful those type of articles and magazines are - with their ridiculously airbrushed figures - women with bits of their thighs missing, arms missing muscles and all manner of airbrushing and nip-tucking with a mouse. I suppose one bonus of most people using applications like Instaglam (as someone without a smartphone who doesn't make if any selfies I am high court judge-like in my ignorance of these things) is that everyone *knows* how readily and easily images are manipulated these days and in some ways this is just carrying on the process that in some ways started with portrait painters painting people in as flattering a manner as possible (hence Oliver Cromwell's alleged utterance of 'paint me warts and all' to Sir Peter Lely) and is in some ways linked to these pictures but even so it is still a smack in the face when looking at this kind of thing en masse - toxic culture indeed. Not quite sure how best to combat it other than to continue what I do for my own sanity which is not to read or look at that kind of toxic nonsense.

As it gets nearer to hand in time and what feels like the real end of the year I've been taking stock of what I've learnt over the past few months, what good working habits I've got into, how my work has changed and one of the things I'm really glad I did get into a habit of doing was this blog on a Monday - and I intend to continue doing it but it is making me think about why it's public and not private and what difference would there be if I made it a private one instead which I might do for year ever much food for thought. Plus I usually tweet link to it on a Monday evening as that's when I've finished and published it but I retweeted link to it again on Tuesday morning and got twice as many 'views'. Perhaps this is something I need to be looking at too.... 

I also made some inroads into my book backlog last week - and started reading academic books again and making notes - still got lots left to read but it felt good to at least be making an inroad into the pile again which sits at the right hand side of my workdesk in its own box....and along with the Shirley Jackson book I mentioned I've also started Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon - a victorian sensation novel from 1862 which features bigamy, arson and murder and is very wonderful indeed so far.....

And finally - modern fecking bins, needed and necessary but some of them don't have spoil the views I'm trying to take in St George's Field, there is one at the end of the avenue of graves from the Cemetery Road entrance which is the bane of my photographic what looks like a beautiful victorian vista is clearly not as there is a modern fecking bin at the end of it. Perhaps I shall have to extend my basic use of Photoshop from levels and inversion and watermarks to cropping out bloody bins........



Monday, 22 June 2015

MA-Ness Term 3 Week 10, Ongoing Lurg, Printing, Bookbinding, Potternewton Mansion, Northern Gothic, Taking Time Out

this weeks post it note - pictured on top of brand new cutting mat - been meaning to buy one for a while and fantastic book binding workshop was final impetus to part with cash for one

booklets made in book binding workshop - a concertina which involved lots of glue and was bit fiddly - but worth it, a japanese stab stitch booklet (pink one) which involved drilling and slightly more complicated sewing, and the red one which involved punching a hole with a sharp point and more simple sewing...but well chuffed with all of them and thinking of using the red style one for one of my projects.

A slightly fuller post it note this week but still struggling with motivation and get up and go - partly because my heart is still breaking with regard to Lucia (it'll be 4 weeks on Wednesday since her sudden and shocking death) and lurgy which although is lessening is still lingering. Though thankfully the coughing fits have become less frequent and hacking and with less use of my inhaler - not had to use it since Saturday so that is a big improvement and fingers crossed taking it easier over the next few days will see the back of it.

Still feel lacking in energy though as a result and it was a mix of realising that I was running on empty and a realisation that if I don't let myself have some down time that I will end up really poorly that has led me to rearrange my commitments for this week - some I've postponed and some I'm going to cancel, I need a couple of long lie-ins and doing not very much instead of dashing about like a blue arsed fly for a bit.

But as I didn't make that realisation and decision until the middle of last week I still did quite a lot of running about and doing stuff - namely lots of printing in the digital print room (the print room is about to mostly close down for lots of the summer  and I am mindful of a portfolio hand in date in August) - have printed on entirely on tracing paper this time, some colour but most black and white and some A4, some A3 and some A2 - was originally going to take them all home rolled in a cardboard tube but then decided to buy a plastic A2 project bag as that way they would be kept flat, as unrolling tracing paper can be difficult if the roll has set in...and I had also bought some screenprinted lovelyness from fellow students from the pop up art fair and this was the best way to get it home unscathed. My ever supportive and patient husband picked me up after work that day to save me the hassle of walking home with it.

I have still to sort it out into categories and place them appropriately into my portfolio though - I have printed off some of my Belle End pics (my response to John Waters 12 Assholes and a Dirty Foot) and some of the images I've taken recently on b+w 120mm at St George's Fields and also experimented with the printing and photocopying of one of those images in a Sebaldian tribute stylee (apparently he used to get his colour pics developed on the high street and then copy them in black and white and repeat copying that image until it got the level of murk he wanted) , and I am well chuffed with those as the way parts of the image deteriorates reminds me of how memories deteriorate too so that only the most salient points remain along with the feeling.

