Friday, 24 May 2013

The End Approaches

Well this is my last post before the end of my degree!  Today, 24 May 2013, at 5 pm is the deadline for the submission of my work and the completion of my degree show space.

I'm pretty excited and pleased with my space, but as I sit here writing this, I also feel quite literally sick with nerves in case I don't get done on time.  All I have to finish is some last minute paperwork.  Then all that's left, is the scores on the doors and the partying!!

See you on the other side!


The journey behind, the journey ahead

So the final part of my degree is almost here, and I've been thinking over the past while about what my work is really about and I think it's all about journeys.  And the more I look at my previous work, the more it seems so obvious!  In particular, I've been thinking about some of the most influential artists I've looked at (and by that I mean who have influenced me) and I think about Emily Mennerdahl, Ori Gersht, Richard Long, Ingrid Calame, Jem Southam, Anthony Gormley  and others, who have all made work in some way about journeys, maps, a sense of place.

And I don't believe for one minute that this is where my journey ends, it's really only another beginning.  I have several ideas about journeys that I want to continue working on, in particular:

  • Suffolk - after watching Patience recently, P bought me The Rings of Saturn.  Suffolk is only slightly further down the coast from the sites of coastal erosion I visited earlier in 4th year so I want to go back to those, and to perhaps find some of Sebald references from the book.
  • The Lister Route - I'm still haunted by Ori Gersht's Evaders film about the Lister Route and Walter Benjamin's escape from the Nazis via this route from France into Spain.  I don't quite know what this research will entail, but I want to follow up on it and find out so much more about Benjamin and the Route.
  • The Santiago de Compastelo - the Camino Pilgrimage.  I'm not much of an outdoorsy type (!), but I enjoy my coastal path walking, so I'm not ruling out the idea of one day walking at least some of this route.  I'm intrigued by the idea of pilgrimage - the why and the how.
  • A Map of Too Much Land - this is a collaboration that T and I are going to begin this year hopefully.  I've mentioned many times that although our work is very different, the underlying themes are very similar.  We're hoping to do a project from our 2 coast lines - mine in Fife and Angus, hers in Denmark - which are almost opposite each other across the North Sea.  The details have yet to be decided, but it will be a mixed media project and I think some really interesting work will come out of it.  Am really looking forward to it.

I guess that now degree is almost over, the real work begins...

My Top 10!

It's been quite interesting preparing my degree show along with students from the other Fine Art disciplines.  I'm really pleased to say that we all worked very well together.

I was talking with Erin Crossan, the painter in our studio and we were very surprised to learn of the different approaches we take to research and documentation of our work.  It's all too late now to change anything, but one of the things they have specifically been tasked to do is identify the top 10 artists they have been influenced by (I think over the 4 years, not just in 4th year) and to document the top 5.  This isn't something we've been asked to do, however, it did get me thinking.

Mine would look like this, but in no particular order:

Emily Mennerdahl - her work with silence has been hugely influential
Ori Gersht - his film work is haunting
Jem Southam - both style and content I really like
Donovan Wylie - combining documentary with great picture making
Richard Long - I was influenced by his work with mud!
Anthony Gormley - the silence and scale of his sculptures
Ansel Adams - profound beauty and technical genius
The New Topographers (am counting the collective as one choice!) - bland and beautiful! (T, x)
Simon Norfolk - serious political message with beautiful imagery
Simon Burch - combining documentary with great picture making and sequencing

and how could I not include an 11th - Paul McDonald.  Every time we go on a photo trip, he makes images of spaces I didn't even see, despite being in the same place at the same time.  His eye for an image and his technical expertise are helping me become a better picture maker.

Not an easy list to come up with I must say, and no doubt it will change regularly (Andreas Gursky and Andy Goldsworthy didn't make it in this time round, but maybe next!)  Definitely thought provoking.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Starn Twins

I've been very aware recently that most of my latest images are all set in woods; lots of trees, bushes etc.  In fact, when T saw my last set of contact sheets, her first comment was: 'wow, that's a lot of trees'!  I hadn't been particularly aware of being drawn to these of areas, always thought of myself more to do with coastlines, but she's right, there are a lot of trees!

When I think of artists making images, I immediately think of the Starn twins.  

Beautiful as they are, I think what draws me more to the Starn twins' work is their use of materials.  In GSA, such work could run the risk of being described as 'crafty', but their combination of photography, both analogue and digital printing, unusual papers, wax and varnish etc, I think makes their work incredibly interesting (and something I am looking forward to trying when I'm finished my degree).  They also make some very large pieces using these techniques and I would really love to see them up close.

