Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Post MA Show-Ness, What Next? Looking Back - what would I do differently? ....

(Un) Hidden In The Grave IV
burial plot sized lumen print on silk, muslin soaked in solution of graveyard dirt, images printed on coffin lining material in embroidery hoops wrapped in colours of Victorian mourning and dead flowers.

Not so much a post it note but more a list made during a break at the very interesting Heritage and Theory Conference held at Leeds Museum last weekend, some unused photocopies of imagess which might have been transferred to coffin lining material if the ones pictured above hadn't worked - it doesn't always and ticket from one of the films seen at Leeds 30th International Film Festival. Haven't got passes this year but have taken advantage of the 6 tickets for the price of 5 offer instead.

So it seems a bit strange writing this as I've got out of the habit of not writing it every Monday very quickly but it is still roughly once a month and I'd like to keep it at that kind of frequency - providing I can find things to write about that is - might need to reinstate my post it note habit. But habits aside I felt I ought to write up where I'm at now this MA malarky has come to a kind of natural end as the show is over now too and the only formal bit left is the graduation ceremony (at which I have to wear a PALE FRIGGING BLUE gown...I haven't worn pastels since I was able to choose my own clothes and I know it's a very very minor thing in the grand scheme of things but ugh!! pale frigging blue - why can't they be black??? - I mean I know why but my point stands) though I hope to stay in touch with the friends I've made on and through the MA course. One of whom helped me enormously this week when I was mulling over potential PhD plans.

I have been so busy with the show that work on my PhD proposal has gone on the back burner a bit but it remains my goal to do one next. And I have a new way of thinking around my research question thanks to a chum so I have a new focus now which I'll try to mull over the next few days - whilst also trying to declutter, tidy and generally sort out the house too. My Mum is coming for my graduation and it needs sorting out before she gets here. I'm trying to do it one room at a time - but so far my workroom (where she'll be sleeping) isn't finished and it's already taken two days...but it's getting there...albeit slowly plus it'll be in a better state to start again when (all being well) I will be preparing work for next years projects which along with a Phd also include: presenting at a death and disease in Victorian Leeds day, a couple of conferences (need to write abstracts and see if they get accepted) and speaking about my work in the context of dark tourism too.
But in terms of what's immediately next on my agenda : house sort, graduation, PhD proposal, and perhaps most importantly of all rest too. This time last year I was working on my dissertation and struggling with dealing with both the practical and the emotional aspects of bereavement. The last two years have been amazing in terms of what I've learnt, how my work has changed and developed, how my thinking has evolved but it's also been really bloody difficult at times - physical health problems have also been prevalent - a knee injury has severely impaired my mobility at times (as well as being bloody painful) and it is still having a negative impact at times but hopefully it'll continue to improve further and it'll be back to normal soon.

I've been thinking about what I'd do differently if I could go back to September 2014 and there's a few things - first of all I'd hope that the loved ones who died during my time at Leeds College of Art didn't - that goes without saying but as that is also something I cannot control or change so the things I could have controlled and changed include:

  • tried harder to stay in a good exercise habit - not helped by poorly knee either but it had gone by the wayside before then...and it's proving hard to get back into...
  • read more - I read loads but I didn't read as much Barthes as I could/should have done and I got out of the habit of reading just for pleasure. I am kind of getting back into it as in the Victorian era novels I am reading give me enormous pleasure but they are also a research tool - especially when they deal directly with mourning practices (whole section in My Lady Ludlow by Elizabeth Gaskell which I'm on the verge of finishing) and I need more Jackie Collins type nonsense in my life.
  • tried harder to stay in a better eating habit - too many evenings especially when working on my dissertation were given over to the lure and ease of either take away or ready meals which are not healthy. I've been trying a lot harder over the last few days - made a lot of soup for instance but I want to get back in the habit of making things like lasagne, mousakka and trying out new recipes too instead of just tried and tested favourites.
  • spent more time in the library - I took lots of books out of the library but didn't always get through them, maybe I would have if I'd set myself goal of reading them in situ.
  • practiced more in the darkroom and got something decent using liquid light - got lots of cyanotypes I was happy with but liquid light and b+w print making remains something I can do but I find it very tricksy and not second nature - it's not vital that I do this as I prefer making cyanotypes, lumen prints and anthotypes more but I'd like a bit more technical savviness.
  • See also photoshop - aside from using it to invert images to make negative versions of them I still find it hard to use. Mostly use the Windows 10 photo viewing and editing software as I find that much more user friendly.
but things I am really pleased with -
  • I got burial size prints on silk.
  • learnt several new techniques
  • learnt a lot about art theory - as opposed to art history
  • learnt how to speak and understand artspeak better
  • met some lovely people and made good connections with them
  • learnt to jump academic hoops successfully.
    had the privilege of visiting various archives and handling many primary sources
  • wrote and read papers at academic conferences - if you'd told me a couple of years ago that I'd be doing something like that at all, let alone without feeling like I was going to have a heart attack I'd have thought you were on crack. 
  • showed my artwork at academic conferences.
  • had a solo show at Lentos.
  • I kept going even when I didn't especially feel like it.
  • I set myself the goal of getting a distinction and achieved it.

    So all in all (bereavement aside) the last two years have been amazing and I am still incredibly grateful that I had this opportunity and was able to take advantage of it - thanks must go to my ever patient and supportive husband, my lovely tutors, workshop technicians and librarians, Mapp who (ignored) listened to my practicing various talks in return for treats, and my friends who both helped directly with things like references, referencing and who listened to me going on about stuff and who came along to events and shows too. I have some friends in particular who I call my Man Ray friends - see below.