The digital printing cost £12.40, the project bag, A3 display book, cutting mat and bone (well it is plastic as they didn't have bone folders at Blenheim but I'm hoping they might at Vernon Street when  their library reopens after the summer break) folder thingy and the photocopying cost about another £20. I did make a note of keeping track of exactly what I'm spending but I forgot - but I must keep a better note for future as a)it'll be interesting to see exactly what I'm spending and b) as I'm hoping to be part of a project for which I'll be able to claim expenses I'd best start keeping receipts.

I was able to appreciate a bit more of the work on show this week as I was on invigilating duty so inbetween printing and invigilating I had another look round - so much easier to see the work without lots of other people stood in front of it and quite heartbreaking to see some of the plaster sculptures being sawn up and attacked with hammers when it came to taking it all down time. 

I took mine down out of the window  and attached them to plain white sheets of paper - there were a little couple of tears but nothing too major but I have left behind some sticky residue from the double sided tape so I shall return with special sticky stuff remover and get rid of it.

It was also an opportunity to see how other people have displayed their work and one of the ways I was most impressed by was in the photography department and it was two images - of the front and the back of the head sandwiched between glass at right angles to the wall - the top part of the glass wired diagonally to the wall - apparently it's rather fiendish to execute but so worth it. I'd like to make my images stand out - not just because of their content but literally so that you either have to walk round them or through them if I ever get them printed on silk (working on ways to make this as cheap as possible so I can actually do it...) so that you can interact with them in some way other than just looking.

The other thing I want to try and incorporate is the use of colour - not as in colour photographs but maybe colour washes over the black and white and taking my inspiration for the colour used from the victorian fashion for messages in flowers - it seems there were various dictionaries so you could send loved ones coded messages both in terms of the flowers used and the colour of them - apparently yellow meant jealousy though it did also depend upon both the message sender and receiver having the same dictionary.

As is probably obvious my obsession with all things victorian shows no signs of wavering and this week has had two highlights of victorian loveliness - a peek inside Potternewton Mansions which was built in 1870 and is now a sikh temple and in the process of being restored to its original splendour and I feel both excited and privileged as well as very much looking forward to doing some more work with them over the next few months and the victorian splendour of Scarborough.

I'd gone primarily to see Sharon Harvey's photography exhibition at Woodend Gallery (details here) plus it was nice to go to the seaside for a bit (I did worry about Mapp being on her own but we had a cat sitter pop in a couple of times to check on her and feed her and though she was very pleased to see us when we got back she seems to have survived okay) and we did do the things we usually do at the seaside - namely play on the twopenny falls, buy terrible tat (in this case an owl made of shells that is truly vile but brilliant) and of course we also had fish and chips, ice cream and had a quick walk on the beach.

We loved Sharon's photos so much we bought two prints (coffee stained cyanotypes) and I can't wait to get them home and on our own walls - her photos are gorgeous, eerie, contemplative, slightly disconcerting and they look so lovely amongst the restored victorian splendour of Wood End in what used to the Sitwell family home. I use similar processes to Sharon but different subject matter and it  has given me ideas about how to develop and progress those processes and also again made me think of what I want to evoke in the viewer.

As ever much food for thought.

We went back to Scarborough Art Gallery the following morning specifically to see the exhibition of seaside snaps from the 1870's to the present day and they were wonderful - amazing to see how much of Scarborough has changed and how much has stayed the same - sadly Warwicks Revolving Tower and the Aquarium under the roundabout have long gone but the advert for 'high class artificial teeth - perfect fit guaranteed' on the side of a building in a picture from the early 1900's made me chuckle and it was lovely not just looking at the pictures but also the memories which accompanied them.

Along with the photographs there were also wonderful paintings by Charles Wynne Nicholas and Atkinson Grimshaw - so lovely to see such wonderful victorian paintings in victorian surroundings - the whole side of that bit of Scarborough is gorgeous, we also popped into Crescent Arts next door and looked at a fine exhibition of new collage work and old collage work by Eduardo Paolozzi's - his Bunk portfolio which were also wonderful - partly due to the heartwarming nostalgia for some of the contents of the collages, I am a sucker for 1950's american magazines and adverts.

From there we went to the Rotunda - a purpose built to show off geological specimens museum which was also splendidly victorian - it had a domed roof (complete with seagulls nest which we had been watching from our hotel room the night before) wonderful glass cabinets full of objects of wonder - glass eyes for taxidermied birds, funerary urns from the bronze age, egyptian cats as the collection soon expanded to include more than just geological specimens and included all manner of things.

