Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Sick ... again!!

Despite last Saturday's attempt to get my head back into gear for the new term, this week has been a bit of a damp squib as they say. Instead of second year at GSA beginning with a flourish of enthusiasm, it's been a rather dismal and half hearted affair as once again I got sick! I can't believe it!! I've been so looking forward to going back and it's been all I could do to get to 2 classes this week and then it's been back to bed. This is the second time this year I've been floored by illness, before that it was something like 2003; my body is maybe trying to tell me something!!!

However, I am looking forward to being well again (although right now that doesn't look like it's going to be any time soon!) and getting to grips with the new project. This term it's all about colour. A very wide brief: anything as long as it's in colour!!

J introduced the project by showing some photographers who use colour particularly well and there were some old favourites (Joel Sternfeld, Stephen Shore, Andreas Gursky etc) as well as some new names that I want to investigate - several that she included were particularly interested in the human effect on the landscape and therefore caught my attention. I think this is definitely becoming a theme with me.

Right now, however, unless it's of underneath my duvet the thought of making a photograph is beyond me!!

Paul Hill - Scottish Photographers

Last Saturday saw me starting to get my head back into gear for the start of the new term, and what better way to do it than in the company of some of the Scottish Photographers group and Professor Paul Hill at Street Level.

I first came across Paul Hill through his book 'Approaching Photography', recommended reading for photo students. He is regarded as a major influence on contemporary British photography and has an MBE for his services to it to prove it! On top of that, he was a really nice chap and it was a great day.

Paul originally started out as a photojournalist which he left to concentrate on his own photography and his work in photographic education. He sees himself as a storyteller; saying something in his images. He believes that: 'everyday, if you have a camera, can be an adventure'. I was particularly interested in several aspects of his work that he talked about, for example, at one point he realised that although his images were technically of someone else, they were actually about him.

I really liked two projects that he worked on: 'Displacements' and 'White Peak, Dark Peak'. 'White Peak, Dark Peak' is a series of images taken around his own area in the Peak District over the different seasons. It explores not just how the area changes over winter, summer etc, but about the marks made on the landscape by nature. 'Displacements' examined man-made mammoth gestures on the landscape - the change of land use (the anger and aggression caused by big land developments; people's reaction to it), our escape to the countryside and what we leave behind. Needless to say it's this last aspect that captured my attention the most.

The second part of the day was Paul critiquing portfolios brought along by the members of the group, which was very constructive.

Other highlights of the day including Tom Cooper (TJC's more common name!) coming along for lunch as he and Paul are very old friends, and having drinks with Paul and Sandy afterwards. He was such an interesting man and it was just such a great day; a very good way to get the head back in gear!!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Beyond Words ... Beyond Reach

One of the reasons for our visit to Edinburgh last week was to pay what will probably be our last visit to the photography bookshop, Beyond Words. It's a nice little shop in the older part of Edinburgh but at the end of July it will be closing down, and the business is being transferred to the internet.

Which is a shame because it's almost the last place where you can leaf through a photography art book before you buy it. The high street bookshops just don't stock the kind of books which can motivate and inspire you in the way the books he stocks do. I know a big part of the problem is that so many of us go in just to browse, but since I got into photography, national book tokens have been in almost every xmas and birthday present from my mum and my family. The Fruitmarket gallery stocks books, but as it's a gallery it's not allowed to sell book tokens- what will my mum do now!!

In all seriousness, this is sad. It just feels like more proof that photography as an art form is being marginalised.

This feeling was further reinforced when we went in to visit the shop where I used to buy all my photo chemicals. I was under the impression that it has closed down, but recently received an email telling me that it has just moved. So we went along full of enthusiasm, but to be brutally honest it was rather embarrassing. What had been a great wee wholesale dept had been reduced to a few packets of paper (mainly RC) and some bottle on the top of a little cupboard. To be fair, the chap was very enthusiastic but to us it just seemed to be even more proof of our disappearing art.

But marginalise me if you want, I'm not going digital!!!!

Friday, 2 July 2010

Johan Grimonprez

Finally trying to get some 'quality' time together, P and I headed into Edinburgh this week so see what was on at the galleries. Unfortunately it was change over time at the Dean and GMA, so nothing new to see and we made for the Fruitmarket. And I'm very glad we did! If you get a chance, I'd really recommend going to see the Johan Grimonprez show that's currently on there.

There are a number of smaller videos but dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y and Doubletake are two longer films with specific viewing times. We were too late to see Doubletake in full (but it's out on DVD so hoping to get it from the library) but did see dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y and it was excellent:

With its premiere at Centre Pompidou and Documenta X in Kassel in 1997, it eerily foreshadowed the events of September 11th. The film tells the story of airplane hijackings since the 1970s and how these changed the course of news reporting. The movie consists of recycled images taken from news broadcasts, Hollywood movies, animated films and commercials. As a child of the first TV generation, the artist mixes reality and fiction in a new way and presents history as a multi-perspective dimension open to manipulation.

It's mesmerising. It's 68 mins long but we were so engrossed, the time flew past! The footage Grimonprez uses is both disturbing and gripping; the narration is haunting (he uses extracts from Don DeLillo's White Noise and Mao II) and some of the music is absurd - at the end, Van McCoy's Do the Hustle plays over the credits!!

It was also interesting to view this as someone old enough to remember some of the incidents used in the film.

We didn't have time to see Doubletake, but I'll let you know when I do:

Grimonprez’s film and video productions explore questions surrounding identity and doubling, fear and anxiety and draw on political incidents and the history of film-making. He frequently uses found footage, brought together to create complex and layered films. In works such as Looking for Alfred 2005 and Double Take 2009, Grimonprez has looked specifically to the work of legendary film-maker Alfred Hitchcock, focusing on Hitchcock’s presence in his own films through cameo appearances to explore the nature of doubling and repetition.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

It's been a while since I've posted anything and yet so much has been going on. Once again I have a long list of things I wanted to blog about, but these past few weeks have just flown by and with them, the thoughts and ideas I wanted to write about!