    I'm reminded of the quotes I have on my workroom wall which help me lots and there are some in particular which I keep coming back to again and again:

    'You don't need a huge audience, you only need 5 or 6 people who care and support you, don't worry regardign idealism and practicality. Try to get paid for what you do but don't worry if you don't. Just keep on working, you'll make up for it in time.'
    Man Ray

    'You can use all kinds of obsession. You can use obsession for humour, you can use it for style, you can use it for fashion. Obsession is great if it brings you pleasure and helps make your living doing something you love. It's only bad if you make the same mistake over and over with some obsession that brings you unhappiness'
    John Waters

    'To practice any art, no matter how well or how badly is a way to make your soul grow, so do it.'
    Kurt Vonnegut

    And thanks to you too for reading these posts.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Post MA-Ness - Degree Show - 12-7pm each day til November 6th Studio 24 Mabgate Leeds

(Un) Hidden In The Grave IV
lumen print on silk,coffin lining material, dead flowers, graveyard dirt

This is my work for the MA degree show - currently showing at Studio 24 66-70, Mabgate Leeds, show also includes work by other artists from the MA course including portraiture, sculpture, fabric design, textile art, painting and graphic design so something for everyone really - come on down and see it in the flesh as it were.
Open each day til November 6th from 12-7pm.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Post MA-Ness, Gothic Festival, Framing, Victorian Programmes on TV, Bleak House and that kind of thing

this months post it note hastily scribbled on, some notes on key national and legislative events from Victorian era made with lovely fountain pen on my fave vellum notepaper, copy of Mary Barton with post it notes for mentions of death/death customs, mostly obscured copy of Bleak House bought from Oxfam shop on Oxford Road on way back from Whitworth Art Gallery on Friday which will be similarly annotated (plus Bleak House features spontaneous human combustion as well as being in part inspired by real life murder case known as the Bermondsey Horror in which Patrick O'Connor was murdered by Marie and Frederick Manning) and copies of the brochure for the Gothic North Art Exhibition currently on at 70 Oxford Road and which the pictures below are currently on show at though without me stood next to them looking a bit gormless and uncomfortable as I hate having my photo taken....
My work as part of the Gothic North exhibition at 70 Oxford Road - included are some of my prints on coffin lining material, including one washed with graveyard dirt and an overlaid digital print.
It's been about a month since I've written and a lot has been happening within that time - some if it good and some of it not so good. The good things involve exhibtions, books, films and the like and the not so good is a mix of lurgy, labyrinthitis symptoms and panic attacks. So in order not to let the not so good things outweigh the good things I decided I'd best write up what's been going on  plus it's also a good way of collating and clarifying my thoughts about what is next on my horizon and also a way to blow my own trumpet a bit about things like the Gothic North Art Exhibition. An exhibition which features my work and that of the Manchester Gothic Arts Group.

So I'm looking at my diary to see what I have been up to - I've had a mooch round Armley Mills Industrial Museum and taken some pictures, which was lovely. I've been to see lots of films at the ever lovely Hyde Park Picture House - including Enough Rope - which was another in the Patricia Highsmith adaptation series - no-ones write murderers quite as cold and disturbing like she does, Hunt for the Wilderpeople which was both poignant and laugh out loud funny (I especially enjoyed the priests talk over the coffin) an Odourscope version of L'Age D'Or which was both smelly and still somehow shocking to see a monstrance left on the floor of a taxi, the Ron Howard documentary about the Beatles which was also very interesting. I also introduced my husband to the joy of The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires - Hammers attempt at a martial arts bloodsucker movie with Peter Cushing. In many ways it's extremely shonky but nevertheless I love it.

I also had a road trip to Beverley and Hull to see a very wonderful exhibition about Mary Elizabeth Braddon followed by a trip to The Deep. The exhibition on Braddon is on at the Treasure House,  Champney Road in Beverley until November 19th and is well worth a visit as it details her life, has some yellow copies of her novels and is really interesting. The trip to The Deep afterwards was less exciting though as it smelt vaguely of nappy bucket to me and wasn't a patch on the Aquarium in Barcelona which I went to a few years ago, but am glad I've been and the part of Hull The Deep is in had all sorts of interesting Victorian era buildings near by. There is a lovely toilet block near the Minerva public house (the MInerva itself opened in 1829 and so is Georgian) which I had a bit of a meander round and made a note to go back and visit properly and have a proper menader round. I did enjoy seeing the penguins at The Deep though - not sure what kind they were but they defintiely weren't Emperor ones. Saw a stuffed Emperor penguin at Manchester Museum on Friday - they grow up to 1.22 metres in height and compared to all other penguins I've seen this one was huge. There are lots of live frogs, lizards and suchlike in the Vivarium bit of the Museum - my favourite bits though were the plaster cast of the Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton and the mummys with their exquisite painted wooded face covers which somehow still look very modern indeed.

Along with going to see lots of dead things in jars and cases at the Museum we also fitted in lunch at Bakchich which was delicious, and a look at the Elizabeth Price Curates exhibition at the Whitworth before heading back to 70 Oxford Road for the formal opening of the Gothic North Festival and the accompanying exhibition.

It was especially lovely for me to be part of an exhibition in my home town in a building that I went to see lots of art in when it was still known as The Cornerhouse and also to be part of a self proclaimed and proudly identified as gothic exhibition. Plus I learnt some hanging and framing tips from the team who put up the pictures - allowing a gap between glass and image will protect the image better, and using a piece of card masking taped to the wall and held out at 180 degrees from the wall whilst you're drilling holes captures most of the brick dust which can then easily be put in the bin.

It was also especially nice to have someone else put them up - albeit to my instructions as a) I'm not very good at getting things straight even with a spirit level and b) the way they were put up ie with screws and mirror plate fittings as last time I put anything up was at Lentos and the work could only be affixed to the uneven rough wall was with blu-tack which isn't ideal as it's not very secure plus it has a tendency to dry out in cafe settings as there are big fluctuations in temperature and humidity and so things often need re-attaching. Apparently my work fell on customers a couple of it's just as well they were only mounted paper prints and not heavily framed ones. I doubt that'll be happening in Manchester though as they are very firmly attached to the wall.

My obsession with the Victorian period shows no sign of abating and I am especially looking forward to the new series starting this evening on BBC2 called The Victorian Slum, I've enjoyed the series called Railways: The Making of A Nation too though I have also been tutting at the tv with that one - as I do with many documentaries that show clips that appear to be of what they are talking about but can't be eg film that purports to be of a railway being built but can't be the railway they are actually talking about as it was built before film was invented or just showing clips or photographs without an onscreen list of when/where it was from.