We then treated ourselves to a late lunch at Francis - which has just got listed status, it's a tea room set amongst the  gorgeousness of a 1930's hairdressers (you can read about it here) and it's also next door to where one of my other victorian photographic heroes Oliver Sarony used to live and work - sadly his studio is long gone but his house decorated with painted heads and now converted into flats is his house and you can read about him and his work here before heading for home via the splendour of Scarboroughs magnificent victorian cemeteries on Dean Road and Manor Road grouped by a wonderful under the road passageway.

I took lots of photographs which I hope will come out okay and include more than 6 'money shots' (see previous posts) as there were some magnificent examples of victorian grave splendour though sadly all the angels I photographed had bits of their wings or hands missing. I used 35 b+w film (Ilford ISO 400)  and because I didn't want to be carrying a heavy bag I only took one lens - my 'nifty fifty'. I took some on my camera phone but not sure if those will come out or not as although there is space on the micro sd card it kept saying it could not display them as I'd reached the 1000 pictures limit.....

What else? best crack on with my sorting, also want to do some relaxing reading this week - partly course/work related but I also want to get my hands on a copy of Lady Audley's Secret which is a victorian sensation novel by Mary Elizabeth Braddon published in 1862 which caused somewhat of a scandal and is featured in the 1867 painting 'Courtship On The Beach' by Charles Wynne Nichols which is at Scarborough Art Gallery as well as finish the the very wonderfully unsettling and creepy 'We Have Always Lived In The Castle' by Shirley Jackson which is marvellous so far - just got to the revelation that the older sister Constance was acquitted of murder and quite how the arsenic got into her parents food is a mystery.....    



Monday, 15 June 2015

MA-Ness Term 3 Week 9 Show, Talking, Drinks Tokens and Tat.

this weeks post it note - again not so full as others but this flanked by some gloriously tacky fridge magnets brought all the way from the home of Dracula himself - Transylvania............

A lovely chum of mine has just come back from a Dracula Society trip to Transylvania and along with some other goodies - a prayer card featuring St George,some holy perfume and a mug featuring a lady with not very much on and a blood splattered knife between her teeth she brought me back these gems. Both featuring an image of Vlad the Impaler - they are gloriously badly executed and whilst ostensibly the same differ in the way the vines and the grapes, his imperial headgear and his blood ravaged lips have been painted. I like also how both have come from the same mould but thanks to the different placing of the magnet on the back of each one they look as if he is facing in different directions. Utterly wonderful and I look forward to placing them on the fridge later.

Otherwise this last week has been overshadowed by lurgy (again!!) and I am bored of coughing and aching and feeling so under the weather plus my heart is still breaking and broken from the death of my beloved Lucia. She would often keep me company in the work room - either sunbathing on the windowledge behind the computer monitor or in her favourite cardboard box which she used to squeeze into (it's sides are bowed) on the landing just outside. Mapp has spent some time in all of Lucia's spaces apart from this one - I hope she takes over this one too at some point.

So although my heart isn't really in it 100 percent I have made myself carry on doing things and there's been time when I've been able to be distracted enough by what I've been doing to put heartache aside for a bit or like on Thursday night when it was the delightfully dark musings and stories of David Sedaris read by the author himself which provided much welcome distraction and laughter. I doubt there are many people who could describe having a benign tumour removed and wanting to feed it to a snapper turtle with a growth on its head and part of its foot missing with such wit and warmth. He was very wonderful indeed and if you haven't read anything by him then you must and if you can go see him give a reading then you must do that too. He's also not a fan of people taking pictures of anything and everything on mobile phones and had signs up saying no photos please at his book signing table and as far as I could tell people abided by his request.

His use of words is exquisite - scalpel like in their exactness and words are something that I keep coming back to time and time again as part of my studies which both amuses and bemuses me seeing as as my work is mostly in a visual format as in I take photographs and then make the resultant images into cyanotypes or try copying them onto canvas using pva glue - without much success so far but I suspect that is refinement of technique/materials needed as opposed to the actual technique itself not working as the image did transfer - just not  as well as I would have liked...

And now the formatting of this blog is going skewiff again - part of the reason I use blogger (aside from it being free) is because compared to wordpress I find it easy to use but it can be a right ball-ache sometimes when it comes to formatting, it doesn't always insert pictures where you ask/tell it to so then you find yourself moving text around and it then centres the text when you actually want it justified to the left and no amount of highlighting the text and clicking that alignment makes it align that text but it does for the text after the picture......and then the 4th time of telling it to do it it does.....oh FFS - why can't things just work first time when you tell them to?