However, I'm now back in Fife; I wish I could say that I have the summer off, but now its time to catch up on work and lots of other things I need to get organised.

Tonight is the first time I've sat down to post something but I logged on to T's blog to catch up on her thoughts and ideas (we talk lots, but there always seems to be so much to say to each other that we never really do 'catch up'!) One of the artists that she talks about is Brooks Salzwedel. The images are very beautiful combinations of ink, graphite, resin and film. I decided to Google for more and the first image I cam across was this one which has a pylon in it! Just more proof that industrial can still be beautiful!!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Beauty with Bite

I recently came across a photographer called Simon Norfolk. I hadn't come across him before, and I can't remember how I did find out about him, but his work really interests me.

A Slight Disturbance of the Sea

This image appears to be a beautiful photograph of the sun setting over a coastline, but when you read the text explaining the photograph, you discover that it is looking towards Arran and the Arran Trench, where the Kintyre-based trawler Antares was dragged down by a submarine manned by trainee submarine commanders at the end of their 6-week training mission. All 4 of her crew were drowned. The submarine sonar operator reported 'a slight disturbance of the sea' at the time the Antares was dragged under.

Many of Simon Norfolk's images are beautiful to look at, but each holds a deeper message and what interests me most is this combination. The idea that photographs don't have to be ugly in order to make a statement. Just because something is beautiful, it doesn't have to be superficial.

One of the most beautiful places I've been to, and fell in love with instantly, is the Outer Hebrides (if they ever find a way of exterminating midges, I'll move there!) and this image captures perfectly the wonderful beaches there. However, this is South Uist where the missile testing range built in the 1950s leaked large amounts of the radioisotope Cobalt-60 for 13 years (it was to help track missiles on radar).


In 2002 it was discovered that 352 drums of contimated waste were buried at the range. The range is still one of the busiest in the world and one of the biggest, stretching far out into the Atlantic.

Simon Norfolk - his writing is also extremely interesting.

Lensculture interview with Simon Norfolk: "Forensic Traces of War"

GSA Degree Show

There's a definite buzz about the air at GSA just now. The degree show for the 4th years is not far off - the culmination of four years of study and practice. So much effort being put in to their final, final assessment and the following show - each one no doubt hoping that this will be their big chance to catch the eye of the galleries and get their 'big break'.

P is in 4th year so it's his show this year and he's pretty nervous about it too. He's worked hard listening to the tutors and tried to produce work that will be of a really high standard. But just at the completely wrong time, there was a death in the family and he had to go back to Texas for a week. That meant that I had to stand in for him when it came to agreeing his studio space. I do not want to have to go through that again until it's my turn!!

Don't get me wrong, everyone who will be in the same studio is lovely, very nice people. But we could reach no agreements. Then they changed the number of people in the room and the negotiations had to start again. By the third meeting, several senior lectures and a few of Heads of Schools were in involved - and me a 1st year!! Talk about feeling out of my depth! Everyone was very nice to me, but it made me realise that this is something that takes the 4 years at GSA to prepare for; that it's not just about the end of fourth year, its much bigger than that and it's something you have to be mentally ready for, not just 'work' ready for.

I wish all the 4th years the very best show and lots of luck for the future. x

First Year Over

So here I am thinking about what the end of first year means to me and I still have a list of things that have been happening that I wanted to blog about. However, time moves on - and doesn't it just!

I seems like not that long ago I was an extremely nervous, middle-aged woman feeling very out of place waiting to register as a 1st year student. And thankgoodness I was so nervous; if I hadn't left that queue to go to the loo, I would never have met T (I lost my place and had to go to the back again - she stood next to me, we got chatting, the rest will be history!) It only seems like a few weeks ago that I had to join in with a group of predominantly young people and make machines that would draw - they all got covered in paint, very messy, and me all neat and tidy!

And now here I am, just finished putting all my work into the studio for end of year assessments. What a year it's been - I originally applied for direct entry to 2nd year - but I wouldn't have missed it for the world. It's had it's highs and lows but the highs far, far outweigh the lows.

For me (and for T) some of the past year has been quite traumatic - quite a lot of soul searching and facing up to personal issues etc, but I was surprised to hear that we're not alone. I was talking to some of the others in my class and they all felt the same - being at art school is a bit like being in therapy! We've all been experiencing 'growing pains'; shedding previous existences, ideas and beliefs and becoming different people.

I was really interested in what one of the guys in the class had to say at the final crit on Thursday. He talked about the ocean as a metaphor for what he was going through - deep, overwhelming and vast - the expansion of himself and his knowledge that he was going through. I spoke to him afterwards about how I knew how he felt, that I felt similar. That every lecture, every discussion, every tutorial seems to be pushing the boundaries of how I think and feel. That just when I thought I there wouldn't be much more to my life than work and photography as a hobby, the very core of who I am is being challenged by the learning process we are going through. He was very sweet - pointed out that if that's how I feel at my age how did I think he felt at his age (he's only 19!) Feels that just when he thought he was beginning to work out who he was, the ground has been pulled from under him.

Just goes to prove that you're never too old or too young to learn and grow, and that whenever, wherever, it's an amazing experience to be embraced and enjoyed.

Books, loads of them!

