My first blog a few weeks ago was going to be called 'It can only get better...' and was going to be about the shock of dealing with the heavy, slow machine that is a university, administered by departments with no communication links between each others. Suffice to say, I still haven't got a pass...
But my recent day at DMU was what this program is all about... So best to write about that in more details. I was visiting the ceramic department trying my hands at throwing on a potter weels, getting an induction on the sandblaster then as you do got talking to the chief technician in the glass department. She started to speak about glass and what she liked and the experiences she had, then she mentioned about Roker Breakfast experiments and flagrant wisdom experiments using glass and performance... https:/
And then offered to let me blow a glass buble... which I did with glee and I was blown away... The glass got so thin that it had the quality of a soap bubble...
We got talking about the characteristics of that bubble, the fact that it was blown with my own air, the fact that until it was broken, it contained my breath, the fact that it was so light and had a flexibility to the touch... and we got dreaming about making more bubbles through speaking into the tube, filming those coming to shape of those creations and using this film into my next performance... I was blown away and fired up...
A fascinating, inspiring talk - whoever said prehistory people were 'primitive'?!
OnThursday 12th November, all four of this intake of the AA2A artists at Teesside gave our presentations to some students and staff. It was very interesting to hear the other three (Lucy Carolan, Alan Hathaway and Jim Poyner), speak about their work and plans. I found it nerve wracking as usual to talk about my own background, the ideas behind my work and the plans I have for using the time I have at Teesside to develop some new work. I used to teach at a big FE college and talking to a group of thirty plus students about their work or about contextual studies for their work, was a piece of cake compared to trying to express my own thoughts in public. Something I need to work on!
For anyone who is interested, below is a version of my presentation that includes some of the things I forgot to say at the time.
I am a painter, occasional print and artists' book maker. I think it is important to remember that there is no one way of being an artist, nor one way to become one. I have never quite fitted into any usual category. Being an artist is all I ever wanted to do; I got married very young and had a family early on, deciding to be a full time mother until the children were all at school. This choice meant that there was no money for me to study as I was supporting my husband while he worked and studied part time for his degree. This was a conscious decision; we knew he would earn more money in his field once qualified than I could as an artist and we both decided it was important for me to be at home for the kids until they went to school. We were broke but happy most of the time!
In 1997 I enrolled on the inaugural year of the Open College of the Arts, and completed the foundation year as well as a summer school. I then enrolled on a 2 year part-time foundation course at Basingstoke College of Technology. At that time, the course was based in old school buildings, perfect for making art. The teaching was amazing and the equipment in the different studios was exceptional. I was lucky because things changed a few years after I left; the buildings were demolished and replaced with a horrible office block model, the studios not nearly as light or spacious and one of the old school buildings further off site that was part of the art department became luxury apartments, I think.
During my Foundation course I was working part time, for a public relations company, explaining to the general public the plans for a refurbishment of the town centre in Basingstoke which at that time was a prime example of the Brutalist movement and horrible.
My degree course was five years part-time and for the first few of those I worked part time as a Teaching Assistant, where I became queen of displays! I was also a governor at two schools; both areas taught me a lot about education and educators, which stood me in good stead later on.
My degree work was based on landscape, I didn’t paint specific landscapes except when making studies. I can do that but it doesn’t interest me particularly. I used the fact that landscapes are made of layers as a metaphor for paintings and for our human psyche. (We reveal certain things to certain people, at different times). I was also interested in the dual aspect of human existence; we are rooted to the earth but aspire to higher things, which is why, with the big paintings I turned them round from landscape to portrait format and used the horizontals of the landscape to become verticals both for structural reasons and to signify a human body in a landscape.
I was very lucky when just a few weeks after graduating I was with my son, enrolling him at the local sixth form college (where I had been a very poor student!) I was talking to a teacher I had got to know when he had organised a sculpture workshop that I had participated in. He asked me what I was doing and on hearing that I had just graduated, needed a job using the skills I had learned, he said, “Come with me, we need a teacher for the Adult Education art class.” It really was as simple and as lucky as that. I had no teacher training; I knew very well how it shouldn’t be done from my experiences at school, and on my degree. I learned on the job, completing City and Guilds 7307 parts 1 and 2 and was embarking on part 3 when I had to move to North Yorkshire. I have to say, I was glad to leave it; the course for part 3, at a nearby university, was terrible. Having begun teaching Adult Ed and getting good results, I was asked to teach part-time on the day time courses and ended up being responsible for the Fine Art programme of study.
