More experiments on card


I have tried drawing the iron workers tools and forge from drawings – the tools are related to those once used in the workshops. They act a little like the animals, another form of livelihood in the times of the building. The diagramatic and codified nature of the drawings appealed to me and suggests I could continue with the cataloguing of the trades represented in the space.

forge PG

Although this is also on recycled cardboard I would like to try this on the wall as well. I want to experiment with addition of the tools in different ways. Also I like the idea of the categories and how this relates to work. The tools for example are varied and since starting this project I have realised that overall this space included work that has largely disappeared and has been replaced by a completely different means of production. It might also be good to bear in mind that in Spain the industrial revolution was far later than in Northern Europe and that rights to common land also remained longer. In many ways Spain would therefore have been viewed as backward, however, in the case of this type of work and some aspects of relationship to the land etc this could be viewed as positive.

Why site specific?

I need to reflect on why I currently find this more meaningful than placing work in a gallery. I would also like to find a meaningful way of exhibiting the work in gallery or other more accessible places. Part of this question might be down to my own preference as a viewer for visiting these spaces – The galleries nearby that I prefer to visit are the once which have been recycled in terms of function. For example the ‘matadero’ formally a slaughterhouse and the Tabacalera – the cigarette factory. But what do these spaces offer and what is missing in a typical gallery? For example both the Caixa Forum and the Tate Modern (Herzog and de Meuron recycled buildings) have lost that sense of a place and been converted into ‘gallery’ space – with the exception I think with the turbine hall and underground spaces at the Tate.

The Bankside powerstation

A major consideration for me is the fact that the work becomes a part of the place and not a separate entity. What Caroline called public art without the capitals. There is also the notion that it needs to be discovered and that it isn’t somewhere prescribed to visit. The audience is less likely to be on a prescribed art trail and is unknown to me: there is no explanation, no written text and the audience can respond by painting over it or ignoring it. It is totally outside the art world unless I document it and disseminate that documentation. We return to our debate on the asynchronous seminar about labelling and the Mary Kelly crits where the maker is not allowed to speak. If we encounter the work in this way we respond to it directly. There is no parallel discourse.

There is also the loss of the object of painting. There is no commodity, no ownership and possibly no future for the work. Arguably the work is about loss and fulfills a kind of ‘memorial function’. Now that there are other artists working there, and we could say with the graffiti artists there always were long before i arrived, the space will continue to change. There is an unknown ownership/legal status of the building.

The physical act of painting in this way is very different to working in the studio. I did make the cardboard animals on the making day and the hangings also in the studio but the act of painting directly on the wall I have found really energising and the fact that your marks are impossible to erase and the proportions difficult to control has allowed me to let go of and work in a freer way. The wall figures therefore have acquired new types of distortions and unfamiliarity.

IMG_0236This is a new one I started last Sunday.

New Additions

IMG_0002       new addtions

Today I went back to Ciempozuelos dreading that either the building might be boarded up or that my work might have been destroyed. I wasn’t so worried about some adaptation to the work – like a dialogue but if the whole thing were destroyed it would mean remaking something in order to experiment with documentation. However completely unexpectedly I found some new interventions. first the sculptural forms invading one of the windows. These are made with plaster and are like small creatures or growths. The way they are crawling either through or out of the broken window is really effective. This far wall is a real combination of works  the original graffiti alongside my painting and the sculptures – I am excited by the way all these are left to coexist in this ‘abandoned’ space.

new addtions 5:7

What I found really compelling about these new additions is that I didn’t immediately notice them. They sort of blend in with the space as I was hoping my work would. I cannot know whether I would have noticed my own paintings so quickly but I really enjoyed discovering the work. The Fabric hangings are obviously not so subtle you notice them immediately.

The second new thing took me much longer to discover. This was a lino (or wood?) cut on brown kraft paper wheat pasted on to the wall over some (random?) spraying. It therefore also made a connection to the room.

IMG_0015         new additions 5th july

As you can see there is another space or room directly behind but the authors of this work chose to use the room I had started using which is the only one in the workshops with work other than graffiti in it. Now there are 3 of us in addition to the graffiti artists. I am assuming that the work is by two different people here although obviously it could be the same person. This reminded me of a drawing exercise where you all start making an observational drawing and then after a specified time everyone moves around to the next space and continues working on their neighbor’s work. This is not the same thing as the work is independent and we appear to have established rules, for now, which is you do not put your work on top of anyone else’s work. I wonder if anyone else has met anyone else or if we are all completely anonymous. I find this unknowness of the authors very appealing as it means the work is the work. It reminds me of the Mary Kelly crits where the maker is not allowed to speak.

the otherness of history

Whilst in Andalucia I decided to experiment with layering and distancing groups of people using the portraits of the workers from Ciempozuelos. I did this on A3 paper and am intrigued by the images I made. This idea of the photographic portrait is something I wrote about in my essay – the idea that history only exists through it’s representations and more specifically i wanted to make visible ‘the glass wall that separates us from it’. I also came across a piece about photographic images of people when re-reading ‘The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction’, and how ‘cultic value’ of the image in some way survives in the photographic portrait.

blue one       blue comp

In Benjamin’s view here is where we can catch a last glimpse of aura.

red 1   red comp

I want to continue experimenting in as free a way as possible with layering.