Again T and I have a common interest here.  Although she is mainly drawn to the moth pieces (which look astonishingly beautiful I must say) we are both really eager to experiment with the production of our images using different materials and processes - maybe that's something we can think about in our project coming up (will blog about that soon!).

The Starn Twins -

Friday, 10 May 2013

Stations of the Green

This week I went down to see 'Stations of the Green', an exhibition focussing on Douglas Gordon's demolished work 'Proof' at Glasgow Green Station.

Gordon painted the mural (or rather Ross Sinclair and Dave Allen did it although they are a bit vague on the details) in 1990 on the walls of the abandoned station but over time, it became hidden from view and unsafe.  At the beginning of last year, in the high winds, part of the mural collapsed and Network Rail demolished the remainder of it in March 2012.  The site now lies empty.

As someone relatively new to Glasgow, I thought this was a very thought provoking exhibition on several levels.  Firstly, and the most obvious I suppose, is that Douglas Gordon is a Turner Prize winner and yet the City did nothing to protect this work - seems a little short sighted to me in a city that appears to pride itself on it's contemporary cultural reputation.  Secondly, I'm a little embarrassed that I didn't know about it!  And thirdly, I felt quite sad at the loss of this combination of victorian architecture/city history and contemporary public art piece.  Part of the exhibition are the stones which have the letters 'EE' 'T' and 'ION' and they are beautiful, solid pieces of sandstone and it struck me that by removing them, we have reduced them to nostalgic relics.  When they were part of 'Proof' something old had been turned into something contemporary and dynamic.  To me it allows us to acknowledge the past, but to then move forward to the future.

It's a good exhibition with lots of layers, and has really got me thinking; I recommend you catch it before it finishes on 17 May if you can.

Stations of the Green

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Patience (After Sebald)

I wanted to watch this film because of the journey aspect to it, even though I haven't read The Rings of Saturn.  But this is a beautiful film, and will be adding the book to my list now that I've watched it.

Patience (After Sebald) - Official US Trailer

Are two heads better than one?

One of the other things I was so interested in in the Unmapped project was the collaboration of the 2 artists.  I loved the idea of the sketchbook being posted back and forth and was thinking that perhaps that is something T and I could consider, after all, I'll be moving back to Fife this August and we won't see each other so often.

To be honest, the idea of collaborating with other artists is something I have considered, but am not sure  how I would deal with.  In my previous business life, I was identified in a psychometric test as 'Private' in other words, despite the fact that I am seen to be involving others in the decision making process, I've usually made up my mind in advance!

There are 2 students in 3rd year who actually work as a collaboration all the time which I can't quite get my head around - how will that work when it comes to 4th year and degree time?  No doubt they will work it out, and what they do, they do very well.


So T and I have decided to give it a go, to work together to produce a small book with her writing and my images.  We've often talked about how similar some of our themes are  but for this first project, we're starting small and using some of my older Holga images and some of her older poetry.

We'll have to see how this goes, but have already discussed a bigger project based around our joint concern of home - watch this space!

Ori Gersht

Last year I went to London to the Imperial War Museum to see the Ori Gersht exhibition 'This Storm is What We Call Progress'.  I wrote about it in my sketchbook at the time, but recently I haven't been able to get the 2 film pieces out of my head.

At the time, it was perhaps the stories behind the films that caught my attention, but as time goes on, it is more and more about the journeys that the subjects of each film took, that hold it.

Will You Dance For Me? (2011) is a film about the aging Czech-born dancer, Yehudith Arnon who, now frail, rocks back-and-forth in her rocking chair in the video.  She was imprisoned in Auschwitz when she was 19 years old and her punishment for refusing to dance at an SS officer’s party was to stand barefoot in the snow.  She pledged that if she survived she would dedicate her life to dance.

Ori Gersht, Will You Dance For Me, 2011 from Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art on Vimeo.

Evaders (2009) is a two-screen film which explores the mountainous path of the Lister Route, used by many to escape Nazi-occupied France. The film focuses on the ill-fated journey of Jewish writer and philosopher Walter Benjamin, whose own words give the exhibition its title.

Ori Gersht, Evaders, 2009 from Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art on Vimeo.

At the time, I wanted to find out more about the Lister Route and also, once I found some time, to read more of the work of Walter Benjamin who, rather than risk being sent back to Germany, committed suicide after being caught by the Nazis at the end of the route.  The next day, his party of fellow travelers were released and allowed to travel on.

