Monday, 2 November 2015

MA-Ness Year 2 Term 1 Week 8 - Death, Dissertation, Discomfort, Donkey Work, Delight of Dismal Weather

Ongoing experiments with trying to extract pigment from flowers - not very successful in terms of colour but am liking the stains left by the petals and stalks and have painted them with matte gloss this time to fix them.

this weeks post it note and notes including a quote from a quote from a character in Murder She Wrote -a clearly inspired by Tenessee Williams alcoholic southern writer who said 'it's art, Jessica, it has to end badly'.  

Image from a pre Halloween shoot at Temple Works using my favourite prop -the many skulled silvery skull I got from TK Maxx many moons ago and how I wish I'd bought the other one at the time and one of those changing light sabre toys that were being sold at Light Night - it changes colour and is really good for making light paintings - not quite as bright as sparklers or burning wire wool but with much less of a fire risk and different colours too.

My work is mostly inspired by death - either in terms of the images that I like and inspire me (skulls are a recurring motif) but I am also a massive fan of old graves and graveyards, victorian mourning culture, anatomical drawings - especially the work of Andreas Vesalius whose allegorical posing of skin stripped figures I adore. These are just a few of the things that I love to look at and read about.  But I am aware that this is not everyone's cup of tea and that some people are actually frightened by it. But as it what I surround myself by I am inured to the symbols of it - I even wear a silver coffin on a chain around my neck which opens to reveal a little skeleton and a lot of the jewellery I wear has skulls on it too.

But to quote a famous line 'in the midst of life we are in death' - which I thought was from the Bible and was also almost used by Morrissey in a Smiths song (Sweet and Tender Hooligan has the line 'in the midst of life we are in debt...etc')but tinternet searching tells me it actually comes from the anglican Book of Common Prayer and never has it felt truer than in the last few months and years. The latest untimely and heartbreaking death is that of my youngest sister in law. And it brings home painfully to me that what I use as artistic inspiration and subject matter - especially from the victorian era - was also likely to be the source of someone else's heartbreak and distress.

Wonderful books like JS Curls The Victorian Celebration of Death, or J Morleys Death, Heaven and The Victorians focus almost exclusively on the aesthetic,fashions and their origins, the growth of the funeral industry but the pain of loss, the grieving process (if it can be called a process as process makes it sound clean and clinical and controllable and it is none of those things) are left out. Of all the books I've read so far on the memorialisation and commemoration of the dead only one explicitly look at this in connection with the monuments left behind - Bereavement and Commemoration: An Archaeology of Mortality by Sarah Tarlow mentions the pain and distress too and how not only were monuments indicative of the wealth and culture and technology of the society they lived in - but also an expression of love and admiration by their loved ones too.

Also on my reading list is The Secret Cemetery by Doris Francis, Leonis Kellaher and Georgina Neophytou but that is a book less about the aesthetic and more about the behaviour. It does have an especially beautiful picture of a memorial on its cover - a kneeling supplicant woman on rocks next to what looks like a carved verse from the bible under a draped cross. It's a memorial in Abney Park according to the cover - really makes me want to go and visit it.

I must also learn to read dates carefully - I think I've said this before but I am a bit rubbish with numbers which is part of the reason I struggle with the more technical discussions of photography as 'sunny 16' is about as technical as I can grasp - and I misread the dates and info on one of my favourite graves at St George's Field - that of gentleman Francis Henry Vant whose death is 'deeply regretted' - he died on August 28th 1875 and I misread that as he died aged 28. He didn't he was 56 when he died but I somehow transposed the numbers. Thankfully no-one noticed my mistake when I talked about his grave at What Lies Beneath - but I need to get someone else to check my maths if it comes to actually publishing these papers. My substantive point re his memorial still stands but I don't want to get caught out by making mistakes like that.

I asked my husband if he wanted me to hide all the stuff that references death that is around the house, and not to talk about the work I'm doing or the stuff I'm involved with in case it further upsets him, he said no. But I will bear it in mind more closely over the next few weeks as my going 'wow' at an especially impressive monument or exclaiming my delight in learning a new post mortem fact might be insensitive.

When a good friend died unexpectedly a couple of years ago I remember another friend saying that at our age this is what we have to look forward to - the loss of loved ones. It made me wince - I am lucky that I still have both my parents around and all my siblings but it does make me feel like stamping my feet like a teenager and saying 'it's not fair' and retreating to my room and playing music very loudly. The advance of years makes me look back on my teenage and early twentied self and think 'yep' - there were problems at the time but here is how to deal with them and I would swap those problems for the heartbreak of recent times in an instant.