I've been pulling my work together for the end of year assessment and a thought occurred to me about how many books I've bought since I began at GSA. I also thought about T's list of movies she'd seen this year, so here's my list of books that have appeared on my shelves since September last year:

New Topographics - Photographs of a Man-altered Landscape
Joel Sternfeld - Walking the Highline
Thomas Joshua Cooper - Ojo de Agua
Robert Adams - Why People Photograph
Rebecca Solnit - A Field Guide to Getting Lost
Descartes - A Discourse on Method
Descartes - A Very Short Introduction
Barthes - A Very Short Introduction
Postmodernism - A Very Short Introduction
James Elkins - Stories of Art
Mary Shelley - Frankentstein
Maria Theresa Moerman Ib - I'm Afraid I Can Never Go Back Again
Dave Hickey - The Invisible Dragon
Nikolaus Pevsner - Pioneers of Modern Design
Adrian Forte - Objects of Desire
Jane Hope/Borin van Loon - Introducing Buddha
Gombrich - The Story of Art
Aaron Scharf - Art and Photography
Roland Barthes - Image, Music, Text
Roland Barthes - Camera Lucida (second copy!?)
Roland Barthes - Mythologies
John Carey - What Good are the Arts?
John Carey - Intellectuals and the Masses
Edward Burtynsky - China
Anne Michaels - Fugitive Pieces

Haven't read them all - dipped in and out of most of them though. Planning to have a busy summer!!!

PS. Thanks to family and friends who all give me national book tokens as pressies! x

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

On Blogging 3

The other thing that I discussed with L the other day was that I never seem to keep up with this blogging thing!! I seem to have lots of things to say, but never get around to blogging them; I have a list of things stuck to my noticeboard.

Was pleased to hear she has the same issue! So at her suggestion, I now have a wee 'stickie' on my computers which has a list of 'things to blog about'!

So from now on, no longer will my blogs be in a nice neat, chronological order. In the spirit of letting go limiting habits, I'll be blogging whatever and whenever!!

Monday, 10 May 2010

On Blogging 2

I had a chat with L the other day and one of the subjects we talked about was blogging. She has a blog which is mainly image based, her partner J (who is also a tutor at GSA) has a very thoughtful and educational one, T has one about all her ideas (which is growing rapidly!) and then there's mine, which is really a bit of a blether and which I worry has no substance!

But that's actually not what got me thinking about the blogging bit; it was actually recent posts by both T and J about sharing ideas, trust and integrity etc. And they have really got me going. T is concerned that by posting her ideas, she risks others stealing them - she has an awful lot of them, really good ones. (She has since made her blog private which is a shame as she is a fab writer and really interesting to read.) J responded on his about how lecturers give ideas away all the time, and that sharing ideas is part of the process of becoming an artist. All of this got me thinking about me, my ideas (or lack of them) and being open enough to share my thoughts and ideas with others. My worry, as I responded to J's post, is that because I don't have lots of ideas, people might think I'm ripping them off. I also commented that I sometimes can't start something because I know it's been done before and that I also hold back for fear of looking silly!

Then I read J's latest blog (which I still have to respond to) which is about the trust and integrity of tutors, Privacy and Honour. He points out:
Shared personal information creates a bond of trust between people, especially if they’re friends. The value and meaning of this bond is based on a two way relationship which acknowledges both the value of privacy and the possibility of betrayal. Friends are, in part, judged on their discretion and trustworthiness.
...Teachers, as representatives of institutions, also carry this burden of responsibility...
...Just as friends are judged on their discretion, so teachers are judged on their integrity...
Now, I know I'm only taking certain parts of Js blog and applying them to my own thinking (the whole blog starts with freedom of information) but it really had an impact on me and my current realisation that in order to become 'who I'm meant to be', I have to let go of 'who I used to be'! I'm sure that sounds very dramatic, but I realised that in order to really embrace this opportunity I have, of being at GSA, of being an artist in some capacity, I have to 'let go'. I have let go of my suburban housewife era, of being sensible and straight, of my businesslike control, of not taking chances, of self-doubt, of self-limiting beliefs, of never saying what I feel for fear of how I will appear to others, of sharing my ideas, of trusting that this is the right time and right place - to realise that I will never get this chance again to grow and become the person I think I was meant to be (although I'm not entirely sure who that is yet!) And that is REALLY, really scary!!

Which brings me back to blogging! As far as I'm aware, there are only 3 people who read this blog (so if you're not P, T or L, please let me know, it would be lovely to hear from you!) and sometimes I hold back on my blogging because I know they will read it. I suspect that's why my blog is a bit blethery and doesn't have much substance.

So here's to honest blogging from now on!

Saturday, 1 May 2010

GoMA - Joel Sternfeld

Another exhibition currently on at GoMA is 'Unsettled Objects' which is a collection of new works acquired by the gallery. It includes video, installation and photography, including a number of images by Joel Sternfeld.

Although he's well know for images such as the pumpkin stand with the house on fire behind it in McLean, Virginia, the first time I came across Joel Sternfeld was the work he did making people aware of the Highline in New York.
The High Line was built in the 1930s, as part of a massive public-private infrastructure project called the West Side Improvement. It lifted freight traffic 30 feet in the air, removing dangerous trains from the streets of Manhattan's largest industrial district. No trains have run on the High Line since 1980. Friends of the High Line, a community-based non-profit group, formed in 1999 when the historic structure was under threat of demolition. Friends of the High Line works in partnership with the City of New York to preserve and maintain the structure as an elevated public park.

The High Line was built in the 1930s, as part of a massive public-private infrastructure project called the West Side Improvement. It lifted freight traffic 30 feet in the air, removing dangerous trains from the streets of Manhattan's largest industrial district. No trains have run on the High Line since 1980. Friends of the High Line, a community-based non-profit group, formed in 1999 when the historic structure was under threat of demolition. Friends of the High Line works in partnership with the City of New York to preserve and maintain the structure as an elevated public park.

The project gained the City's support in 2002. The High Line south of 30th Street was donated to the City by CSX Transportation Inc. in 2005. The design team of landscape architects James Corner Field Operations, with architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, created the High Line's public landscape with guidance from a diverse community of High Line supporters. Construction on the park began in 2006. The first section, from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street, is projected to open in June 2009.
The High Line Organisation

Artist impressions of the Highline Project when open to the public.