This kind of technology fail - either of the person attempting to use it or on the technology itself drives me witless. It happened last week at college when I tried to log out after doing some printing - it wouldn't let me and I had to go and disturb the computer chaps in their lair to get it to let me to log out (force quit apparently) and yesterday my lovely fridge magnet donating chum and I had similar issues trying to get the chromecast thingy to work as she had bought a copy of the Skull (1965, F Francis, Amicus UK) for us to watch online and it took us ages to get it to work - made me realise why I prefer having a physical in your hands product as opposed to a streamed ethereal electrons malarkey.

As I've said before you know where you are with physical stuff and it's often much easier to spot the reason why it's not working....anyway we did get it to work on the laptop at least - it juddered so much when 'cast' to the television that we gave up watching it on there as it was making us feel sick. And it was worth it - both Mr Lee (RIP) and Mr Cushing gave very fine performances and the story though unlikely was at least true to its own logic and I really enjoyed it.

So got sidetracked there - was talking about words and their part in art - in what is usually perceived as a visual medium and whilst I do write a bit and have performed semi autobiographical monologues at Headingley Literature Festival I think of myself primarily as a visual as opposed to word artist but so much of art is reliant upon words - either on the words used to describe it, the application you make to get the chance of being in an exhibition, the grant application, the a fellow artist talked on Saturday about artists statements and asked the question 'are they an insight or a barrier?' which is something I think about a lot - my immediate reaction on reading some artists statements is often one of bewilderment or on occasion ' oh ffs get over yourself' but it's a treat when I read one that I can understand and offers insight too. She also talked about looking at artists sketchbooks too and how insightful that can be - she'd just bought one of Frieda Kahlo's and I'm still plowing my way through the Derek Jarman one I bought at the Whitworth - it really is wonderful and if you get chance to peek at an artists sketchbook then you should....

Plus all this is feeding into the ideas I've got for my dissertation which is due in December which might sound like a long time off but it isn't really and the sooner I get started on it the sooner it'll be in a draft version and I can begin to refine and polish it...this course is about academic hoop jumping after all and I want to jump those hoops as well as I can. John Waters and his comments about art being an elitist club and having to learn the language to take part is one I keep thinking of. That plus his wonderful speech on being given an honorary doctorate which if you haven't seen you must for it is wonderful - warm, inspiring and witty - and you can see it here.

The other article I read this week which also made me think about the accessibility of art is Stewart Lee's interview from last June with Julian Cope - and you can read it in full (should you wish to) here but the bit that stood out for me was the section in which he says of his book 'It's demanding but great art is demanding' and I can certainly see his point.......but.....still not sure.....

I had a tutorial last week , and I showed my tutor some of the pieces I've been working on for the past few weeks and as ever my tutor gave me some useful feedback and ideas on how to develop them - I'd been very pleased with the 'happy accident' when putting away some acetate copies away on top of the original images and making images from that but I hadn't developed it further - but I have now by layering acetates and photocopies on top of one another and so creating new images and then layering that new one upon the existing acetates and copies - so that an image of two cross topped memorials from Undercliffe Cemetery has now become a multi crossed image with 5 layers of crosses - it would make a lovely pattern for fabric (an idea from a chum commenting on an image I posted on Farcebook of me stood next to my work in the windows as part of the MA end of year work in progress show) and I can't wait to make it into an acetate and then make a cyanotype with it......

.....the process also reminded me of a film about WG Sebald (called Patience After Sebald) which I half watched a while ago in which someone described his process of creating his distinctive b+w prints was take the pictures on colour 35mm film, get them developed at Snappy Snaps, then photocopy them in b+w and keep photocopying the photocopies til they have the right level of murkiness. The images I've made aren't murky - well I don't think they are but I am really liking them and they are made from multiple photocopies...

The other thing which I thought about a lot this week was a meme which went round Farcebook from PetaPixel in which it showed 3 different image formats 120 film, 35 mm film and an sd card with the tag 12 exposures 6 are awesome, 36 exposures 6 are awesome hundreds of exposures 6 good results and it made me nod and go 'yep' - me and my husband refer to this as 'the money shot' and there is a good definition of it here - we use it in its non pornographic definition and it's true - amongst the many pictures we take - there is usually (hopefully!!) a few that stand out and so are referred to as 'the money shot'. My current money shots are mostly coming from the pictures I took in St Mary's Churchyard in Whitby, Cleethorpes Cemetery, St George's Field and Undercliffe Cemetery...can you guess what they all have in common? 

