Monday, 15 October 2018

Phd-ness Part 11, Year 2, Doing, Reading, Doing.

Some instant pictures of St George's Field taken yesterday in the rain, my post it note for this week, an old photo taken of me (can't remember who by though) in 1987 in what I think must be St Marks Churchyard which I found whilst sorting out old boxes of stuff, and aside from the fact that I am much more likely to hide from the camera and be behind the lens taking the picture these days and the fact that I have eaten a lot of pies between then and now I don't look all that different really as in same hair colour, similar clothes, similar jewellery and load of bracelets on right arm, same love of grave monuments - though my appreciation of them these days is different and I don't think I would lean against one in such a blase manner these days.

Also pictured is one of the necklaces I made yesterday out of 'doll parts' available from Poundland as part of their Halloween range and some ribbon and silver beads I already had in. My friend and fellow artist Hayley Mills-Styles has a necklace she made out of a porcelain dolls head and that inspired me to make a dolls part necklace for myself. I painted the red nail varnish on the dolls fingers with a fine red permanent marker before threading them onto black ribbon using a darning needle.
It's been a week of tidying and sorting - hence my finding that photograph and some others also featuring me in St Marks Churchyard. I lived in Woodhouse when I was a student and used to cut through the churchyard to get to lectures and loved it as a space but purely on an aesthetic level then. I had no idea or appreciation of the wider history or practice of Victorian mourning culture then. I don't think the graveyard space is accessible anymore though, the last couple of times I've been there it has been cordoned off with metal fencing and signs saying it isn't safe.

Back in the nineteenth century there was great rivalry between the respective reverends of St Marks and St George's Field, they disagreed with regard as to who provided the best burial services as well as on religious grounds. St Marks was a Church of England site and the people who were behind St George's Field were Non Conformists. 

It's also been a week of rummaging about in libraries - namely the collection of maps and trade directories from the nineteenth century held in the Local and Family History section of Leeds Central Library. I know have a better idea of the size and location of the Leylands, exactly where Ann Carr lived and worked (I thought it was at the back of the Reliance but it was actually nearer down towards Regent Street) and it was a thrill to see her name and address and Martha Williams (her partner in Christ) in the trade directories along with the times of the services at the Female Revivalists Chapel.  10.30am, 2.30pm and 6.30pm on a Sunday and 7pm on a Monday evening apparently. Sadly though I am no wiser as to the age of the cobbles aka setts on Lower Brunswick Street and whether or not they were contemporaneous to Ann but I've still learnt a lot more about where she and Martha lived so I'm happy about that.

Along with rummaging about in libraries and breathing in that delicious smell of old musty books (which apparently is actually the smell of the paper decaying) I also attended a very excellent talk on the history of Central Library, a performance of Frankenstein at Leeds Library which was great - and unusual in that you as the audience followed a silent but expressive Viktor around the library whilst listening to an excellent adaptation on headphones and I went back to St George's Field after not having been for a while in the rain yesterday and took some pictures using my Instax mini 70 and a colour film disposable camera I got a long time ago. I'm not one hundred percent certain where it came from but I think it might have been from a seaside tat shop in Cleethorpes and it has a 'develop before 03-2014' stamped on the bottom. It has flash as well and amazingly that bit of it still worked - I used it because I wanted to take pictures in the rain and for the flash to reflect off the raindrops. I still have 9 pictures to take before I get it developed. I don't know what film speed it is as it is just labelled 'high speed'.

I also collected some leaves whilst I was there, some of the yellow ones I left as offerings on Ann Carr's grave and some I brought home and experimented with/on using black printers ink and this was the result. I'm quite pleased with it and husband really likes it. Part of the reasoning behind this kind of experimentation is I'm trying to capture something of the actual physical essence of the place, something a little bit more than site specific. Think I have a lot more experimentation to do before I find a way I'm happy with. I might try watered down acrylic paint next time instead.

I've also been doing some experimenting with kinetic drawing/mark making (where you line a tube with paper and enclose it with chalk or soft pastel) and I have made some progress with that as I've got a new container to put the paper in and thanks to doing more sorting and tidying workroom wise I've found some thin paper it will work better on. It's a pad of Daler A3 layout paper which is 45gsm and some 20gsm lighter than the 75gsm printer paper I had been using. I plan to do different walks around St George's Field with the paper and pastel in their tube at the bottom of my bag.