Unexpected Inspiration

At the end of March T sent me a link to an exhibition that she thought I might be interested in at the RGI Kelly Gallery entitled 'Unmapped'.  It sounded like something I would be interested in, but the images on the website didn't look overly inspiring (a few too many abandoned buildings!) and I almost forgot about it.  However, with only a day to go, I did go to see it and I'm really glad I did - it was an excellent and unexpectedly inspiring show.

Anna King and Rebecca Sharp began the project by sending a sketchbook in the post back and forth between them.  Rebecca would write poems and Anna would respond with sketches and vice versa, and the result is the 'Unmapped' project.  Poems and paintings about their 'shared love of overlooked, peripheral places; the outskirts of cities, high-rises, wastelands and abandoned buildings'.  The very same places I am drawn to make images of - some of the paintings could easily be some of my photographs.  The work also includes themes of absence and presence - themes in my essay this year.

The poems are quiet and strong, but the paintings are beautiful.  To describe them as contemporary landscapes I don't think does them justice, they are beautiful.  Created with oil paints and pencil on paper then pasted onto board, they're not large in scale and are so delicate; fragile marks on subdued colours.

I spent ages in the gallery looking and reading the work and watching the video - several times actually.  Towards the end, Anna King talks about these spaces as shared spaces that everyone owns, that have a history of how they have been lived in or passed through - in my work, I think of what has been 'left behind' both literally and metaphorically.


Anna King

Rebecca Sharp

Research to aspire to!

Despite the fact that I usually keep pretty much up to date with my research, with all the things I've been trying to do for the degree show, I had fallen a bit behind so I've been trying to catch up.  I think I do ok with my research, it took me a while to get into it, but not in my wildest dreams do I ever think I could get to the level that Jane Grisewood researches.  I am in awe of this artist!

I want shelves like these!

Awesome sketchbooking!

Of her recording Jane Grisewood says:

Keeping journals and sketchbooks that I cram with writings, drawings and photographs has always formed a key part of my art practice and provide a diary of my work. I am recording through time, repeated observations and thoughts, actions and events, experiments and experiences. My way of working derives from this obsessive and subjective process, which serves as an underlying tool for reflection and a source of material and ideas.
More of her research images are here - I see from her website that she also teaches; I wonder if she teaches other artists how to do research?  If not, she should!

Kathy Prendergast - Maps

 I took a look at Kathy Prendergast's work mainly for her mammoth 'City Drawings' project - a series of drawings of contemporary maps of all the world's capital cities which she started in 1992, and a quote I read saying that she was "probably trying to use mapping without it being a map of something".  It resonated with me because of my embossed maps - trying to create a map that could be of anywhere - but also how her drawings seemed to float on the white paper, something I wanted to create in my own maps.

(c) Kathy Prendergast, Addis Ababa

(c) Kathy Prendergast, Budapest

My own embossed map

I also liked her map 'Lost' where she has retained only the place names in the US with Lost in them, eg. Lost Creek, Lost Canyon etc and her map with no places names at all, only road markings. (Why is it when you come up with an idea, you always find someone else has been there, done that, even though you had no idea they had?!)

But, although I was drawn to these particular works, I think she is an extremely interesting artist who has worked in many different ways and with many different mediums - something I aspire to do.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

"This is the Surface of the Earth"

After having a bit of a degree show meltdown tonight, I decided to go back and look at some of the photographers that originally inspired me to take this art school journey, and my first stop was Joel Sternfeld and the New York Highline.

I first came across the Highline when I saw his images of it and thought they were so good, I bought the book.   I love the idea of this remnant of industry being used as a rural escape in the middle of New York; there's something about what was left behind being reclaimed and now, being renewed and used in a totally different way.  I think it's because it fits with my theory/hope that no matter what we impose on this planet, nature will find a way of winning through - aided, or unaided by us!

One day I'll walk through High Line Park!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

What's in a name?

I knew I would have to face this demon eventually, but eventually seems to have come around rather quickly!

The dreaded demon I'm referring to is what the hell do I call my work!  What is it with me and titles?! At least I do know that this time I actually want to give my work (and my degree show) titles, which is a change in my position since the "Untitled" incident in 2nd year, but I really don't know what.

D says just say what it is.   But, don't make it too obvious, don't push it, don't make it a cliche, don't make it obscure, don't make it gimmicky, don't make it too humorous and don't make it too personal! Well, there go all my ideas so far!!

You'd think with the number of books I read that I'd be able to come up with something! Maybe I need a gin laced brain storming session - not sure I'll come up with something otherwise. Any takers?!

