Sunday, 20 September 2015

MA-Ness Year 2 Term 1 Week 2 Flowers, Tea Toning, Reading, John Waters and Successful Academic Hoop Jumping.

this weeks post it notes - as you can see lots going on
Cyanotypes in progress - taking advantage of the strong sunshine in the bathroom
pic on the left is of rubbings from a grave in St George's Field, pic on right is a still from Becketts Park Cemetery

washing, bleaching, tea-toning, washing in action - there are lots of uses for litter trays that don't involve cats bottoms
(these are brand new litter trays bought especially for tea toning)

experimenting with arresting decay of petals using gloss medium as a preservative - painted these a few days ago and they seem to be holding up okay so far...

It's been a very busy week and it was crowned by finding out on Friday that I had been successful in my academic hoop jumping so far as I got a distinction for the last module I handed in and a distinction for the first year overall. To say I am pleased is somewhat of an understatement - not least because it confirms that I am on the right path for jumping those academic hoops but also because it makes the possibility of further study as in a phd a more realistic prospect. Plus my self confidence work-wise can be shakey - especially when looking at other peoples and imposter syndrome rears its ugly head so this is a very welcome confidence boost too.

My giddiness and relief was celebrated by going to watch Henning Wehn at City Varieties who was very funny (I was unsuccessful in my quest for tickets to the John Waters Q+A at the BFI or else I would have been there being all fan girly) and this was followed by much fizz (too much in fact and I spent most of yesterday somewhat regretting my previous nights enthusiasm for said fizz) and a rewatching of one of my favourite Hammer films - Dracula AD 1972 which is wonderfully bad and whose soundtrack I can often be found listening to.

So along with drinking my bodyweight in fizz what else was I up to last week? as you can see from the pics above I was taking advantage of the strong sunshine and developing some cyanotypes which I then toned in tea (thought I'd used yorkshire tea but realised afterwards it was trose own label decaf - must use yorkshire next time and more teabags - this was 4 in a big teapot and next time I think I'll use 5) after a few seconds (up to 30) in a bleach solution (1 tablespoon washing soda crystals to a litre of water). I am fairly pleased with the results though sadly one picture tore as I was washing it. I was a bit surprised as this was on watercolour paper and the one I did on lined notebook paper lasted better though I didn't wash that one for as long just in case.

I left these in the sunshine for over an hour which I think on reflection was far too long - think 45 minutes would have been more than enough (but I struggle with the fear that they won't be developed enough...)  but I'm pleased with the tone they've taken on with the tea. One MA colleague asked if one was a drawing as it looks like one. I usually colour photocopy them too and I am happier with the colour photocopies than with the originals. Will have to re-read Benjamin's Art In The Age of Mechanical Reproduction to see what he has to say about such matters as IIRC his piece was more about the value of pieces as opposed to aesthetic changes but I have read lots since I read it so it's all gone a bit hazy and muddled in my mind....

Anyway the colour photocopies look to me like pictures you find in old text books, I won't put pictures of them on here as I'm reluctant to put pictures of the finished items without watermarks but equally watermarks change the look of the piece in a way I don't like so mmm, will have a to find a way round that one. It's not a problem handing it in to be marked though (which is the primary purpose of this blog - it's my research journal to hand in) so I think I'll just do well as add re-read of WB to my to do list.

I've been doing lots of reading this week too - as well as watching photobooks being skimmed through on Vimeo. It's not very satisfactory as you can't really see in good clear close up definition but it's good enough to give you a feel for the piece and what it encompasses - in this way I've watched/skimread/seen Tulsa by Larry Clark and The Ballad of Sexual Dependency by Nan Goldin as both works were mentioned in Art and Death by Chris Townsend which I finished and took back to the library on Friday. Hurrah - along with a wonderful book called Red which features some of the eerie, unsettling, beautifully moving work by Ralph Eugene Meatyard (what a fabulous name for a start!!) and another book called Death which was actually the catalogue from the exhibition of the same name held at the Media Museum in 1995*. You can see a copy of it here.

