Archives for posts with tag: forest

BEYOND – Midsummer Events at Allenheads Contemporary Arts kicked off with Far From Daylight -Outstation #1. This involved lying in candlelit rows, blindfolded, on inflatable beds subjected to a pulsating tone while a disembodied voice gave an account of cosmonaut training in the 1960’s and the interrogation of the minds of the cosmonauts. 1806 outstation 1

Fact and fiction overlapped or merged as documented experiences of cosmonauts were read from texts by group participants. Later small groups of participants plucked word cards from a bag, the words signified archetypes or directives to inspire images that would be used as thought cards for future floatation tank experiences.

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‘The Illuminated Woman’ became the all encompassing and much more open ‘The Illuminated’.

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The Pilgrimage; a non-linear spiral, borders were permeable or herbaceous, the map dissolved leaving no points of reference in space only the depths of the mind to navigate. This was preceded by skimming stones on the cosmic pond and followed by conversations around the fire with artists Jo Hodges and Robbie Coleman who had devised and led this affecting event.

The next night was a test run for the scheduled live streaming of the sunset and sunrise from the top of the fell…

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…situated between borders.

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The Midsummer’s Night droning began just as the sun dipped the horizon and continued until it appeared again on the other side of the earth. It seemed to get around very quickly.

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It never got dark. The earth orbits the sun in about 365.25 days. Up 31 octaves this is 69.05Hz, a slightly flat C sharp. This midsummer the earth will rotate on its own axis in 23 hours, 59 minutes, 59.9998932 seconds. Up 21 octaves this is 24.269Hz, a slightly flat G.

Open Weekend Events up at the school house included seeing comic particle trails in my cloud chamber.

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Also a little hologram film I made of the trails set in a dodecahedron (motif for the universe)

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Exoplanet exploration

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The gallery in the village with work from other BEYOND residency artists

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Earlier visit to Allenheads – circling ideas, segmenting, focusing

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The density of the forest is overwhelming – no space to enter – yet imagine being able to pass unheeded through this entanglement

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Had a preview screening of edited soft borders (video with dance artist Paola Napolitano) and installation of Duodecimens (etched aluminium. screen print) in my studio space for the annual Open Weekend at Thames-side Studios.

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Using the dodecahedron as motif, the boundaries of the universe are brought within reach; pliant and permeable as the body bathed in cosmic particles that do not recognise borders but pass unseen through spacetime and matter. 1806 soft borders still.jpg

There was some interesting use of materials in New Relics sculpture show in Thames- side Gallery.

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The Echoing Space exhibition is a sensitive response to the history of Leith Hill Place from artists Julie Hoyle, Mary Branson and Penny Green. Combining traditional and contemporary materials and processes the past and present are drawn together reigniting the passions of past inhabitants for a new generation.

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1806 Leith Hill Place Julie Hoyle

The austere façade and darkened windows can give an initial impression of a sinister past and ghosts best left to rest but inside reveals a palimpsest of family life steeped in the arts and scientific discovery.

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In 1847 it became the home of Josiah Wedgwood III who was married to Caroline Darwin. Her brother Charles Darwin often visited and the wormstone he used for research into how stones and ancient ruins become buried over time is still in the grounds. He studied the action of earthworms excavating soil from beneath the stone and depositing it above the surface. It has been estimated that a 25cm thick stone might take approximately 250 years to fall to the level of the ground. What was under becomes surface.

Vibrant Matter: a political ecology of things by Jane Bennett has an interesting chapter on the earthworm and Darwin’s studies which conclude that earthworms ‘make history’ and augment human culture through the accumulated effects of ‘small agencies’.

Darwin’s niece Margaret married Arthur Vaughan Williams and their youngest son, Ralph went on to become the composer best known for The Lark Ascending. He was also an avid collector of folk songs hoping to save them from being buried in time.

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I didn’t get to see any of the live performances but did go to the Joan Jonas ‘in conversation’ with Marina Warner.  Denying any pretentions of being a shaman herself Joan denotes how the shaman enters an unconscious state and makes clear her performances are highly structured, rehearsed conscious episodes though both performances may appear to invoke the use of objects in ritual the intention is quite different. She draws on influences such as the documentation of Aby Warburg who was captivated by the rituals, masks, architecture, art and culture of native Americans he met on his travels in 1895. She has been to experience remote cultures for herself drawing on both real events and mythologies to feed her performances, creating an alternative space to preside in.1806 Joan Jonas (1)

The viewer watches. We are gathered at the fire.

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To follow the tale

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saw this pattern recently in Valencia on a 15th century floor

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Flooring Consulat del Mar at La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia (The Silk Exchange)

 

Communication between trees came up during the talk as discussed in The Hidden Life of Trees a book by Peter Wohlleben who describes a forest as a superorganism of unique individuals. He is writing about processes going on unseen beneath the soil, chemical languages, networks and relationships. We fail to understand trees because “they live on a different time scale” from us.

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In Material Sight at Arts Catalyst Fiona Crisp presents a series of photographs and films within a structure of scaffolding and invasive noise echoing the utilitarian sites from which the images are taken. She has spent the last few years stalking spaces of scientific research deep underground and beyond public accessibility to pluck out small nuggets of suggestibility that bring a sense of these remote locations to an audience who will never physically experience these unique spaces. We are not invited to comprehend the activities and processes of the laboratories shown any more than we can grasp the mysteries of the universe that these sites are endeavouring to solve.  The images aim to engage through a visual intimacy to counteract the distances crossed in bringing the images to the surface.

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The programme of events continued with Kosmica Ethereal Things at Iklectik which turned out to be in ‘Old Paradise Yard’ (one I have missed on my paradise trail.) Chamkaur Ghag was speaking about dark matter, current research, what we don’t know, physics in culture and the need for a more holistic approach to scientific investigations. Annie Carpenter who is also participating in the BEYOND residency was there to demonstrate black hole accretion using dry ice and household items to create a spinning contraption with a hobbyist aesthetic bringing scientific endeavour into the everyday.

Coming up is the final weekend of events for BEYOND at ACA when I will be screening soft borders video. A research trip to Grizedale Forest as prelude to making new work for an exhibition there. Further research for the weather balloon project – in the meantime having fun running the tracking predictor to see how likely it might be to retrieve any video footage depending on where the camera might land.

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Today would have been a good day for a flight.

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Amazing News Update – Laboratory of Dark Matters has been awarded a month long residency at Guest Projects for April 2017. Exciting times ahead.

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Laboratory of Dark Matters is a response by artists to scientific investigations into the unknown nature of the Universe; opening a dialogue between scientists and artists who are each driven by curiosity and seek answers to fundamental questions about matter and consciousness.

“All visible matter in the entire Universe, including all the stars, cosmic objects, black holes and intergalactic gases, amounts to less than 5% of the mass we know to be present.”  

The search for dark matter is a scientific endeavour but also requires a large degree of faith in both the existence of these elusive particles and in the scientists’ ability to eventually detect and identify them. For artists, creating work is often about searching for some unknown and embracing an unexpected outcome.

The participating artists will be Amy Gear, Daniel Clark, Elizabeth Murton, Kate Fahey, Luci Eldridge, Melanie King, Peter Glasgow, Sarah Gillett, Susan Eyre.

Unexpectedly found myself trailing Game of Thrones fans location hunting.

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Visiting Northern Ireland’s dramatic coast and spiritual heartlands. Brooding ruins and primeval earthworks, geological anomalies and wide windswept bays. I was on the lookout for saints and sacred wells.

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breathing it in

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The walls of Dunluce Castle – struck through with the local geometric formations

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mossy glade – moss prohibition

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‘The Armagh Astropark – where Heaven comes down to Earth…’

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faith and ritual

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At Cranfield Holy Well there was no evidence of fine spring water and amber coloured crystals, it looked dank and more pestilent than healing. Still it is festooned with personal items tied to the overhanging branches, each one a little prayer. According to  custom, one must bathe the infected part of the body with a rag dipped in the well, pray and then tie the rag to a large overhanging tree, as the rag decays the affliction is supposed to disappear. Judging from the preservation of these items, for some, the cure is a long way off.

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County Antrim wears its heart on its sleeve.

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Settlements past and present – Downhill House a recent ruin and the grassy banks of Lissenden Earthworks

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The enigmatic nun, dark Julia’s grave stone at the ancient Bonamargy Friary

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The bronze age Tandragee Man brandishing  his legendary silver prosthetic limb

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The even more ancient belly of the earth at Marble Arch caves

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Containment slotted nicely into the Plastic Propaganda curated exhibition Sugar and Spice at St. Katherine’s Dock.

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Made in response to the trade of exotic objects by merchants who journeyed across the globe five hundred years ago when navigation was reliant on the stars.

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Shaped plates, etched using a sugar lift technique, are filled with inks made from ground spices and copperplate oils wafting traces of their origins in to the gallery space –  turmeric, coriander, cumin, paprika…

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These operate as markers plotting the spice route from India around Africa to Europe according to the latitude and longitude lines taken from C16th maps of Mercator and Ortelius. The patterns combine ideologies of origins with destinations reflecting the breadth and mix of cultures that came together. I like how viewing becomes a ritual.

Sugar and Spice explored ideas of trade, hybridization and inter-cultural exchange and the legacy of the rich mercantile history of the docks. Looking back informs, educates and gives us the platform for continuous debate…

 …all more poignant post referendum.