But maybe that is more forgivable (as there is usually a list of sources in the credits) than the purely fictional series set in Victorian times - the latest series of Ripper Street which apparently is set in 1897 had Inspector Reid using a camera which wasn't invented til 1900 and far too close to the subject as it was the kind of camera with a minimal focal length of five foot. I understand that there is such a thing as dramatic licence but that's taking it too far if you ask's also the perils of watching tv set in a particular period when you are both a history and an analogue camera nerd.

There's been a lot of work over the past few weeks to get stuff ready for shows (framing stuff in a way you're happy with takes almost as long as making the work to begin with - well it doesn't but it feels like it) and I'm still working on the piece/s for the MA degree show which opens on the 27th October at Studio 24 Mabgate and is on until November 6th. I've still to buy a few ingredients for it too - things like fishing wire, white acrylic paint, some hanging hooks and that kind of thing. 

One thing I'm not looking forward too though is the wearing of the graduation gown as it is PALE FRIGGING PASTEL BLUE. WITH A YELLOW AND WHITE HOOD. Of all the colours for it to be - if I do decide to do a Phd then maybe I need to check what colours the gowns are before I sign on the dotted line so to speak.....oh well best crack on - after all Bleak House isn't going to read itself and neither is the broom handle going to paint itself white.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Post MA-Ness - Distinctive Relief, Work On Show, Elizabeth Gaskell, Conferences-Ness and What Next?

Image of burial plot size piece (7ft by 3.5ft)- part of ongoing work for degree show (October 27th November 6th Studio 24 Mabgate Leeds) image printed on it is a digitally reinverted lumen print of a grave ornament from St Matthew Cemetery Chapel Allerton - two other pieces the same size but in different colours have also been printed. Image taken at St George's Field.
Post it note which looks very neat indeed - written in archival quality ink with the fancy fountain pen I treated myself to for finishing the course, next to copy of Mary Barton with a post it note on the page where there is a mention of death/a death/death practice/death belief in the text.

Cholera burial ground in York just opposite the railway station
View of some of my work on show at Lentos Cafe, North Lane in Headingley - on show til September 30th.

It seems rather strange writing this - for the last two years it was my habit to sit down on a Monday and write up what I had been up to the previous week. But all that changed on August 12th when I handed in my portfolio for assessment, it was the last formal part of my time at Leeds College of Art on the Masters in Creative Practice course and I haven't written since then. The good habit I got into of writing up each week what I'd been up to was no longer needed for assessment purposes (for the last two years I have been using this blog as my research journal) and so it was one less job to do and it's been quite nice having one less thing on my to do list - though that list hasn't got any less really.

I haven't quite decided what I'm going to do with this blog now - I don't think I'll do it every week but I think I'll try to do it once a month instead as a round up as well as a place to advertise what I'm up to. I think that might be the way forward with it.

Although it's a month since the course formally finished I haven't really had a proper rest yet and I have been running round like a blue-arsed fly. I have been doing mundane things like catching up on the ironing and attending dental appointments and suchlike but I've also been busy writing a paper (my third proper grown up academic paper) which I presented at the fabulous Death and Culture Conference at York University and that took some considerable time. I also had some of my visual work on show there too - some of my coffin lining prints which went down very well. I've also put up a mini show in Lentos, as well as working on a draft phd proposal as well as feeding what has become my considerable Elizabeth Gaskell habit (I've now read North and South, Cranford, Ruth and Mary Barton and have just started Wives and Daughters) and on Monday I attended a very interesting conference on 'Pernicious Trash' at Leeds Trinity University which focused on the 'lower brow' literature of the Victorian period including broadsides, sensation fiction (including my beloved Mary Elizabeth Braddon) shop girl fiction and that kind of thing. It was fascinating - as was the Death Conference - the practice of dissection in the medieval period and the death practices carried out in Hong Kong were especially interesting.  

So as you can see even though college may have formally finished I'm still just as busy in lots of ways and I am currently working on - putting together some of my images to be used as a backdrop for Bunker 13 on September 24th at Eiger Studios in Leeds, aformentioned phd proposal, the work I'm submitting for the third Gothic Festival In Manchester in early October, the burial plot sized work for the MA degree show, the death and disease days I'm helping out with at Abbey House Museum and Leeds City Museum and the Love Arts Festival Conversation...I think that's everything - oh no I'm also working on some images for the Dark Arts Journal too...and then there's the graduation ceremony in late November so I'm looking forward to a proper rest and some decent time to sort stuff out in December...but at least the last two days I've been able to have a bit of a lie-in.

Plus I have been suffering from mounting tension with regard to my results, I worked really hard to get my portfolio into as good a state as possible prior to hand in as I was aiming for and wanted a distinction grade ie over 70%. I joked that I sweated blood but it definitely felt like it at times. And thankfully my hard work paid off as I got the grade I was after....though I didn't find it out until early afternoon on Monday as I don't have a tinternet phone and was at a conference at Leeds Trinity University so had to wait til lunchtime before I could log onto a computer to find out what they were.

Cue much shaking, relief, disbelief, pride, giddiness and all round general 'oh thank fuck for that - all that hard work has paid off' type feeling and immediate phoning of husband to tell him - he more than anyone has supported me over the last couple of years and I'd have never got through it without his amazing constant and supportive help. I then over enthusiastically celebrated when I finally got home (hour and half later than planned thanks to bus cancellations and so no buses from that end of Horsforth from 6pm til 7.45pm) by drinking my own bodyweight in fizz again and telling all the people who had helped me get that result over the last couple of years.

So as a result most of Tuesday was spent in a hungover state before going to the Hyde Park to see the new documentary about Gary Numan Android in LalaLand at the Hyde Park where some black treacle flavour ice cream and sitting in the dark watching the screen worked wonders in perking me up. Film was quite interesting too - always good to see someone else's creative process and the way he writes songs was quite fascinating as it involved a visual element too. It looked like he played around with noises on the keyboard, made a guide vocal of just sounds as opposed to words, then drew a kind of morse code as to where the words would go and then wrote the actual lyrics. Fascinating, it was also interesting to hear someone else talk about their battles with depression and panic attacks and how that impacted upon his creative as well as day to day life. But it wasn't a very impartial documentary (in as much as any documentary can be impartial - it can't but some can be more objective than others) and this was definitely more of a celebration - the director who was there for a Q+A described it as a bit of a love story and a road movie. There was no mention or questioning of his political beliefs for instance or cosmetic surgery. It was entertaining though - the dog turd with a kitkat in it, the conversation about 'good' serial killers and the putting on of make up prior to going on stage all made me chuckle.
Plus as I've said even a not so brilliant film is made all the better just by dint of seeing it at the Hyde Park which is the most wonderful cinema and my very favourite place for watching a film.