The photographs at GoMA are from a project called 'On This Site: Landscape in Memoriam'.
Sternfeld’s photographs are marked by two absences: the absence of official, sanctioned memorials and the absence of people. The absence of people in Sternfeld’s photographs is conspicuous: these are sites of human violence and tragedy, yet Sternfeld removes all human presence from the majority of these images. The photographs are primarily landscapes, but because of what the images represent, their meaning is tied to human motives and behaviors. These photographs raise questions about the impact of human beings on the environment and the landscapes we occupy. Two photographs deliberately ask for consideration of damage done to the environment: “518 101st Street, Love Canal Neighborhood, Niagara Falls, New York, May 1994” and “Hanford Reservation, Hanford, Washington, August 1994.” Sternfeld’s text captures what the photographs cannot: “From the 1920s through the 1950s, the city of Niagara Falls, the United States Army, and the Hooker Chemical Corporation dumped over 200 different toxic chemicals into Love Canal.” At Hanford, “[m]ore than 440 billion gallons of chemical and radioactive waste were poured into the ground.” There is horror in the earth and the air: can it be captured and evoked in a still image? The visual absence of evidence, and the absence of human presence, renders these photographs as chilling portraits of the invisible damage done to the environment.


518 101st Street, Love Canal Neighborhood, Niagara Falls, New York, May 1994

Hanford Reservation, Hanford, Washington, August 1994

Friday, 30 April 2010

GoMA - Red Road Exhibition

On Monday, as part of a class trip to see some of the GI exhibits, we went to the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow. After the trip was finished, I went back to GoMA to spend some more time there.

One of the exhibitions currently taking place - Multi-Story - is about the notorious area of Glasgow known as the Red Road Flats.

multi-story is a collaborative arts project based in the distinctive Red Road housing estate, North Glasgow. Established in 2004 by Street Level Photoworks in partnership with The Scottish Refugee Council and the YMCA, it supports the integration of asylum seekers and refugees through creative activity, celebrating the different cultural traditions coexisting within the changing community.
This unique exhibition showcases artworks created in the last two years by local residents from over 15 countries, with a number of community organisations, and artists Lindsay Perth and Iseult Timmermans. Using traditional and contemporary art practices in photography and digital video, the work documents residents views and memories as well as explore issues around regeneration and the creation of new communities.

The flats are due to be demolished beginning in Spring 2010 and I think this exhibition goes a long way to showing that it's not just the buildings that will be destroyed but perhaps some of the community spirit will go as well. It certainly came across as a place with a strong identity.

Glasgow International Visual Arts Festival - Leslie Thornton

Although it's almost over by the time I write this, the GI festival has been on since mid-April. It's been interesting to see some of the artists that have been exhibiting. That said, I haven't seen many of the exhibits but one that has really stayed with me was a series of films by Leslie Thornton.

There were about 6 of them being shown in Tramway and the 2 that I thought were extremely good were 'Strange Space' and 'The Last Time I Saw Ron'. Both were quite haunting in their portrayal of Ron Vawter's struggle with, and eventual death from, aids. The imagery as I said was haunting, but it was the sound that made the real impact on me, particularly the use of a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke.

These are the only extracts from both films that I can find:

Making 'stuff'!

One of the really nice things about the bookfair was going back to making things and 'using my hands' as the saying goes. I've always enjoyed pottering about making bits and pieces; I knit, I sew, make books, cards etc. but haven't done any of these things for a while. Going along to the workshop at the bookfair and then finishing off the books, made me realise how much I miss being crafty.

Perhaps this is why I enjoy working in the darkroom so much - I feel that printing is a like a craft (I know that it is a craft as such, but I mean crafty I suppose). I like the trial and error of the test strips, using different filters, dodging and burning etc. Perhaps that's also why I feel quite comfortable in the darkroom.

Being a 'mature' student

At the recent artists bookfair I met a very nice lady called Heather Hunt whose books were very interesting. She had been a bookbinder but went back to university in 1993 as a mature student, and we got talking about that experience. Specifically we talked about how difficult it is to move beyond the limitations and rules you have acquired over the years. And it is.

I don't mean being 'stuck in your ways', but that the experience and knowledge you have just because you're older means that when you have an idea, you think 'oh, I can't do that , it's been done before'. You know it's been done before because you're old enough to have seen it, read it, done it or generally just know about it! The younger students (and in some cases really quite young!) don't know, so they go off and do it anyway.

And of course, they do it with a different angle on it; because they don't know it's been done before, they don't know how it's been done before so they do it their way. With me so far? Sometimes being older and more knowledgeable (you'll notice I didn't say wiser) can box you in with limitations. Sometimes they are conscious, sometimes they are unconscious.

Heather and I also agreed that sometimes you unconsciously follow the rules too much. Unconsciously is probably the wrong word, you know you're doing it, it's more like a habit, you just do! It means that younger students can sometimes be freer with the work that they do - they have less 'baggage'. It doesn't mean that you have to stay like that, it just means that you have to firstly be aware if you are doing it, and secondly, work a bit harder to break away from it.

Heather also made me laugh when she said that as a mature student, every time someone mentions a book, you rush out and buy it thinking you ought to read everything! I have a hotline to Amazon! :D

Heather Hunt, Observer Book Series 2004

On Blogging...

It's been a while since my last comment but it's not because I have nothing to say. On the contrary, I have an ever-growing list of things that I want to make comment on, but I keep thinking that: "I'll do it when I have time to sit and write something properly"!

Where does the time go?!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Artists Books

This Saturday was the Glasgow International Artists Bookfair - very inspiring! I hadn't really appreciated the opportunity for expression that a book could provide. That said, up until Saturday my opinion of what constitutes a book was very traditional! For my graded unit (external project) for my HNC , I made a case book of my photographs, tipped-in. It's a very traditional type of book and I was extremely proud of how it turned out. But the books I saw on Saturday were fabulous - so many creative works and ways of making books. My head was spinning after the first few stands!

