Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Post MA-Ness What I Am Up To Now and What I Have Been Up To Over Last Few Weeks

Gone for something a bit bigger than a post it note - but that's because a post it note was okay for when I was writing this on a weekly basis but now it's more monthly a bigger piece of paper is necessary....now where to start......
Think I might go along with Julie Andrews and so start at the very beginning as it's a very good place to start - so will start at top of the page and work my way round. So PhD proposal - I have redrafted it after a bit more thinking and reading on my part and some very useful feedback and input from a chum who has just completed a practice based PhD herself.

I've had a positive response from most of the people/institutions I've submitted it to so far (still awaiting a response from one) and whilst it might need a bit more work on it the basic premise of it is okay and something they'd be interested in supervising.

PHEW!! This gives me a mix of yay and argh! yay in terms of I want to continue this study/work malarkey and argh! in terms of 'it's really difficult - will I be capable of doing it?'

Plus application forms have always made me feel a bit anxious - they can be even more scarey than a blank page. I wish I could just kind of click my fingers and skip straight to already got a place and funding if possible and have started it - that would make me very happy indeed.
But that isn't realistic so I shall keep on plodding through 
the next stage and then of course there's applying for funding too and interviews.
I use the word plodding because I often feel I am - literally because my knee is playing up again. But thankfully I have a referral to an NHS physio and fingers crossed they'll be able to help, I did see one privately and it helped a bit but not enough and I would rather see someone who is on a salary rather than commission and see what they can suggest - so fingers crossed they'll be able to help so I can move again and not feel quite so ploddy...or uncomfortable. 

The inspiration from friends is something I'm always grateful for - be it the recommendation of a film, book, painting, a way to develop a piece of my work, a new technique or simply just to hang out with as this art making and researching malarkey can be quite lonely sometimes. It's another reason I really miss the supportive atmosphere of college - to say nothing of the printing facilities, it was so lovely to be amongst other people also involved in creative processes which although different to mine either had overlaps or things I could learn from or things they could learn from me.

I'm still in touch with most of my classmates/chums from college but I don't see them as often as I did - and annoyingly I was too poorly to make it to the last sort of reunion that we'd organised but I did see them at the opening of Walking In Urbana by Karen Tobias-Green (currently on show at Leeds College of Art Blenheim Walk Campus) last week before going on to see Sir Christopher Frayling talk about Angela Carter and introduce a showing of Jean Cocteau's La Belle et Le Bete which was utterly magical.

Magical for lots of reasons - one it was lovely to catch up with arty chums I am missing seeing so often, two - on chatting with a chum getting ideas for photographic techniques that don't need traditional darkroom facilities and three Frayling is such an intelligent, thoughtful, insightful and engaging speaker and four - revolting and unpleasant portrayal of the money lender aside it's such a beautiful film.

I'd gone to see the film really - I first saw it a couple of years ago at the John Rylands Library in Manchester and seemingly anti-semitic moneylender portrayal aside completely fell in love with it - the chandeliers, the dreamlike floating, the fireplaces with human faces plus it's rather a lovely love story really.

Plus entirely by coincidence and luck I'd bought a copy of Angels Carter's In The Bloody Chamber in a charity shop the previous weekend and read the story so his discussion of Carter and her work made more sense to me than it would have done otherwise. But regardless I would have loved and enjoyed the tales of her calling the Arnofini Gallery in Bristol the Anal Finney, their asking Bath City Council to erect a plaque to Mary Shelly creator of Frankenstein and being told 'no, that's more Hollywood really than literature', her wearing lots of layers rather than having heating and her suggestion that children would learn to read best with a King James bible and a whip in the hand of the teacher. It's also interesting the way fashions change in academia and how Gothic Literature is acceptable in academic circles now in a way it wasn't in the mid 1970's  and how comparatively difficult it would be to try and study DH Lawrence now.

I've also really been enjoying the biography of Wilkie Collins that was on Radio 4 Extra earlier - in which I learnt that when he was a child in Italy with his parents they saw yellow sedan chairs going past which contained people who had cholera. (I've been reading a lot and talking a lot about cholera recently as I was asked to talk about it at a Death and Disease in Victorian Leeds study day at Leeds Museum) containing people afflicted with the disease, the amazing success of The Woman In White and how he lived in age of an increase generally in printed books as printing techniques changed and materials became cheaper.

I've also just finished watching the 1982 BBC adaptation of The Woman In White which I also really enjoyed - although I don't think Count Fosco was quite right - beautifully menacing and manipulative but not quite melodramatic and flourishy enough. The lighting wasn't right either, lighting looks much more natural in modern television dramas whereas this looked like big studio lights were full on the action - something my husband says is likely down to the camera then needing huge amounts of light to work whereas digital sensors now don't need so much.