All were thought provoking and inspiring and have given me much food for thought and other artists work to look at and explore. They have also given me a sense of 'argh, there is so much I want to read and comparatively little time in which to do it'....especially as my priorities must be over the next few weeks:
exhibition Out Of The Shadows
paper for What Lies Beneath Conference

Though I have made a start for all of theabove - the latter two are more started than the first one though which is something I hope to remedy this week. I also want to keep up the balance I've had so far of healthier eating/exercise and time off so I am trying to plan my use of time better - getting reading sorted for journeys so that travelling time (I cannot drive and so either walk to places or use public transport) can also be utilised. I've got an article entitled 'International Art English' by Alix Rule and David Levine bookmarked for a train journey this week - which one of the librarians suggested might be of use to me when he overheard me talking about my dissertation topic to one of the other librarians.  I've found the library staff at the college to be unfailingly helpful - either with book suggestions, helping me learn how to copy onto acetate and fixing the copier when it jams on me which thankfully hasn't happened for a while...or with getting hold of books for me. The latest being Secure The Shadow by Jaye Ruby. My rule re books are if it's around a tenner on Amazon I'll buy it - anymore than this and I'll get it from the library and then if it is worth buying saving up for it. Secure The Shadow is around £200 a copy so a library copy will do just fine.

I also need to start narrowing down exactly what projects I'm going to work on as I am still a bit kid in a sweetshop and I need to decide which ones I should (no pun intended) focus on. I am enjoying my experimentations with flowers though. I am using gloss medium in an attempt to stop them decaying and it's kind of working so far - but what I am more pleased with are the glossed decayed remains of petals I have photocopied using a black and white copier and which now look like pencil line drawings.

John Waters has been a recurring theme this week (as ever) as I listened to a Q+A session he did with Jeff Koons (which you can see here) at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles in 2014 whilst waiting for my cyanotypes to develop. It was Jeff Koons comment that 'art happens inside the viewer' that reminded me that however much you try to guide a particular reaction in a viewer of your work it is absolutely ultimately up to the viewer. This also chimes in with John Waters seeming view that it is other people who ascribe the accolade 'artist' rather than yourself. I also listened to the interview he did with Graham Norton on Radio 2 yesterday (which you can hear here) in which he revealed that he has a cameo in the new Alvin and the Chipmunks movie which I am going to have to go and see as a result.  Plus one of my lovely fellow MA-ers got to see  his show in London and brought me back one of the promotional posters which features him as he see himself if he had gone in for botox, surgical facelifts and use of 'improbable brown' hairdye. I shall have to find a space to put it on the wall.

Plus both interviews also highlighted for me one of the aspects of artwork that I struggle with - namely my gut reaction either when viewing or making a piece of work and the post viewing/post making intellectualisation of it. My gut reaction happens first - on a very basic level 'do I like this enough to look at it for longer/more closely' and then the intellectualisation happens and I struggle with that as it's that with its jargon that I think can put people off looking at work or wanting to take part. Mmm I need to think this through a bit more...which is just as well as that's what my dissertation is going to be looking at.

Aside from cyanotyping I've not taken many pictures this week - though I did take some on my crap kids digital camera on the way home including one of Leeds Town Hall which I am very chuffed with - partly because the building has a soft spot in my heart as not only is it a fine example of victorian civic architecture but also where me and my husband got married. I am loving the lomo-ness of the camera and its limitations and my husband also really likes the pic as the way the colour has come out makes it look like an old postcard. I'm especially pleased about this as I adore old postcards - especially ones from the fifties, sixties and seventies with their slightly overdone optimistic febrile colourtones.

Something else I have been doing a lot this week is learning new words and phrases - or rather writing them down once I have looked them up in the hope that this way their definition will stick and here's some of my favourites from the last week:

aspersorium - medieval term for container of holy water

ontological - concerned with metaphysics and nature of being
prolepsis - answering questions in rhetorical speech or a representation of something before it has happened eg he was a dead man when he entered the room
aposiopesis - short break for effect 
caesura - point of natural pause
mise en abyme - literally placed in an abyss but used to describe repeating reflections between two mirrors
preterite - past tense

sedulous - persevering, diligent
aporia - irresolvable internal contradictions eg a liar declares all liars are liars

to name but a few...

No wonder it has felt like my brain has been bleeding this week...and it can only get more intense....

* I know I need to get into the habit of Harvard Referencing and I do when I write my bibliography when handing stuff in but I've yet to find a way to make it seem less clunky in this blog....which again makes me think who am I writing it for and why am I writing it - if it is for research journal purposes then why do I wish to make it less clunky as it is only going to be read by academics and they're used to clunky..or is it because I'd also like it to be read by non academics too and I would hence my reluctance for what I see as clunkiness...

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