The traditional style of book was definitely there and used in some great ways, but so too were lots of folded and cut-away books. It seemed to me that there were a handful of basic methods that were then used by the artists in lots of different ways. This meant that there were so many different ideas, lots of unique pieces. I really thought it was great.

That said, I didn't come away with any particular favourites although Kim Bevan's book were so delicate and small, they were beautiful:

I also really liked Julie Johnstone's work - very simple and elegant. For me though, it was the words inside her 'Little Book of Less' and 'Seeing Things' that made me buy them:
there comes a time when you no longer need more
you only need to see what is already there

One of GSA's 4th year students, Caroline Herbert, had some really interesting pieces, as did the students from the Leeds College of Art.

I finished off my visit to the bookfair by joining in a workshop about how to fold pages to make concertina books, and I'm so glad I did (thanks T). Here are my efforts - the covers were made at home, I couldn't wait to finish them off!

Ashes and Snow

I think a lot of the time I become so engrossed in looking at the type of images I want to take, that it can be a bit ... I don't know if demoralising is the right word. It's just that looking at industrial buildings, power stations and communication masts can be quite 'hard' on your eyes! Every so often, you need a good dose of beauty to revitalise you.

A friend recommended I take a look at this site and despite my flippant introduction, it's difficult to express how truly beautiful I found these images to be when I first saw them. There is a certain peacefulness and silence to them that I found very moving.

The images are part of an on-going project by Gregory Colbert:
None of the images have been digitally collaged or superimposed. They record what the artist himself saw through the lens of his camera. While Colbert uses both still and movie cameras, the images are not stills from the film.
The animal subjects of the photographs and films include interactions with both wild animals and also those that have been habituated to human contact.
I think Colbert's vision and his images are beautiful and would very much like to see the exhibition in person. Ashes and Snow

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Tara Donovan

It's amazing that ordinary styrofoam drinking cups, straws and paper plates can be turned into something as beautiful and haunting as these installations. I would very much like to see this artists work in person.

Cornelia Parker

I love the way that light has been used to add drama and effect to this piece.

Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, 1991
A garden shed and contents blown up

Melanie Friend

These images are from a series that the artist made called Border Country 2003 and are about immigration detainees in the UK. What interests me most about these images is not so much why I like them, but why I don't really care what they're about. I'm drawn to images which are essentially ugly and are about some unpleasant things etc, but I don't feel any connection to the message, only to the image itself. Is this right? Can we really completely detach ourselves - if the artist is trying to make a point, make us aware of, for example an injustice, is it right to not be involved?

I wonder about this because of the images I'm drawn to - industrial sites, abandoned warehouses, masts, pylons etc. I don't feel that I have something to say about the environment or the state of the economy, just that these are beautiful things in their ugliness! Must ponder on this!

Donovan Wylie

For over a year Donovan Wylie photographed the system of watchtowers that the British army had built to survey the territories of Northern Ireland, and to observe the actions of the local people.

These high-tech towers, constructed in the mid 1980s, primarily in the mountainous border region of South Armagh, were landmarks in the thirty-year conflict in and over Northern Ireland. The towers were finally demolished between 2003 and 2007 as part of the British government’s demilitarization programme for Northern Ireland. (

I know that what these towers represents is immense and most likely beyond my real comprehension, but there is something majestic and beautiful in their ugliness.

I've been working on other projects this year and have really missed taking photographs of the things that move me most - these images from Donovan Wylie do just that.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

On Being Overwhelmed!

I've just spent most of the day and all of tonight working on the current project and the only thing I feel I have achieved is another long list of artists, books, websites and videos I need to find out about.

There seems to be so much to research - everywhere I turn there's more information to take in. Every conversation seems to lead to another artist being recommended and added to my ever increasing list. And it's not just this project, it's everywhere, it's everything!

I'm trying hard not to become overwhelmed but between Fine Art and H & C, I'm starting to feel like I'm walking in ever deepening mud.

Better get the waders out incase the wellies are too short!! :-)

Indian Raga - Painting with Music

This Friday was a lovely end to the week with a concert organised as part of the 4 Minds project some of the 2nd years are doing with Ranjana. It fitted in with the lecture she gave us regarding the current project so I went along. I didn't know what to expect, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The concert was by Prakriti Dutta and it was a small affair in the Mac lecture theatre. Prakriti sang and explained the tradition of the Raga - traditional indian singing and music. She explained that it was a melodic scale using 12 notes and likened it to having 12 colours with which to paint a canvas. Her voice was beautiful - rich and smooth - and she sang with such emotion.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Proof and evidence!

When I started this project I went through the list of artists we were given and looked at each one. I marked the ones I was interested in looking at again and now it's time to go through and provide the evidence in my sketchbooks.

Why didn't I just do it at the time?! Now it seems like an even bigger job to go back and find the images that caught my attention in the first place (not all were book marked) and to also remember what it actually was that attracted me to them!

Lesson learned!

As the bard would say ...

O wad some Power the giftie gie us,
To see oursels as ithers see us!

Kerrpow! Thwam!

It's funny how everything I'm learning really changes my view of things - even comic book characters!

A couple of years ago I watched Iron Man (Robert Downey Jnr), the first movie of the Marvel comic book hero. I thought it was great - very funny in places, loved his humour and just silly escapism really. Watched it again last night and still felt the same about it.

Then this morning it hits me - the body as a site of cultural representation!!! Iron Man, Batman, Spiderman etc. all the superheros (and baddies) all fit into this project! They are all respectable men during the day and superhero on demand - divided souls, split identities, struggling to find meaning etc, etc, etc! But in the interview feature of the dvd, Stan Lee points out that when he wrote Iron Man, it was the height of the Cold War and the character was created as a defender of all things American at that time; his two arch enemies are The Crimson Dynamo (Russia) and The Mandarin (China).

