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.