Tutorial Michele Whiting November 6th

My tutorial with Michele Whiting was exceptionally useful and has really helped me to focus on methodology and to return to my relationship with painting and help to redefine that.

I was feeling quite disorientated at this point. That was mainly owing to the ‘irregular adoptions’ research for a project that would start in Sept. 2016 but which required a lot of work and I had to work on the proposal with an historian from Leeds University. The proposal has gone off now but it meant looking at a very complex issue and trying to locate that within the bigger context of 20th century historical memory. Michele suggested I could start work on this project now and in actual fact I have continued the reading, listening and watching but tried to keep it as an issue that is, for the present, separate from my studio practice.


An important part of the proposal however, was identifying how I would work on it and to give an idea of my working methodology and this was something really important from my tutorial. I really want to work on this now through identified sites. Michele stressed the importance of identifying a working methodology, sticking to it and being prepared to discard it. This sounds a little like a studio experiment. It is also reassuring for me in a way. Here it was crucial that she gave me advice about how some artists respond to site and alternative research methods.

She also make me reflect on how I gather research information. I have used photography, the internet, local archives and oral history. Michele suggested using drawing which really feels right. She also suggested video, which I prefer to photography as I feel more confident about using it but for some reason only used at the end of the projects, and drawing which is so obvious and much more appropriate for me. It also means if I go with other people to the sites they will be obliged to draw too. Video adds sound and observational drawing connects it immediately to my practice. She emphasised sound and suggested recording oral histories as well as the sound of the site via video.

Traditions of painting and site specificity

As Michele pointed out site specific and responsive work is not new for artists using paint: the impressionists did it as a response to the invention of ready mixed paint. I felt much less concerned about the work being displayed in the site and the possibilities of it being shown elsewhere after our tutorial. I also feel much less burdened with the cultural baggage of painting – being a very unfashionable practice at the moment especially in Spain and on the other hand having too much of a legacy for one person to deal with. I also do not feel that I will always respond using paint and therefore uncomfortable with the label painter.

Reading and looking

Kwon,Miwon, 2002 One Place After Another. Site Specific Art and Locational Identity, MIT

Terra Infirma, Irit Rogoff,

For Space, Doreen Massey

Visualising Research, Grey and Mallins

Ergin Cavusoglu

David Ben White

Poussin, Spanish History Painters

Francis Alys

Nancy Spero

Artes Mundi competition artists

tutorial report

Work – how it has changed in the UK

I have written before about my interest in work and decided I should know more about how this is changing in the UK as most of my research has been about Spain. I know from growing up in England that the Industrial Revolution was far earlier than in Spain and that Spain claims to never have become as indistrialised as Northern Europe. I lived in England until the early ninties and was aware that much of industry had been destoyed during the 1980s. I remember the miner’s strike well and I was aware of the gradual loss of power of the trades unions. My grandfather was a NUR union member and I realised that the unions of the 1960s and 70s could be sexist and racist – my mother argued with her father’s work colleagues over equal pay for example. Perhaps what I hadn’t realised was how much the perception of the working class has changed and how much this contributes to the current climate in the UK.

The main changes are summed up really well in chapter 5 of Owen Jones’s ‘Chavs’ titled ‘We’re all middle class now’. Whereas I had been focusing on the industrialisation as the problem of loss of traditional craft, Jones is critical of the loss of the industrial communities such as the mines or the car factories etc. These communities basically ‘died’ during the Thatcher era or soon after. What replaced these mainly male jobs were largely part time, poorly paid, unskilled, short term contracts in services such as hotels, clerical work, call centers – also there became more work for women but only on the minimum wage or below and under poor contractual conditions. A lot of this sounds like Spain.

Perhaps the most shocking thing for me was reading about the ‘Demonization of the Working Class’ something I had not realised having missed out on the popular culture of England and the stereotypes. I was brought up with working class pride from my grandparents and parents and I felt slightly bad about leaving it all behind – I didn’t realise that it had disappeared anyway.


Owen Jones, 2011. Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class. 0 Edition. Verso.

ON THEIR OWN – BRITAIN’S CHILD MIGRANTS at the Museum of Childhood

Passing through London I also encountered this exhibition by the V&A at the Museum of Childhood. The subject matter allowed me to see some parallels and differences with the situation in Spain and also why Britain would consider funding the research in Spain. I was aware that this had also been an issue in the UK through the film ‘Oranges and Sunshine’ an 2010 film which my daughter had been to see and she had told me about. However, although I thought it interesting I had never read about it so much until the recent project about Spain’s irregular adoptions had emerged. The exhibition was very useful for me. It showed films, audio recordings, maps and documents from the time and ended with some very upsetting tales of abuse.