These characters were used to reach an audience who would not otherwise be reading newspapers or taking an interest in the politics of the time. The body (the character in his rubber suit - ok, his titanium plated, something coated whatever ...) representing the powers of good against the powers of bad (cultural representation of the time).

Ok, I know it's a bit of a leap ... but, if you can leap tall buildings in a single bound...!!!

The Body etc.... the story so far

Had my group feedback session on Monday afternoon to discuss my research and ideas for the project so far. It was good. Had been a bit worried about my lack of information and not being too sure about my approach, but it went well. Richard was very supportive and Ranjana was complimentary about the work I had done so far. She is a walking encyclopedia of artists and information about this topic! Richard even admitted to me later that he finds her vast knowledge a little intimidating at times!

Based on feedback I've had from Lesley and the responses on Monday, I'm quite happy that my approach is fine. Just need to get on with it now!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The Body Project - Lectures this week

This week started with 2 lectures offering other tutor's interpretation of the project and both were really enjoyable.

Lesley's approach was more about the physical aspects, about the way some artists have approached the topic in a more physical way. It was very interesting and a different view point than I had considered, however, there was one film clip that she showed that has stayed with me since. The piece was Sam Taylor-Wood's "Brontosaurus" (1995).

As the artsist explains:
First I filmed a man who was dancing naked in his bedroom, to the rhythm of very fast techno-jungle music. Then I took away the music and projected the film in slow motion. While I was filming, his movements became almost alien, they made no sense, he went through all these motions and they ended up seeming clumsy. In slow-motion they became very beautiful, but totally ungainly. Then I changed the music and introduced Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, a melancholy excerpt … it became a eulogy to living, even if the person seems to be doing a dance of death, because it is so fragile, delicate and vulnerable.
I was mesmerised by this film; I'm still haunted by the image of the dancing man. Perhaps it's the music that makes it so poignant; but the description of it as "a dance of death" is almost how I felt about it. The man is athletic but thin, so when he dances his ribs are accentuated and his hair is very short, almost shaven. I felt like I was watching the dance of a concentration camp victim. When he opens his arms, it's almost religious, and when he dances balletically, it's almost pitiful.

The second lecture was by Richard (Walker) and was about man's approach to animals and culture. He talked about various aspects susch as the Egyptian god Anubis who had the head of a Jackal, Pan (part man, part goat), the Centaurs (half horse, half man) etc. He also talked about how we use animals as metaphors - "he behanved like an animal". It was extremely interesting and he asked us to consider how we now interact with animals ie. we no longer have an authentic relationship with them, we are detached from them and animals are now approached more as a spectacle eg. zoos, or how we treat them as pets and in some cases they are treated as babies! (And yes, I talk to my cat, but I treat her as a grown woman/cat - most of the time!!)

Richard did end his talk on a rather amusing note and that was a video of Marcus Coates performing a shamanistic ritual in a Liverpool high rise! He had the full deer skin outfit on, although I did note the hooves were held on to his wrist by elastic bands!! I'm not sure how serious or how tongue in cheek it was meant to be, but it was hard not to laugh (although to be fair, most of the funny parts were the ladies reactions to Marcus's performance!)

Marcus Coates, Journey to the Lower World (2004)

Sunday, 21 February 2010

The Body as a Site etc - My Interpretation

I'm rather confused by this project - I can't work out whether it is about the actual body, or the culture? Is it about culture in general or is it meant to be about us personally and our own culture?

Ranjana's lecture was very good and there were several things she said that I was particularly interested in: Where do we fit in? What does it mean to be an individual? Who are we? What do I have to do with anyone else? She also pointed out that Yoruba culture recognises that we are pulled in many ways as individuals: by society, by families, our self etc.

This made me think of one of the exercises that I use on one of my training courses, one which asks people to identify the many roles they play in life: mother, wife, daughter, grand-daughter, aunt, friend, lover, employee, boss etc, etc. It points out that these are all roles we play and that each one of them comes with their own priorities, responsibilities, stresses etc. All of this takes me back to my idea for the 'work' part of this project which is that we are all a sum of these various parts.

Back to the research though!

I've looked at the majority of the artists on the list and I'm struggling to understand why some of them are on it - I think it's perhaps going back to the difficulty I'm having with understanding this brief.

However, I've decided that I should stick to what interests me particularly and that is the discovery of self - of who we are. It follows on nicely from the 'Layers of Loss' project and is something that I have been working on since my separation 4 years ago - trying to find out who I am as an individual instead of one half of a long-term partnership!

The Body as a Site of Cultural Representation - What??

Having been ill on the day this project was introduced and ill for the following week too, I am really unsure what the project is actually about!

It doesn't help that the assignment part of the project was over one week of my being ill and then reading week which is my working week. Once again I find myself in the position of really being behind with the work that's needed for this course. It's not that I haven't researched the topic, but I don't have the necessary materials to meet the brief.

I can't help but think that maybe I'm in the right place at the wrong time. I need to work to be able to afford to be here, but I can't keep up with the work that's needed for the course. I know that being ill for 4 weeks doesn't help, but perhaps I need to really consider whether I have bitten off more than I can chew? Perhaps I'm just homesick and feeling sorry for myself?!

But in the meantime, I'll try to pull together the research I have done, see where it gets me.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Mid-Term Review

Had my feedback session with Lesley and Jake last week and despite having very little to show for this term, I think it went fine. It was good to be able to talk to Lesley about my 'ah ha/oh oh' moments, rather than exchange emails.

But I think I talk too much!! Back to the H & C disaster!

One big question that came out of the discussion was what I was going to do now about the Layer of Loss project and the answer is, I have have no idea. I don't know where it needs to go. I don't know if it needs to go anywhere?!

It seems to lead/flow into the next project which is 'the body as a site of cultural representation' but I'm not quite sure how yet. Part of the problem I think, will be my interpretation of the brief.