One of the things I've been thinking about this week and especially after catching five minutes of Coronation Street (a programme I have been conscious of since being in my mothers womb as she has been a fan and avid watcher since it started) is memorialisation. The character Jim McDonald was looking at an old photo album looking wistful and Liz McDonald pointed out to him that it's only the good memories that get put in albums. Leaving aside that this is a soap family and so had more than their fair share of traumatic events I think the point still stands.

So as ever - lots to think about, lots still to do. Maybe I need to be more like my beloved John Waters who in an interview I saw this week writes everything he need to do in a day on an index card and crosses it off as he does it. Referenced in his artwork '308 Days' currently on show in his retrospective Indecent Exposure at Baltimore Museum of Art. My to do lists remain frustratingly mostly uncrossed off....but I did write and get the slides ready for the talk I'm giving about my work on Friday 19th October at 6pm upstairs at Kapow and I also did quite a bit of reading.

Programmes/films watched

various promotional interviews with John Waters for his retrospective Indecent Exposure.

Books Read
see previous entry

Exhibitions visited 

Films Watched
Lenz H (director) 2018 Kusama Infinity UK Magnolia Pictures
Utterly gorgeous, uplifting and thought provoking film about the life and work of Yayoi Kusama. Featuring a mix of footage of her works,exhibitions and happenings, interviews with her and gallery owners, friends and critics. Also interesting in terms of the relationship between mental health and creativity and how being creative stops her from killing herself and the obstacles she battles with in terms of being a Japanese woman in the western art world.

Monday, 8 October 2018

PhD-ness Part 10 Year 2 Doing, Showing, Listening, Study Level Differences, Brain Weasels and Potential Collaborations

View of my show 'Once and Now - part of the Love Arts Festival, on until November 3rd upstairs at Kapow 15 Thorntons Arcade Leeds 

some of the things I use to make work on a day to day basis - now thanks to workroom reorganising, bookcase buying and wardrobe wrangling all on their own shelf and easily located and used  

Some of the books I'm wading my way through on the new shelves 

this weeks post it note with the programme from the exhibition, and two of the books I bought this week - the Lee Miller one is from the now closed Lee Miller and British Surrealism that was on at the Hepworth which I visited this weekend and was very marvellous indeed and a book on modern photography I bought from the John Ryland library when I went over to Manchester to listen to Royal Photographic Society member Gilly Read talk about early Victorian photography at the Cross Street Chapel - a different building to the Cross Street Chapel Elizabeth Gaskell went to (that one was destroyed by a bomb in 1940 and it has been rebuilt twice since then) but in the same location. The books full title is 'Why it does not have to be in focus' by  Jackie Higgins and published by Thames and Hudson and I am finding it really interesting as it's a list of different modern photographers, with an image, a brief outline of their work, some quotes, similar pieces to look up, the kind of equipment they use. I am finding it very useful and I wish there was a companion volume called 'why it does not have to be pretty' which I could give to my Mum as her usual response to the work of mine that she has seen is 'oh that's nice' and then on closer inspection 'oh no it isn't!! why can't you do something pretty??'. 

So as you might be able to tell from the above images last week was a particularly busy one - I spent a day in Manchester listening to an interesting talk by Gilly Read on early Victorian photography and some of the photographers working in Manchester, I spent a day in Huddersfield doing some printing and attending some PGR Informed Researcher Lectures - the series this year is looking especially useful from a practice based/practice led PhD point of view. I'm really pleased about this and hopefully it will still be in time to help me with my studies. There was some training and lectures last year (ie in my first year) but there were initial issues over location of the lectures and the lectures as a whole felt much more slanted towards and more relevant for traditional style PhDs.

The lectures last week were especially thought provoking and interesting to the point where it led into a spiral of thoughts along the lines of  'I'm not clever enough for this' and 'how am I ever going to get my head around this?' and 'oh how am I ever going to get this sorted?'. To compound those feelings there was sadness on the way home as the trains were delayed because of someone killing themselves on the tracks described as 'emergency services having to deal with an incident'. This made me feel especially sad - that someone should have felt so sad and desperate that they chose to do this and the terrible effect it can have on the train driver, passengers on that particular train and the emergency service personnel who are called in.