Sarah Gillet’s magical show Quarry at Brocket Gallery was in itself a process of quarrying – exhuming material from a forensic analysis of Paolo Uccello’s painting   ‘The Hunt in the Forest (1470). The pursuit of quarry. This inversion of meanings repeats itself in the work as do the shapes and shadows of a forest that extends beyond the boundaries of any canvas into the dark depths of dream spaces where strange creatures abound.

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In such a space where would you turn to escape.

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It’s how I imagine the labyrinths of Venice should be during the carnival. Full of intriguing theatrical creatures appearing out of the void; playful menace.

I have long enjoyed the work of Raqib Shaw and the dazzling paintings he creates with intricate enamelled surfaces glistening with gemstones and gold; the chaos of  battle played out to the personal beat of shamanic drums; the quest for unattainable perfection.  His obsession with self, pitted against the world, seems to have reached a melancholic peak with Self-Portraits at White Cube. This reimagining of old masters heavily laden with references to his own worlds of Peckham and Kashmir appear as premature reliquaries to a life saturated in self immolation.

1609-raqib-shawHe looks weary.

Hidden undercurrents of surface beauty are exposed in Victoria Ahrens thoughtful presentation of her PhD research ABSORB. A meditation on the history of the Paranà River in Argentina. From a mystical place of leisure for her Grandfather to the brutal grave of those who ‘disappeared’ during the military junta, thrown to their deaths to be slowly and anonymously absorbed into the landscape.

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By allowing the waters of the river to wash over the plates and images that she creates the alchemical processes continue and those lost into the waters imbue the work with a gentle pathos.

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From shards of shattered time an image is built that hovers between past and present.

Alex Simpson’s exploration of material in Through Viscera at Barbican Arts Group Trust was fresh and almost vibrating with energy.

Like a virus spreading across all surfaces, into the core of matter that lay extruded across the floor, eaten into and vein like, globular and thick with fungal felt, drying and dropping, leaving prints as scars.

 

In Lichtlose Luft, at PARCspace the LCC’s photographic archive resource centre,  Johanna Love’s lithographic prints and drawings on digital prints of tiny specks of matter magnified to reveal the sublime contours reminiscent of a mountain landscape were a very successful exploration of finding the human relationship in a scientifically generated image.

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The technical image is a starting point for the work, either obtained through the electron microscope or the digital scanner. Through the process of drawing and digital manipulation, there is an attempt to bring the image back into the physical, material world of the living and imagination, for as Merleau Ponty (1964) states, ‘science manipulates things and gives up living in them.’

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Isolated like meteorites falling through a grey space that vibrates with the blurred colours we see on the back surface of the eyelid; these drawings capture the imagination.

Super/collider once again brought us a mind blowing yet entertaining talk at Second Home.  Dr. Andrew O’Bannon has been studying Holography for 15 years. He proposes a bold idea that all the information in our 3D universe may be contained in a mysterious 2D image, like a hologram. Promising not only to unite Einstein’s relativity with quantum physics, holography also has the potential to provide us with cleaner energy, faster computers, and novel electronics. Using ideas from string theory he studies holography and strongly interacting systems.

In everyday life, a hologram is a two-dimensional image containing enough information to reconstruct a three-dimensional object. In theoretical physics, holography proposes that some strongly-interacting systems are equivalent to Einstein’s theory of gravity in one higher dimension.

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“Many experiments to detect proposed dark matter particles through non-gravitational means are under way. On 25 August 2016, astronomers reported that Dragonfly 44, an ultra diffuse galaxy (UDG) with the mass of the Milky Way galaxy, but with nearly no discernible stars or galactic structure, may be made almost entirely of dark matter.” From BBC science

There were two talks at New Scientist Live that I found particularly interesting. The first was from Dr Andrew Pontzen a theoretical cosmologist explaining the evidence that dark matter exists and why it is proving so hard to detect. He spends his time working through theories that are then passed on to someone like Cham Ghag, an astrophysicist who will devise strategies to test theories in direct detection projects such as ZEPLIN and LUX.

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It’s not only the calculations from gravitational lensing that suggests way more mass is present than can be seen but also large computer modelling samples of how galaxies form and rotate. Removing a few stars from the model galaxy ends in a chaotic breakdown, but making a few stars ‘dark’ so that the mass remains but we cannot see them does not change the rotation of the remaining stars we can still see. The distribution of dark matter across the universe appears like a fibrous net, imaged from the cosmic microwave background, an echo still reverberating from the first few seconds at the birth of the universe. The second talk ‘Beyond the Higgs’ was from particle physicist Professor Tara Shears who inspects the data produced from the experiments colliding proton beams to create fundamental particles at CERN, for anomalies that might turn out to be evidence of an interaction with a new particle. The search goes on.

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A short blog on natural and unnatural things.

Helen Sear’s video Company of Trees leads you deep into the forest.

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In the forest the straight line becomes a circle. We are following a girl in a red dress who is glimpsed between the trees, part here part there, never a complete picture, always fading away, and counting. Numbers appear. The title Company of Trees of course makes you think of wolves as does the red dress. We are in a fairy tale, lost in a dreamlike state.

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In other rooms are other images from the countryside, the stacked chopped wood of the woodcutter, small birds and blinding golden fields interwoven with symbols.

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Human presence is here as in the fairy tale it is a human story but how much control do we have even in chopping and harvesting.

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This countryside is not a sentimental place to stray in.

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….the rest is smoke

We gaze down but see the sky. The image ripples but the water stays still.  Helen Sears uses video after effects imaging to create an illusion of movement in an elliptical pool The Beginning and End of Things.  

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Another illusory reflection; Bill Viola’s installation Moving Stillness (Mt. Rainier), 1979 at Blain Southern. Even after 35 years this piece is still captivating in its mystery.

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We see a reflection of the mountain in a large pool of water, every so often the water is disturbed and the image dissolves into undulating patterns of light which very slowly restore themselves to equilibrium and the image reappears. The mountain and its reflection do not appear to correspond. 1601 Bill Viola 2

Nothing is hidden from us, through technology we experience the magic of physics which is the magic of nature. Viola’s works open space in this way for a spiritual engagement which is a vital part of his ideology.  To alter materially as we pass in and out of life is something we have no control over but to transform our minds is our challenge. He is an admirer of the philosopher Ananda Coomaraswarmy whose writings  embrace mythology and metaphysics – Art is nothing tangible. We cannot call a painting ‘art’ as the words ‘artifact’ and ‘artificial’ imply. The thing made is a work of art made by art, but not itself art. The art remains in the artist and is the knowledge by which things are made.

Viola produces meditative spaces. Another pioneering early work was presented by Blain Southern and The Vinyl Factory at Brewer Street Car Park.  The Talking Drum an early sound composition  that explores resonance in an empty swimming pool using drums and pipes.

It was an uncanny experience entering the vast shadowy space of the underground car park to what felt like the eerie soundtrack of a noir thriller.

In Venice I had another opportunity to walk through the pulsating glow of Joana Vasconcelas’ Garden of Eden. This fibre optic maze has all the false trappings of the biblical Eden in its hypnotic draw.

I’d never really thought about how concrete was applied to our landscape. At UAL’s Shadow Without Object Symposium Bernd Behr introduced us to the Victorian polymath inventor of sprayed concrete Karl Akeley. Sprayed concrete takes on the shape of what it covers, like a skin.1601 Carl AkeleyAkeley was also a pioneering taxidermist and creator of natural history dioramas, he also devised a motion picture camera to take on location. In his presentation  Akeley in the elephant Skull  Bern Behr makes connections between this liquid concrete film that holds an image of what it covers and photographic emulsion. The desire to reconstruct, to capture and present an accurate representation of reality are questioned. Akeley worked hard to perfect his models as being true to life. 1601 Carl Akeley gorillasHe made many expeditions to Africa to collect his own specimens, make drawings and take photographs so he could transpose the African plains to urban New York. He was of course presenting an idealised view to the awestruck New Yorkers adding to the distorted representation of faraway lands much like the holiday postcard photograph.

 

 

I have had to say goodbye to my studio space and all the other wonderful facilities and people at the RCA.

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Lots of ideas were formulated in this little corner and I will miss it very much.

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I spent the last six months pretty much in the screenprinting room

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working on the mirror circles for my final show.

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There wasn’t much time out but I did try to see some exhibitions that felt were relevant to my own concerns.

I hadn’t come across the work of Michelle Stuart before and I found her exhibition at Parafin Gallery very inspiring.

Michelle Stuart Night Over Alice Springs

Michelle Stuart Night Over Alice Springs

I was drawn to her spiritual aesthetic. The subtle use of colour and juxtaposition of images set within a grid structure bind themes together to create a whole from fragments. I like the way she uses objects, incorporating natural materials and sacred symbolism, referencing alters and rituals.

Michelle Stuart Ring of Fire

Michelle Stuart Ring of Fire

I was excited to see Diana Thater at Hauser and Wirth mostly because of the promise of seven holy ‘kunds’ – or water tanks- and waterfalls that create two tiered pools within her projected installations. I thought this might relate to my own ideas using water in my work giving some insight into water as a sacred medium.

I was disappointed. Due to poor light levels and projected image quality what should have been an immersive experience was frustrated by an awareness of ineffectual technology exacerbated by the front door repeatedly opening and  flooding the space with even more light. There were no ‘kunds’ visible. The gallery assistant thought the pools may be projected onto the floor but with the light levels too high it was not so much that ‘…the pools of water occupy a liminal state between reality and imagination’ but must be totally conjured by the imagination.

Diana Thater Life is a Time-Based Medium

Diana Thater Life is a Time-Based Medium

Online you can find an image more akin to the promises of the press release.

Galtaji Temple near Jaipur

Galtaji Temple near Jaipu

For my second year at the RCA I had David Blandy as my tutor. I think we have quite a few crossover interests in our investigation of contemporary society which manifest themselves in very different ways. He works with video and references music trends and gaming aesthetics and is quite performative. It’s very engaging and has a fine humour.

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He screened his video How To Make A Short Video About Extinction for us in the lecture theatre, it was good to see it on a big screen and appreciate the disaster movie genre it plays off though the DIY amateurism invoked does perhaps mean the small screen is its home. Eitherway it’s very funny (while obviously trying to make some serious points too). He put me onto Miranda July, also funny while highlighting some cultural idiosyncrasies , whose book of short stories No-one Deserves To Be Here More Than You I am enjoying at the moment.

I have visited his exhibition showing the video hercules-rough-cut at the Bloomberg Space.

David Blandy

David Blandy

It has huge presence. Ominous and mesmerizing it engulfs you in a kaleidoscopic bombardment of image and dialogue tracing the history of civilisation on its frenzied trajectory to what must be an inevitable implosion. Surrounded by rotating images and screens and immersed in continuous rap-speak that fills your head there is no space to escape.

David Blandy Hercules:Rough Cut

David Blandy Hercules:Rough Cut

It captures the obsessions that are driving our civilisation over the edge into oblivion employing the same seductions that hypnotise us as we are carried along unable to resist.

I have long been a fan of Gordon Cheung’s work so was excited to be able to chat with him about my work when he visited the RCA on what was described as an artists promenade. His interest in relating ancient mythologies to present day financial trading and historical markets such as tulip mania to current boom and bust economics are fascinating subjects.

Gordon Cheung island

Gordon Cheung Island

We also attempted to discuss quantum and particle physics. He had been key in selecting my etching Forest of Eden for the neo:print prize award that I received last year so I was able to go into more detail about what had inspired me to make this work. Originally it was Giambattista Vico’s story of wild men inventing the gods as they cowered in the forest under thunderous skies that led to my research into the myth of the wild man. This myth stretches back to the tale of Gilgamesh’s quest for immortality. In history the wild man’s characteristics reflect topical fears and aspirations, violating the taboos of civilization and symbolizing the repressed desires of society. They oscillate between horror and fantasy.

Susan Eyre Forest of Eden

Susan Eyre Forest of Eden

I wondered who a contemporary wild man might be. Someone on the edges of society, both fascinating and repulsive. I had come across images on the internet of this person who posts photos of himself posing almost naked with guns strapped to his body. He had become an internet meme, shared with equal disgust and fascination. In this etching I placed him back in the ancient forest of all our origins.

The most recent of work I made while at the RCA was Sun Factor. This work allows an alternative access point to my ideas about escape from reality and the search for something outside the ordinary. It explores ancient and modern ideas on sun worship and the rituals that are part of these cultures.

Susan Eyre Sun Factor

Susan Eyre Sun Factor

I used etching for the ancient cliffs and gold pigments on chine colle for the obelisk. The figures are screen printed in high saturation, a reminder of the early days of package holidays and glossy postcards and also of skin damage and loss of connection to the powers of nature. The sun as apocalyptic fireball is a reminder of its true nature which we often forget to acknowledge.

Sun Factor has been selected as a finalist for the HIX award.

I had been experimenting with images printed on translucent fabric submerged in water with a view to using this in my final show.

Susan Eyre submīrārī

Susan Eyre submīrārī

This came from the idea of looking through a surface to consider what is there but unseen by our limited senses   Sometimes the images in the water float and sometimes they sink or fold according to the otherwise unseen movement within the water. The activity in the matter of the universe is going on around us unseen – other intangible things like the aura of place and the dream of paradise cannot be pinned down or explained in terms of materiality.

Susan Eyre submīrārī

Susan Eyre submīrārī

I spent a long time searching for the right bowls for the images floating in water. I had in mind something you might find in the world of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell but ended up using the same simple very shiny ones as I had originally found for Café Gallery – Objects Of.

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I tried giving them a clay outer shell – it didn’t work but the cracked result was inspiring for future work.

I chose to exhibit the water pieces in a cluster for the RCA MA Show rather than each one placed at the base of the individual sculptures as I had previously.

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submīrārī installation

mīrārī  comes from the latin miror whose etymology is to gaze in wonder.

Now that I had 7 sculptures (one for every day of the week) I felt each work had more weight holding their own space.

Susan Eyre everydaymatters

Susan Eyre everydaymatters

There is a similarity in the way an image is experienced as a surface to look through and be absorbed into connecting the pieces in the installation.

The images in the bowls are more dreamlike, idealised landscapes whereas the images on the mirrors come from the everyday locations that happen to be called paradise.

Susan Eyre everydaymatters (6/7 escapism  - the life)

Susan Eyre everydaymatters (6/7 escapism – the life)

In conjunction with the MA degree show I led the organisation of our event WHAT WAS I THINKING. This was a chance to look back at the thinking behind our degree show and the ways in which decisions get made and also the alarm we sometimes feel at what we have embarked upon.

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We invited David Cross as our guest speaker. David Cross has an international reputation as a lecturer and academic. As an artist, he began collaborating with Matthew Cornford, in the partnership Cornford and Cross, while studying at St Martin’s School of Art in 1987, and graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1991. In addition to producing aesthetic experiences, he maintains that a key function of contemporary art is to test concepts, assumptions and boundaries.

David Cross

David Cross

Looking at global economics and systems of value which govern the art world as well as wider issues of capitalism and our blind commitment to material consumption fuelling economic growth he poses the question  – can we reclaim the vanishing point and reconnect our individual perspective with our collective capacity to envision and plan for a more ecologically stable future?

Early in our first year at RCA we had a seminar with the provocative title Why Print? This caused a lot of argument at the time as we found there were very many opinions on what was and what was not considered print, the value of craft and the place of the multiple or cheap reproduction. As we progressed we learnt to respect each others approaches and realised that the diversity of our group was a strength from which we could all learn.

Rob Miles Cmd shift 3

Rob Miles Cmd shift 3

Rob Miles was our MC for the event and gave an introduction which set out the challenges we faced during our MA and will continue to tackle as artists.  He explained that in such a programme as printmaking there are many processes we could choose from to express our ideas and it was through this exposure and interrogation that we found our own individual affinities from digital media to etching and many combinations in between. New reproduction technologies offer opportunities for exploration,  the old techniques feed into the new, and the new reinvigorates the old. To study Fine Art today is to navigate a plethora of possibilities across an ever widening field of possibilities, often dauntingly so but this also offers us a new representational freedom as artists.

Navigating these new possibilities is something we had discussed in seminars which led us to authors who write about the impact of the web, image saturation/appropriation, and new ways in which we view the world that lead on to questions of reality and representation.

As a point of focus for our event we referred to the politics of the image theories of Hito Steryl in the e-flux journal The Wretched of the Screen.
Her comments on the condition of groundlessness in her essay free fall a thought experiment on vertical perspective seemed particularly relevant.
          ‘Imagine you are falling. But there is no ground.
          Many contemporary philosophers have pointed out that the present moment is distinguished by a prevailing condition of groundlessness.
          We cannot assume any stable ground on which to base metaphysical claims or foundational political myths.
          At best, we are faced with temporary, contingent, and partial attempts at grounding.’
Peter Glasgow spoke about ways that material might be gathered, piled up, held onto and left over to form a body of work.
Peter Glasgow

Peter Glasgow

Using American TV series as his research material he used this analogy to look at work in the degree show as a gathering of material.
Peter Glasgow I'm dead in the water here

Peter Glasgow I’m dead in the water here

 Jilly Roberts narrated The Case Study, a story which explores her ideas of how perspectives can get influenced and altered depending on their content and origin.
Jilly Roberts

Jilly Roberts

Mixing factual accounts with her own experiences out in the field researching architectural landscapes and the invention of the Wardian Case.
Jilly Roberts

Jilly Roberts

 Daniel Clark discussed his research into the cross section between sound and printmaking
Daniel Clark

Daniel Clark

 covering the strange sensations we experience when exposed to very low frequency vibrations  the mysteries of the aquatint box and the sensory drama of the eruption of Krakatoa.
Daniel Clark Volcano

Daniel Clark Volcano

 Amy Gear brought our attention to the link between landscape, language and the shape of words, focusing on the rich history of her native Shetland
Amy Gear

Amy Gear

and how we mimic through language and also through our work.
Amy Gear Stack

Amy Gear Stack

 Meg Ferguson and Maito Jobbe Duval who both work with text and moving image discussed the ideas of French Philosopher Maurice Blanchot to explore their experience of uncertainty in the creative process.
Meg Ferguson

Meg Ferguson

Meg spoke about the ‘leap’ of faith necessary to make work and its value as a catalyst to move forward, letting go of control and falling into the unknown of the unconscious mind.
Maito Jobbe Duval can you see it

Maito Jobbe Duval can you see it

Maito read from Blanchot’s Thomas the Obscure while screening her video work Can You See It encouraging us to think the image of the thought.
Sarah Gillett read a story from her book which accompanied her work in the degree show.
Sarah Gillett

Sarah Gillett

We were transported to a suburban Mum’s night in which was suddenly impacted by the enormity and chaos of the universe both physically as a meteorite hits the conservatory and poetically as we contemplate the points in our lives when new perspectives open up to us.

 

 

 

 

Surveillance, voyeurism, participation and looking within oneself. The need for private space.

All of these ideas are encapsulated in George Orwell’s 1984 which I have recently seen interpreted by the brilliant and innovative Headlong Theatre Company.

Headlong Production of 1984

Headlong Production of 1984

This production explores the world inside Winston Smith’s head, as well as the world without, and catches the euphoria and bliss buried deep underneath the cold face of Big Brother. Headlong’s version explores why Orwell’s gaze is as relevant today as it ever was.

The series of short film screenings at Dilston Grove under the banner ‘Lawns and Hedges’ seemed very relevant to my interest in the manicured public space.

The programme was put together by Anna Gritz and Jennifer Teets as part of ‘Wendel! Open Your Door’ a Woodmill collaboration.

The films were chosen in relation to a text from the entry submitted by Lewis Masquerier in the 1858  competition to design Central Park.

‘To the Commissioners of Central Park:

I have planned purposely to effect a double object. Not only to give a pleasing landscape, but also an instructive one. For amusement and instruction combined, certainly intensify each other. I propose then to lay off the southern half of the park in a miniature representation of the continents of the earth.

Unfortunately, no one would ever get the pleasure to stroll through Masquerier’s vision for Central Park, as Frederick Law Olmstead’s proposal would be the winning one. Yet nevertheless his vision for a landscape that would promise both pleasure and instruction is very much in line with the history of garden architecture.

Frontispiece to l'Abbé de Vallemont's Curiositez de la nature et de l'art (1705)

Frontispiece to l’Abbé de Vallemont’s Curiositez
de la nature et de l’art (1705)

From the gardens of the antiquity, to the French and English landscape gardens and the park designs of Frederick Law Olmsted and Walt Disney, nature has been used to choreograph our physical movements and emotional states.

Azael José María Franco Guerrero and one of its 'living sculptures' in Tulcán Cemetery, Ecuador

Azael José María Franco Guerrero and one of its
‘living sculptures’ in Tulcán Cemetery, Ecuador

This screening looks at landscaping as a process of cultivation, one that creates sites suspended between exercised control and escapist diversion whilst offering the potential for political subversion.

Nature is featured here as a manicured stage set that guides and hosts the theatrics of the human condition. The environment is reconsidered not just as a dramatic backdrop that illustrates the psychological condition, but also as an active player in the sculpting of social unconscious. The individual films are entwined within a scroll of still vignettes, interlacing imagery and rhythm to mimic the peripatetic nature of human perception.

The screening opened with a rapid scroll through a selection of source material and images on the themes outlined in the programme.
I would have liked to have had longer to see each image and more information on the research undertaken as it looked extensive and fascinating.
The films shown were:
Julia Rometti and Victor Costales, Plantas Populares – Movimiento: Agitato, 2013, 14’56”
‘A film in black and white of tropical plants being agitated by the wind. These are ‘house plants’ seen in their natural habitat of the Amazon jungle.
Olga Chernysheva, Anonymous. Part 1 & 2, 2004, 19’
This is a film where a middle aged lady gradually plucks up the courage to change into her swimming costume in a public park.
It is sad in a way that she is obviously so self conscious yet ‘the public’ are oblivious to her trauma and exposure.
Deimantas Narkevicius, The Role of a Lifetime, 2003, 16′
Deimantas Narkevicius 'The Role of a Lifetime'

Deimantas Narkevicius ‘The Role of a Lifetime’

This film also on show at Tate Modern pans across a series of drawings from Gruto Park in Lithuania where a lot of old post war sculptures have been abandoned.

Should these murderers end their days in such arcadian settings. Filmmaker Peter Watkins adds a self reflective commentary on his personal creative journey.

Rosalind Nashashibi, Jack Straw’s Castle, 2009, 17’20”

Rosalind Nashashibi 'Jack Straw's Castle'

Rosalind Nashashibi ‘Jack Straw’s Castle’

Amy Granat, Landscape Film, 2009, 8’45”
TJ Wilcox, A Fair Tale (Extended Mix), 2006/2007 8’47”
Jessica Warboys, La Fôret de Fontainbleau, 2010, 4′
The exhibition ‘Surveillance’ at Gimpel Fils  had work by Seamus Harahan and Christopher Stewart who create work about watching and being watched.
Seamus Harahan Torch extended

Seamus Harahan Torch (extended) video still

Seamus Harahan films human behaviour from a distance, giving little away as to what activity we are witnessing but holding our attention as we become the detective searching for clues.

The long lens perspective gives us the sense that we are witnessing a private moment of an unguarded subject of our gaze.

Christopher Stewart

Christopher Stewart ‘Germany’

This series of photographs from Christopher Stewart are loaded with tension. This is not idle waiting and watching, these are covert operations.

Christopher Stewart Insecurity

Christopher Stewart ‘Insecurity’

At the Venice Biennale Dieter Roth presented video surveillance as a sort of diary to record his everyday activities.

The minutiae of his life, eating, sleeping and working in his studio over a period of a few years are shown simultaneously on 131 monitors.

Dieter Roth

Dieter Roth ‘Solo Scenes’

The effect is to condense a series of events into one happening, it is impossible to witness everything on the monitors at once. Scattered like memories,  the linear narrative of life breaks down into fragments yet produces an overall  essence. A self portrait.

Do it 2013 a group art show at the Manchester International Festival was billed as turning the notion of viewing into an active and performative encounter between artist and visitor.
11 Rooms which was staged at the Manchester Gallery in 2011 felt more engaging than this years show for me. 11 Rooms was secretive and beguiling. You had to enter an unknown encounter through a closed door into an intimate space. This year the open plan space gave participation a self consciousness.

do it 2013 consists of a growing series of written artists instructions, each reinterpreted each time it is enacted.

Some of the instructions have been written specially for do it 2013 and some date back to 1993 when the project first began from a conversation between Christian Boltanski and Bertrand Lavier curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist.

Manchester Gallery Do It Yourself

Manchester Gallery Do It 2013

Some instructions were absurd, some fun and some impossible to carry out.

Manchester Gallery Do IT Yourself

Manchester Gallery Do IT 2013

The re-enacted instruction I enjoyed the most was the live performance with a vulture.

Maria José Arjona a Columbian performance artist paid homage to her mentor María Teresa Hincapié
who died a few years ago with the performance ‘Second Messenger: Performance with vulture and writings’.

Manchester International Festival

Manchester International Festival

The film crew were on hand which heightened expectations of a performance but also killed any spirituality at the heart of the enactment.

Shadow the Vulture

Shadow the Vulture

The Amazon rainforest felt very far away.

María Teresa Hincapié left instructions for her student to go into the Amazon rainforest, drink only water and eat only fruit and obtain a spiritual experience.
So Maria José Arjona went into the forest with a shaman who made a potion from plant bark for her to drink. This potion gave her an experience which she described as ‘seeing clearly’ and she spent 12 hours writing messages while under the influence of the potion. A message that she wrote while in her transcendent state is delivered to the Manchester Gallery by a vulture, a bird of sacred symbolism in Columbia.
The message reads
‘ The future is uncertain. Words are traps for innocent animals. You must know that knowing too many secrets delivers some sort of damages.’

The ancient forests of Europe used also to be a place to go to for adventure, to confront the power of nature and to face danger.

Bear Collagraph

Bear Collagraph

I made a collagraph of a bear. Partly to see how this would translate through the cardboard of the plate but also as I was thinking about the beasts of the ancient forest.

Bear test prints

Bear test prints

The reaction in the studio was that the bear was cute not fearsome.

Thinking about things that compel us as humans in one way or another – the work ethic, the need for order, physical survival, lust and greed, mythology and religion, spirituality, humanity and identity.

Having heard Antii Laitinen talk about his Venice Biennale project a while back it was great to see it in the flesh.

Antii Laitinen

Antii Laitinen

All his work takes hours of patience, these woodblocks have hundreds of nails hammered into the surface.

In 2011 at the Venice Biennale a large tree fell on the Finnish Pavilion. This disaster has given inspiration to this years exhibition ‘Falling Trees’.

Antii Laitinen

Antii Laitinen

Laitinen felled 100sqm of forest, tore the roots from the ground and removed the covering layer of soil from the area. After this, he started to sort the materials into constituent parts and finally to assemble the material into a carefully composed area for photography.

Antii Laitinen 'Forest Square'

Antii Laitinen ‘Forest Square’

Inspired by the philosophy of Piet Mondrian  – “I construct lines and colour combinations on a flat surface, in order to express general beauty with the utmost awareness. Nature (or, that which I see) inspires me, puts me, as with any painter, in an emotional state so that an urge comes about to make something, but I want to come as close as possible to the truth and abstract everything from that, until I reach the foundation (still just an external foundation!) of things… I believe it is possible that, through horizontal and vertical lines constructed with awareness, but not with calculation, led by high intuition, and brought to harmony and rhythm, these basic forms of beauty, supplemented if necessary by other direct lines or curves, can become a work of art, as strong as it is”

Sorting the forest and the layer of peat in a factory hall took several months. The sorted forest takes exactly one hundred square metres of space, just like the original patch of forest.

The process of photographing the composition proved challenging, and the final work of photography consists of over 60 photographs needed to show the smallest of details. The two other images in the triptych show the forest area before and after the clearing.

This work characterises Antti Laitinen work through it’s craftsmanship, concrete thinking, repetition, the coexistence of exhausting persistence, the transience of the blink of an eye and tragicomedy. The viewers find themselves questioning the rationality of both their everyday use of time and the society around them.

Outside the pavilion is a small Frankenstein forest. Laitinen has himself felled and chopped a number of trees into small logs which he then fits back together into a tree with hammer and nails. The construction of the  trees is both performance and installation.

Antii Laitinen

Antii Laitinen

“The working method is like when you’re putting a puzzle together and can’t find the right pieces, so you force them in place anyway. Fun and comedy are important in my work. There isn’t always much sense in making the work, but I do it anyway”  Laitinen.

Antii Laitinen at Finnish Pavilion

Antii Laitinen Finnish Pavilion

Norays Kaspar also looks at work and purpose, exposing the human cost of a life spent in effectively futile labour.

Norays Kaspar

Norays Kaspar ‘What is to be Done?’

The exhibition “Steel-Lives, Still-Life” is inspired by the remnants of post-Soviet industrial legacy in Armenia.

It attempts to give form to the loss of relevance of both machine and man. Vast expanses of desolate and abandoned buildings trace the tale of a once vibrant industry. Inside those still surviving factories, are the portraits of workers, in age-old canvas uniforms, still tending to the odd machine in dim light and textured shadows of rust and grease.

Pawel Althamer made an impact with a cavernous space peopled with life size sculptures, sitting, standing, not really interacting – like a railway station concourse frozen in a Pompeii moment of destruction. These bodies are shredded yet the faces remain intact, eyes closed in repose.

Pawel Althamer 'Venetians'

Pawel Althamer ‘Venetians’

They are the faces of the city cast in plaster, Venetians rendered grey and mummified.

Pawel Althamer 'Venetians'

Pawel Althamer ‘Venetians’

Human frailty of another kind is explored by Vadim Zakharov for the Russian Pavilion.

This is all about seduction – lust and greed –  and the corruption of money.

Russian Pavillion

Russian Pavillion

A young man sits astride a saddle on a beam high up in the eaves, shelling and eating peanuts and disdainfully tossing the husks to form a growing mound on the floor.

Vadim Zakharov 'Danae'

Vadim Zakharov ‘Danae’

We women re-enact the seduction of Danae as we enter a darkened space and look up to the heavens to be showered with gold coins while the men survey us from the balcony.

Under the protection of an umbrella we collect handfuls of coins and place them into a bucket which is drawn up and emptied onto a conveyor belt to send the coins on their cyclical journey skywards to cascade once more.

Vadim Zakharov 'Danae'

Vadim Zakharov ‘Danae’

Zakharov aims to demonstrate the contemporary relevance of mythological personifications.

Sex, greed and the corruption of money are still at the heart of our failings. Our gods haven’t changed.

Russian Pavillion

Execution chair of love

Robert Crumb has produced work on a biblical scale. He has spent 5 years illustrating all fifty chapters of the book of Genesis and turned it into a graphic novel.

Robert Crumb

Robert Crumb

Overwhelmed by the number of illustrations on display coupled with the vast array of other work in the Central Pavilion to be viewed in a limited time mega work doesn’t get the attention I would have liked to have given it.

I would like to have the time to follow the story through, it would be relevant to my thoughts at the moment about the origin of religion.

Prabhavathi Meppayil’s work is al about surface, quiet and calm and the human touch of tradition and craft which can inspire meditation.

Prabhavathi Meppayil

Prabhavathi Meppayil

Copper, silver and gold wire is embedded in thick gesso giving a cool look of stone revealing flashes of shine like seams of precious metals or water rippling, gently breaking a still surface.

Akram Zaatari presents ‘Letter to a refusing Pilot’ for the Lebanon Pavilion. This is a moving story about justice, nationalism, belonging, rebellion and humanity explored through film and video.

1309 Akram Zaatari 2

What the artist grew up believing to be an urban myth turned out to be a true story and he was able to meet the figure of local legend 40 years after the event.

Akram Zaatari Letter to a Refusing Pilot

Akram Zaatari Letter to a Refusing Pilot

There are parallels to the story told in Lucy Kirkwood’s play Chimerica about ‘tank man’ the anonymous lone hero who stood for justice in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square. The tank driver refused to shoot the protester and lost his own life as a result and ‘tank man’ was shot anyway. The identity of  those involved at Tiananmen Square was never discovered but in Lebanon through a series of chance encounters over many years the pilots identity is revealed as Hagai Tamir. In 1982 he was an Israeli pilot sent on a bombing campaign to Lebanon but when he saw the target for his bombs was a high school he passed over the building and dropped the bombs in the sea. Unfortunately a colleague followed up and bombed the school anyway rendering Tamil’s refusal futile yet still resonant for its humanity.

I thought the writing of Santu Mofokeng in The German Pavilion at the Biennale was interesting, about ancestors and memory.

‘Who needs ancestors? This is a question of belief and of religion, one is compelled to suppose – but is it? Marx’s remark about “opium for the masses” resonates. Religious extrusions are everywhere on the landscape, both virtual and real. Ancestors lived here once and their signature masks and accoutrements are sometimes preserved and coveted to attract tourism. Marx notwithstanding, many people will tell you that you are nothing without a past, or that you are not “together” without belonging. Another issue is the matter of national and quasi-religious holidays and monuments and memorials and anniversaries, so coveted by governments and politicians to dust up waning popularity and to mesmerize crowds.

I write elsewhere that nothing forces a backward glance like a threat. The Chinese say that our body is the memory of out ancestors. This is an omninous proposition since apartheid is an impossible ancestor, inappropriate and unsuitable. Whenever we come under threat we remember who we are and act accordingly. The word “remember” needs elaboration. Re/member is a process by which we restore to the body forgotten memories. The body in this case is the landscape – on whose skin and belly histories and myths are projected – which is central to the forging of national identity.

When I see air turbulence my sister sees a snake. As a photographer I hunt for things ephemeral, such as shadows, in order to creat things. Interpretation I leave to the beholder.’

Sakti is an understanding of Hindu origin which has become integrated into Indonesia’s local cosmology, it denotes a strong creative energy, it is divine and indestructible.

Indonesian Pavilion

Indonesian Pavilion

This basic creative principle is the capacity for achievement beyond mere human ability.
Artists Albert Yonathan Setyawan, Entang Wiharso, Eko Nugroho, Rahayu Supanggah, Sri Astari and Titarubi have contributed to the theme of the Indonesian Pavilion.

Some work I have on the go at the moment touches on these ideas of compulsion – things we are drawn irresistibly towards.

I have added a beam of light with a relief plate to a collagraph from the garage gates series.

1309 Compulsion

Moths to a flame. Drawn towards the light. Not necessarily the safest option.

1309 Moths

These moths will be transferred onto fabric and appropriately burned on to the collagraph surface.

These tiny dogs, examples of Victorian taxidermy, were on display at Hall Place in Bexley, Kent.

There is something so appealing about the miniature, but it questions our expectations when scale is distorted beyond what feels natural.

1309 Victorian Taxidermy (1)

Although there were attempts by the Victorians to breed such minute specimens these particular ones are fakes. An X-ray proves a lack of skeleton.

VictorianTaxidermy

VictorianTaxidermy

These strange little creatures were an appropriate taster for the exhibition ‘Beastly Hall’, inspired by the resident  topiary of the Queen’s Beasts.

The Queen's Beasts

The Queen’s Beasts

Originally carved in stone to commemorate the Queen’s coronation in 1953, these living sentinels are based on real and mythical creatures.

Artists had been selected for the exhibition who explored all aspects of what might be considered something ‘beastly’.

HyungKoo Lee works in reverse to the Victorian taxidermist – he creates a fake skeleton.

Hyungkoo Lee 'Ridicularis'

Hyungkoo Lee ‘Ridicularis’

Transporting Goofy from popular culture to natural history.

Carsten Holler’s Red Walrus has a cartoon appearance with its plasticised body and unnatural colouring.

Carsten Holler 'Red Walrus'

Carsten Holler ‘Red Walrus’

It has however been given human eyes which gaze out from within a fabricated world.

Joana Vasconcelos takes a kitsch ornament and adds another skin, a layer of decoration.

Joana Vasconcelos 'Flibbertigibbet'

Joana Vasconcelos ‘Flibbertigibbet’

We were told when we got our cat – it is not an ornament, don’t expect it to behave like one.

Thomas Grunfeld has created a whole series of ‘Misfits’ through mixing species.

1309 Thomas Grunfeld 2

Thomas Grunfeld ‘Misfits’

Questioning our manipulation of nature.

1309 Thomas Grunfeld 1

Thomas Grunfeld ‘Misfits’

Creating a modern mythology.

Thomas Grunfeld 'Misfits'

Thomas Grunfeld ‘Misfits’

Exploring the fear of genetic engineering and what it might create.

Polly Morgan doesn’t always deal in horror but in ‘Blue Fever’ the melding together of so many bodies through a thrashing of wings creates something disturbing.

Polly Morgan 'Blue Fever'

Polly Morgan ‘Blue Fever’

An entity that cannot breathe, suspended in continuous flight with no escape.

Tessa Farmer explores flesh under attack.

Tessa Farmer 'A wounded Herring Gull'

Tessa Farmer ‘A wounded Herring Gull’

Her trademark tiny skeletons in league with the insect world bring down a much larger life force.

Tessa Farmer

Tessa Farmer

Claire Morgan’s installation of blue bottles suspended in flight creates  a geometric order from an association of disgust, germs and disease.

Claire Morgan 'Heart of Darkness'

Claire Morgan ‘Heart of Darkness’

Damien Hirst puts the visceral into the kitsch.

Damien Hirst 'Sacred Heart (with hope)'

Damien Hirst ‘Sacred Heart (with hope)’

Hope and treachery are preserved in perpetual limbo.

I really liked Rachel Goodyear’s delicate drawings of spirits escaping earthly vessels.

Rachel Goodyear

Rachel Goodyear

Her drawings incorporate 3D paper cuts which flow out from and off the page.

Rachel Goodyear

Rachel Goodyear

Her organic ceramic pieces hold strange images, transitory moments like worrisome memories best tucked away.

Rachel Goodyear 'curling up into more comfortable positions'

Rachel Goodyear ‘curling up into more comfortable positions’

The spiritual theme is continued with Jodie Carey’s funeral flowers bleached of colour.

Jodie Carey

Jodie Carey

These flowers are made of plaster, chiffon and ground up bone,

Throughout the exhibition there is the uplifting sound of birdsong.

It comes from Matt Collishaw’s truncated tree trunks where LP’s mimicking the age rings of trees spin and fill the space with the sounds of woodland.

Matt Collishaw 'Total Recall'

Matt Collishaw ‘Total Recall’

The birds recorded are actually mimicking chain saws. With this knowledge the jolly suddenly becomes sinister.

Susie MacMurray filled a room with peacock feathers echoing the crowds drawn to watch the spectacle of the coronation.

Susie MacMurray 'Spectacle'

Susie MacMurray ‘Spectacle’

These fragile remains of the male peacocks display act as an unexpected barrier.

Susie MacMurray 'Spectacle'

Susie MacMurray ‘Spectacle’

The idea of the voyeur is further expressed by Francis Alys in his footage of a fox let loose in The National Portrait Gallery.

Francis Alys 'The Nightwatch'

Francis Alys ‘The Nightwatch’

Trapped and confined to relentless meanderings the fox is exposed to the sort of CCTV surveillance that we are subject to as we traverse the city while similarly unaware of our voyeurs.

Peter Blake’s ‘Tarzan Box’ from 1965 expresses a clash of cultures and clichéd fears of what the exotic might hold.

Peter Blake 'Tarzan Box'

Peter Blake ‘Tarzan Box’

The exploration of dark spaces could reveal fantastical creatures of horror.

Charles Avery 'Duculi (The Indescribable)'

Charles Avery ‘Duculi (The Indescribable)’

There were also lots of artists showing at the Venice Biennale who engage in fantasy and myth.

Levi Fisher Ames sculpted his fantastical creatures in wood and displayed them as specimens in glass cases.

Levi Fisher Ames

Levi Fisher Ames

‘Animals Wild and Tame – Whittled Out of Wood – Nothing Like It Shown Anywhere’

Levi Fisher Ames

Levi Fisher Ames

Ames took his collection on tour around Wisconsin in the 1880’s telling outlandish tales about his creatures to his audience while simultaneously  carving more figures.

Severely autistic Shinichi Sawada has created a very personal mythology with his clay figures.

Shinichi Sawada

Shinichi Sawada

These beasts look like they come from a ritualistic and totemic past, but are recent creations, combining spiky defence in a fragile form.

Domenico Gnoli’s beasts also ‘hail from a vast storehouse in the human imagination’.

Domenico Gnoli

Domenico Gnoli

His series of drawings ‘What is a Monster’ from 1967 place surrealist creatures into everyday settings.

Anna Zemankova is growing flowers that are not grown anywhere else.

Anna Zemankova

Anna Zemankova

Produced during frantic early morning reveries she allowed her mind to flow freely recalling cultural influences entwined in her fantasies.

Ivan Morison also loves to create myths. His talk at the Whitechapel Gallery was peppered with stories of the fantastical, almost believable sort. Is there really a village in Italy that strings goats up from a tree and shoots at them? Was the world’s biggest dinosaur really the victim of arson?    Storytelling is part of the work and has been formalised in the traveling puppet theatre of Mr Clevver, based on a character from the post-apocalyptic novel, Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban.

Heather and Ivan Morrison

Heather and Ivan Morrison

Another of the Morrison’s escape vehicles. They travel through rural landscapes setting up camp unannounced and putting on a show to whichever locals turn up..

Heather and Ivan Morrison

Heather and Ivan Morrison

Telling stories that blend factual recall with fiction, merging information into a narrative that builds on the mythology of their own lives and also the lives of people they encounter.
Out of its time, part medieval part futuristic, Mr Clevver is an evolving work about the coming together of different people in differing places.

'Mr Clevver' Ivan and Heather Morrison

‘Mr Clevver’ Ivan and Heather Morrison

Kay Harwood showing at Simon Oldfield Gallery also deals in mystery and suggestion.

Kay Harwood

Kay Harwood

Exploring iconography and mythology her paintings have a wonderful pure surface, like porcelain. The muted and restricted palette gives a timeless quality.

Kay Harwood

Kay Harwood

These men look like contemporary apostles in meditation on some spiritual truth.

The quest for inner retrospection. A solitary wanderer.

I wanted to capture something of an enchanted wood in these images.

These are screen prints with sublimation inks transferred onto polyester. I printed 3 layers separately onto paper and then heat-pressed them on top of each other blending the colours.

1309 woods

Layering the shadow of a rose garden on organza over the grey woods.
I have been thinking about whether to add a figure in the woods.

Also have been working on one ‘return of the forest ‘ collagraph, cutting sublimation printed organza onto the collagraph.

The forests disappeared under the advancing ice and then reappeared as the ice retreated.

Going back to a time before civilization, before religion. Right back to the beginning to see where the first dislocation took place, looking back for the myth of living in harmony with nature in some idyllic context and the start of nostalgia.

1309 return of the forest

Thinking about fantastical creatures and myth has been helpful for the new work I am planning about beasts of the forest.

The final talk in the Whitechapel Gallery programme ‘To Make a Tree’ was from Ivan Morrison (Heather was busy in rehearsals for their travelling puppet show tour of Wales)
A great raconteur Ivan presented an overview of their practise concentrating on key interests and their overriding belief in the importance of integrity of materials.
Making something have more depth by doing it the long way even if the end result looks the same, he strongly believes that the commitment to an object though a long making process imbues it with a value beyond the visual.
He is also a great believer in the importance of failure –  natural entropy. From the ashes of disaster…

He decided the best way of forming a direct engagement with nature within an urban environment was to become involved in gardening.
This involvement was to become one of his first projects; the documentation of his gardening experience in Birmingham.

Postcards were printed and sent out to selected people stating the progress of his gardening endeavours.

Heather and Ivan Morrison

Ivan Morrison

He listed the colours to be found in the garden at certain times of the year.

Ivan Morrison

Ivan Morrison

As time went on the success and more often the failures were documented in what became an ongoing narrative of the battle every gardener faces in order to maintain control and defy attack.

Ivan Morrison

Ivan Morrison

The Morrisons are inspired by the passions of other people, the importance of family and ancestors, of staking a claim in the soil by planting an arboretum tended through generations, or the spirit of the idealist who builds an escape vehicle on the back of a truck and heads for the open road.

Heather and Ivan Morrison Tales of Space and Time

Heather and Ivan Morrison ‘Tales of Space and Time’. Converted Bedford Green Goddess, Douglas Fir, books, other media

This idea of an escape vehicle became translated into other forms of refuge.

Heather and Ivan Morrison 'I am so sorry, Goodbye'

Heather and Ivan Morrison ‘I am so sorry, Goodbye’

Ivan Morison explains; ‘The conjoined domes of ‘I am so sorry. Goodbye.’ are inhabited by a guardian whose task it is to keep the stove lit, water boiled and visitors supplied with hibiscus tea. The guardian has the vocabulary of the words: I, am, so, sorry and goodbye. These words were first conveyed to us whilst staying in an old upmarket hotel on Alexandria’s corniche. Late one night I received a call in which the only words that were said, by the slow doleful male foreign voice, were ” I am so sorry sir… I am so sorry sir… Goodbye sir.” After putting the phone down I felt witness to something I didn’t fully understand, but felt that we had been given the task to pass on this cryptic message.’
The refuge is hand built from naturally fallen trees in Tatton Park. Made from its own environment it looks both archaic and futuristic. Dystopian or utopian it could come from any era. An apocalyptic future or the idealisms of a hippy commune. The Morrisons are interested in social architecture and how architecture impacts social behaviour. These thoughts are also influenced by science fiction and dystopian novels such as  J.G. Ballard’s 1975 novel, High-Rise. The idea of the building design having a direct effect on the social relationships of the inhabitants was part of the thought process for the Morrisons in creating a site specific structure ‘Plaza’ in Vancouver.