I was particularly interested in Ranjana's lecture last week when she talked about: Where do we fit in? What does it mean to be an individual, who are we, who is this being and what do I have to do with everyone else? I struck a chord with some of the books I was reading after I was separated (The Spiritual Tourist, The Power of Now etc) - trying to find myself as an individual after being in a partnership for so long. This is the emphasis I would like to take but reading through the course materials, it doesn't seem very clear whether I'm on the right track or not.

I was thinking along the lines of 'the sum of all parts'. Taking the time to look at all my old snapshots (as suggested by Jake) I realise that I am a result of all these people, places, events etc (this is nothing new, I have always known this). I am a sum of all these parts. Where I have been, who I have been friends with, loved etc. has led me to being who I am and where I am, now, at this moment. The more I write about it, the more I feel this is the right approach for now.

H & C - The Disaster

I knew I shouldn't have gone, I should have waited, but the thought of my presentation in H & C was weighing heavily on my mind. I was already a couple of weeks late because I had been ill, so I thought it would be best just to go and get it over with. A definite mistake!!

Not only had I written it when I was ill, I'd also tried to edit it when I was worse! Presenting it in the state I was in was always going to be risky. It had to be one of the worst presentations I have ever made! I do this for a job, how could I have gotten it so wrong! Easy answer would be that I went into trainer mode - not presenter mode. Off I went!

But not much I can do about it now, damage done. I'm pretty embarrassed about it and my natural inclination is to avoid all future classes but that's not going to happen. I'm going to just accept that these things happen, the grades don't carry over into second year, get over it and get on with it ... till next year's presentation!!!

(Maybe I could wear a mask?)

On Being 'Well'

It's been a while but it's time to get back into the swing of things as they say. Just wish it was easier than said! It's been nearly 5 weeks since I actually felt truly well, but at least I'm not 'ill' anymore - no more hot or cold sweats, sleepless nights, wracking coughs etc (well, still a bit) but oh boy, am I tired!

I knew it would take time to get over this completely, but every time I sit down, I just want to sleep. I can't really be bothered to get dressed or go anywhere and getting my head back into work and study seems to be just one challenge too far. However, it must be done, and today's the day as they say.

There just seems to be so much to catch up on - maybe I should have a seat and a cup of tea before I start ...!!!

Sunday, 7 February 2010


In Buddhism, bodhisattvas are people who have completed endless lives on the wheel of reincarnation and suffering, and now having achieved enlightenment, are entitled to step off the wheel for the bliss of nirvana. But a bodhisattva, out of compassion, renounces nirvana in order to save others and returns to the wheel to work for the enlightenment of all.

Right now, I needed this:

Bodhisattva on Metro


Friday, 5 February 2010

The Concept Co-operative...

a support group for the newly enlightened (and those in the process or currently in denial).

Membership - 2 so far!!!

Those precious dreams we had,

Should never be forgotten,
But every girl has to grow
Up to be a woman,
It's just that for a second
I recognised
The girl I used to know

G Clark

Thursday, 4 February 2010

What now?

My recent 'ah ha' moment has left me with a problem: where do I go from here?

Unfortunately, the immediate answer to that has been straight back to bed!! I made it in at the beginning of the week for workshops and to deliver a truly abysmal presentation at H & C (ironic - bad time management last term and bad presentation skills this term!!!), but have been really ill for rest of week. I haven't been this ill since 1994 - guess I had it coming!

Needless to say this has been extremely frustrating.

However, my problem is what do I do now? I'm really stuck with where to take this project now. I still feel that as 'Another Layer of Loss' it has potential, I just don't know what.

I feel like I need to join a support group for the newly enlightened!!!

Saturday, 30 January 2010

"A mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to it's original dimensions".

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Friday, 29 January 2010

Isn't it funny ...

how sometimes things just seem to fall into place!

At my recent tutorial with L she talked to me about my approach to our current project - particularly about getting bogged down in how I was going to photograph it and my concerns about what my 'end product' was going to be. I didn't get it! I thought I did, but I was still very caught up in trying to do something 'arty and creative' for this project.

The same thing happened at my group crit with J this week. Again she tried to stress to me that it was not so much about the end product but the process. She also suggested putting up the photographs I've collected that represent my 'losses' so that I could see the work and take time to consider it. Although I was taking it in, I still didn't 'get' it.

Then came A's crit session. She started off with one idea and explained how it had taken her through a series of others to her current idea which is to have both photographs and an old cine film of her father and the feeling of dreaming (not the dreams themselves). She particularly liked the idea of REM and wanted to create the flicker that's associated with it. S suggested including the sound of the film going through the machine. I asked J if this was a common thing with 1st year students - do we over-complicate things? Do we over-think? Her answer was yes.

And suddenly it dawned on me! All A really needed to do was put a blank piece of film though a machine that flickered white light and made the sound and the viewer would immediately make the association of dreams (well, we did)! And I don't have to go through all the palaver of finding the right location to put my items in to; my final image can be so much simpler than that. It's the very act of researching and pulling together all my 'loss' items that forms the construction of my image.

I think what L and J were trying to tell me is that the 'constructed' image is not the same as the 'staged' image; I've been thinking all along about a staged image. But its not that at all, I've been constructing all along; researching, thinking through my ideas, dismissing some, following others etc. Pulling together all of this is constructing the image!

I don't know if I've got this right or not, but it was such an amazing realisation I was quite overwhelmed by it. I was almost in tears on my way to work at night!! It made me realise that perhaps this is the key to conceptual work? In the past, when I've looked at some works of art, I've thought "what the ...?" It made no sense to me; it seemed almost ridiculous, or even to ridicule the viewer, but perhaps it was that way because it was the sum of all that had gone before it - all the research, the ideas, the 'construction'?!

Wow, what a session!

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Cedric Delsaux

Many of his images are constructed, but I'm really drawn to the images he makes of industrialisation, many of which aren't constructed.

However, the ones which he seems most well known for are those which include Star Wars figures! Called 'The Dark Lens', he has super-imposed Star Wars characters onto his industrial/urbanisation photographs. I think they are extremely well done and are very clever.

Another Layer of Loss

It took me a long time to come up with an idea for our current project 'The Constructed Image' but I finally came up with something that started over Christmas and New Year.

For a while now, I've been putting together a list of people I would like to get in touch with and with the bad weather making anything outside a no-go, I sent off a load of emails.

Some people responded and some people didn't and it got me thinking more about the things I've lost in my life. Most recently and most obviously, Alan and our relationship. Most people would think that 4 years on the separation would be long settled, but it's strange how you can just go on losing after something like that. It just seemed to me like an onion, peeling back the different layers. And yet somehow not. An onion being peeled would imply that there will be a core, something to reach at the end of the process. But it's not like that; I don't think that it's a metaphor for a part of the loss I haven't dealt with yet. It just seems like an on-going process - another layer of loss.

And there are so many things I've lost in my life. Nothing as dramatic as death or great tragedy, but ongoing -sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle - stripping of layers like wallpaper on old houses.

So I'm thinking of taking symbols of this loss and photographing them inside the old houses and abandoned places that I photograph - acknowledging that that's why I'm drawn to them; because they've lost things like I have. Photographs of the friends that I've lost because I'm no longer part of a 'successful, suburban couple', the family I've lost because I no longer live with their son, the sister-in-law, the house, the money, the car, etc. And maybe of some of the other losses - Aunt M, mum because of her illness, dad etc.

I think this is perhaps a much bigger and on-going process, but it's my idea so far.

I'm also thinking about the other part of the project, 'the photographic object', so am thinking I'd like to shoot on polaroid to signify nostalgia - will think about that more.

And on a more cheerful note, I'm so glad that despite the things I lost as a result of separating from Alan, the one thing I didn't lose was him! C x And also, we lose things in our lives to make way for new things and I have many new things in my life to be grateful for - and I am.

It's been a while ...

since I've posted anything. In fact, it seems like a while since I've done anything that relates to photography or art!

Coming back to Glasgow wasn't as bad as I thought it might be; actually, it was quite nice. And despite one or two problems, it's remained quite nice. One problem was the cold! The bad weather continued and the flat was very cold - I dread to think what my heating bill will be! However, it did mean that I put up curtains and now the flat is starting to look quite homely; I feel I'm settling in here now. The cold did mean that I still didn't/couldn't get out and about and take photographs.

Second problem is that I caught a cold. Not just any cold, a real nasty one which will just not go away (maybe it was flu - I had the whole tummy bug thing to go with it). It's really knocked me for six and means that again I haven't been out and about taking any photographs.

All of which now means that I'm going through a real crisis of ... commitment? Self-confidence/belief? All I know is that for the past few days I'm really starting to wonder if I'm just not a bit out of my depth? I just can't help thinking that I really don't have what it takes to be at art school. I look at T's work and she has more talent in her little finger than I do in my whole head!! I'm not saying body, because I know that I'm talented in terms of making things - my sewing, knitting etc. - it's just that I'm not creative like she is; I just don't have the ideas, I just don't have the 'eye'. My stuff is all so 'ordinary', so mundane, so straight-laced. Maybe I just missed my chance to develop a creative outlook when I chose the safe route at college, came home from London, settled as the 'suburban housewife'!

But that's what's so frustrating - I know that inside me I have someone who is capable of being more creative! I have been looking at old photographs and remembering when I used to make my own clothes and dress pretty wildly, when I trawled the junk shops for things to do up - before I had to worry about the business image, or before old furniture wasn't high enough up on the status ladder!!

I know people will tell me I'm being hard on myself, that it will take time, but I worry that I don't have time, that I'll run out of money before I can get through this degree, or that it just won't be long enough to strip away the years of conforming.

T is very supportive - I definitely think we were meant to meet. No such thing as coincidence, I'd already been in the queue and left to go ... if I hadn't done that, she would have been standing behind someone else! She inspires me - makes me wish I was younger and had my time again. L is very supportive too - I can hear her voice telling me not to be so hard on myself, not to have such demanding standards.

Anyway, this is just me feeling sorry for myself because I'm under the weather and like the weather, it will clear up ... eventually!!! Must get on now.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

"And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." — Ana├»s Nin

Time to go back!

I started this blog so that it would just be as an on-line sketchbook for my research etc, but I'm changing that already! It's almost time to go back to Glasgow and I have some pretty mixed feelings about it.

I can't say it's been a particularly good break, but it's certainly been a quiet one. The end of term was extremely stressful, then a full week's work straight after that - add in mum's operation and the whole thing becomes one major stressful event. But it's not just been that, after stress high comes the inevitable low and boy, did it hit bad this time round; so it's taken a while to get over it all.

The weather hasn't helped of course; I feel like I've been trapped here!! I haven't taken a single photograph the whole time I've been home (the iPhone doesn't really count!) but my head and my heart weren't quite in it I guess.

And now I have to pack up and leave my home again to move back to the flat in Glasgow. It's not that there's anything wrong with it, it's just not home. This place means so much to me - it was/is my safe haven after all that has happened and it's very unsettling to be somewhere else.

However, needs must and I am looking forward to going back to GSA. But I've read through the new project brief and I feel very out of my depth. I know the whole point is that you go to uni to learn but I really feel that I lack the creativity that so many of the others in the class have. Got to keep at it though, keep an open mind and try my best - but can't do it from here, so tomorrow I'm packing up my stuff and the cat and I are heading west!!!!

Friday, 1 January 2010

The Constructed Image

Jeff Wall
Gregory Crewdson:
"I think I always have been drawn to photography because I want to construct a perfect world. I want to try to create this moment that is separate from the chaos of my life"
Mari Mahr
Andreas Gursky:Thomas Demand