It took me some time to regain my equilibrium the following day and to feel more positive and on top of things again, or to at least have a plan to feel more on top of things again. I am still working on my research plan alongside continuing to do the more straightforward archive delving for information on some of the women buried in St George's Field. Last week I paid someone else to do the delving for Ann Carr's will at the Borthwick Institute at York University and in return they sent me a colour A3 photocopy of that remarkable document. Written in October 1840 just three months before her death Ann leaves more or less everything to her 'sister in Christ' Martha Williams, who according to the document is actually a Quaker. By then Ann was seriously ill and fading.

I need to read it again and write it out so that it is easier to read. The faded to brown ink is mostly legible but bits are only legible by slowly and painfully making out each word or by getting the gist of the sentence so that the bit you can't read either suddenly makes sense or narrows it down to a few words it could be until you hit on the right one. It also has the signature of Ann - faint compared to the rest of the document, and the signature of Martha Williams and the witnesses bold in comparison. I am going to make an appointment to go and see it in person now, it is an amazing document and fills me with awe and wonder that I will be able to see and maybe even touch albeit with gloved hand a piece of paper they both touched.

This to me is magic, that such a thing has survived. I don't literally believe in magic but there is a tiny part of me that hopes there is some kind of apotropaic quality to seeing and touching such a document, not in an evil averting kind of way but in a good luck bringing kind of way. I think the power of touch or actually being in the place where someone from the past and long dead is really important even if it can't cure scrofula*. I think it's part of the reason that tourism is still thriving in an age when you can do virtual tours of almost everywhere and anywhere. I think it's a very human thing that wherever possible we need to see and touch things for ourselves. Although understandable and something I abide by it always seems sad when there is a sign saying 'please do not touch' next to what appears to be a fantastically tactile object in an art gallery.

Along with the excitement of seeing Ann Carr's signature albeit in facsimile form, I also had the excitement of hearing about early photographic methods and photographers based in Manchester at the talk by Gilly Read at Cross Street Chapel. Not only did I learn a little more about the early photographic pioneers and why the cleaning of daguerreotypes should only be left to professionals with experience on how to clean them but I got to learn that information in the space that Elizabeth Gaskell worshipped in and where her husband was minister over 100 years ago. In the wall of the building is the remains of the fulsome headstone her husband Reverend William Gaskell had had erected for her. Damaged during the bombing raid in 1940 it is missing its bottom left hand corner but is otherwise readily legible.

Along with this excitement there was also the thrill (for me anyway) of the official launch of my show 'Once and Now' (title taken from North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell) upstairs at Kapow in Thorntons Arcade on Thursday. I should have taken a clicker counter and so properly counted everyone who came but I did make a list as soon as I got home and I could remember 31 and not all of the visitors were friends though the majority were. I was very nervous but it went well - something I should perhaps ascribe to the halloween themed sweets I was handing out to visitors. Their positive response and asking of questions about the images and the stories of the people named on the stone sin the images also helped me feel more on track again. A couple of artist friends who came along have also asked me if I'd be interested in working with them on collaborative pieces and I would. That would be a whole new world of excitement and learning.

So I didn't do much doing last week, in fact the matte medium transfers I started making the week before are still waiting for the paper to be rubbed away with tepid water and I haven't taken any new pictures for a while, despite having a couple of new to me cameras to play with, but I have been doing a lot of listening and a lot of showing and a lot of thinking and a bit of reading.

One of the things I've been thinking about is the differences between MA and PhD levels of study and how you evidence it. Both require commitment and self direction, the PhD even more self direction is required as unlike the MA I did it is not taught. The postgraduate lecture series I attend is not subject specific but general PhD process specific. I am absolutely loving the picture making and ferreting about in archives side of things but finding remembering the books and articles I've read more difficult - in spire of making notes about them and am unsure on how best to reference them in this blog. I'm also unsure as to the purpose of this blog and who it is for. It is a way of advertising my work on the internet and a good way for me to get my head around what it is I've been doing but am not sure it serves the same research journal purpose it did when I was doing my MA and whether or not that way I write on here is suitable for PhD inclusion.

So as ever much food for thought.....

Programmes/Films Watched
I accessed a documentary through the kanopy website of films through my membership of Huddersfield Uni library for my husband to watch about space, it didn't have a narrator as such as it was made of clips of footage shot at the time either on the training programme or in Mission Control. I didn't really pay it any attention other than being fascinated by the man who was smoking a pipe at his desk in Mission Control and the differences between hairstyles of those who appeared to be from a military background and those who didn't. There were no women in the footage at all, despite there being women who worked for NASA at the time, neither did there appear to be anyone from a minority ethnic background when there were ethic minority employees. 