Curation and curating are also words and actions playing on my mind - there's a school of thought that says they have been so overused as to become meaningless and I'm not sure what my thoughts are on it as yet but the interview I read with Richard Boon (manager of the Buzzcocks and a librarian) in which his response to the question: 
'As a librarian you are a custodian of words. There’s a lot of misuse of language in the media. One that irks me is ‘Curator. ‘What do you think?'
'It is a hugely misused word. It should have an academic context and imply knowledge, expertise in a given field. My daughter is assistant curator of a collection at the Science Museum; some hipster with a beard in Shoreditch is NOT curating a coffee bar, he’s selling coffee. Do you curate your oranges in a supermarket in the green grocer display? No! It’s really sloppy use.' and I can't help but can read the rest of his interview here

I don't know where the phrase 'surviving memorials' on the post it note comes from or to what it refers exactly though it does make me think of an Ausonius quote I have used - namely that 'death comes even to stone monuments and the names upon them'.

So onto the main events of last week - the end of year show opening and giving a talk on Photography and Victorian Death Customs to Darling Roses WI. I'd finished putting up my work last week so only had to do a couple of finishing touches - eg putting away a ladder, putting the empty drinks can I'd left on the windowledge in the recycling and that kind of thing. It was good to see the MA room and ante room filled with work and I've never seen the college so full with people looking at stuff - it was far too hot and far too crowded at times and I am looking forward to going back in and having a proper look at some of the things that caught my eye on Friday night, I did manage to have more than one glass of wine too thanks to chums of mine not wanting to use their drinks tokens and it was lovely to see lots of my chums making their way to the college and down the corridor to see some of my work and massive thanks to all those who came - learning points for next time are: try not to have lurgy...and know that tracing paper attached to windows with double sided tape in sunshine warps slightly so that what was absolutely flush to the window edges when you left it the previous week will look a teeny bit saggy in places when you come back to it.....still A2 tracing paper and a free lightbox ie window are a good way to guage what things will look like if you have them blown them up to burial plot size it is lovely when people tell you how much they like your work.....

The other thing which took up a lot of my time last week was preparing for the talk I gave to Darling Roses WI group on Saturday morning at St Johns Church Hall - a lovely slightly musty smelling hall next to St Johns Church which fittingly enough has some very lovely victorian gravestones and they listened very attentively to my talking about cyanotypes, the meanings behind some of the symbols used on gravestones, the social etiquette of mourning, the history of cemeteries in Leeds and focusing in particular on the history of St George's Fields and a bit about the bodysnatching scandals in Leeds and the Anatomy Act of 1832 and the shame that is the laying flat of the subscription graves in St George's Fields to be used as lining for pathways....I was struggling a bit - lurgy-wise and my voice was very croaky but it held out and I got lovely feedback and have been asked back and asked by another WI group to talk too so it's all good.

Well I think that's enough for now - got lots to do this week and here's hoping this lurgy will let up and let me do them....

and I really must sort out the white balance on the digital camera - those walls are actually white....but here is a pic of me in front of my work in progress called Mourning.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Ma-Ness Term 3 Week 8 End of Term Round Up, Sticky Stuff, Skulls and Stepladders, Costings and Hangings.

this weeks post it note - fuller than last weeks though my heart is still breaking and empty without Lucia
Mindful of the fact that I need to crack on work-wise (portfolio hand in date of August 18th is a way off yet but it'll soon come round plus a lot of the workshops will have limited staffing and access opportunities over the summer so best crack on now)   I've made myself do some this week though if I'm honest I didn't really feel like doing it - it's not the same without a black and white fluffy creature poking her nose in and squeaking at me to remind me that it is biscuit time.  But I made myself do some cyanotyping on Thursday as it was nice and sunny - it's been a while since I've done some and it was interesting that the sun has of course changed direction so instead of starting them off on the kitchen worktop before transferring them to the back window - this time they started off in the hallway before making their way round to the back window and then ending up in the kitchen. I did 8 in total - some worked really well, some not so well (the resultant image was a bit pale as I'd forgotten to boost the levels and contrast) but I am well chuffed with the one I did using one of my dental x-rays (must email a copy to my dentist) and the one I did on red paper and I am pleased with the ones I did from the pinhole pictures I took using a cardboard box camera. I also did one of what will hopefully be the first in the series 12 Belle Ends And A Sock On The Door - my response to John Waters seminal 12 Assholes and a Dirty Foot.