During the ten years of teaching I stayed engaged with my subject by:
· Visiting exhibition and read reviews and books
· Making work when I could
· Forming an artist group (we secured funding from a local charity to pay for materials and worked with people with learning disabilities that were linked to the college where I worked).
· Looking at my work occasionally to remind myself that it was good!
Teaching was a joy and exhausting. It didn’t leave much energy for my own work so I was excited about moving to North Yorkshire and the possibility of concentrating on my own practice for the first time since my degree.
But; shit happens. I got sick, I am absolutely fine now, but it took 5 years for me to get completely back to normal. As I became fitter, I volunteered at a local gem of a gallery at Ryedale Folk Museum, which at that time showed some amazing contemporary art. It has begun to do so again after a brief change of direction. I also became a committee member of Ryedale ArtWorks, a group that aims to support local artists and makers and provide them with support and opportunities. These two activities were important because I got to know lots of artists and makers in the area and began to find my way in the art world that exists where I live. I also gained the interest and support of our Creative Economies Officer at my district council. We are incredibly lucky to have this person; she is dedicated, well informed and rigorous in all her work with local artists and groups. I advise any students to get to know their local arts officer when they leave university because they are an invaluable source of information and support.
So, post teaching I was:
· Eco-refurbishing our house.
· Coming to terms with ill health (an auto immune thing, I am fine now).
· Volunteering in a local gallery and getting to know local artists.
· Working mostly voluntarily for Ryedale ArtWorks. (We received funding from our local council for some projects).
· Slowly building my practice.
· Having exhibitions both group and solo.
· Entering some open submissions. (I am very picky about these now).
· Making very occasional sales.
· Building relationships with other professionals both local and further afield.
I am mostly self-funded; I make occasional sales and do occasional part-time work as an arts assistant, hanging exhibitions at various venues. Funding via RAW enabled me to participate in a group show and a recent solo show in York.
A recent meeting with our Creative Economies Officer forced me to appraise what my goals actually are. A bit late in the day, but I cannot recommend highly enough giving this some thought and setting out your own goals. It helps so much to focus your aims and directions:
· What are they?
· Short, medium and long term
· Remember, shit happens, things change! So have flexibility built in.
· Useful book:
Living and Sustaining a Creative Life, Essays by 40 working artists. Ed: Sharon Louden, Pub: Bristol, UK / Chicago, USA.
This book is compelling and has some very useful insights. Despite it being quite US centric, and gallery orientated, it has a lot of encouraging, even inspiring stuff in it. There are two copies in the library on campus at Teesside.
I have never had to be completely self-supporting financially or otherwise due to my personal circumstances. This has enabled me to develop my ideas but it has also slowed me down some-what; however, every artist comes from a different personal background. The most important thing is how you work with it to try and make the best work you can in any given circumstances.
Another piece of advice I would give is to be very aware of good presentation, look at how galleries and museums present work, look at how more experimental artists present their work. Just because you are poor, does not mean you cannot present your work in a professional manner, there is always a way and good presentations does not mean expensive framing.
· Being a professional artist is not just about earning money to live on. (Obviously for most people this is a number one priority).
· It is about keeping informed about what is happening in your area of practice and beyond.
· And making work of high quality that has honesty and integrity.
· Presentation, presentation, presentation!
In conclusion, I think the responsibilities of an artist are:
· Seeking out stuff – opportunities, grants, keeping records/photos and archives up to date, get to know your local arts officer at your council.
· Public relations – keep your web site / blog site and CV up to date
· Keeping current – make regular gallery and museum visits or see stuff presented at less conventional locations. Search stuff out, be aware of what is happening particularly in your region.
· Appreciate your close support network. Your peers and family.
· Professional commitments: taking up opportunities offered to you such as visiting lecturer, running workshops where appropriate, judging open submissions etc. They won’t pay much if at all, but you are engaging with the art world in doing them and widening your contacts.
· Side jobs – whatever they are, they enable you to pay the rent, buy paint and food.
· Studio time. Last but not least. The most important aspect of what we all do and the most fulfilling. It sometimes gets pushed aside by stuff that happens in our lives, so plan your time carefully into your schedule, keep it flexible if you need to but make sure you have time for your own work planned into your week.
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or observations, please do get in touch and if you see me around feel free to stop me for a chat.