So what next? well a proper clean and tidy and sort out of the house and my workroom is high on the list, as is the to do list for the next few days in terms of sorting out images and what have you but I think more than anything I need a proper rest for a couple of days or so and let that distinctive relief well and truly sink in. 

Thursday, 11 August 2016

MA-Ness Week 18 - Endings and Beginnings, Slogging Through Fog, 41 Hours To Go, Treats and Heartfelt Thanks

This weeks post it notes - including one with the fancy fountain pen I've just treated myself to for getting to the end of the course, a copy of a book I've just bought as I have become seriously addicted to Elizabeth Gaskell, a postcard of the painting Hard Times from 1885 by Sir Hubert von Herkomer chosen because a) I think it's a wonderful evocative painting and b) because I feel like the little boy sitting on the ground next to his mother ie dead tired... I hope the family portrayed in it went on to have less hard times but I suspect in reality the workhouse would have beckoned....

It's taken me a while to get round to writing this - partly because I have been concentrating upon getting my portfolio together ready to hand it in tomorrow. This is the big and final module - this is the 60 credits on its own module so I've been totally concentrating on it and its contents for the last few weeks so I can make it as good as possible. I want a distinction parly for my own satisfaction at successfully jumping that kind of academic hoop but also because I am hoping to do a Phd and if I get a distinction that should make that goal a little bit easier to accomplish.

I've followed the same template as I used when I handed it in this time last year and got a distinction for it but I have (hopefully) improved it further by being a little more discerning about what I've put in it as well adding little overviews for each of the projects I've worked on. I also wrote a general overview of my work over the last couple of years complete with proper harvard referenced footnotes and sub headings. I started work on that document about a month - six weeks ago and a lovely chum of mine helped me out on Monday night by helping me put the final touches to it in terms of inserting said footnotes and referencing them using the Harvard Reference system...which I think I've now more or less got a grip on how to do properly.  I know I used them for my dissertation but I was in such a state of brain fog at the time that I wasn't sure if I was doing them properly or not.

Anyway with that done I spent most of Tuesday at college printing it out along with the final images I wanted to include. I thought I had got myself all organised and sorted image-wise for printing but I hadn't - I had taken the images off the camera memory card that I had taken of my burial shroud size piece blowing in the wind at St George's Field on Sunday but I had only transferred them to the laptop - I hadn't put them on my memory stick or on google drive. ARGH - nor had I taken a picture of it on my phone. DOH!! I had put a picture of it on my Facebook page but social media sites are kept behind a firewall during lecture hours at college so you can't access them unless you have a smartphone - which I don't. Cue husband coming to my rescue again by downloading the image off Facebook and emailing it to me - it's not the best resolution but it's good enough to see the piece of work so PHEW I didn't have to come home and go back in again....

I have still one or two final final touches to make on my portfolio - namely printing out the submission lables and putting in some file dividers but I had otherwise finished putting it together by 7pm last night. I felt such a huge sense of relief that such a massive job was done, and with plently of time to spare before the deadline of 3pm on 12.8.16. I hate rushing round like a headless chicken at the last minute and finishing it last night meant I had 41 hours left in which to tinker with it, put in anything I realised I had forgotten and also be able to take a massive breath and so finally after what feels like a very long time indeed of feeling stressed about it relax a bit.  If I'm completely honest I may also have teared up a bit.

Part of me still just still can't quite believe what I've achieved and been able to do over the last couple of years, especially with the additional challenges of dealing with multiple bereavement and health problems over the last couple of years....but I got through it, in part due to my own determination and the course being an excellent focus to distract myself from the sad things going on but it is also thanks to supportive tutors and college staff, supportive and encouraging friends and last but by no means least thanks to my ever supportive and lovely husband who has been so supportive and encouraging, not just on an emotional level but also on a practical and financial level too. I don't think I'll ever be able to thank him enough really. Thanks must also go to Mapp who has listened (albeit not very closely and with no feedback) to every presentation or paper I've done but most importantly has let me fuss her when I've been feeling rubbish which frankly has been often.

A lot of the time thanks to non course related events it has felt like I've been wading uphill through treacle with a very heavy backpack, but it has also been the most brain stretching, challenging, thought provoking and rewarding time. I've been able to poke about in all sorts of archives, read all sorts of fantastic books, potter about in the darkroom, learn lots of new techniques and got to print burial plot size pieces of work - so what's not to love?  And I must remind myself of the overall joy of the process and what it brings to me when I'm sat in front of the computer cursing the fact that it has frozen yet again and all I can say is 'oh for fucks sake, just fucking work!!!' and all I want to do at that moment is sack the whole thing off and go and watch rubbish telly.

There has been some fantastic stuff on the radio recently - there was an excellent programme about leeches with Sir Christopher Frayling, an Infinite Monkey Cage about Frankenstein that was also very good (though I have otherwise somewhat gone off that programme and I can no longer take Professor Brian Cox seriously since my husband pointed out he has the same vocal phrasing as Philomena Cunk) and I have been taking time out from slogging away at course related stuff to go the pictures - seen some wonderful films like South Riding (1936) and the truly mind boggling Author: The JT Leroy Story (2016) -  though if I'm honest one of the most boggling things is how anyone could have believed Laura Alberts alter ego Speedy was british as that was one of the worst british impressions I've ever heard. I must write up my proper reviews of them whilst they are still reasonably fresh in my memory. Going to see films at the Hyde Park is one of my very favourite things to do - plus I love the fact that if you go to see a film at the cinema rather than watch one at home then you are less distracted as your only job is to watch the film and you don't have to answer the phone/check email/catch sight of the pile of ironing still undone.