I used to collect grave poetry and I still do - but now I make a note of the person whose grave it has come from - it seems only manners to make a note of their name and details when I might use the poem dedication as inspiration for something of my own. I feel a little bad that two of the images I have used the most - an angel from a grave in Cleethorpes I didn't make a note of the names, though the other image was an anonymous bunch of daffodils secured to a bench in St Marys Churchyard Whitby. In the same way that I  need to acknowledge references and sources in my dissertation - I need to do the same with my photographic work too. Sometimes the statues I picture have a name of the artist/worker who created them but not always but it should be possible to work out as most cemeteries have an attached stonemason that you have to use so even if I cannot credit the individual worker I could credit the firm.

And speaking of dissertations - had a meeting with one of my tutors on it last week and got some useful feedback and pointers on how to take it forward but I am finding it a hard slog at the moment - same as this blog (a condition I refer to as blog slog) and I am going to have to apply the same determination to get it done as I do to this blog...but right now I'm struggling with finding that determination and an advancing deadline isn't helping either as it is still too far away to make me really panic...but annoyingly it is near enough to make me anxious. Especially if I want to keep up my score when it comes to marking...

I have done some reading and planning and come up with a sort of title and chapter headings but I have yet to put fingertip to keyboard - though I have put pen to paper. I really must transfer those notes into legible typed sentences soon though. Especially as my days are full over the next few days with other stuff and it'll be a while til I can fully concentrate on it again.

The discomfort in the title isn't related to my subject matter as such but to my feet and suffering for my art earlier this week when taking advantage of the mist and murk and taking photos in both St Matthews Cemetery in Chapel Allerton and St George's Fields. I set off in my pink fake DM's forgetting that they are only fit to last for one winter before cracking and letting in water and after half an hour of tromping about on the wet grass I had feet that could best be described as 'swampy' but it was worth it though as I got some pics I am well chuffed with - used 35mm b+w film - one roll was the stuff packaged and sold by First Call Photographic and the other was Ilford Pan 400. Took pictures of my favourite graves and views and am looking forward to getting some of them printed up. Especially as it's looking like I might be having a solo exhibition in the New Year and so feel the need for new images - watch this space for further details.

I will have to get another pair of winterproof boots...

Donekywork is how that side of things feels a bit at the moment - ie repetitive and not very rewarding unlike taking pictures - which I am enjoying doing. Have taken lots over the last couple of weeks. Am enjoying using the crap kids digital as well as the canon I got for a fiver from the charity shop and I got my husband a lovely old bakelite camera which takes 127 film last week. Not that being bought an old camera would take away the pain of losing his sister but  because I thought it would bring a smile to his face temporarily and he could have fun using it in the future so it would be worth it.

I don't like weather like this (ie foggy as fuck)  when it causes accidents or interferes with people's travel plans but I do love it when it comes to taking photographs - as it makes everything look so creepy and murky - I finished off a roll of film this morning whilst on a mist infused walk round the bridlepath but as I took those on poundshop colour film I'll have to wait to get them developed to see them.

Earlier this week the computer decided to have one of its hissy fits and in spite of the green light flashing on the tinternet booster signal thingy that sits on top of one of the speakers (if it's flashing it means the tinternet is working) and the tinternet working on the tablet thingy it insisted that the tinternet was down. And so I couldn't do what I normally do which is have social media channels open at the same time as I sit at the computer working and so I had to completely concentrate upon the tasks in hand as opposed to flitting from one site to another when I get bored. Instead I had to concentrate on what I was doing - namely some dissertation prep and catching up with updating my bibliography and lists of films watched and books read. So much so I'm almost completely up to date with it - just got the wonderful Tiger Lillies performance to add. Saw them on Halloween at the Howard Assembly Rooms. And very marvellous they were too.

I'd never seen them before but had heard of them and got tickets because a) I'd heard chums speak highly of them and b)  they were doing the songs of Cole Porter and I love Cole Porter songs. They made wonderful versions of them - they had an electric double bass, a theremin, a piano accordion, a home made banjo, a grand piano and best of all a saw and a vocalist whose strange strong falsetto was entrancing to listen to. I absolutely adore the sound of the saw and their versions of Love For Sale, Anything Goes highlighted the seedier more depressing aspects of those songs. Utterly enchanting mix of pathos, filth and humour and we got a cd afterwards (I'm not a download type person) - and the Tiger Lillies signed it too. I really like being able to buy work direct from the artist. Going to go and listen to it now.    

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