Once I have documented the space in Ciempozuelos I want to try painting over that work in a similar way. I will start by trying on fabrics as well as on paper. The fabrics already have layers but of other people.

Feedback tutorial with Caroline 1st July

This was a 15 minute feedback on the recent grades for MA1. I chose to go ahead with this even though I was away and ‘met’ Caroline in a bar with wifi as I had a few questions. It was really helpful and these are the main points:

  • I need to work on documentation, the photographic images are not enough to transmit the idea of the work or to show the context. We talked about video and sound recordings as I am not very passionate about maps and diagrams (although I could include). I still intend to document the project, Caroline suggested I try a variety of ways, I just ran out of time until now. She also suggested including documentation of the audience.
  • I need to think about what I am doing more deeply. This feedback was more specific than I realised which makes it much easier to focus on and respond. It is about the decision to go out and work in a ‘public space’ I feel very clear about it but I need to know why. I need to reflect on the way the work is likely to be seen and how the audience encounters or views it. This might also help me with documenting the project. I can also approach this from a new angle. I no longer feel motivated to paint on a canvas or produce an object of a painting – so I need to sustain the alternative.
  • I have been reading about labour history as I identified work as a prime interest. I am concerned that my work is not backward looking and that it investigates what work is now. However, the abandoned sites lead me to read historical documents and I am aware of the backward looking nature of this process. I feel this is necessary for now and I need to understand the history of work (especially as it is quite different locally) in order to extract meaning for the present. I talked to Caroline about my ongoing difficulty with using the term ‘workers’. She said it felt like a meaningless production line type experience. Nowadays we would tend to use ’employees’. ‘staff’ or specific job titles: teacher, waiter, etc

Caroline’s feedback will now help me to plan the next few weeks.

Reading – Seven Days in the Art World

Back to reading I chose to catch up with this book suggested for last year and which I never got round to. I have really enjoyed reading something light but informative and yes it has given me things to think over too. One of the main things being to what extent would I wish to be any part of some aspects of the art world whilst observing that there were artists in every section of the book however misplaced they might have appeared. I think that this reflection will help me think more about where I do fit in.

The Auction:  Having read the other ‘easy reading’ book from the list, the X million dollar shark, this chapter was less of a novelty. I know they exist I sort of get the system and extremely unlikely to ever visit an auction house. I am glad I know about this but don’t think artists need to be anymore than aware.

The Crit: This was the most familiar scene of all the chapters as even if crits vary the scene has something in common with my life. I sort of wished I had more opportunity to share stuff in a serious way, the Paul Asher time frame was amazing. I lead crits for my students so it made me think about the different ways of approaching this – although we have such a limited amount of time allotted. Mary Kelly’s crit philosophy was really appealing – based on the artwork. The student presenting the artwork was not allowed to speak – the work has to produce the discourse and students need to learn to read the work not the wall text. I really like that idea. I would love to go to a crit with her.

The Fair: This is where I started to build up a vision of artworld people on planes traveling around the world and continually bumping into each other. My only experience of fairs are ARCO and Frieze. I preferred Frieze because it was in the park and not on the edge of the city. Nevertheless I found both bad for looking at art, which is obviously not the main point of the event but the reason I was there. In fact many artists are there also to be there and this is something I struggle to understand.

The Prize: Based on the 2006 Turner Prize showed the almost absurd problem of comparing or judging different types of work. It felt like a music prize where each piece was a different music genre such as opera vs rock vs rap. There was little relief in knowing that the prize would go to a painter. It was interesting how the majority of artists took time deciding whether to accept the nomination and the nomination seemed more important than the prize in some ways. As artists we really want recognition but the type of recognition is really important also we need to know that what we are doing is ok by us. Although this section was about the artists (and the judging) it wasn’t easy to identify with them.