Yesterday I decided to get up early and go and take some photographs at St George's Fields using a Mamiya 645 Pro TL borrowed from college - a very fancy 120 mm film camera which is heavy but gorgeous and I used a silver skull I bought from TK Maxx some time ago as a prop nestled amongst the surviving memorials. I am well chuffed with the results and plan to get some of them printed on A2 tracing paper and also to copy some onto acetate so I can make cyanotype versions of them too.  I also did an experiment with image transfer onto canvas using pva glue and a photocopy of one of my images  this week though I can't report on that yet as I'm still waiting for the glue to dry before I start trying to rub the paper away.

It was good to get lost in the mechanics of the process for a while - especially at St George's Fields as it was beautifully quiet and empty yesterday morning plus the light was lovely. It also made a change to use a modern medium format camera as til now the ones I've used have been from the 1950's and though the Mamiya it is heavy to use it is also a joy - easy to focus, and you can set it to have aperture priority and the motorised wind on was also a help in making sure the film wound on correctly.

Things I did learn though for next time - when using a prop that you want to nestle either amongst graves or atop of monuments a bit of blu tack to help it stay where you want it to is a good idea and also take one of those plastic folding steps as that helps with both placing the skull where you want it and also for getting a better angle from which to take photos - I'm not very tall and although I have very big platform boots that boost my height to 5 ft 8" but whilst they are excellent for getting a good view at gigs (unless of course you're at a gig with knobheads who prefer to 'watch' it through their bloody phone screens as opposed to experiencing it in the here and now)  they aren't practical for walking on uneven ground. But I did find a plastic milk crate around the back of the university which was very handy for me to stand on. And I put it back where I found it when I'd finished.

 But until I found the milk crate my ever lovely and supportive and tall husband helped place the skull where I wanted it - he also developed the films in the garage (aka the pop up meth lab) when we got home. And then last night once they were dry we scanned them in - there were 2 rolls of Ilford FP4 ISO 125 120 and one roll of 35mm Ilford Pan 100 (only slightly out of date ie 2 years which compared to some of the film I've used is positively brand new) and like I said I am well chuffed with some of the images and am looking forward to getting them printed up.

I also made some bookmarks using the cast off paper backing from the 120 film and the cast off adhesive sticky back plastic like remnants from the printing of some of my images to stick on it - to then stick to grave candles. I'm pleased with those as a) they look good, b) I like the thought of making something useful from stuff that would be otherwise thrown away and c) I'm going to post one of them to a chum who has been especially supportive recently and who still reads paper books.

It was the last formal week at college this week and before we hung our work ready for the end of year work in progress show ( details on here) we spent it looking over the last 3 terms from a  expectation point of view - what has been met and what remains unfulfilled, key moments, turning points and how have you and work changed over the last 12 months.
I think I'll probably do a long separate and maybe not public post about this but some key points are:

  • Getting into better working habits - doing 'social' media on the kindle and so leaving the main computer (almost) entirely for work
  • I'm not quite sure what art schools are expected to be like and I'm not sure whether this is a reasonable expectation for me to have either but it's not quite as radical an atmosphere politically or fashion-wise (for example visible subculture members appear few and far between) as I thought/hoped it would be...
  • Roland Barthes - Camera Lucida - utterly wonderful thought provoking poignant stuff
  • Putting away acetates 'incorrectly' and so creating a whole new set of images
  • Learning a new vocabulary and a new way of looking at things (new public sculpture at Leeds Uni..)
  • Collaboration and possible new projects....
  • Access to archives only accessible to students
  • Thinking about applying for a practice led Phd....
(and btw the formatting on blogger is a complete pain in the arse at times - you'd think it'd be relatively straightforward to put things in bullet points and it is as long as you don't want to add to it, move stuff round in which case you have to beggar about with it for 15 minutes and then think 'fuck it, I simply can't be arsed to argue with it get the drift of what I'm trying to put in that list....and then a bit more beggaring and hurrah it worked!!!)

One of the things we were asked too was how much things had cost and it was interesting to do a rough total of what I had spent on printing, film and developing costs, notebooks, portfolios and that kind of thing - so learning point from now on is make note of how much everything costs as I go along instead of totting it up roughly afterwards. This will also help when it comes to working out how much to charge for commissions and other work too.

As I said we spent most of Friday afternoon putting up the end of year show - and I was grateful that there was both a fellow ma-er who is tall and so could help me hang my work in the window (A2 tracing paper prints of angels and churchyard benches)  - I could reach the bottom panels but not the top ones and there are 4 panels per piece arranged around each cross of the window. Initially I was only going to have one window but encouragement from another fellow ma-er plus the fact that the tracing paper does not block out light for other exhibitors and agreement from the other course members means I have colonised two windows. I'm not quite sure why but I felt really anxious and hamfisted lining the top and bottom edges of the images with double sided tape and then placing them in the window - no need for a spirit level as they are lined up against the edge of the window panes, I also didn't need to measure height from the ground or worry about positioning it so that it leaves enough wall space for others.