The obvious parallel is the state taking charge of children with a ‘philanthropic’ ideology and how this affected especially working class or poorer families. One seemingly different aspect of this is that the children were not adopted but sent to work in children’s homes and institutions in some of which they were abused. Siblings also became separated. The commonwealth is obviously a backdrop to the British case and Spain in its fascist isolation was inward looking. Although many of the adopted children in Spain were brought up under an extreme right wing ideology which is totally opposed to that of their birth parents in many cases, they were generally relatively well cared for and taken from children’s homes and institutions and into families. The scandal is that they were also taken forcibly from ‘unfit’ mothers including republicans in concentration camps at the beginning and then later on from single parents and poor families. I have read accounts of adopted children who, whilst looking for birth parents, acknowledge that their adoptive parents had actually cared for them lovingly. The way in which they were adopted and reasons for their adoptions are the scandal. The extent to which the adoptive parents understood the stories behind the adoptions is also relatively unclear. They wanted the children and maybe were prepared to believe the birth mothers had given them up willingly. Others obviously knew and believed these women were unfit and understood the way in which the church and state were working together to seize children whilst lying to their birth parents.

The parallels with class and the philanthropists Barnardos and the Catholic church are part of a wider trend going beyond Spain and the UK. I still have a lot to learn about the Spanish cases but I want to visit some of the sites here in Madrid.



the red shoes

Red Shoes you tube subtitles in English

I have been looking at this project which I found when I was researching site for the presentations. It interests me because it involves a lot of elements which I would like to work with. The collaborations of the community, reusing existing materials, making the work in the site where it will be displayed and the participation of the public and their involvement.


The people donate, paint and display the shoes together.


The shoes have now been displayed around the world.


The shoe was chosen for a variety of reasons, obviously they represent the absence of the women but also many victims have been identified by their shoes.

Breaking News – Michael Landy

I was actually looking for another gallery in Hackney during half term break when I stumbled across Michael Landy’s breaking news in his Studio/Gallery. The show is comprised of one space filled with hundreds of red and white images which range from tabloid headlines to transcriptions of artwork such as Picasso’s Guernica or signs and symbols. They are made on scraps of card which are painted in white and cadmium red and cut/torn away. close up the surface is really interesting. Inside the installation they are quite overwhelming all together crammed in. They represent the inside of his head, an accumulation of experiences and influences.

He says: ‘It’s a combination of disparate elements from the world, a bit like looking at the papers but also borrowing from 25 years of my career—all the references intermingle’

I knew of Landy for destroying all his possessions in 2001 an artwork which impressed and astounded me when I was living in London – this is also impressive and worth spending time in.


Michael Landy: Breaking News, Michael Landy Studio, 60-62 Vyner Street, London E2 9DQ.

Rob Smith Lecture 9th November

This lecture was very interesting as it looked at two elements of contemporary art practice in particular which interest me a lot from a very fresh perspective.

First Smith introduced his interest in the not human world and our human connections to it. He is interested how the human/not human is blurred that we are made up of elements that are non human.

The two elements that really interested me were the importance of collaboration in contemporary practice and the use of multiple sites in his work. Looking back at Rosalind Krauss’s ‘Sculpture in the Expanded Field’ Rob started by explaining the need of understanding these process in modernism to relate to where we are now. With Kraus sculpture was freed from location. He feels that ‘Now site is the point of reception’ and that site location has expanded itself. We looked at various examples of how this has happened.

Looking at Robert Smithson, Smith used the example of the Chalk Mirror Displacement 1969. This was originally made site specifically in Oxted York, according to the 1981 book about Smithson’s sculpture. However, this was also shown in galleries such as the John Hansard Gallery 2013, using the original material. Later on Smith in collaboration with Charles Danby and using mirrors to recreate the multiple images, went in search of the original site and made a piece of work entitled ‘The Quarry’2014 documenting their journey for the original site which turned out to be in Surrey not Yorkshire. They used split screen video and also made an installation in galleries.

Another example is ‘Field Broadcast’ which is a group project of a type known as ‘screen interruptions’. This is a web based project in which the computer screen in the site as point of reception has been a collaboration since 2010 with Rebecca Birch. The interruptions are based on live streaming as opposed to a screened video. For example ‘Scene on a navigable river’ 2014 is based on the sites of Constable paintings made en plein air in the Essex/suffolk area. This land now owned by the National Trust England is preserved to imitate the paintings. Smith records the artist Florence Peake painting in real time this is broadcast via the web.

Smith is insistent on the relationship we humans have with non humans. He quotes Timothy Morton and his writings on interconnectedness with non humans and sees this as flat ontology again how we normally divide up material objects and the human. Individual practice always involves non live elements and he cites Katie Paterson sending moonrock around the world anticlockwise (using our human delivery networks) to mimic the orbit of the moon.

