Monday, 27 July 2015

MA-Ness Term 3 Week 15 - Kiddies Digital Camera,Ongoing Music Adventures, Glossing, Kippax Grave Poetry, Translations,Abstracts, Victorian Graffitti....

this weeks post it notes and the lego Spongebob characters used as candle holders on a cake
Mapp helping me write up what films I've seen this year...and by help I mean distract me with cuteness really.....
the kiddies 2 mega pixel camera that I've been using - it takes 24 pictures at high resolution, has no memory card and a tiny screen on the back - I can hardly see what I'm doing with it - but I love using it.
I feel very tired today and not really in the mood for writing this up, especially as it has gotten late and I've normally finished writing this and published it by now but I think I'd best just grit my teeth and get on with it or else I'll fall behind with my planned workload for this week and that is worse than the alternative of leaving it til tomorrow as then I;d be playing catch up all week and I hate doing that. But at least last week I did catch up with a couple of jobs that had been on my to-do list for a while - namely drafting an abstract for an academic conference in October and writing up my films seen in 2015 list. I found writing the abstract especially difficult - partly because I've never done anything like that before hence my films seen in 2015 list is now up to date as that seemed like a productive way to procrastinate.

And one of the films I was writing up was the very wonderful The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson by Julian Temple and it was very very good indeed. It began with Wilko playing chess on the sea defences at Canvey Island and talking to Death about what it was like when he got his cancer diagnosis. It was interspersed with clips from various films including Belle et la Bete, Orpheus In The Underworld, Nosferatu, The Vikings,The Seventh Seal,  A Matter of Life and Death, clips of Wilko Johnson performing, a pirate figure walking along the concrete walls, clips of old films of seaside fun, clips of his heroes Johnny Kidd and The Pirates, the floods in the fifties, purpose made animations and sequences featuring the image at the bottom of what was meant to be a rock pool – it was funny, uplifting, touching and poignant – there was a round of applause at the end but I didn’t clap ( I very rarely clap at films - even when I've absolutely loved them) but I did make notes of some of his quotes that he used in the film:

'no such thing as happiness – only lesser shades of melancholy'  which he said came from Blake
'never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough'…which he said also came from Blake

I've sent the abstract to a couple of chums who know about these things and got very useful feedback from them both about how to improve it and I plan to have a final draft ready by the end of Wednesday so I can email it in before the deadline on Friday.

Again - I would like to know what has happened to the old me, as the old me would still be scratting around trying to get something together right up to the deadline as opposed to (hopefully) having something a lot more considered and coherent ready before the deadline. But I am much happier working this way rather than leaving everything to the last minute, I much prefer trying to plan and be considered about stuff rather than flapping about and stressing....though of course I still stress about things - just in a longer winded less time pressured way....

So this week I have been making the most of using the kiddies camera I bought a while back and then processing some of the pictures I took on it ready to make cyanotypes with them. By processing I mean using photoshop to take the colour out, boost the levels and then invert them. I have one of a pylon against clouds that I especially like and can't wait to see it in cyanotype form though given the weather at the moment that might take some time. I might see if I can use the uv beds at the college or ask the local beauty salon if I can use one of their sunbeds or use the uv lamp I have as otherwise given the gloom they'll be taking days rather than hours to do.

Technically it's a piss poor camera really - the plastic lens is slightly warped, like a short roll of 35 mm it only takes 24 pictures at high (!) resolution and you lose those if you either take the batteries out or they run out of juice. Pictures are taken off the camera via a usb cable, the screen on the back is about the size of a large postage stamp and I can barely see what I'm doing with it unless I have my 'readers' on (for those of you who had grandparents that didn't have varifocals but had 2 pairs of glasses - one pair was for distance and the other pair for reading hence 'readers') but of course if I have my 'readers' on I can barely see what I'm trying to take a picture of in the some point I might have to bite the bullet and go for varifocals after all, though I think I might get bifocals instead - partly because they are old fashioned and partly because the varifocal simulation thing I tried made me feel sick.  
But in spite of all those difficulties and limitations I am absolutely loving using it - it's very light and it makes me smile and I am looking forward to getting some of the pictures I have taken on it blown up big. It is of course an indescribably poor cousin to the very lovely 35mm film camera a chum has very generously given me as a birthday present - namely a Minolta Dynax 70001 which now I have the right lithium battery for I shall be experimenting with it later this week. I also have a new zoomy lens for the Canon I got in the charity shop the other week - I am still loving making images - whether it's with a the very fancy medium format beast I have on loan from the college or my crappy kiddies camera or with a much fancier 35mm outfit or some spinach juice.....

I've also continued the experiments I've been making with working whilst listening to different kinds of music, this week I went for vampire themed music and worked whilst listening to the soundtrack to Dracula AD 1972, Dracula - Classic Scores from Hammer, Philip Feeney's Dracula for Northern Ballet and Scarey Movie Themes. Hmm there wasn't as much out of tune singing along but I think all in all I get more done if I have either R4 or R4 Extra on, though I find if I want to really take in what is being talked about then I have to listen to it alone and not try and do something else as well - unless it's something physically repetitive and mentally unchallenging like painting gloss medium on image transfers I've done.  

I made time to go round a graveyard in Kippax last week - St Mary's Church and some of the grave poetry was wonderfully poignant and gloriously melancholy and this was my favourite from the grave of 4 children of John and Mary Land who died between 1852 and 1877

cold cold lies the clay on their mouldering heads
but sweet is the rest of the innocent dead
and the love which bore them dwell in each breast
til we meet them again in the realm of the blest.