One resolution I have made is should my phd plans/hopes come to fruition is that I will write my bibliography as I go along, something which I hadn't done this term and it was a right slog and pain in the arse to write it up earlier this week. A task which should have been easy but which became somewhat pained and led to a lot of procrastination and social media checking whilst writing it (I can thoroughly recommend Hacker T Dog on Twitter  as he or rather his handler who I suspect is a man called Phil Fletcher is hilarious) and I don't want to have to do that all in one go again. It's been made harder though because of the really noisy and invasive roadworks going on outside too - from 7am til 7pm there has been the sound of drilling, or the noise and vibrations of rollers making the tarmac flat and it's been going on for the last two weeks and is scheduled to continue for at least another two...

Another resolution would be to make meals in advance and freeze them as I've put weight on as I've been eating less than sensibly and reaching for easy comfort food as opposed to making healthier food from scratch.

One thing that did happen though this week or rather last Sunday was the first time I've felt unnerved in St George's Field. Along with taking images of my burial plot sized print, I also took pictures with my new pinhole lens and I wanted to take some amidst the clump of graves and trees in the corner nearest the transport studies department which is being refurbished.  It was quite a windy day and as I set up the camera on the tripod at the edge of the clump the branches above began groaning and squeaking as they rubbed against one another in a really alarming 'I'm about to break and come crashing down' kind of way so I moved to another spot sharpish. It really felt scarey and a bit threatening at the time though now I'm thinking oh for goodness sake it was just wind on the branches.

It didn't stop me going and getting a pizza from La Besi though for lunch and taking it back there to eat. Though we sat nowhere near the offending branches. Eating pizza there after taking pictures on a weekend has become a bit of a habit for me and my husband and it's one I'd like to continue. Though I will need to up the amount of exercise I'm doing in order to offset them....

I'm not sure if I'll keep up the habit of writing this once a week when I no longer need to for college purposes but even if I don't write so frequently I think I'll make a point of writing it at least once a month as although I'll no longer be at college as much I still have lots of academic and arty stuff on and I'll need to record what I'm up to somewhere, plus if all goes to plan potential phd-wise then I'll be no doubt writing about that.

Fingers crossed........

Monday, 1 August 2016

MA-Ness Week 16 and 17 Final Countdown, Portfolio Compilation-Ness, Seaside Wonder, Cholera, Gaskell, Exhibitions in Manchester and that kind of thing...

two weeks worth of post it notes (please note fancy new lined purple ones) damaged mourning brooch bought from antique shop on the front in Cleethorpes (the pin is broken so it cannot be worn as a brooch plus it also needs a bit of a polish) and the bag with a doodle made by the man who sold it to me. I know lots of people find it morbid that people used to make keepsakes and memorials of their dead loved ones using actual bits from them but I find it rather lovely and wished we still did. Sadly this brooch doesn't have any makers details or details of the deceased either, and part of me is wondering if it might be more of a mass produced fashion type item rather than a more individual one - though of course this could also be because that was all the person doing the remembering could afford.
Sweep rocking out on his cardboard bass guitar in the Humber Pastimes Arcade on the front at Cleethorpes - Sweep never fails to make me smile and every so often I have to go on pilgramage to see him in all his dusty rickety motheaten faded glory and put 50p in and watch him rock out to Buddy Holly and the Crickets..if you want an original Sooty and Sweep soundtrack and them playing Polly Put The Kettle On or Pop Goes The Weasel and a 'bye bye everybody, bye bye' by none other than the original Mr Corbett and less dust and sellotape and no led lights then head over to Southport and the pier where there is an arcade filled with just such wonder.
Forgive poor quality pic - taken on phone, it was quite high up on the wall and I'm not very tall plus quite a lot of wine had been consumed by this of the birthday presents from my lovely supportive husband was a book from Thackray Medical Museum about the impact cholera outbreaks had in terms of public unrest, public health reforms, building of cemeteries and it is absolutely fascinating - Cholera and Conflict 19th Century Cholera in Britain and its Social Consequences (2009) edited by Holland M, Gill G and Burrell S Medical Museum Publishing. However he didn't share my giddiness at standing in the above spot.
A nineteeth century wedding dress on the left - reputedly worn by Miss Heald of Parrs Wood for her marriage to Dr James Wood in 1831 or 1832 and the red dress is an evening dress printed with pineapples and is from 1828-1830 - both on show at the Costume Museum in Platt Field Park Manchester.

So it's less than two weeks til final hand in and I'm trying not to stress too much about it and am steadily plugging along with portfolio compilation. The research journal, public engagement and academic presentations part of it is good to go, the bag to put it in just needs ironing and printing and so all(!) that's left to do is to go through the work I've made and decide which pieces to submit - one complete piece is ready though. My 12 Belle Ends and A Sock On The Door complete with Come Curtains Viewer (TM) is good to go...more or less. I'm still trying to decide whether to compile it by production method or subject matter or some combination of the two, so that's what I'll be concentrating on for the next few days. My work won't end though as then I'll be concentrating upon a paper for Death and Culture, a mini solo show at Lentos in Headingley, putting together a Phd proposal, making work for inclusion at the third Gothic Festival in Manchester just for a start....

So this is going to be one of my final blog posts for this MA malarkey (think I'll keep it on though as it's a useful way to  record what I've been up to, and it's a good way in which to reflect on what I've been up to)  so I'd best get cracking on with it and then I can do some more portfolio compilation. My aim to make an anthotype of St George's Field that was literally of St George's Field has been partially realised in that I got a faint but undeniably there result from an anthotype I made using minced up grass and weeds from St George's Field and an acetate negative of a picture I took on my crap kids digital of a reflection of the trees in my husbands camera lens. I'm not sure exactly how long I left it in the sunshine as I can't remember when I left it on my workroom window ledge and then I went away for a couple of days to Cleethorpes to celebrate my birthday and then I had an overnight trip to Manchester when I got back. In fact I'd forgotten I'd left it there so I had a nice surprise when I opened the curtains when I got back - so maybe 6 or 7 days.  So the method works - so it just needs refining and I need to use an acetate of St George's Fields as a negative. I hope to do this later this week so I can include it as part of my submission.

The other thing I've had some small amount of success with is acetone transfers, apparently they work best when you're transferring an image from a freshly photocopied image and it's a handy other technique to have had a go of, it's smellier than matte medium image transfer but quicker plus acetone is also a handy nail varnish remover. I've tried them on canvas, cotton material and I did try on a bit of coffin lining offcut but that just kind of melted so I won't be doing that again.

One of the notes on my post it note says 'feeling like a boss sorting a computer problem out' but I can't remember what the problem was now. I can only remember feeling exultant at the time. Oh well. I'm not the brightest when it comes to computers and often struggle to make them do what I want - I still find photoshop uninituitive and unuser friendly though I am using it more often these days. Mostly to boost levels in and to invert images and of course to get rid of unsightly modern bloody bins in otherwise lovely vistas of Victorian graves...oh and of course getting rid of cat hairs which no matter carefully I clean the scanner bed and gently wipe the negative with nonabrasive cloth/use the puffer blow thing on it ALWAYS end up with a cat hair on them. I guess Mapp just doesn't like being left out.

The 12 Belle Ends...and the solo show at Lentos are down to my love of John Waters - the 12 Belle Ends is my response to his seminal (and I use the word advisedly) '12 Assholes and a Dirty Foot' piece and the solo show is thanks to my using his mantra of 'a no is free' and so when I was waiting a couple of weeks ago for some films to be developed at The Photo Shop I popped in to Lentos to get a cold drink. I noticed that instead of the usual whats on flyers there were photos (of summer schools set up by Mussolini in the 1930's in Italy now in advanced stages of disrepair and covered with graffitti) so I asked if they were looking for images for the future and luckily I had some on me as I was on my way home from the print room at college and the answer was yes :-)

Very pleased about this as I'd only been saying that morning that I'd love a solo show and this fits the bill nicely. Probably going to concentrate on images I've made of local bridlepaths as opposed to the more funereral ones.  It's exciting though and something to look forward to after the end of the course and the start (fingers crossed) of the next one as it's looking like Phd plans are coming along nicely and fingers crossed they come to fruition.

I am a big fan of Twitter (and especially Hacker T Dog on Twitter as he never fails to make me laugh/groan in equal measure) and I use it to find out what's going on locally, nationally, plus I find it excellent for showing art opportunities as well as finding out what it out there artwise to go and have a look at. It was seeing a tweet by Arts and Minds Network asking for contributors that partly got me started on this making work to show people as opposed to just making work, which then led to my taking part in the Place and Memory Project which then led to me applying to Leeds College of Art and what I'm doing now. I also use it to chat to chums but not as much as other social networks. Anyway I asked what weeds have the highest chloropyhll content so I can make anthotypes more successfully and was chuffed with the response - looks like nettles are going to be my best bet. So I think I need to get some gardening gloves and develop the art of grasping them firmly as that way they don't sting apparently. I'm not entirely convinced by this - hence I shall be getting some gardening gloves.

Part of the reason this is a fortnightly catch up as opposed to my more usual weekly catch up is because I was away most of last week - initially in Cleethorpes celebrating my birthday, visiting 19th century cholera outbreak hotspots, having champagne afternoon tea in a restored Victorian pier tea room and doing the usual seaside things like playing the twopenny falls, air hockey at which I uncharacteristically trounced my husband 7-3 and getting our photo taken by a reincarnated disembodied Van Gogh in a booth. I also went wild in the camera shop and bought a zoomy lens for the Canon film slr I bought in a charity shop this time last year. My husband also got me a Holga pinhole lens for it too - really enjoyed using that on the beach at the Fitties   - a beautiful bit of the seafront we'd never visited before and where we'll definitely be visiting again.

Can't really see anything through the pinhole lens so I set up the shots using the nifty fifty for framing, a handy breakwater to balance the camera on and with the help of my much more maths literate husband and a light reading worked out what exposure times were needed. 10 seconds in the sunshine on the beach, 15 seconds in the less bright Humber Bridge. Got some results I'm really pleased with too - especially as I've post processed them to black and white. They have a lovely other worldly quality to them. Hope to make more like them soon.

I also took the opportunity to rephotograph one of the angels from Cleethorpes Cemetery that I use repeatedly in my work, plus the weather and light and surrounding shrubbery were very different when I took the first lot of photos in February 2015 and it was an excuse to play with my new zoomy lens too. I also made a point of taking details of the people buried in the tomb too as that felt appropriate somehow though I doubt I would use that detail visually in my work, but I feel I might detail it in any accompanying literature. I might also try and find something out about the sculptor/stonemason.   

I was back home for a night before I was off on my travels again, this time to Manchester (or as a long time devoted Victoria Wood fan more often referred to as Manchesterford) to do a few things - discuss my involvement with the Gothic Festival in October, go to the very interesting and thought provoking Emerging Infectious Diseases lecture (about the connections between the science of disease outbreaks and some of the literary responses to such outbreaks) , catch up and have dinner with a lovely chum and the following day go to wonderful temporary and permanent exhibitions, go wild in the aisles of the fantastic John Rylands library and sample their very fine indeed sausage sandwich, go round childhood haunts and be a bit sad to see them in a comparatively sad state (there are no boats anymore on the boating lake at Platt Fields Park) before getting a rather delayed coach home and so being too tired to go and see Elvis and Nixon at the Hyde Park.

The exhibitions were in order of attendance - Fahion Freedom at Manchester Art Gallery and part of the 14-18 NOW WWI Centenary Art Commission. Some beautifully structured pieces - I especially liked the rather 70's looking in terms of the material it was made of (shiny and itchy looking) homage to the Red Cross nurses which made them look sort of superhero-ish, a lot of the costumes featured were yellow in homage/remembrance of the women who worked in the munitions factory and who were known as yellow canaries as the chemicals they were working with made their skin take on a yellow tinge, it was a mix of photographs and costumes and I wish I'd had a longer time to peruse it.

I also spent some time looking at the incredible prints and articles in the Magic, Witches and Devils in the Early Modern World at the John Rylands library which included a fantastic print of Death and the Devil Surprising Two Women by Hopfer, first hand  accounts of the haunting by Old Jeffrey of Epworth Rectory - home of Wesley, Lo Stregozzo's Witches Procession, accounts of the 1762 Cock Lane Ghost Affair and bracelets for shackling a child to life and warding off death and a recipe from John Dee for a liquid to keep your skin looking young whose ingredients contained cinnamon and donkeys milk. Plus to see such items amongst the wonder of the John Rylands library itself just makes it extra special. Plus there was also the tantalising and incredible tale contained within the Malleus Maleficarum which details the case of a restless corpse of a witch who caused a nearby town to be overcome with disease by chewing on her burial shroud - her corpse is only made still when she is posthumously beheaded.

I also very much enjoyed looking at the Schiaparelli and Thirties Fashion exhibition at the Museum of Costume - such beautiful gowns though I had gone primarily to look at their 19th century fashions and I will hopefully be making an appointment to go and look at the mourning items they have in their collection. It wasn't just the costumes that I loved but also the very fine pair of huge vases by Grayson Perry at the bottom of the staircase up to the bulk of the collections - I especially loved the used condom motif as decoration though initially I walked past them and didn't notice the intricate detailing as I'd initially thought they were the kind of vases you often find in stately homes - note to self - look at things closely and properly!! The setting of some of the Schiapirelli gowns were in what had been the dining room and were accompanied by a fabulous 1930's soundtrack on mannequins not in cases worked especially well plus Platt Hall itself is a wonderful 18th century building.

Then it was back through the rain and the considerable roadworks on Oxford Road back to the Art Gallery to see Vogue 100 A Century of Style on recommendation by the curator at the Gallery of Costume (which meant I didn't go wild on the shops on Oldham Street instead and so saved my bank account further distress ) - some of the photographs were amazing. I especially liked the torn creased one of Francis Bacon, the ones taken during the second world war and in its immediate aftermath. I also especially liked the one of Stephen Jones in one of his  pink feathery hats and a pink suit which he said made him feel like 'Barbara Cartland on acid'.

The photographs and galleries were split into the different decades Vogue has been going and there were some that left me cold, some left me uncomfortable with their designer consumerism and one made me want to throw something at it - though that was because of its subject matter - Margaret Thatcher and my feelings towards her. Horrible to be confronted with a large portrait of her sitting comfortably in a chair in a gown - I had a really visceral response to that one. I had my usual 'I just don't get the appeal of Kate Moss' response to all the pictures of Kate Moss because I just don't get the appeal of Kate Moss and don't understand why she is so popular as a model. If I get chance I'd like to go back and have a proper longer look and savour some of the pics by Lee Miller (one of my photographic heroes)  amongst others and marvel again at the excesses of 80's fashion.

Well I'd best crack on with both my portfolio compilation and my reading of Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell - I'm on a Gaskell kick at the moment and so far have read North and South (and marked with a post it note every reference to death/dying/burial customs) and couldn't put it down, Cranford which I was very sad to finish as I just loved it but apparently Mary Barton is filled with death and disease so it's just as well I bought some new post it notes last week as otherwise I might have run out.

 Plus just remembered what it was that I solved computer-wise - the difference between using blogger in googlechrome and firefox, in the former it's much easier to format and in firefox it's a pain in the arse....

Monday, 18 July 2016

MA-Ness Week 15 - Doing, Reading, Writing, Printing, Image Transferring, Creative Bartering, Sewing, Mapplethorpe, and that kind of thing....

Some of the anthotypes in progress - I spent last week making them - again with a Heath Robinson-esque production manner - closing curtains in workroom (as in the room that used to be known as the back bedroom)  and mincing up the kale using a handblender and squeezing out the juice using coffee filter papers, painting the paper with a couple of coats of the resultant green liquid,  leaving them to dry under a blanket that blocks out the light and then after covering them with the acetate negative leaving them in the downstairs back window as that gets the most light. Exposure time roughtly 5 days....the ones with kale have worked okay,  I also did some with some minced up weeds from St George's Field but don't think they've worked anywhere near as well so I am leaving them for a little longer in the hope that there will be something there eventually.... The weeds were minced up with a cheap hand blender (£4.75) bought especially for the purpose and now adorned with the words in red permanent marker 'NOT FOR FOOD USE'...

This weeks post it note - written on a fancy purple lined post it note, along with some of the more successful anthotype images which I have scanned, boosted the contrast and brightness levels on and then digitally reinverted using photoshop (they go a lovely kind of purpley colour) a couple of the acetate negatives I've been using, and the matte mediumed image transfer embroidery hoop framed - am rather pleased with this as a prototype and hope to frame other images like this too.
It's been a busy few days, a busy weekend and it's going to be a busy time between now and final hand in I think....lots still to do though thankfully the bulk of the portfolio overview I was working on is mostly done bar a few additions and a bit of editing and polishing, but then I have to actually assemble the portfolio in terms of the work I want to include and do a little mini overview of those - nothing too long though - just a title, the rationale for doing it and what areas of my work/theoretical underpinning/inspiration it covers. I reckon I'm going to be taking it in a taxi though as I think it's going to be a bit too heavy and cumbersome to carry in on the bus like I did last time....

What else? I do have a lovely new bag to take it in though - thanks to a lovely chum of mine who is a whizz with a sewing machine. I used a existing bag that is a good size that came from Primarni as a basis for the pattern, measured it and cut it out in paper, then used that as a template to cut out the fabric, pinned and tacked it together and she then sewed it. Also used the new technique of turning straps inside out I'd seen on the Great British Sewing Bee  - you line it with with ribbon and then pull the ribbon through.  I hope to sew one of the images I've made using disperse inks to the front of it too or maybe just print one onto it directly. The fabric was initially used as the backdrop for the Out of the Shadows Exhibition last October and I'm glad it's getting used in some way. I still have some leftover and when time is less pressing (ie post hand in) and I can afford to make mistakes and rectify them I might have a go at making another bag but this time all by myself and using my own very basic sewing machine.... 