Books Read
Higgins,J (2013) Why It Does Not Have To Be In Focus UK Thames and Hudson
Clayton,E.(Eds.).(2018) Lee Miller and Surrealism in Britain UK Lund Humphries in Association with the Hepworth Wakefield

Exhibitions Attended

Miller, l. (2018). Leed Miller and Surrealism in Britain. [visual art ] Exhibited at the Hepworth, Wakefield , 22 June 2018- 7 Oct 2018 .I have long been a fan of surrealist art, I fell in love with the work of Rene Magritte on seeing the homage to his painting The Pleasure Principle on the cover of The Pleasure Principle by Gary Numan. So it was exciting for me to see a Magritte cloud painted face of Napoleon's death mask high up on the wall. There were works from a range of artists and publications in various formats - prints, recreations of objects - most notably for me the bracelet around a mannequins forearm made of little false teeth set in pink resin by originally made by Miller, as well as the lobster topped telephone in white, a typewriter with nails glued to the keys, and the recreation of the metronome by Man Ray with the eye of Lee Miller atop it. There was also a painting by Leonara Carrington called Pastoral which portrayed delightfully spectral beings. There also many photographs by Lee Miller ranging from ones of her fellow surrealists including Carrington, her partner Roland Penrose, and one of her most infamous photographs where she is bathing in Hitlers bath shortly after his defeat.

I think this is where I struggle most with writing this blog - do I keep it in what I hope is an accessible un-academic jargon free format or do I write about what I've seen in a way that is more properly academic but also a way that I feel is a more inaccessible more academic art english kind of way with in text citations and references? I don't know....

But here are some of the quotes and notes I made in my notebook as I was walking around the Hepworth.

The writer William Plomer (1903-1973) said in an article in the London Bulletin after an exhibition opened just after the evacuation from Dunkirk 'culture foreshadows events,sustains hopes and invigorates the human heart'

The painter Ithell Calquhoun (1906-1988) was expelled form surrealist circles because of her interest in the occult.

Max Ernst's sculptural bird was called Loplop.

Stephen Gill photographer buried some of his work where he took the pictures so that 'maybe the spirit of the place can also make its mark' which I find both intriguing and inspiring. I am going to have to find out more about him and his work.

Perhaps the most disturbing and powerful piece though was Millers photographs of a cancerous breast removed from a patient and photographed upon a plate with cutlery placed next to the plate and on a napkin.   

* in years gone by it was believed that the touch of a royal personage either by you touching them or them touching you could cure disease most notably that of scrofula aka tuberculous cervical lymphadenitis.

Monday, 1 October 2018

PhD-Ness Part 9 Year 2 - Making, Doing, Changing Place of Working, Feeling Bit Overfaced, Show Preparation

this weeks post it note and things I've been making

Preview of Once and Now - part of the Love Arts Festival - upstairs at Kapow Coffee Thorntons Arcade Leeds - official launch Thursday 4th October 5pm - 7pm 

It's been a busy week - even if the post it note is only filled from two thirds of the way down - I've been doing a bit of painting of Halloween goodies I've bought from Hobbycraft. I think I might still add some features to the coffins (handles made with silver pen) and then use them as jewellery boxes. I might glue a skull on one of them - I've made some of the skulls into brooches thanks to brooch backs and UHU glue. I'm quite messy though when it comes to glue but at least they haven't fallen off as yet...

I've also been doing some more matte medium transfers - this time in colour as well as black and white and pictured are two I completely finished last week, the ones I've been working this week are on canvas and still at the stage where the paper is on them - I haven't photographed them as until the paper is wet and rubbed away they just look like paper. The images underneath the paper are in colour.

I've been doing some doing as I've been struggling to read/write and formulate some thoughts on my working methods and how best to co-ordinate my research plan. I've made some progress but not as much progress as I would like but after reading and re-reading 'Ere the substance fade: photography and hair jewellery' by Geoffrey Batchen (his chapter in Photographs Objects Histories - On The Materiality of Images by Elizabeth Edwards and Janice Hart 2004)  and struggling to make sense of it or rather failing to take in all the points I think he was trying to make in it, I decided to take it to a local cafe (Tandem in Meanwood) and try and make sense of it there.