In relation to collaboration this was really interesting as it seemed very random. Smith did point to the way in which contemporary art making now always involves a range of roles: artist/curator/technician/ fundraiser etc…He therefore believes we have to be collaborators and I am keen to do this but in a meaningful way and especially collaborating with artists or other disciplines in projects where you have an overlap of concerns in your work. We did an exercise where we were given an image of a fruit bowl at random and we had to do something electronic so we quickly photographed our own fruit bowl complete with nonfruits and Rob put it together for us. This was light relief and as Smith says it could lead to much more. However, I would feel more motivated to work on specific project rather than names out of a hat. I don’t share that excitement of who will I get to work with unfortunately, I see the possibility of collaboration through the work. Nevertheless Smith’s project, which Caroline Wright was also part of worked well between 2 artist studios in the UK where they made work in response to each other’s practice. I can see how curatorially this might make open studios link more, however I feel that the variety of open studios is also part of its value.

To wrap up Smith left us with a project which meshed science and art, The Hyperdrone which was produced through the Office of Experiments. Interested in the Geopolitical nature of geological substances in the earth such as those from the industrial revolution and the atomic bombs of Hiroshima, this impressive piece of equipment captures the earths’ sound waves and the accompanying video is really quite disturbing.The HyperDrone is ‘an instrument that generates acoustic waves taken from the data generated by seismic sensors across the surface of the entire globe’.

video Hyperdrone

Making Day 14th November

Background: I have been reading a lot about the irregular adoptions in Spain in the 20th Century and a significant current topic is that many people are looking for their birth families. There are many people taking DNA samples and trying to track their relatives. This raises many questions of identity, not to mention why some people were seen as unfit for parenting. I have not investigated this topic in the studio at all yet. In our tutorial Michele Whiting suggested that maybe I should explore these issues independently now rather than waiting to see if this project is approved and funded.

Objectives: as a continuation of my recent work in the studio I want to focus on visibility or transparency of not being able to see clearly (possibly unless you get really close or look from a certain angle). I am unsure whether to give maybe a glimpse of identity in my subjects. I want to work on muslin again and using thin paint. I will try life size as this feels a good idea. I might also try some other supports: thin paper or furnishing fabrics (the idea of home) I would love to try on mattresses but don’t have any or much space for them right now either.

If this does not work out I will return to developing the idea of polyptychs and physically separating families (in the past i have separated couples and communities and interestingly did some quite unsuccessful drawings and paintings of mothers and children).


making day 1

It too me a long time to stretch the muslin and as it is transparent I had to move the stretcher to a plain wall  – although I liked the see through to the mind map I found it difficult to paint and photograph. When painting on the wet fabric it bleeds a lot – so it depended a lot on what I was wanting to happen – some times this worked, other times it did not. I was more worried about how this first layer would look as I had to present it to the group. In fact much of it will be obliterated by thicker paint (and time). I like the mixture of lines and stains which bleed into the fabric. My problem now is how to conclude this first layer and then work on top.

making day 3    making day 6    making day 7

details, some of which are working quite well and most of which will disappear or be radically changed in the next layer.

last one

This is how the fabric was at the time of the presentation to the group. Still unresolved but raises lots of questions.


Caroline asked me about the importance of the transparency and she also mentioned how lighting could be considered. I realised the transparency is important however I did abandon muslin in the Ciempozuelos space as it was too transparent. The invisibility of the past is important but it needs a presence. In the studio it always looked better so site and display are really important. We also talked about the wrinkles which most thought were part of the nature of the fabric so could be part of display (they are a problem for making).

Mathew suggested wrapping them around large 3d objects –  and the objects related to the subject of the image – domestic objects are the first that spring to mind – furniture or some way of representing domestic space (I am reading Bachelard again so I this seems infinite at the moment). He said I could put a light inside the 3d objects to make the most of the transparent fabric.
 I like this idea of the invisible made visible with light (I think that was Rob who also suggested I could coat it with something to make it rigid afterwards which I also really would like to experiment with – maybe the fabric could become the object like a cast.
Máire suggested using an iridescent paint so now I need to finish painting and try some experiments with chemicals. All this is about revealing the past. Making the invisible visible whilst acknowledging its subjectivity.
I had thought of pasting onto the wall but with transparent glue – unlike wheat pasting. Caroline also suggested painting on the wall through the fabric. This would need setting up in a different way but could be really interesting. I realised also that this was the first time I had used the really thin acrylic upright – the previous occasions I had worked flat on the floor. Maybe I have learnt how to control this better now and that would allow me to work through onto a wall. I also had the feedback that it was shroud like (Caroline I think). This reminded me of Michele Whiting’s comment that my works were like traces. These are really interesting ways into it. I think there are various next steps.
  • I need to conclude the painting stage
  • I will experiment with light, chemicals and 3Ddisplay
  • I need to write some research questions which is proving harder than I thought.