I'll upload a folder of images that shows my development from degree to now as soon as I get time.
On Monday we received a warm welcome from Rachael Allain, had access cards speedily processed and were given a helpful guided tour of the art facilities available at Plymouth University, which were really impressive. Excited to get stuck in! Two studio representatives, Oscar and Alice, both students on work placement, were on hand to assist and their help was greatly appreciated; Oscar kindly showed myself and Tom round. I made a particular note of casting and mould-making, photography and printmaking in the Scott building.
Once we had seen some of the workshops available to us Phil Power joined us and we discussed upcoming dates: installation of a small introductory show, a formal opening date when we could meet the students and a talk about our work. We all then went to have a look at Artspace 101, an exhibition space towards the entrance of the first year fine-art studios where we will exhibit work to give students a sense of our various practices. There was plenty of wall space and enough floor space to situate all our work and not cause students problems accessing their studios. Afterwards, Tom, Oscar and I headed over to see the studios at the Yard, which were housed in a former Naval yard shed converted beautifully for the purpose.
On Saturday I dropped the work off with instructions, just two test pieces, the start of my thinking through practice. There is a long way to go but I am interested in trying a number of different approaches before creating a larger scale installation. I'm really looking forward to meeting the students next week to discuss the scheme and find out about their interests!
As part of AA2A, I wanted to explore/research 'Design Fiction'. The relationship between word and image is a point of interest for me. When I see the phrase Design Fiction, I kind of break it into it's two parts, not only conceptually, but in creative output; the visuals have accompanying words. A narrative of sorts that contextualise the work.
This, in a way, is proving to be problematic. On one hand, I produce work that is often intentionally ambiguous in meaning, or I should say intentionally has a multitude of meanings. That's kind of how I deal with / interpret the deconstruction. Now, adding the narrative, that would load the visual piece with my meaning, interpretation and views. Yet I feel that my text is essential to the reading of the work. I'm still not sure how to best resolve this.
I've considered producing a small publication to accompany the work when put on view. Still, there is no guarantee a viewer will also read the text, or that they would want to.
I'm open to ideas, should anyone be reading and have thoughts on how to tackle the issue. Maybe there isn't an issue and I'm just dealing with the reality that my work may be misinterpreted (or, should I say interpreted on an individual basis, which may or may not mirror my intent ...)
Now, on to the work, 'Austerity Art (The Future of Creativity)'. And so, yes. I have made a print of David Cameron. Here it is under production:
Why? I was considering austerity measures and their affect on the arts. Whilst investigating arts grants and funding, I noticed what appears to be a current policy of combining 'tech' with 'arts' in business acceleration programs. This seems to be riding on the back of a wave of interest in hack spaces or maker spaces. Its great folk are combining creativity with making things again. I'm not sure we ever stopped. I always thought of this as akin to a trade, but there seems to be a renaissance of sorts; hacker/maker spaces are the new guildhalls. But a government policy encouraging arts practice that combine with technology into saleable goods/services/ideas ... that got me thinking.
From this point, I imagined a future where art and creativity had no merit or value outside of commercial interest. That is, if the art isn't tied into a saleable business/technology/service, it just isn't pursued. In this future, art and creativity for any other end is dying out.
Moving this to a visual response, I supposed that the means of an artist making a mark had diminished to the point we couldn’t without technology; no point drawing or painting anymore, it’s not worth anything. But numbers, letters, characters, data … that’s the stuff of currency. Creativity limited to these forms led me to ASCII art, a method of image reproduction where alphanumeric characters (my definition includes punctuation and mathematical symbols) are used to create an image using the glyph density as a mechanism for controlling tonal range. Here is a close up of the print.
You'll see up close, its just a string of characters. If you move away from the image, the profile of a face will begin to form. Taking this visual technique, I then wanted to tie it back to the concept. As such, I created an image from a restricted set of characters; the key of which appears on the bottom right of the work, thus the only real hint at the meaning of the piece.
So, the image is made up of the following set: 0123456789.austerity.art.£=+-*/$!#%. This represents the language of data, money, budgets, policy, accounting, business, combined with the auspices they are operating under in this future vision of the world. It's a bit bleak. The image itself, well it represents the individual who made it a platform of their political policy. The title of the piece, along with the 'hidden' key attempt to communicate a concept. I'm not sure how well. Certainly, upon taking this piece to submission for an exhibition, it was met with very vocal opposition. Its a piece that is already dividing opinion. A comment I received after initially being told it was rubbish, that would get defaced or torn down, was that 'actually, now I've had a closer look and see the characters, it's making me think'. That's good! It's meant to.