The lighting was in huge contrast to the lighting in House of Frankenstein (1944) which I rewatched a couple of weeks ago. By contrast it is sublime, the shadows in the monochrome are just amazing. It's a terrible load of old hokum as a story and it just sort of fizzles out at the end but as an exercise in lighting design it's a masterclass. Plus Boris Karloff is always a delight for me to watch.

So as you can probably tell my obsession with the 19th century shows no sign of abating - (which is just as well as I hope to do a PhD in aspects of it) and the other thing I'm especially enjoying is reading Aurora Floyd by one of my other literary heroes - Mary Elizabeth Braddon. I am doing this as a read along on twitter with other Braddon enthusiasts and it's really good to be able to talk about it with others.  You can join in too if you want - just look up #MEBAread on Twitter.

I am still loving Twitter as a way to chat to people and find out what's going on locally and nationally. Plus the humour in the anti Trump movements is much welcome. I'm finding the news terrifying and depressing at the moment so it's good for my soul to see digital defiance.

Plus I have put the people I follow on Twitter into different lists which all concentrate on different areas eg gothic studies, death studies, victorian studies, and I make a point of checking these lists at least once a week. Which is just as well as if I hadn't I would have missed a deadline for an art showing opportunity - which I haven't been successful in getting but it was really good practice to put together the application and now I have it in electronic format I can copy and paste it for other ones. I applied for two - one I've heard back from with a no and one I am still waiting to hear back from.

I'm hoping that now I have set up a better system of reminding myself about closing dates - a combination of printing off an A4 calendar sheet, electronic reminders on my phone, and notes in my diary. I had neglected to put details of the one I almost missed in any of those places but thanks to them changing their deadline by extending it a week I was able to put in a submission. PHEW!! The one I didn't get. Oh well - better luck next time.

In other news I have completely fallen in love with a painting called Maid Reading In A Library by Edouard John Mentha which was painted in late 19th -early 20th century and you can see a version of it here,  can't find out much about it or the man who painted it though as yet, so I'm going to ask the help of the college librarians as although I'm no longer a student I am a Leeds College of Art alumni and so can use the library facilities.

In redrafting my PhD proposal I reread some of my old notes about practice as research and they make much more sense now than they did at the time. A fact which is either explainable by my having learnt lots or my having been subsumed into academic speak - or maybe a combination of the two. Though I still find it difficult to define and explain as a process - it's more just something I do instinctively really rather than analytically. But I am going to have to get better at that if I want to succeed PhD-wise.

I also remain rather in love with Francis Bacon having seen a documentary about him at the weekend, and read a book of conversations with him published by Phaidon. The book is especially beautiful as it has prints of his work and the work that influenced him too so much so that I had to write down some quotes from it as they are givign me much food for thought:

 'photographs are only of interest to me as records...a means of illustrating something and illustration doesn’t interest me’....

’since the invention of photography painting really has changed completely...'

photographs were my aide memoire, they were useful to me simply as a tool’

'...cinema is great art, during the silent era the image had tremendous force’...

’a photograph can also produce emotions’.

‘the way people regard my work is not my problem, it’s their problem.I don’t paint for others, I paint for myself’.

‘I’ve probably been influenced by everything I’ve seen’

‘Life and death go hand in hand in any case, don’t they? Death is like the shadow of life.When you’re dead you’re dead, but while you’re alive, the idea of death pursues you.’

I didn't like the concealing of his then lovers death George Dyer until his exhibition in Paris had opened though. That's taking art too far.

The other notes on my sheet are TERMAGANT and RELICT - put there because I wanted to get better definitions for them. If I hear the word termagant I think it's some kind of bird but I know it isn't because of the context I hear it in - it does in fact mean:

  1. 1.
    a harsh-tempered or overbearing woman.
  2. 2.
    an imaginary deity of violent and turbulent character, often appearing in morality plays.

    and in medieval times it was the name incorrectly given to a god christians thought muslims worshipped.

Relict - I had thought could only be applied to women and meant they were widowed and didn't have any children but I think I had partly misunderstood it as it seems it can be applied to man or woman and is used to describe the surviving partner in the marriage when the other one has died.
eg A relict is the surviving spouse upon the death of the other partner, either husband or wife. The word refers to the survivor of the marriage union, not to the survivor of the other person -- as is commonly thought.

I also find it a desperately sad word - sadder than widow or widower as to me it also implies no longer needed.

Well I think I've covered all the points I want to make - I want to keep in a semi regular habit of doing this because it keeps my brain ticking over and once I'm back at college (fingers x'ed eh?) it'll make the transition back to it easier. 

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