I'm not sure whether it was because I'd read it before or if my brain was in better shape that day or if it was the change of location so I didn't get distracted by the tinternet but it suddenly began to make better sense to me. He's talking about the absence of jewellery that contains images of loved ones in the histories of photography though they have been written about in material culture terms. He then talks about their physical characteristics, how they are photography in motion and a physical trace of the people in the photographs - especially when hair is included in the jewellery along with the photograph and become talismanic in some way. Fascinating.

I think I am going to try the tactic of moving away from my desk when I am stuck with something - when it's something I can do away from my desk. Reading and thinking I don't need to be at my desk I could do that in another room in the house. I usually use commuting time to do reading.

But I think the biggest thing I've been doing this week is getting everything ready for my show Once and Now which opens officially upstairs at Kapow Coffee Thorntons Arcade this Thursday from 5pm-7pm and will be on til the end of the month. It was lovely to be able to afford to get them properly framed - and I am really pleased with the job North Leeds Framing did for me. I wanted them to be reminiscent of Victorian era mourning cards and have thick black borders and after advice and testing of various backing card colours I decided on the cream. Cream isn't normally a colour I'd consider as I am very wedded to black, white, grey, purple and shades thereof (the colours most associated with Victorian mourning customs) but I am very glad I was persuaded to try it as it really brought something to the prints - the bulk of them are printed on transparent medium either tracing paper or acetate so the colour of the backing paper really makes or breaks them.

I've been trying to write this post for most of this afternoon, along with some details to go with the the images in Kapow and I've really struggled compared to last week when it just seemed to flow much better. Though part of the reason last weeks post seemed so much easier to write was because I missed off the programmes/films watched/books read/exhibitions attended section.

Oh well - here's hoping the words and the comprehension flows more easily this week.

Programmes Films Watched:

Cousins M (writer,director,producer) 2018 Eyes of Orson Welles UK Dogwoof
An amazing film which more than once made me go ‘wow’ as the images contained in it were so stunning – it was the story of a man who knew Welles film work really well and who wanted to see through Orson's eyes by looking at his paintings and drawings. Split into different sections it covered aspects of his professional life – onscreen, onstage, on radio and his personal life interspersed with clips from his films and interviews. His daughter now in her 60’s also features along with views of his paintings/drawings of places and what they look like now. The soundtrack was a mix of traffic noise, Welles himself speaking, narrator speaking, conversation, or the sound and sight of an ink pen scratching on the surface of a piece of paper, some of the drawings/images were somehow animated to see how they were put together – some monochrome, some alive with colour but all expressive, revealing and joyous. Wonderful to watch. Really must watch his version of Macbeth that has been on the tellybox for ages.

Varda A, JR (directors) 2017 Faces/Places France Cine Tamaris

Absolutely enchanting and beautiful film which follows Adnes and JR deciding on a plan of driving around villages in his large format printing seaside van gogh studio style van, taking pictures of ordinary people and pasting them on walls – including a woman who is the last in a row of cottages lived in by miners with stories of their fathers hard and dangerous work in the mine,then onto a woman posing with a parasol saying how she found it difficult afterwards because she is a shy person and so many people came to see her photo pasted on a wall, farmers – arable with machines who does it all on his own proudly emblazoned on the side of his barn, chemical process workers in a big chemical plant – glorious to see fish pasted large on the side of the water tower (fish Agnes had taken pics of directed by JR as she has problems with her eyesight – the scene of the injection into her eyeball made me proper wince/flinch) chatting easily to people gathering for a picnic/photo session in an abandoned before being finished village, a picture of Agnes old now dead friend on a bunker abandoned on the beach, pics of her eyes and feet on the side of trains, goat farmers – one who burns off the horns of the goat and one who doesn’t – the one who doesn’t was better and favoured, an utterly glorious romp around the Louvre with JR pushing her in a wheelchair – a nod to a scene of one of her films, a pilgrimage to Cartier Bressons grave and 3 women upon the sides of shipping containers. Devoid of complicated art- just a really beautiful connection between Agnes, JR and the people they photographed and worked with – including between JR and his team. Completely feel good – asked why they did it, why not? And also to see where their imagination could take them.
Enchanting.  It was also a kind of friendship love story between her and him – especially when let down by Godard who also wore sunglasses all the time when he reveals his eyes to Agnes only and we see them blurred – same as her. Really heartwarming - left the cinema with a big smile on my face.

Elizabeth,E.,& Hart, J. (2004). Photographs Objects Histories on the Materiality of Images London:Routledge 

Slowly but surely slogging through this...see above

Exhibitions attended: