Archives for posts with tag: Whitechapel Gallery


More excellent news is that I have been accepted as one of the Open Door Residency Artists for the BEYOND project run by Allenheads Contemporary Arts to take advantage of its new on-site astronomical observatory and to consider the word BEYOND as an open ended starting point for discussion.

The timing is perfect as I am about to begin my Chisenhale Studio4 Residency where I will have a large space to develop ideas from this experience that build on my current research looking at cosmic particles, the shape of the universe and the philosophies and mythologies that first attempted to understand the cosmos and relate its vastness to the human experience.

1802 frozen galaxyI spent a wonderful weekend with 12 artists enjoying perfect moon gazing weather in the dark skies of Northumberland, seeing galaxies in frozen puddles, plunging into the darkness of the forest or the inflatable planetarium and discussing ideas generated as we shared our own interests and observations.


1802 forest

I am thinking about what stories might be told if our ancient eyes had reached beyond those points marked out on the first star charts. Maybe Atlas would have had more daughters. Hopefully with the help of the brilliant open source planetarium Stellarium that we were introduced to I can add another layer of narrative.

From my vantage point on earth, the moon slides quietly, the stars twinkle through the atmosphere, satellites pass serenely by, but I know that just 15km above my head is a very violent place of high energy collisions as protons slam into our atmosphere, break apart and rain down, on and through me.

1802 Cloud chamber lightningThe opening paragraphs of The Power by Naomi Alderman prickle with the power they describe

“The shape of power is always the same; it is the shape of a tree…branching and re-branching…the outline of a living thing …the shape of rivers leading to the ocean…the shape that lightning forms…the shape that electricity wants to take is that of a living thing .. this same shape grows within us …power travels in the same manner between people..”

A brilliant novel. Shifts perspective to reflect the world back at us to shine the light on some uncomfortable truths.

A fascinating book to help understand the activity of matter is The Particle Zoo: The Search for the Fundamental Nature of Reality by Gavin Hesketh. I got this book to learn about the characters of the 12 fundamental particles and the forces that they interact with. It presents an unseen world of spinning, colour changing oppositely charged partners, repelling, attracting, sticking together, passing messages or passing straight through each other; releasing and absorbing energy in constant activity. Out of this melee which appears, once you get to the smallest scale, to be made of nothing but points of energy all things are formed.

1802 muon

I have been reading this in tandem with Stephen Fry’s reworking of the Greek Myths – Mythos. Just as improbable.

1802 parthenon

Captivating performance storyteller Ben Haggarty brought to exquisite and gory life three retextured Greek Myths under the banner The Fate We Bring Ourselves – decisions have consequences at the Crick Crack Club event Myths Retold at the British Museum. He spoke afterwards about the intimate space of the darkened circle that forms around the storyteller where each audience member feels personally addressed.

1802 Ben Haggerty

Mythological thinking looks at the whole – the micro and the macro and sees commonality.

The New Materialisms reading group that I have been a mostly absent member of is currently reading Donna Haraway Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene


1802 Donna Haraway

Donna Haraway: Story Telling for Earthly Survival


Fabrizio Terranova’s film, screened at the LCC, brought the text to life with her infectious mix of enthusiasm, joy and bewilderment at the world and her passion for new ways of thinking. The director spent a few weeks with her and her aging dog Cayenne in their Southern California home, exploring their personal universe as well as the longer development of her views on kinship and planetary welfare. Animated by green screen projections, archival materials and fabulation he has created an enchanting insight into the mind of Donna Haraway.


1802 Bjorn Hatleskog

Bjorn Hatleskog Perpetual Jellyfish in Liminality at Gallery 46


“The tentacular are not disembodied figures; they are cnidarians, spiders, fingery beings like humans and raccoons, squid, jellyfish, neural extravaganzas, fibrous entities, flagellated beings, myofibril braids, matted and felted microbial and fungal tangles, probing creepers, swelling roots, reaching and climbing tendrilled ones. The tentacular are also nets and networks, it critters, in and out of clouds. Tentacularity is about life lived along lines — and such a wealth of lines — not at points, not in spheres.” Donna Haraway

Also ‘Staying with the Trouble’ and hoping for a positive collective future are London duo patten at Tenderpixel asking ‘how do we make it to 3049?’

1802 patten 3049 3

I had the pleasure of hearing Mark Dion talk about his work, love of systematics and the usefulness of taxonomies as tools of communication at Whitechapel Gallery on the opening day of his show Theatre of the Natural World.  Like Donna Haraway, he is concerned with extinctions, environmental exploitation and catastrophic interaction with other species and expressed a pessimistic resignation that our future is unlikely to be a positive one unless there are some radical changes.

1802 Mark Dion 1

1802 Mark Dion 2

Archaeology came with the Anthropocene.

1802 Mark Dion 3

His recreation of a Wunderkammer is another step in the journey for a collection of objects that were removed from their original environment, placed on display in a cabinet of wonders, then captured as drawings that were turned into engravings and then published in print.

1802 Mark Dion 5

Manually sculpting the objects using the limited information gleaned from the prints as a guide they are returned to 3D. Ghosts of the past losing clarity with each transformation.

1802 Mark Dion 4Looking at the aura of objects Secular Icons in an Age of Moral Uncertainty at Parafin questions the idea of art as a system of belief based around looking and valuing objects beyond their intrinsic materiality. Lower floor was closed when I visited so didn’t see everything. Though just contemplating the horrors associated with Indrė Šerpytytė’s giant lightbox totem constructed using the first blocks of colour that appear from the google search ‘Isis beheading’ was enough.

1802 Indre Serpytyte

Indrė Šerpytytė 2 Seconds of Colour

Hell on earth continues. Glenn Brown Come To Dust at Gagosian had some genuinely creepy offerings and an obsessive repetitiveness.

1802 Glenn Brown

I did find Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death from Above compelling despite its bleak vision. Hung at an angle to appear that the sky is indeed falling and it is not the heaven we wished for that is descending upon us.


1605 Mercator World Map 1569When paradise could not be mapped on the known land it was believed it must be on an island over the ocean. Dare to dream.



on my island none of this would be true  – a dynamic group show at the new Arebyte Gallery space on City Island curated by Chris Rawcliffe took its title from the last line of a poem called Security, written by Tom Chivers for his book Dark Islands (Test Centre, 2015).

1802 Tom Chivers Dark Islands

It was another chance to see Verity Birt’s Venus Anodyomene a spoken text and video work with Holly Graham and Richard Forbes-Hamilton.

1802 venus anadyomene.jpg

The rhythmic narrative evoking a slippy oozing layered earth world of geology, archaeology, lost time or excavated memories was enhanced by the boardwalk approach to the gallery in torrential rain alongside the exposed mudbed of the River Lea.

1802 Hannah Regal

Hannah Regal What Transpires in the Field of a Body That is the Base of Her

1802 Gery Georgieva

Gery Georgieva Europa Airlines Stand


“Again and again
from a garden
that never
existed” Ludwig Steinherr from Before the Invention of Paradise

What goes on in nature under our radar beautifully captured in Sam Laughlin’s series A Certain Movement as part of the Jerwood Photoworks Awards. Intimate moments and hidden processes lifted from nature with a quiet sensitivity.


1802 Sam Laughlin

Sam Laughlin from the series A Certain Movement


1802 Florence Trust

Visited Mayra Ganzinotti in the chilled and vaulted splendour of Florence Trust Winter Open Studios. Her beautiful work mixes crystal forms in geology with the body; rhythm and structure.

1802 Mayra Martin Ganzinotti.jpg

Mayra Martin Ganzinotti

Other exciting work and use of materials going on was from Amanda Baum and Rose Leahy

Unexpected juxtapositions offer new paths to tread.

A group of artists and writers, selected by Payne Shurvell, were each asked to respond to the same image either with a text or intervention directly over the image. 256 possible diptychs were created. New pairings are hung daily in random combinations pulled out of a hat. The Arca Project lets fate or coincidence decide the outcome the audience will experience depending on when they visit. The concept to present multiple readings of one event draws on the ethos of W. G. Sebald who revelled in mixing things up.

1802 TonyGrisoni StephGoodger

I only had time for a brief visit to Liminality [The Unknown] at Gallery 46 which was a shame as I think I missed some good things. But I did see the delicate and fluid interpretations of sound technology diagrams by Mary Yacoob

1802 Mary Yacoob

Mary Yacoob Draft Drawings

also her meticulous ‘Seraphim for Sanctus’ inspired by a choral score for ‘Sanctus’ and the prophet Isaiah’s visionary six-winged angels.

1802 Mary Yacoob 2

Mary Yacoob ‘Seraphim for Sanctus’ detail

I have been contemplating the circling angels of the Empyrean that dazzled Dante when he reached the final sphere of heaven. It might be the first time I have really thought about an angel as an other being/species not just a good human with wings.

1802 Empyrean Gustave Dore.jpg

Gustave Doré The Divine Comedy’s Empyrean











Lots of interesting things are happening urging us to cast our eyes and thoughts skyward. A Blood Moon Lunar eclipse. Salty water on Mars.

I have to include this image of the dark side of the moon captured by a NASA camera aboard the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite  showing a view of the moon we don’t get to see from earth.

1509 dark side of the moon

I went to see the London Premiere of Disaster Playground – Nelly Ben Hayoun’s wonderful investigation into who is watching the skies for us.

1509 Disaster playground

Through a series of talking heads and re-enactments we meet the real scientists from NASA and SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) whose daily job is to scan the skies for possible objects that might collide with earth.

Nelly Ben Hayoun Disaster Playground

Nelly Ben Hayoun Disaster Playground

The difficulty is not so much spotting the object but negotiating the appropriate response in time to avert disaster. Through this documentary we come to understand that technology is way ahead of the machinations of the committees who tread the delicate path of ultimate responsibility.

Nelly Ben Hayoun Disaster Playground

Nelly Ben Hayoun Disaster Playground

Which nations are actually accurately capable of blasting an asteroid  off its course. A minute error could mean one nation is obliterated instead of another. We leave the film feeling a little anxious that for all the good intentions of these scientists the safety net has not been properly hoisted just yet.

Bas Jan Ader Falling

Bas Jan Ader Fall

The Whitechapel Gallery hosted a touching tribute to Bas Jan Ader marking the 40th anniversary of his disappearance at sea.

In 1973 Bas Jan Ader took a solitary walk through the city of Los Angeles towards the ocean. The journey was documented in a series of 18 indistinct black and white photos subtitled with the lyrics from a trashy 50’s pop song ‘Searchin’.

Bas Jan Ader In search of the Miraculous

Bas Jan Ader In Search of the Miraculous

Ader borrowed the title of this work ‘In Search of The Miraculous’ from Ouspensky’s book on occult theory which promotes self improvement as the destiny of man. He uses this epithet as subtext for man’s eternally unsatisfied desire for some unknown missing element. He intended the work to have three parts, planning to continue his search across the ocean, to leave the limits of society and go beyond into the unknown. The solitary journey over the sea was to culminate with another night time walk, this time across Amsterdam. It would be a homecoming. In his preparations and framing of the work he deliberately used the iconography of the romantic quest and chose signifiers which denoted a prefabricated romanticism, one that has been commoditized and packaged. He appeared to be searching for the sublime in its very opposite; the banal. Throughout his practise Ader interrogated conditions of pain and endurance; the prerequisites to experience ecstasy.

 Bas Jan Ader I'm too sad to tell you

Bas Jan Ader I’m too sad to tell you

The tragic elements in Ader’s work are presented in a way to highlight pure emotion and offer no explanation for the scenarios he performs. As in reality when we experience grief there is no explanation able to comfort us.

On 9 July 1975, Bas Jan Ader set sail in a 12 foot dinghy called Ocean Wave. He was shipwrecked and his body never found.

Bas Jan Ader In Search of the Miraculous

Bas Jan Ader In Search of the Miraculous

On the evening before his departure, a student choir sang sea shanties in the gallery of his Los Angeles dealer.  He was to be received by a shanty choir in Falmouth.

Forty years later this Whitechapel event celebrated his all too short life and extraordinary work. Poet Stephen Watts read beautifully on the discovery of Ouspensky before we watched a poignant interview with Jan Bas Ader’s widow followed by  a rare 16mm screening of six of his films: Fall I; Fall II; I’m Too Sad to Tell You; Broken Fall (Geometric); Broken Fall (Organic) and Nightfall. As the horizon faded on the screen we quietly filed out to be met by the stirring songs from the London Trad Academy Sea Shanty Choir.

Celebrating current artists The Whitechapel Gallery was packed and buzzing for the Private View of the London Open.  I had to return another day to be able see the works. As a cross section of what is going on in London studios you expect diversity, yet themes do emerge, though selection and curation. So good our RCA classmate Julie Roch- Cuerrier was selected for this exciting show.

Julie Roche-

Julie Roche-Cuerrier

Her subtle intervention of sanding away the detail from every page of a world atlas, just leaving the titles and borders pulls on the strings of displacement and loss while her carefully capturing the dust from each page brings an alchemical magic to the work.


Julie Roche-Cuerrier

Displayed in little plastic bags are the ingredients of the oceans or the universe. The delicate blue and green powders speaking of matter and its transformation, precious and mysterious.

Having lost access to the print facilities at the RCA its time to start thinking about where I can continue making work. I paid a visit to Thames Barrier Print Studios. It all looks wonderful here, loads of space, etching presses and screen-beds, digital printing, exposure units and an aquatint box.  First I need to get some new work started. I am looking at Obelisks and Standing Stones, ritual places and also thinking about ideas of the multi-verse. Brain loading.

1509 Glitch

Called in to see Delta at Five Years, Regents Studios where RCA tutor Oona Grimes was showing alongside Mark Jackson, James Lowne, Clare Mitten and Mia Taylor.

Oona Grimes Slightly Foxed

Oona Grimes Slightly Foxed

‘Worlds collide, meet, touch, overlap and become absorbed. Worlds become world; expanded, inconsistent and multi faceted. Some don’t stop, don’t crash, they keep moving, a sign in space, until they are singular and alone. No matter, we are only concerned with what remains. We built this world top down and outside-in, we chose the planets and engineered the collision; a shared universe intended to be used by many authors.’

1509 Delta

1509 Delta 2

James Lowne’s very funny video, a kind of in joke for artists explores the constant lure of the prize – the open call – scrubbing around for the opportunity. It has an air of subjugation I think. As artists we have to play a game we’d rather not, putting ourselves up for a fall, laying ourselves bare, in competition with our peers, the fear of missing out is BIG, do we know about the next opportunity will someone else get there first, we don’t want to be played like this, we want to opt out but we can’t. It’s a bit addictive.

The owners of  a stripped and soon to be refurbished Victorian house in Brockley gave their premises over to host Bread and Jam I an exhibition of site specific work by 11 artists.

Joby Williamson

Joby Williamson

Each artist was given free rein of their chosen space in the house to make new work in response to the dilapidated surroundings.  The concept of Bread and Jam is to take basic staple ingredients and make a meal that transports you somewhere else, that can be shared at any time of day and continues to sustain after consumption.

Fritha Jenkins

Fritha Jenkins Reception

Fritha Jenkin’s work Reception looking like a meteorite storm  frozen in free fall turns the living room into a site of physical negotiation with hundreds of carefully balanced glasses topped with lumps of clay dug from the basement foundations of the house.

Kate Murdoch

Kate Murdoch Poor Lamb

Kate Murdoch creates an unsettling atmosphere with carefully chosen objects that act as signifiers for trauma and vulnerability.

I attended the Material Environments Symposium : Sensing Time and Matter in Digital and Visual Culture at The University of Greenwich.  It felt good to be in an academic environment again and wonderful to know there is free access opportunities to high quality events like this. I enjoyed Sarah Cefai’s references to primordial time and the affect sensation that arises from rain, earth, heat and light experienced though landscape. Her concerns are about how these sensations are mediated and politicised particularly in relation to indigenous as opposed to colonial Australia.

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She uses the films of Rolf de Heer (Charlie’s Country, The Tracker, Ten Canoes) as examples of truth to materials, the rain must be real rain. Made me want to see Ten Canoes again.

Tom Jackson also spoke about mediated sensation. His use of environment as archive demonstrated at Temple Works Leeds offers a 360º enplaced experience of space in high resolution with pioneering new design binaural audio recordings.

Temple Works

Temple Works

Not only does this combination of technology offer a haptic experience of a removed space, but also a temporal, one as searches can be made through the palimpsest of activities, interventions and architectural changes that have occurred in a given location. Using this method, virtual access to privileged spaces can be offered to the public.

Blythe House Archive

Blythe House Archive

The physical archive such as that of the Victoria and Albert Museum stored at Blythe House can be archived and viewed remotely and there is the opportunity of archiving objects without having to remove them from the context of their original environment thereby retaining a layer of history usually destroyed as objects are moved to storage facilities or museums.

Luci Eldridge found comparisons between the analogue and the digital in the material decay of  archived images she has viewed and the disrupting imperfection of the digital glitch. Analysing the composite landscape images of Mars patchworked together from data retrieved by non human space explorers she draws awareness to the construction of landscapes that are only ever viewed remotely via technology that does not relay a sense of scale and perspective that we naturally relate to.

Mars Stereo View from 'John Klein' to Mount Sharp

Mars Stereo View from ‘John Klein’ to Mount Sharp

Seams have been eliminated from the sky portion of the mosaic to better simulate the vista a person standing on Mars would see.

Laurel Johannesson makes work that does not conform to the current passion for speed and instantaneous gratification.

Laurel Johannesson

Laurel Johannesson

Her generative digital images coalless slowly and in reaction to her audience. The viewer that spends time with her work is rewarded, the swift passer by misses out. She is interested in how we perceive time and the visualization of time. She cites Joseph Priestley who published A Chart of Biography in 1765 and has had a profound influence on our visualization of time as linear, travelling along a horizontal line, ever moving forward.

1509 Joseph Priestley

She also talked about other visualisations of time as being circular and represented by the ouroboros, the ancient symbol of a serpent eating its own tail in perpetual motion of renewal and destruction signifying eternal return.

1509 Theodoros Pelecanos 1478 copy

Using Nobuhiro Nakaishi as an example of an artist who mediates the temporal experience through his work she reflects on how the understanding of time is challenged by new technology and the ways artists are exploiting technology to create work but also the need for a direct interaction with materials.

Nobuhiro Nakanishi

Nobuhiro Nakanishi

In his layer drawings Nobuhiro Nakanishi captures the passage of time in a series of still photographs which he then layers in series on acrylic sheets so the movement of time passes through the images. He is looking to evoke a common sensation in his audience. The acknowledgement of the passage of time is universal, it is one of the primordial senses and also personal as we see our own entropy come to pass.

Nobuhiro Nakanishi

Nobuhiro Nakanishi

Laurel Johannesson is interested in art that offers a multiplicity of possible orders and disturbs the accepted time based narrative. Another of her examples is the collective AES+F a group of four Russian artists: Tatiana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovich, Evgeny Svyatsky, and Vladimir Fridkes working with video and digital generation.



Their films have a balletic quality that create a hypnotic rhythm as time is slowed, drawing you in to a world of beautiful people with smooth supple bodies moving trance like though exaggerated motions. It is like being gently suffocated with silk having been given the most delicious sleeping draught. Willingly falling into the embrace of this clean and perfect world as into a dream before realising there is an unsettling undercurrent that drags you under and it is too late to swim to the surface and escape. Mesmerizing.



A link here to a trailer for Trimalchio.

Other interesting speakers were Marisa Gomez who is interested in the re-presentation of time and the new technologies that facilitate new approaches to temporality such as the Khronos Projector which allows the user to sculpt time through a screen interface. By touching the screen the user can send parts of an image backwards or forwards in time.

Alvaro Cassinelli Khronos Projector

Alvaro Cassinelli Khronos Projector

Joanna Zylinska’s paper Sensing Deep Time: Photography after Extinction drew parallels between photography and fossils as recording mechanisms of time. She recommended the book The Sixth Extinction; an unnatural history by Elizabeth Kolbert which documents the past five mass extinctions of species on earth turning the spotlight on us humans as we watch the sixth mass extinction unfold before us, unable to act.  Transfixed by affective facts, those overwhelming concepts that are so huge to comprehend that we ignore them.

1509 Sixth-extinction

She is interested in how time is recorded through natural phenomenon such as the deep time of geology. Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology (1830-33)  was an early radical attempt to explain the geological state of modern Earth by considering the effects of observable natural phenomena over time. By exploring the evidence for changes in climate and geography across the ages  Lyell speculated on the progressive development of life, transforming science with depictions of the powerful forces that shape the natural world.

1509 Lyell

Light, energy from the sun is used in the photographic process. Our perceptions and familiarity with recording phenomenon changes with each new technology. When Photography first appeared and Henry Fox Talbot published the first  wholly photographically illustrated book The Pencil of Nature in 1844 he felt it necessary  to insert the following notice into his book: The plates of the present work are impressed by the agency of Light alone, without any aid whatever from the artist’s pencil. They are the sun-pictures themselves, and not, as some persons have imagined, engravings in imitation

Henry Fox Talbot The Pencil of Nature

Henry Fox Talbot  The Ladder  in The Pencil of Nature

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Lost Human Genetic Archive at Palais de Tokyo was a poignant look at what remains after devastation.  Over thirty notices, all beginning ‘Today, the world died’, offered explanations by characters from all walks of life as to why everything ended, and these relate to the otherwise random objects beside them. An astronaut, for example, tells of how Earth had become encircled by orbiting human shit, next to a display containing the cosmonaut’s space-food and urine collector.

Hiroshi Sugimoto Lost Human Genetic Archive

Hiroshi Sugimoto Lost Human Genetic Archive

The exhibition Club Disminución (“Club of Diminishing Returns”) was instigated by Alexa Horochowski’s artist residency at Casa Poli, Coliumo, Chile, 2012/2013. Designed by architects Maurizio Pezo and Sofía Von Ellrichshausen, Casa Poli, a minimalist, cement cube, functions as a cultural art center/artist studio.  In this environment the separation between landscape and architecture is indistinct.

Horochowski aims to depict the struggle between the human drive to create lasting symbols of culture, and Nature’s indifferent, persistent erasure of these symbols. His work explores entropy and the passing of time by imitating the natural processes of accretion and aggregation found in caves or the persistent impression left by fauna and water on architecture and the landscape.

Alexa Horochowski: Club Disminución

Alexa Horochowski: Club Disminución

“Horochowski suggests a posthuman future, where assorted beach debris attests to the former glory of human civilization. In enlarged black-and-white digital scans of barnacles, minerals, and wasp nests, a quasi-organic architecture takes shape, poised to outlast us all. A Gothic sensibility reverberates throughout: evocative, sinister, and auguring the fall of the Anthropocene.” — Christina Schmid

Penelope Umbrico found 541,795 pictures of sunsets when searching the word “sunset” on Flickr. This became the basis for her installations Flickr suns.

Penelope Umbrico Flickr Suns

Penelope Umbrico Flickr Suns

Another body of work by Penelope Umbrico is her Sun/Screen series.

Penelope Umbrico Sunscreen

Penelope Umbrico Sunscreen

She uses an iPhone to re-photograph images of the sun she has cropped from thousands of sunset images shared on the web.  The process of photographing images directly from the computer screen creates a moiré pattern – an optical illusion, which is the consequence of the pixel grids, meshes or dot patterns being superimposed. They draw attention to the materiality of the screen and further distance us from the natural sunlight source of the original images.

Binformation and Collected Thoughts have been selected for the Surrey Contemporary 2013 which will be at River House Arts Centre in Walton on Thames from 29th May until 30th June.

1304 Binformation

‘Binformation’ considers what new geology might be formed from the cocktail of ingredients disposed of in our landfill sites.

This work was originally completed for an exhibition about pattern. I was thinking about patterns of behaviour as well as creating a pattern from the imagery.

I cycled round to all my friends and neighbours knocking on their doors and asking to photograph their kitchen bin.

I hadn’t realised beforehand how personal a request this was. There was a lot of offers to see the recycling instead and excuses for what was in the bin at the time.

Things have moved on a bit since those days – not so long ago really but the amount of recycling we do now has increased dramatically since 2008.

There will still be that  layer of plastic under the earth for future generations to mine. I used the photographs to create an idea of rock crystals forming from our waste.

We have all participated in a global experiment with unknown consequences.

1304 Binformation detail

The kitchen bin is a surprisingly private space often laden with guilt and there is a certain amount of voyeurism in seeing what other people have put in their bin.

‘Collected Thoughts’ draws on ideas of preservation and references the Victorian enthusiasm for creating romantic tableaux of the natural world held in glass domes.

1304 Collected Thoughts

A contemporary plastic food packaging tray replaces the glass dome distorting the view of an apparently idyllic scene caught against a grey urban backdrop as in a moment’s hazy daydream.

Something else fast becoming history as plastic trays are used less and less.

I went to hear Anya Gallacio talk at Whitechapel Gallery as part of the To Make a Tree series.

Anya Gallacio

Anya Gallacio

She was in conversation with Jon Thompson an ex Goldsmiths tutor and Phyllida Barlow.

The most memorable thing about the talk for me was the number of times she started her reply to a question with ‘I don’t know…’

There was little discussion about trees which I didn’t mind as I found the topic which the conversation  kept returning to of teaching methods at Goldsmiths and other art colleges to be interesting.

It seems even back in the YBA days things were harsh at Goldsmiths – Richard Wentworth told Anya to throw her work out of the window as it was rubbish.

Phyllida reminisced about having to pick up the pieces of emotionally destroyed students who had been locked in the notorious Room B at St Martins but escaped to Chelsea. I wish she had been my tutor as she sounded keen to develop a student not crush them.

Maybe it was all for the good and in Anya’s case gave her good grounding to stand up for herself at Damien’s Frieze when feeling sidelined with limited space to exhibit she poured lead directly on the floor. Since then she has enjoyed making work that lets the material speak for itself. Flowers that dry up, fruit that rots. She has recently completed a new work in Edinburgh ‘The Light Pours Out of Me’. An amethyst lined grotto cut into the earth and surrounded with black stone and the green of the woodland, she wanted it to be something people would stumble across and wonder whether they should enter. Enticed by the beauty but fearful of the jagged edges.

'The light pours out of me' Anya Gallacio

‘The light pours out of me’ Anya Gallacio

Laure Provost won the Max Mara art prize for women and has her work showing at Whitechapel Gallery.

Laure Provost

Laure Provost

It is an incredible sensual piece of work made during her residence in Italy and inspired by the rich history of the female bather.

The centre piece is a pink mouth opening repetitively to a soundtrack which suggests both orgasm and the gasp of entering cold water.

There are circling motions, direct eye contact, demure slipping into water, fresh raspberries proffered from large sculptural spoons, bounty and pleasure.

Laure Provost Swallow

Laure Provost Swallow

Back in the studio I have been continuing work on ‘Return of the Forests’.

I made relief plates for the iceberg collagraph and made new carborundum collagraph plates of the forest.

1304 forest collagraph
This time I sprayed the carborundum with Polyurethane varnish before coating with Shellac.

1304 iceberg
I made some prints with the iceberg collagraph and relief plates – the main problem was getting the inks pale enough. You only need a tiny bit of ink to extender.

1304 trees on iceberg

I test printed tree collagraphs, the detail wasn’t as fine as I had hoped but the murky atmosphere was quite effective.

1304 return of the forest

I also continued work on another collagraph – collaging two images together. The same background as I used in Graft i & ii of a gated car park entrance.

I spent some time drawing a shadow for the fantasy tree which I wanted to take root here. I wanted the shadow to be menacing and in the end went for it outright.

I drew the outline of a devil beast into the shadow and made a relief plate out of thin card.

1304 Shadow

I printed this over the collagraph and mounted it onto aluminium.

1304 mounting on aluminium

I kept looking at ‘Yellow Sky’ in different lights and decided that it really did need lighting from inside.

Yellow Sky

I tried testing the LED strip lights I have to see if they would light from a battery and found they did using a 9v
I trawled eBay for a switch for this and amazingly found someone who wires up LED strip lights to a 9v battery with a switch to a specified length of wire and all for £6.60 battery included!

1304 Yellow sky battery

The LED strip was only 20cm in length but this was perfect for the inset piece.

1304 yellow filter

Felt very clever when I fitted this. I had to cut a hole through the frame for the switch which took me all day with a small chisel and various dremel attachments.

I cut a small plate out of rigid plastic for the switch to sit on and so it is all very neat and no wires and plugs to deal with.

1304 switch

I gave the LED’s a yellow filter with film over acetate to match the yellow sky.

1304 Yellow sky back

I am excited by this whole process and what possibilities it offers. I need to find out how long a length of LED’s can be lit with a battery.

1304 Yellow Sky inset

I feel the work is more balanced now the inset piece is lit.

1304 Yellow sky lit

Had a super evening at Great Western Studios Private View.

An exhibition focusing on prints based on photographic imagery curated by Sumi Pereira and presented by Printmakers Council.

The exhibition aimed to show both traditional skills and innovatory printmaking techniques.

Lidija Antanasijevic

Lidija Antanasijevic

Lidija Antanasijevic explores raw emotion and inner energy seeking to give form to senses and experiences.

In this instance the wires add to the work.

Looked a vibrant place to work and show work.

Particularly enjoyed Chris Mercier’s work here.

Chris Mercier 'The Unraveler'

Chris Mercier ‘The Unraveler’


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Time condensed and expanded.

When you need to present your best ideas in a coherent and articulate fashion trying to be sure you cover all points without hesitation repetition or deviation you would think 20 minutes would seem an age to fill but in fact it went in a flash. Then you are left wondering how you came across. It was the most glorious sunny day for my interview at the RCA and the board were very welcoming and encouraging as I battled to speak while remembering to breathe. It was all very straightforward. Just talk about my work and why I want to go, what I want to achieve conceptually and technically. Explain the motivation behind my new work, offer some criticism of my work. Nothing tricky but lots more people for them to interview so I just have to wait and see. I feel I have been very honest about myself and am really pleased I was given an interview.


I went along to Cafe Gallery Projects to see what the 2nd year RCA Printmaking students were up to in their public exhibition. Right by the door was a very low table covered in a white cloth, on it was the plaster head of an asian girl . As I entered the draught from the door seemed to cause a reaction, the head moved slightly and I realised it was a live head caked in make-up. Also on the table were bowls of what looked like spices and kecap manis and spoons so the public could ladle condiments over her head. The girl was obviously a contortionist and very good at keeping still for 2 hours, a test of endurance even without sticky sauce and irritant seasonings being trickled over your face. I don’t know if it was the artist herself or not but it was a captivating spectacle, disturbing and questioning complicity. I was rather anxious looking at the show in case I found myself next to a tutor and in another interview situation so I navigated the space quite quickly. I didn’t make a note of any names of the students but I will be interested to see how their work develops before the upcoming end of year show. My favourite piece was a video showing two rectangular receptacles cast in concrete filled with dry ice, light was projected onto the sides and there was some kind of mini explosion within. The concrete looked translucent as the mist bubbled over the sides like some mystical ancient relic. It was beautiful like an Ori Gersht film is beautiful. Some work I found perplexing – not sure whether to blame my own shortcomings or just accept there is art like people that I just don’t get.

The latest piece of promenade  theatre from dreamthinkspeak ‘In the beginning was the end’ at Somerset House was also perplexing.


Left to negotiate endless corridors and rooms filled with unexplained scientific equipment, being corralled into demonstration areas for new technologies by a variety of ‘men in white coats’ non of which spoke english the audience looked hard for clues to a narrative.


If it had been billed as an art installation maybe expectations would have been different. The rudimentary enactment of corporate failure felt weak for the huge effort put into the infrastructure and the setting which was astonishing for its scale and vision. It wasn’t until the exit that you were provided with an explanation if you needed one of what you had experienced.

Looking back to Leonardo Da Vinci’s drawing ‘ A Cloudburst of Material Possessions’ dreamthinkspeak take his concerns for humanity obsessed with the material world and fast forward to a future of economic collapse.

Leonardo Da Vinci

Finally on leaving the constructed sets a moment of true wonder, looking up into a maze of architectural delights, arches and stairways that lead back to the courtyard of Somerset House. Diagon Alley was mentioned.

somerset house

Must plan to go on one of their free guided tours at some point.

Dale Devereux Barker came to speak at Ochre Print Studio.


It was interesting to hear about his large scale installation projects involving turning his small lino cut imagery into large enamel sheets. I liked his attitude to printmaking – if you don’t know what the rules are you’re not afraid to break them. I also agreed with him that being faced with walls of framed works behind glass such as at the Mall Galleries drains the work and any stamina you might have to view it. In such circumstances how do you make your work captivate an audience.
Artist Giuseppe Penone examines our relationship to nature and for his latest work he has created a twelve metre bronze cast of a tree, with a gold-leaf clad interior.

Guiseppe Penone

It looks like a giant  insect scuttling across the length of the gallery. It is called ‘Space of Light’ as where the tree was is now a golden void. Looking down the centre of this void is like looking down Alice’s rabbit hole – it looks endless and magical. The tree has been turned inside out – the bark now on the inside, the outside informed with prints of the hands that sculpted it, together it defines the inseparable bond between humankind and nature. To accompany the installation Whitechapel Gallery is hosting talks and events exploring the relationship between nature and the city.

At her talk in the series ‘To Make a Tree’ Finnish artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila explained her interest and difficulties encountered in making a life size portrait of a tree. She comes form a background of painting and filmmaking and her work is very much about the rules of filmmaking but considering the protagonist of a story to be someone or something other than an actor.


Through drawing she makes her tree a character. She talked of her quest in casting a tree in the role of protagonist. Searching for the perfect tree to fulfill this role. The spruce is so ubiquitous for the Finnish people that in choosing such a common tree to put under the spot light and make a star of her film she echoes the fantasy of the undiscovered talent plucked from obscurity. Her interest is also in thinking about the tree as having a parallel life to the lives of humans and wishing to respect other living things that we share the planet with as equal to ourselves in value. She wanted to experience the tree as a whole – not looking up from below but in its entirety. In the final work we view the tree on its side split across 6 video screens undulating in strong winds with an added soundtrack of birdsong.

Eija-Liisa Ahtila

We are still displaced from the tree by the media but we can contemplate the vast size and the time passing necessary to create this giant.

Wieland Payer whose work I first saw at RCA SHOW 2011 has an exciting solo exhibition at Man & Eve Gallery now, conveniently for me, relocated in the wonderfully eclectic Lower Marsh.

Wieland Payer
His work seems to span time. The medium of pastels seems fitting for his subject as it has an old fashioned quality which imbues the atmosphere of his work with notions of a bucolic past. It softens the reception of his imagery and adds to the surrealism of the landscapes planted with ambiguous structures which could be futuristic or from abandoned civilizations. There are signs of conflict and a need for refuge amidst the soaring beauty of impossibly tall trees and romantic rocky outcrops.

Wieland Payer 1

Outsize blue moth sculptures have seemingly emerged from the flat of the drawing and been captured and displayed in a glass cabinet. Their bodies made from paper and coloured with the same pastels as the world from which they came.

I am entranced by his work and the paths it leads me down.

Wieland Payer 2