The bag sewing was a kind of creative barter as she needed some photos taking of her partner as he needed some headshots to send some off to his literary agent. I don't often take pictures of people but I really enjoyed doing those headshots - making the most of the existing light (I rarely use flash) and using either the brickwork or the plain garage door as a background. I used the film grain function on the oldest modern digital camera we've got - I love that setting, it's by far my favourite and I much prefer it to the dynamic monochrome that has replaced it on the newer model we've got.  He was dead chuffed with his pics - I'd dead chuffed with my bag - WIN all round.

Along with the anthotyping I also did some more disperse ink printing in the print room at college which apart from me and one technician was Marie Celeste-like - once again I channelled my inner Bea from Prisoner Cell Block H to operate the heat press, and I saved the ghost prints from the scrap paper underneath and have since laminated them. It's part of my work to use as much of the process as possible - eg backing paper from medium format film as bookmarks, leftover non weed greenery from anthotyping gets eaten, acetate negatives make pieces of work in themselves as well, ghost print by products of the printing process also become pieces of work in their own right too.

I did do some filming last week - or rather I accompanied one of the much more digitally competent film makers from college and told them what I wanted shooting in St George's Fields, and did a voiceover of one of my favourite pieces of traditional grave poetry. This was for the degree show show reel.  I still hope to do a film of my own at some point - one that would either be digitally filmed or individual digital photographs put together to make a film. I want it to be of one of my anthotypes or lumen prints fading so I would have to set up a camera and one of the prints and take photographs at the same time/in the same lighting conditions twice a day til it has faded. As well as make a print in the first place. I think this would be part of my work that deals directly with memory and how it fades, but I could also reverse the film and make it come back to life again - the way memories can when you encounter something material that prompts you.

It was the second visit I made to St George's Field this week - earlier in the week I went there to show a chum round it (and discuss possibilities for the Gothic Festival in the autumn) and to harvest the weeds which I then tried to anthotype with. I love that space and I love showing it to others, although I go regularly I invariably see something I have never noticed before - this time it was a more personal dedication on the subscription graves which have been laid flat to line the pathways. Need to go back and take better pictures of it though rather than just the aide memoire image I've got on my camera phone.

I've been doing quite a bit of reading and watching too recently - I read some appallingly bad but much needed brilliant bubblegum brain reading in the form of Original Sin (2009) by Tasmina Perry which I got from a charity stall a while back. Utterly ridiculous much needed distraction, as was watching The Seventh Veil (1945) last night which featured James Mason as a rather revolting (but oh so physically attractive) bachelor who takes charge of his younger second cousin when her parents die and makes her into a concert pianist. She tries to escape from his overbearing and domineering ways but ends up running back to him. It was gorgeous to watch as it was monochrome, her outfits were stunning, James Mason both looked and sounded amazing but it was also quite difficult to watch a female character being so dominated. 

I've also started another Elizabeth Gaskell which I got over the weekend from another charity stall - this time it's Cranford from 1851-1853. I tried reading it before but just couldn't get into it, but this weekend something kind of clicked as I started it and I've got as far as the cow wearing flannel after it lost all its hair. I also started a book called The Easter Parade by Richard Yates which was first published in 1976 and is set in the 1950's. I'm enjoying being transported to different eras. I've still got college library books I need to finish though....but realistically I can't see me finishing them before they have to go back so I might have to read them in the library instead. Which reminds me - I really must do my bibliography too....I know I should have written it up as I went along but I haven't. Bugger. Oh well.

Along with lots of doing, lots of reading there has also been lots of watching at the cinema or as my 3 year old nephew calls it (who has just been to the cinema for the first time) 'the big big big tv'  Absolutely Fabulous (2016)  was a good giggle in places and good distraction and Mapplethorpe (2015) a documentary about artist Robert Mapplethorpe was excellent. It was a mix of interviews with some of the people he worked with - both gallery owners, collaborators and assistants, siblings, some of his muses, some of the people whose portrait he took,  footage of interviews with him and one with his father, exhibitions and the reaction to his work and analysis of his work. It looked at the different elements of his work - from portraiture, flowers as well as the infamously famous S+M ones.

It was quite thought provoking and a bit of an eye opener (no pun intended) as it's quite disconcerting to see a picture of a fingertip being inserted into the urethra on a big screen - just from a 'surely that's physically got to hurt/sting' point of view but then I am somewhat of a huge vanilla wuss and the only thing I have pierced is my ears and them only once in each ear. The especially infamous fisting shot led to him taking a self portrait of himself being 'fisted' by  the handle of a bullwhip as it was pointed out to him that it was only fair he be on the recieving end of similar treatment.  Much was made of his quite ruthless self centred behaviour and how he used his charm to get what he wanted from people and how drugs were part of his working process both for himself and his assistants - for example giving a bit of coke to his in-house film developer and printer (he neither developed or printed his own images) to get him to work a bit quicker when exhibitions were needing to be finished. This makes me feel a little better about my handing over my film to be developed or just digitally printing certain images though I only do this in return for cold hard cash, though I did once also ensure I got a quick job done by bribing the printer with Tunnocks Teacakes. 

One of the points raised in the film was that he believed the best way to see photos was as a physical print, he died in 1989 so I don't know what he would have made of the way the bulk of images are consumed today ie as pixels on a screen. Much was made of his working methods and how he worked hard and played hard (again no pun intended). His early work consisted more of collage work (using images from porn magazines) and how his life changed both when he met Patti Smith but more importantly Sam Wagstaff who became his partner and patron. Sam also bought him a Hasselblad camera and who in his position as an influential and rich collector championed photography as an art form in its own right - equal to that of painting. The point was made that the rise of photography to be accepted as an art form in its own right as opposed to just a form of documentary has coincided with the rise of both gay visibility and gay rights though I'm not sure if the person making this point was pointing this out as a coincidence or if they believed there was some causal relationship between the two.

There was also some interesting discussion of how some of the S+M imagery was similar in composition to some religious iconongraphy - but then I don't see how crucifixion pictures can do otherwise - whether they are religious in origin or S+M club based. They also showed some images he'd taken using polaroids and had floated the emulsion off the photograph and then stretched the emulsion into a new image. Might have to research that as a method and give it a go myself.

Right - had best crack on with with portfolio stuff the bibliography note on my to do list is also calling....