That's a bit of a monologue. Feedback is very welcome :)
Good afternoon. We recently attended an intriguing lecture by Andrew Graham-Dixon part of 'The Great Minds' series at UOL. Part of the talk was directed towards the Gothic, which concluded in Â discussing the relevance of this genre in art, literature and film today and the influence of Victorian Gothic's encapsulation of politics, society and culture. Graham-Dixon's referrel to art as "visual thought," was perfect.
We have also been reading up on Modern French Surrealism and the birth of the Imagists.
Apologies for the unattended album #Wordoftheday #Phraseoftheday #Imageoftheday. Work from the print room is still drying, however I will divulge words and phrases from November 11th, 12th and 13th:
Phrase: Fixed in a Gauzy Aspic Azure
Phrase: Suckle on an Unattended Thigh
Phrase: I Digest a Bowl of Lukewarm Chowder (Before Collapsing into a Nest of Ripe Mantle and Muscle)
In an additional note L remembered the squid ink that has been in the deep freeze for a few months, probably time to put it to good use.
As mentioned in our previous post, G Â S T enjoys stimulating ideas, deliberating contextual references and encouraging an ardent thought process through the sheer act of play. SCRABBLE is the board game of choice. When able, we often go to our local, The Dog and Bone, a fabulous 'village pub in the city' whose walls are adorned in books, instruments and a cubbyhole crammed with games. They serve a small selection of wonderful ales and tasty pub snacks; have two open fires and a hop filled beer garden. Needless to say, a lovely place to go on a summers day or after an autumn "crunchy leaf walk" (quote, ManMom) When funds allow, we treat ourselves to the luxury of playing said board game and an ale or two, and have an evening brain storming over our 3d tiled lexicon appliance.
Taking this into account, we brought our very own SCRABBLE board into UOL to begin our day with some free minded thinking. It was then that we decided upon having a ‘word of the day,’ not very original I know, but a good source of play nonetheless. Todays would be ‘Prose.’ From this we took to the notion of putting this into the phrase ‘This Place Had No Prose,’ a bit of a pun on the ‘prose’- ‘pro’s.’ D illuminated this in the print room in luscious red. From this we wanted to take an ‘image of the day,’ and, like the word of the day, it could be anything, just a little something that happened to strike a chord within us. This lovely lady was discovered on a vintage pair of stockings. The 70’s style soft lighting is so telling of the time, the sort of luminescence that takes you right to feather boas, masculine mustaches and ladies in negligees, an almost pornographic affair. In this we are looking to re-create some of that glowing light in the film photographs on the beloved Praktica MTL-50 Camera, bequeathed to us from Gardoo. A friend has recently told us that you can get some wonderful effects from using tea, coffee and various citrus fruits whilst developing your film. Next Monday should see us begin this process.
We had lengthy discussions with students gracing the studios, all of whom had wonderful ideas of where their work was, or could go, and they could not sing enough praises for the fantastic tutors and technicians at UOL. One student has an interest in the construct of the white cube vs the alternative art space and the concept of modern art institutions. From this we talked about artist led spaces, particularly those that have begun in Lincoln, such as General Practice and it’s predecessors Over+Out and Monks Gallery, the Alternative Art College, founded in 2011 by UOL graduate Paul Stewart. This nomad school offered free intellectual trading of knowledge, because, how can you set a monetary value to intellectual discourse and debate? Naturally the conversation led to Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics and O’Doherty’s Inside the White Cube, and, skirting the topic of arts ‘trade value,’ we mentioned Worksop based F.B.I’s involvement with Sluice Exchange Rates, an exciting topiary of suitcase-sized works that travelled the globe and were put to public auction. There is a wide array of activity buzzing in the cross-year studio’s, and we are considering the possibility of a G Â S T membership of some sort, akin to that of Reactor Halls, a space of like minded collaboration and Bauhaus enthused activities.
In relation to our past bullet points, I would like to briefly explain where we are. The marbles and piñata are a for sure, we are toying with the idea of inserting snippets of pictures in them, but this might be slightly crass and naïve. (I’d also like to point out that the phrase ‘loosing one’s marbles’ derives from the age when it was quite fashionable to collect these small glass balls, however when a gent could no longer remember the names of his collection, the above phrase was quoted.) The wallflower idea is also a-go, we would like to begin working on a triptych style film, each third possibly having a certain hue. It would be beneficial for us to begin work on the dress and ruffs in the fashion department. Possible materials for the flower dress are the wallpaper itself, organza, voile or a silk substitute.