Heather and Ivan Morrison Plaza

Heather and Ivan Morrison Plaza

‘Plaza’ looks about to fall down. It is made of reclaimed dark heavy wood, burnt black. In contrast to the pale linear city it looks like the bones exposed at the moment of collapse.

A reminder of all the great cities that have fallen over time. It is an exciting place because it is dynamic. It creates a shift in perception.

The Maldives are facing a very direct impact on their environment from climate change, not a natural entropy.

Communities come together to build sandbanks to try to keep the sea at bay.

Portable Nation

Portable Nation

At the Venice Biennale the art collective Chamber of Public Secrets explored east west views of nature. Where western thought considers nature and culture to be in opposition, eastern thought considers nature as a guide, a source of inspiration and harmony.

Portable Nation

Portable Nation

For the pavilion they presented the culture and nature of the Maldives as one aesthetic experience in line with the concept of contemporary Environmental Romanticism.

Portable Nation

Portable Nation

The crumbling brickwork of the pavilion was a perfect backdrop to the video projections of nature giving an ethereal ghostlike quality to the images – a disappearing landscape.

Portable Nation

Portable Nation

For many the Maldives is synonymous with paradise.

Portable Nation

Portable Nation

A place for the western romantic to escape to has become a place that its own people want to escape from.

Portable Nation

Portable Nation

Simryn Gill for the Australian pavilion fully embraced entropy in her work.

Australian Pavillion

Australian Pavilion

‘Here art grows on trees’  allows the elements into the Pavilion.

The drawings of insects on paper made from the pulp of decayed plants will over the seasons return to a state of decay, exposed to the rain and sun and insects of the Giardini.

The work is about the passage through time of paper, the artwork, the pavilion, the artist.

Simryn Gill Eyes and Storms

Simryn Gill ‘Eyes and Storms’

Looking at cycles, at circles. Eyes and Storms are photographs of mines. Huge circles carved into the earth.

It will be interesting to see how the work has changed when I return in November with the RCA study trip.

Another artist undertaking a similar project at the moment is Matt Calderwood on the roof of the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill.

Matt Calderwood Exposure Sculpture

Matt Calderwood Exposure Sculpture

The paper covered steel frames of ‘Exposure Sculpture’ will remain on the roof, at the mercy of the elements, over the summer period to be taken into the gallery and reconfigured later in the year.

Terike Haapoja in the Nordic Pavillion at the Biennale questioned the human view of nature and wanted to express the interdependency of all living things, the energy passing between us and through us.

Nordic Pavillion

Nordic Pavillion

By talking or breathing to the CO2 sensor next to a branch on the trees in the Pavilion the visitor can activate the lights and open the glass chambers.

Terike Haapoja

Terike Haapoja

Breathing together.

Nordic Pavillion

Nordic Pavillion

The loss of heat from a body at the moment of death is recorded. It is a poignant witness to the warmth of life slowly dispersing.

Terike Haapoja

Terike Haapoja

Thinking about the natural processes of life and death can lead to thoughts of the spiritual.

Our ancestors had other than scientific explanations for things they didn’t understand and believed in spirits.

Mark Leckey’s exhibition ‘The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things’  looks at the objects we interact with today in a similar vein. As things possessed.

His concept is of ‘techno-animism’ – the blurring of the animate and the inanimate.

Mark Leckey

Mark Leckey

At the Biennale a digital taster was showing of the main exhibition held at the De La Warr pavilion in Bexhill on Sea.

Mark Leckey at The De La Warr Pavilion

Mark Leckey at The De La Warr Pavilion

Felix the Cat – the first image ever transmitted on TV

Mark Leckey The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things

Mark Leckey The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things

The exhibition was presented as a collection of objects that all talk, literally or metaphorically, to each other.

Mark Leckey The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things

Mark Leckey The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things

I was interested in the backdrop image which is Piero di Cosimo The Forest Fire c1495-1508.

The painting is thought to show the birth of civilization as man gained supremacy over the animals through the use of fire and language.

Concerned with the history of early man, inspired by passages from Book 5 of De Rerum Natura by Lucretius (98–c.55 BC), who traces the origins of life on earth and the birth of community life, emphasizing the role of fire as a catalyst for change.

Roger Hiorns

Roger Hiorns

The machine encrusted with crystals making its original purpose defunct it becomes something else.

Nicola Hicks Maquette for Crouching Minotaur

Nicola Hicks Maquette for Crouching Minotaur

Imposing presence of a minotaur skull, a symbol of the unnatural. A monster created from desire that cannot be controlled.

Doesn’t feel impossible.

William Blake believed he was visited by spirits from other worlds in his imagination.

William Blake The Ghost of a Flea

William Blake The Ghost of a Flea

This is his record of the spirit of a flea which has undergone a demonic transformation inhabited by the souls of bloodthirsty men.

Possession.

At the Biennale in the Belgium pavilion Berlinde De Bruyckere created a mausoleum.

Berlinde De Bruyckere's 'Cripplewood'

Berlinde De Bruyckere’s ‘Cripplewood’

A tree is cast in wax, it is then traced with blood red veins and pink mottled flesh. A process of metamorphosis has begun.

Berlinde De Bruyckere's 'Cripplewood'

Berlinde De Bruyckere’s ‘Cripplewood’

Bound with what appears to be bloodied bandages and laying on its side, the trees limbs take on the fragile nature of the bones of a giant disfigured human corpse.

The circle of life, the exchange of energy is something that Lin Xue wanted to convey in his detailed fantastical landscape drawings made with sharpened bamboo and ink.

Lin Xue

Lin Xue

The “Treasuries of Knowledge” exhibition by Khaled Zaki and Muhammad Banaw for Egypt looked at the two cycles of the universe – the first infinite cycle of nature and the second cycle of humanity continuously walking the earth.

“Treasure of Knowledge”  Khaled Zaki and Muhammad Banaw

“Treasuries of Knowledge” Khaled Zaki and Muhammad Banaw

At the point where the two cycles overlap is the point of creation, of wisdom and where such mysteries as knowledge of the afterlife might be found.

Lara Almarcegui is also interested in renewal.

Lara Almarcegui

Lara Almarcegui

Working at the boundary of urban regeneration and natural decay she filled the Spanish pavilion with builders rubble.

Mirroring the unpredictable power of a landslide the mounds of rock look like they could keep pouring into the room.

There is a strong smell of brick dust also filling the space and adding to the slight sense of claustrophobia, that you might be trapped, or can’t breathe.

Lara Almarcegui

Lara Almarcegui

The mound of smashed glass though is quite seductive, it sparkles like ice. You want to make crunching footsteps over it and gather it up to see the light play on its shattered surface.

The materials of construction are presented in their raw form. Buildings mechanically broken down to be reused and dispersed into other landscapes.

Gina Soden’s painterly photographs on the other hand depict nature slowly reclaiming abandoned and derelict buildings left to ruin.

Gina Soden

Gina Soden

Showing at ‘Natural Selection’ at The Fine Art Society she captures the beauty of decay. There is a nostalgia here, a sense of the past crumbling away before us, returning to the earth.

Where Gina Soden looks at nature reclaiming ancient buildings, Paul Davies celebrates the dynamic juxtaposition of the clean lines of architecture in an organic setting.

Paul Davies

Paul Davies Modern Cathedral Invert

The balance of power between nature and the manmade is explored in his highly textured paintings of modernist buildings in dramatic landscapes.

The forest becomes the cathedral.

I was intrigued to find that the name for the unfurled heads of fern is shared by a Bishop’s staff of office – Crosier.

1308 Succession ve 1 1308 Succession ve 3 1308 Succession ve 6

I have finished this set of prints. The title is ‘Succession’.

As the ice retreats; from first life to ferns to first trees to forests to man to religion.

A few people have seen the prints now, the majority do not spot the embryos tucked in the furls of the fern unless I push them to look harder.

I like things to be hidden so I think it’s OK this is the case.

I also did some with more colour but am happiest with the grey tone ones.

1308 Succession ve 2 1308 Succession ve 4 1308 Succession ve 5

Saw Chimerica, an amazing new play by Lucy Kirkwood. It is a powerful exploration of two cultures – China and America.
We are taken back to the student protests of 1989 in Tiananmen Square and follow the search of an American photographer, who took the iconic shot of the student standing with his shopping bags in front of the tank, as he tries to discover the identity of  ‘tank man’.

The fate still remains unknown of the unarmed man who blocked a column of tanks as they moved along Chang’an Avenue towards Tiananmen Square.

1306 Chimerica 3

The script is very tight, funny and moving, playing out  a touching relationship between the photographer and his Chinese contact as they question their roles in history.

There are questions about cultural identity and personal responsibility.

Chimerica by Lucy Kirkwood

Chimerica by Lucy Kirkwood

Who is a hero and how can one voice rage against the machine.  I found it a little scary to contemplate the future in this context as China is such a hard country to relate to and it’s influence is spreading quietly across the world.

In China there seems little compassion for the individual.

Yet obviously there are individuals who raise their voices, people we can relate to in their desire for justice, for free speech and for clean air.

Chimerica by Lucy Kirkwood

Chimerica by Lucy Kirkwood

Chimerica explores the courage required to step outside the control of the state and the security of a job.

It also makes us wonder about the dramatic changes to the landscape, the explosion of consumerism and urbanisation and the sources of energy to power this explosion in growth.

1306 China coal

The ideas behind Chimerica can be found at  http://headlong.co.uk/work/chimerica/explore/

1306 smog

I have always loved the work of Antii Laitinen since being introduced to his work by Nettie Horn Gallery.

I went to listen to him at the ICA in conversation with Elizabeth Neilson, Director of Zabludowicz Collection, and Harri Laakso, a co-curator of the Finnish Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale.

He undertakes extraordinary feats of endurance to make his art such as building his own island from bags of sand, only to have it swept away by a storm and then starting again.

Antii Laitinen 'It's my Island'

Antii Laitinen
‘It’s my Island’

In his talk  he stressed that he uses nature as his material and his studio space and what he is exploring is the nature of human existence. He questions the value of effort which stems from his native Finnish culture and its Lutheran attitude to the benefits of hard labour. In ‘Sweat work’ he constructed a human sized hamster wheel and ran until he was dripping in sweat, he then removed his clothes and laid down onto photographic paper.

Antii Laitinen 'Sweat Work'

Antii Laitinen
‘Sweat Work’

The photographs were then hung on the wall where the image of his body slowly faded and disappeared.

Antii Laitinen 'Sweat work'

Antii Laitinen ‘Sweat work’

Each of his pieces has required physical exertion in often futile exercises. Originally training as a photographer he moved into performative work which he then documents himself through photography.

He likes to be in control. He prefers if possible to perform all the hard labour himself.

There was an interesting discussion on the reaction of different cultures to his sawing up of a tree into many pieces and then trying to fix it back together again like a puzzle. In Finland where there are vast forests and there is a pragmatic relationship to a tree and he had no problem getting any number of trees to chop down. In Vienna he caused an outcry at the stupidity of his endeavour. In Bristol he had real trouble getting a tree at all, and the tree he was finally given was a very small tree, barely a tree at all, weak and diseased. What is it that makes it hard for us to chop down a tree. The shortage of trees or the love of the old, a national instinct to preserve maybe.
What was it that mobilised the nation into protest recently – the threat to the forests. We might never visit them – but it’s good to know they are there. Our cultural history is tied up in the forests not as a source of fuel and income but as a refuge, as a source of myths and legends.

Antii Laitinen

Antii Laitinen

For the project “FOREST SQUARE”, new work made for the Venice Biennale 2013, Laitinen chopped down a ten meters square section of forest and sorted the entire found material such as the soil, moss, wood, pines, etc into various categories. He then reorganized the forest according to different colours – the composition referring to the pure abstraction and utopian ideal of spiritual harmony and order from the De Stijl movement.

Antii Laitinen 'Forest Square'

Antii Laitinen ‘Forest Square’

I am still working on the collagraphs  ‘return of the forest’ and still not entirely happy with the way it is going.

I have been painting trees with sublimation inks to print onto organza which I will then cut onto the iceberg collagraphs I have made.

The thing about sublimation inks is you can’t quite tell what colour they will print until you put them in the heat press.

130701 (2)

I was upset to find out that London Printworks Trust had closed in February.

It is so sad that such a great resource is lost. I did think it bad though that as a paying member I hadn’t been told it was closing, I guess as they were in financial difficulties they weren’t going to refund memberships.

Now I have to find another large heat press to use.

The Ochre Print Studio Summer Exhibition had lots of good feedback. Shame I had to miss the Private View this year.

Susan Eyre 'Yellow Sky'

Susan Eyre ‘Yellow Sky’

‘Yellow Sky’ is about looking for refuge and reliance on a controlled environment to survive

Susan Eyre 'Graft i'

Susan Eyre ‘Graft i’

‘Graft I’ explores ideas about the changing landscape, the urban and the cultivated space, the hybrid landscapes and the empty inbetween spaces where imagination can flourish if nothing else.

Lots to see from other members and guest artists. It’s a good opportunity to bring the community at Ochre together.
Tom Hammick

Guest artists -Tom Hammick – woodcuts

Richenda Court's lino cut

Richenda Court’s lino cuts

Julie Hoyle

Julie Hoyle screen prints on wood

Lockwood Group

Lockwood Group artists with learning disabilities

Anna Hennings - artist in residence

Anna Hennings – artist in residence

Guest Artist - David Dragon - monoprints

Guest Artist – David Dragon – monoprints

 

Susan Eyre 'Subluna'

Susan Eyre ‘Subluna’

 

Sold ‘Subluna’ at Ochre and also some of my ‘Collected Thoughts’ sold at the Surrey Contemporary.
Always a strange mixed feeling of loss and pleasure.

portfolio

The tension of waiting to hear if my portfolio had managed to gain me an interview at the RCA built as the date when results were supposed to be emailed came and went with nothing happening.

When news finally arrived 5 days late that I did have an interview I felt I had just stepped onto a very high rollercoaster.

Suddenly I was all fingers and thumbs and the new work took on a magnitude it didn’t deserve. I was working on a collagraph of a desolate landscape. Within the landscape would be a glasshouse – a protected environment where things could grow. I had been thinking about conservation and how reliant so many species are on being sited within a protected environment for survival. Building a safe environment. That idea of a haven. My first ideas for inside the glasshouse were of a party amongst tropical plants but I found some photos I liked of children looking like frightened animals about to dash into the undergrowth and hide for safety.

To create the layers inside the glasshouse I had an idea inspired by an old model I had made back at Goldsmiths using OSP transparencies. With just one plant on each layer the image soon disappears into haze. For some reason it always made me think of a prehistoric landscape.

OSP Model

I took the same principle but stacked the images and ran them through the scanner. The light gave a wonderful ethereal effect and I was excited by the number of combinations of layering that could be achieved.

Hot House

I contacted Promptside to organize the transfer of these images onto sublimation paper and also J & R Precision Engineers in Chiswick to get aluminium sheet cut for the print to sit on.

The print I had previously made from the collagraph that I thought was OK on reflection was not good enough so it was back to inking up and trying again.

I am still learning about the right consistency of ink to use, how much extender or plate oil to mix in, how best to apply the ink and then wipe it off.

Test print

Suddenly it all seemed to come together and I had a print I was happy with. Apart from the sky which needed work. I wanted it to be a strong yellow – luminous yet poisonous.

Back at home I tried screenprinting onto polyester but the inks were too heavy and dull. I then tried painting sublimation inks and transferring this to polyester.

I ended up ironing this by hand as my heat press isn’t wide enough. This gave the sky a luminous glow which reflected onto the paper. I thought I could work with this.

So I cut the printed paper sky off and used 3M positionable adhesive to stick the polyester sky to the aluminium plate and again to stick the paper print on top.

Initially I had wanted to make the glasshouse quite 3D even protruding a little from the print. Once I had carefully cut the hole in the print for the glasshouse to sit in it seemed it would work better if the images on organza sat directly behind the print with the glasshouse framework sitting on top.

So I printed some balsa wood to make it look well, like wood.

balsa wood

I transferred the images I had collected from Promptside onto organza and polyester and then chose the one I thought most effective. I made some small stretchers for these. I had thought about trapping each image between an acetate sheet but having stretchers helps with the spacing. The image inside the glasshouse ended up being quite dark and I did think about lighting it with LED’s. I don’t really want to have to plug it in though but may have a look at finding a battery operated option with a small switch.

Yellow Sky

Alongside making this work I thought I would start the next piece I was planning about the return of the forests after the ice age.

I mocked up a landscape from collaging images of icebergs and frozen sea together to give the impression of a land breaking up and transferred this to card for a collagraph plate.

iceberg plate

I wanted to have the forest emerging from this icy landscape, dark and advancing like Birnham forest in Macbeth.

At first I thought just the tops would be visible but then I decided to show the roots taking hold – visible in the ice.

return of the forest

I mocked up an idea of this in Photoshop but this would mean a lot of cutting for a collagraph plate. I could screen print it but I wanted to create a more ethereal effect so I had the idea to screen print the trees onto card and dust the ink with fine carborundum grit  before it dried. It meant i could get much more detail in the plate than by cutting it. Of course I would need to seal the plate and I used the very last of my Klear to do this.

Carborundum forest plate 2

I should have realised the carborundum would spread with the brush and I consequently lost some of the fine detail. I printed this plate to see how it came out, it looked like a forest dissolving in the rain and I think on a background print could be effective.

dissolving forest darker print forest

There had been a documentary programme on TV about a group of Scandinavian artists and scientists that had gone on an expedition to a glacier a bit like Cape Farewell. These Scandinavians were not so poetic in their approach and much more used to dealing with survival outdoors – slicing the head of still battling fish and shooting warning shots at an inquisitive polar bear before taking off on a jet powered hovercoptor. The geologist was interesting though and more introspective – searching for something within himself amongst the oldest rocks on the planet. He talked about snowball earth when the whole planet was covered in ice. This seems to have happened a few times – the last time being 635 million years ago.

I have been trying to find out when the trees first appeared – maybe 551-2500 million years ago.

‘As I did stand my watch upon the hill,
I look’d toward Birnam, and anon, methought,
The wood began to move.’

ACT V Scene v Macbeth