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....

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