G Â S T has inhabited students’ desk spaces, inserting photocopies of varies works and phrases that could be of some use to said person.
Today’s bullet points of the day are as follows:
· Get in touch with other AA2A artists from schools across the country, consider a national touring exhibition with artists who would be keen to do so
· Begin storyboarding for film
· Contact CLM department for processing camera film
· Contact fashion department about dress and ruff
· Research constructing glass marbles
· Continue with picture, word and phrase of the day
Now, allow me to leave you with some imagist poetry, courtesy of G Â S T:
I lie, languorous
Above me there is nothing,
But gossamer and lace.
Damp weeds coil at the knee,
Lost in the oblivion of girlish grace.
Firstly, allow G Â S T for being late 'turner-uppers' on this blog. A wonderful series of mishaps and accidental explorations of the surroundings have somewhat inhibited the progress of online presence.
However, returning to a space of academia, we will ply you with "The dog ate my homework" excuse.
Secondly, allow me to briefly disclose G Â S T ‘s establishment. Male and female (‘L and D’) artists whom decided to conjoin in an attempt to create work from two mind-sets. Collaborating from 2014, work has largely been project based, however we, they, them, the G Â S T are going to enter a practice based year, ideas coming before intended outcome.
So, having mulled over idea's at home and a recently acquired space in the college’s fine art studio. G Â S T has been toying with images from dreams; the vividness and abstract forms, scenes and general atmospheric context.
Lovers of the Surreal, we regularly use exercises such as dream scriptures, automatic writing, exquisite corpses, and general intoxication. (Note; although LSD was a choice component throughout this movement, we opt for the much more social Vino) as a starting point of new works.
This last week has begun with a month-long sick note from L’s GP, proceeding a harrowing bout of ‘mental instability,’ equaling hammering at the entrance doors of our school studio to a staccato drum beat.
Certain themes have begun to culminate on the stolen back half of a student’s skeletal desk space. Thus role out the orange opaque wallflower, association of the inner ego’s ‘other,’ an alliance with Gothic literature spilling into novels such as ‘The Yellow Wallpaper,’ ‘Ada or Ardor’ and the 1979 classic ‘Flowers in the Attic.’
Commence then the idea of the self’s two (male and female) counterparts and the cloak of true hermaphroditism, typically in plants and sea creatures. The wallflower happened upon being a hermaphrodite plant, which birthed the wiki trail of oysters and worms.
Now, sex, gender and hermaphroditism is not essentially the flag in our work at the moment, but rather a breadcrumb on our winding road. Playing such Surreal games causes us to rapidly think of associative words, sand bags and ball bags being two that made it to our ‘ideas’ board. Let us enlighten you to a small collection of notions we have been singing to:
· Making a piñata filled with marbles, placed in a circular sand pit in which a performer repeatedly beats with a cane (possibly horse hair?) until the contents spill across the arenas floor.
· The performer in the above would have an extraordinary collar/ruff, circus like?
· A gold/orange/yellow dress made entirely of flowers (silk/paper?) that a performer would wear against a wallpapered background of a similar construct.
· Written and G Â S T coined word ‘Müllered’ in red vinyl (the two L’s of this would be weighed down red tights
· Being the ‘other’ presence in students empty desks, a haunting of the mind
· Looking at imagist writing
It is Sunday, so the stroll to the studio is to commence imminently.
Something cropped up today, which means I will be unable to get to Teesside tomorrow as planned. Such is life. I will use spare time during the rest of this week to gather my thoughts, drawings and general materials in readiness for next week. I'll go across on Tuesday, catching the lecture in the afternoon, and Thursday to catch up. I've planned for Thursday to be my regular day but with life being rather chaotic at the moment, this might change.
I am really looking forward to developing some new work in the print room and to exploring ways of making large pieces on board that will become free standing structures. I need to research non glue, non screw methods of construction before I start. Since visiting China I have been fascinated by their construction techniques. I have no skills in this area so I'll pick the brains of the technicians! The laser cutter had me thinking about other possibilities too. . . I fully expect that the direction of my intentions when I applied for AA2A might develop as the weeks progress.