But I think this will have to be taken into consideration when it comes to the Kirkstall Arts Trail (details here) on July 18th though I've yet to hear whereabouts on the trail my work will be going, and I'll also need to get a little spirit level as though I normally do things by eye, my eye isn't always straight so I will need some extra help.

Last month I went to the John Rylands Library to look at things of wonder in the strong room, and the archivist has sent me a list of other items in their keeping which she thinks I may be interested in and it reads like the most fabulous treasure trove of ephemera - I mean who could resist things like 'a piece of the willow which grew over the grave of Napoleon I' and 'a russian peasants soup spoon' and 'a portion of the wrappage of a mummy embalmed 3000 years ago'....and it has both made me want to see these wondrous things with my own eyes but also wonder how they ended up in the care of the John Rylands Library, whether they are what they say they are, and how much fun it would be to make one of these up for an imaginary collector.  Which in turn makes me think of my feelings about describing myself as a writer and or an artist - I was brought up believing that you had to specialise and being a jack of all trades meant you were master of none (feminism hadn't dawned on my family at that time) and if you did more than one thing then there was something vaguely untrustworthy about you - the word 'dillettante' was unknown to my vocabulary then but the misgivings around someone who could be described as such wasn't. Mmm lots of food for thought there....

One thing I can say about myself without feeling in anyway fraudulent or self aggrandising is I'm a collector - (some might say hoarder but though the house is full of stuff - you can still sit down and make/have a meal without having to play tetris with stuff so I think it's under control) and I wonder what someone would make of and or with the fridge magnet collection (there are about 350 of them and one of the things we had to take into account when buying a new fridge freezer after the old one broke was would it be big enough to hold all the magnets and it is - just. Or the extensive amount of royal tat - I am no fan of the royal family and struggle with the continued existence of such an outmoded, unfair and frankly ridiculous institution in the 21st century  but I love royal memorabilia or rather really cheap (some of it is outrageously expensive)  tacky (even the expensive so called classy stuff is tacky)  memorabilia of the wedding of Charles and Diana. Teabags are kept in a Charles and Di tin, tea drunk out of mugs with the fateful date and their faces on (ideally the really cheap ones with their pictures taken from newspapers so you can see the dots) and feet are wiped on a silver jubilee rug in the hallway. Likewise there are lots of pictures of christian saints and Virgin Marys - not that I am a believer but they remind me of maternal grandparents house which was always a refuge for me and it was full of the outpourings of ephemera of the roman catholic church and Manchester United Football Club.

But whilst I am definitely becoming more confident in terms of the techniques I use, the approach I take I still find it a little difficult to write my artists statement though I had to write one for the end of year show - but I did it and whilst I may refine it as the months go on I'm pleased with it for now.

Right best crack on with some workroom tidying, letter writing and portfolio sorting plus I want to make a cloth carrying bag for my A2 portfolio that I can put over my shoulder as that might make it a bit more manageable when it comes to hand in time.... 


Monday, 1 June 2015

MA-Ness Term 3 Week 7 Printing, Loss, Trying To Keep Work Going

My beloved Lucia keeping an eye on some of my first cyanotypes
this weeks post it note is very empty compared to previous weeks 

...and this is because this last week has been overshadowed by the death of one of my beloved cats Lucia who died very suddenly and unexpectedly on Wednesday morning. She was a rescue cat and my husband and I adopted her and her sister Mapp when they were 6 month old kittens back in November 2008. It goes without saying that I adored her and I am heartbroken as she was my little baby and the house is so very empty and quiet without her - though her sister Mapp  who I equally adore but in a different way has become a little noisier in her absence. In fact as I am typing she is behind me reminding me quite loudly that even if I don't feel like eating she does and it is her teatime.

 And other than doing a lot of printing on Tuesday (prior to Lucia's death)  I haven't done much else though I did make it into college on Friday but I was on the verge of tears most of the time and I didn't really speak much or contribute to what was an interesting and thought provoking presentation by Dr Michael McMillan.I did make some notes but they are disjointed because I was so distracted but I do remember very much enjoying looking at his book called The Front Room - Migrant Aesthetics In The Home as it featured pictures of so many things familiar and comforting from my childhood - and you can see images from it here - things like the books of green shield stamps which along with Embassy Cigarette vouchers were collected and swapped for hairdryers, heated rollers and the like, the patterned carpets, the radiogram, the glass Murano fish, crocheted poodle dog covers - all of which my Nana loved and which have profoundly influenced my love of what others often sneeringly dismiss as 'kitsch' - it may well be and I can look at some of those objects and think that in design terms they are horrid but in memory terms they are pricelessly wonderful.