Monday, 18 March 2013

Scott B Davis

Thought I'd post the link to a talk that P's best friend from New Mexico delivered last year in San Diego.  It's interesting to listen to and he speaks very well about his work and interests - maybe one day I'll get to meet him in real life!

Take a look at his work - Scott B Davis

Kate Lewis - I really like this artist's work:

Ideas in Shreds!

When thinking about moving my maps on, I began to shred some of them to work with.  Needless to say, when I did some research into artists and shredding, there doesn't seem to have been anything that's not been shredded in some way - even Michael Landy's life (I rather envy him that!).

Once again the there were so many interesting works to choose from that it was pretty difficult.  However, these are just some of the ones that particularly caught my attention.

The Map as Art

I still like my original pin and thread map, but I realised at the interim assessment that I needed to move it on, so I started looking at the map as art.  Here are some of the works that have caught my attention whilst I've been researching:

There are actually so many artists working with maps that it was difficult to choose which ones to post - I've looked at so many.  I could also have included Ingrid Calame (previous blog post here), Richard Long, Doug Beube, Maya Lin, the list goes on.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Interim Assessment

I'm a bit behind with my research and my blog, so have been doing marathon sessions to get everything up to date; means the blog will just be highlights!!

The interim assessment was certainly one of those; not because I did really well or anything, but because I managed to turn a real corner as a result of it.

Despite the lead up to it being quite nerve wracking, the assessment itself was fine.  I did ok grade wise, but it was the process of installing my work, and the feedback regarding my images that was most useful.  In terms of installing, I've got a lot to learn - it was much more difficult than I had realised (although I didn't think it would be easy, having been through it with T for her show and her recent exhibition).  I plan to use the 4th year white space to practice, and despite the fact that it scares the hell out of me, I have booked The Cell at GSA to have a wee exhibition.  I hate the thought of putting my work out there, but guess it's part and parcel of being an artist!

The feedback for my images was that they were a return to the stronger images I had been making when I first came to GSA - I think sometimes you get caught up in trying to hard and I'm still trying to keep up a more relaxed approach.  Unfortunately, the weather has been getting in the way of getting out with the camera so I still need to make more work.

For me, however, the biggest impact of the assessment process was seeing other people's work, or at least some of it.  When we go through the viewings weekly, we tend to be in the same groupings so you don't see anyone's work outside that group.  So, it came as a bit of a surprise when I saw N and ST's work in their studio.  It was really good, and interesting and well finished - everything I had been beginning to feel my work wasn't.  But most importantly, it seemed mature, much more mature than mine, made me feel mine was 'silly'.  I'd already been struggling with where to take mine, was a bit frustrated that I wasn't able to produce the kind of work I wanted, but didn't know what that was anyway!!

But, it seemed to be the kick that I needed.  I've totally changed direction and I'm really happy with the ideas and work that I've been making since.  In fact, I'm actually quite excited about some of them, so long may it continue!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Roger Palmer

One of the great advantages of being at GSA is the access you get to other artists, visiting lecturers and so on.  Last week Roger Palmer came to give a talk at the Friday Event - one that I missed due to work commitments (damn that mortgage!)  Luckily, he came back to take part in a question and answer session with students within Fine Art Photography - and it was so inspiring.

Apart from his obvious experience - despite living in Glasgow he is a Professor of Fine Art at Leeds University and was previously a lecturer at GSA, co-founding the MFA here - I was really drawn to his approach to his work.  Firstly, the majority of his images were in black and white, taken with a 35mm camera and a 50mm lens - something which you don't really see much of here.  (I did ask him if part of the reason for his success in this medium could be because of his reputation, colour is certainly seen to be much more contemporary at least at GSA).  He talked about having a system - 1 camera, 1 lens, 1 film, 1 developer, paper etc, something P has encouraged me to do and which I try although I don't think I've gotten all the elements right - yet.  He also prints the images himself and I really liked the mid-tones he creates.  His work reminded me very much of the New Topographer's work, of which I'm a big admirer.

And secondly, the way he talked about his work in a cultural context.  Despite the fact that he travels quite a bit, he stated that he's not interested in the countries or the culture within them as such, he is interested in the similarity of the spaces; he has nothing to say about [the country], but he has everything to say about photography.  This was an important point for me in terms of the work I like and look at - see my previous post.

But actually, what his talk made me really want to do was go out and take black and white photographs again!  I'm so caught up in working for this degree that going back to where I started has quite an appeal.  The idea that you also have so much more control over the whole process of your images and that you can do it all at home (at least I can/could) is quite an attractive thought at times.  I love doing this degree but it's hard work and it's made my life quite complicated; sometimes it would be nice to go back to having a simple life again!