Such a sad encapsulation of christian victorian death beliefs and hopes and how heartbreaking it must have been for their parents. I wonder if any of their children survived into adulthood?

I also made time to nip into the Art Gallery on the Headrow as I had a few minutes between meetings. I adore the room at the end of the ground floor which is filled with Atkinson Grimshaws and other wonders of the victorian period namely Evelyn de Morgans The Valley of the Shadows and The Convent Garden by FS Walker which always makes me smile. I always make a point of looking in that room as those paintings lift my spirits but a new (to me) more modern painting on the stairs also caught my eye this week - Jacob Kramers Clay from 1928, a stark but gentle portrait of a cadaver. I need to go back and look at that again when I'm not in such a rush and find out a bit more about it.

I did make time the following day (after my haircut) to go round the Tailored Exhibition at Leeds Museum (details about it here) which if you love fashion is well worth a visit. I learnt that trousers gradually replaced breeches from 1810 to 1840, that frock coats were made not to fasten so that you could show off your waistcoat, there is a wonderful example of a modern jacket with the hand stitched sections on show to show the work that goes on underneath a tailored jacket and of course beautiful clothes - including a black victorian ladies riding outfit (to be worn when riding side saddle of course) a fabulous velvet evening suit from the 70's which oozed charm, cocktails and cigarettes and babycham somehow...a pinstripe suit for a woman from the 1930's which still looks remarkably current and a ladies brown walking dress from the victorian period complete with silk fill in frills and a slight bustle. All this plus wonderfully evocative old adverts and a history of the tailoring trade in Leeds. Go see it if you can. I'll definitely be popping in again plus it's free and given this governments attitude of knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing who knows how much longer we will have free museums.....

I also went to see a fellow MA-ers exhibition Translations by Cam Reid at the College of Art Vernon Street site (details here ) and I found it moving and inspiring too - and it made me realise that I really do need to make more of an effort to go to exhibitions - partly to support venues, partly to support colleagues, partly to check out spaces and see how I could make my work 'work' in them but also just for inspiration and quiet contemplation. Are galleries the secular version of churches these days?

Amongst other books (namely the very wonderful Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon) I'm reading City Boy - My Life in New York During the 1960s and 1970s by Edmund White (Bloomsbury 2010)  - a writer whose work I've enjoyed ever since I went to see him do a book reading at Waterstones some years ago. Anyway some of the things he is saying about writing on page 113 could equally be applied to any form of creative work - especially visual art work
 'no-one is sincerely interested in writing a journal that will never be published - or if he or she is, it's a sort of self sufficiency or modesty that I don't understand. If a writer has the desire to communicate by writing and be heard, then he necessarily cares about seeing it in print. I suppose it's the difference between masturbation and making love- the real writer wants to touch another person. Reading the written word is participating in a dialogue in which one person is doing all the talking but in which the listening is also creative.'

The other thing which caught my eye is on pages 16-17 (and which may feature in my dissertation) is when he is talking about the veneration of so called 'great' writers is 'I begin to see the selling of high art as just one more form of commercialism'. 
As ever much food for thought as was a chum's assertion on Facebook that we are each made up of three people - who we see ourselves as, who we want to project ourselves as and how others perceive us, which struck me as especially true after someone commented on my confidence last week - I am much more confident that I ever used to be but there's still a lot of frantic unconfident and self-doubting activity going on underneath.

The week was rounded off with a birthday treat trip to the CoffinWorks in Birmingham and very wonderful it was too and you can read about it here and go to it if you can - it is an AMAZING place full of thought provoking stuff and nostalgia in the form of old style telephones, sewing machines and equipment - all of which were used in the production of furniture for coffins like nameplates, handles, screws topped with crosses, and the things that went in them like the linings and of course the shrouds. We got to see the stamp room where the name plates were stamped out and finished, the shroud room where the shrouds were made (even got to try an arm of a shroud on, I knew they were made backless but I didn't know they were made with only one arm sewn in and the other arm put on and tucked in afterwards) and marvel at bottles of things like 'cavity fluid' and labels on boxes like 'new crem high vac handles' and the people who work there are lovely - really approachable and knowledgeable. I took lots of pictures though mostly for research purposes but one or two might make their way into cyanotypes most likely one of a box of jesuses or should that be jesuii?

Then it was off to the wonderful Sky Garden at the Library where I took lots of pictures with my crappy kids digital camera, a mooch round the Art gallery where I got my Burne-Jones and Pre-Raphaelite fix - I don't think I could ever tire of Henry Wallis's Death of Thomas Chatterton, and I also fell in love with Augustus Leopold Egg's Travelling Companions and A Widows Mite by Millais. The following day we went to Kenilworth Castle where I again used my crappy kids digital camera in the pouring rain to take pictures of the ruins to make into cyanotypes, I didn't know anything about the castle before I went and it was with some delight that I discovered that thanks to Walter Scott setting a novel there it was a great tourist attraction in victorian days attracting Dickens, Queen Victoria herself and many a victorian landscape painter and photographer.  It was also interesting to see some victorian graffitti - J Perrins scratched their name and the date 1850, HWC scratched initials and the date 1866 and there was lots of other initials and dates scratched into the walls - the most recent I saw datewise was 1971.

So as ever much food for thought and much work and reading to do, portfolio hand in date is fast approaching so I'd best crack on with putting it together.....    

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