And I must read 'Stuff' by Daniel Miller....   

But whilst I am struggling to summon up the necessary motivation or enthusiasm for work I am conscious of the fact that whilst things may feel very bleak and pointless right at this moment in time - I have commitments and things that need doing so I may as well force myself to get on with them - plus at least writing this I don't have to interact with or talk to anyone, I can take a break whenever I need to and as no-one can see me it doesn't matter that my eyes are red raw and look like pissholes in snow. I don't think time is a great healer but I do think it is a great 'duller' and at least trying to keep busy is one way of dealing with things.

On Tuesday I did a lot of printing - or rather the affable chap in the digital print room set up the numerous images I took in on a memory stick to print on the various big printers in the room and an hour and a half later I had:
  • 34 A4 sized images on tracing paper
  • 14 A2 sized images also on tracing paper - 4 of these will be my contribution to the end of year work in progress show that we are in the process of setting up in the MA tutorial room. If all goes to plan they will be in one of the rooms windows for the show.
  • 4 postcard sized images on adhesive paper that I plan to cut out and stick to the grave candles I bought from the place on the Headrow that is like Ikea but without the soft furnishings.
  • 6 postcard sized images on glossy paper that I am thinking of sending to Woodend Creative in Scarborough for possible inclusion in one of their exhibitions.

I now need to buy an A2 presentation folder to keep the A2 pics flat - I've currently got them in a portfolio but it's not much good for viewing them as such plus it's quite heavy and an A2 presentation folder will be easier when it comes to hand in time again which is in the middle of August. I am loving tracing paper as a medium to print on as it has just the right amount of translucency and some movement to it too if left to hang by bulldog clips and fishing wire, but it does curl sometimes if not kept flat...though that can apply to all kinds of papers.

I have not forgotten my plan to have some of my images blown up to burial plot size on grey silk organza but printing on tracing paper in the meantime is both beautiful in its own right but also *so* much cheaper and a good way of seeing whether or not the images I pick will be as effective when blown up so large. To have 3 silk panels will cost approximately £150 - the same on tracing paper will be around £15...and even though my maths is rubbish - even without a calculator I can work out that is a tenth of the cost.

I am mindful that we have to hand in our portfolio again in August and one of the things I have been thinking about is how my work and working practices have changed since I started the course back in September 2014. I think I've become more disciplined and efficient in my working practices - eg mentally setting aside every Monday to write this blog which is not only a focus for my work and my thoughts around it but also invaluable when it comes to hand in time as it functions as an easily printoutable, readable and understandable overarching research journal (as my scribbled post it notes and actual notebooks would be a right ball ache for a tutor to slog through)  plus I am more technically aware (I have a much better if still minimal knowledge of Photoshop as I have previously both never and refused to use it and better knowledge of printing methods and cyanotypes) plus I have a much better grasp of some of the theoretical analyses of artworks too - and an expanded vocabulary too.

This along with the pile of books on my right hand side which includes such gems as 'The Secret Cemetery' and 'Death Heaven and The Victorians' are still taunting me with their un-readness remain on my to do list...a to do list I shall have to force myself  to do, maybe it'll be a bit easier over the summer period as hopefully the pain will dull plus the college workshops have much more limited access over the summer months as that's when most staff take their holidays so I doubt  I'll be doing much actually in college as such.

One of the quotes I have on my workroom wall is one from Roland Barthes - 'that rather terrible thing there is in every photograph: the return of the dead' and its full import is only just hitting me really - at the moment I find it very difficult to look at any of the many pictures I took of my beloved Lucia as her vitality in them remind me all too sharply that she is dead and I can no longer ruffle her fur and she will not demand a fuss from me again. I have written down all my memories of her (as I have written down my memories of all my loved ones who are no longer with us) and I have plans for some of her ashes to be incorporated into some jewellery (the advantage of having a chum who is a jeweller) so that I can always carry a part of her around with me all the time. And that is what my note 'documenting memories' refers to - how we do that as individuals, and as a society and what the accepted norms are for so doing - but also how important it is to do it or else we run the risk of forgetting.

And I have not done much more than looking at definitions on wikipedia of the words:
and to which I need to add the word 'Fetish' as it is also used a lot but in a particular way in artistic discourse which I'm not entirely sure I understand and so I don't feel confident of using it with regard to my own work.

Aside from a meeting today to which I gave my apologies this week is much quieter than previous ones had been so am hoping I can distract myself in books as the books won't mind when I break off for a weep or I just need to sit with Mapp and my memories for a bit.