The Magazine:  This section was the least engaging for me although there were some interesting interviews with critics such as Roberta Smith and Jerry Saltz. It also raised the question about reading press on paper. It seems there was a big difference between the content of ArtForum online and in print. Is this still the case. I never got on well with newspapers or journals physically so I am used to reading online. But I am now questioning the content. I really dread the idea of returning to paper journals as I rarely read any. I was impressed by the random interview with Thomas Crow too.

The Studio Visit: This involved a day (or two) with Takahashi Murakami in Japan with an entourage of gallerists and curators and other artworld people. They were preparing an exhibition which I saw in the Guggenheim later on and I think this coloured my reading a lot. It really helped me to visualise the whole experience. I did not interestingly enough remember the ‘key’ piece – the oval budha. Murakami comes across as relatively supportive if strict with the people he hires – allowing and possibly encouraging them to develop their own careers. The production process is probably exactly what we would expect knowing about his work and having seen the exhibition it was no surprise. However I don’t think that the majority of artists have this experience so i wonder if he was a great choice. I found it hard to relate to him and in spite of his success in no way envy his lifestyle or process. I more envied the worker who had run out of q tips when it was dusty as he was in direct contact with materials. I realised that I don’t see the point of all the rest unless you can make it. I need the contact with materials. I do nevertheless have a strong memory of the exhibition as a sensual experience and especially of colour. Maybe this is why I cannot remember Oval.


The Biennale:  This chapter put me off the biennale completely. By the end of the book I disliked the art world more than ever and was set on rethinking my relation to it. I questioned why the exhibitions chosen were so big and such uncomfortable places to look at art. The art fair is a shop (or mall); the biennale a circus. I felt glad I went to Venice when the Biennale wasn’t on as there were already too many people around for me in such a beautiful location. The best interviewee was Iwona Blazwick from the Whitechapel in East London. I really liked her idea of artist’s making the pavilions into worlds in their own right. This meant risk taking: not just showing the work you were chosen for but meant using the occasion for a project. On the other hand there was the Italian artists Vezzoli who had given up his house and studio for a nomadic lifestyle and felt the need to keep up to date with the audiences for art – the ones who went to all the fairs and biennales and galleries around the world. I wondered when and where he made work? didn’t he need to stop and think and make? I truly realised this is not me. I preferred the very honest account of Blazwick who admitted “you skim across the art” although she obviously prepared, she had nearly missed a piece in the Hungarian pavilion but had luckily returned to discover it. As a person who likes to spend time looking and being with art in small quantities at a time, I really don’t think the Biennale is for me.

Chapters: Thornton describes her methodology as between sociology and art history – which she studied but calls herself an ethnographer in relation to the research for the book. She claims to have started out as an outsider. Her choice of 7 chapters is appropriate given her remit and she remained sympathetic to a range of conflicting interests including that of the artists.

Conclusions: The book is an excellent summer read as its very easy but it also raises important issues for us as artists. For me specifically the issue of discipline which has been striking me across the head from all angles for years. To get stuff done that no one really wants you to do you have to be disciplined. I am pretty hard working but also full of fear which has always held me back. The lifestle many of the protagonists of the book have is definitely not for me. I recognised a part of me in the Murakami / Adler no need for a living room scenario but I also have a need to live somewhere and I don’t like traveling much. I love Madrid to live in but the art scene is not good so I often come back to the idea of moving – but where to? Where can I afford to live and where can I speak the language? I was very struck by the Fortnum paper on the artist studio and I feel this really important.  I also need to be alone when I work and I need to make things at some point of the process.

Next – Ways of Looking by Ossian Ward arrived yesterday



Walid Raad denied entry to UAE

walid Raad This is an old post I forgot about during the last hectic month. At this point 3 members of gulf labor (raad was the third) had been turned away from entering the UAE. Gulf Labour protest about how the gulf states use and treat immigrant laborers to build these museum franchises. I have 2 interests in this. The obvious labour issues involved and the franchises themselves. I have heard that they are making new franchise style museums in London at the Olympic site and I ask how this functions? I welcome new art spaces especially in areas where there might not have been these opportunities to see art. It also brings more tourism – in Spain too we have the Guggenheim in Bilbao and now the Centro Pompidou in Málaga – here a different type of tourism. But why do they have to be the same few businesses controlling all the spaces? The fact that the Louvre and the Guggenheim are mere brands who are happy to take the UAE money makes me all the more suspicious.


Nearly the end of Term

I realised that at the end of term – ie when I can become a full time artist this blog doesnt exist (no July and August) so I am starting to collect reading material and plan for July and August’s reading and making. With only 4 more teaching days this year I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I will also try to negotiate some public space in which to make work at the beginning of the year, in addition to reading and experimenting. This month has been lost to catchup at teaching job so far but I am beginning to feel the mental space to reflect on which way I am going. One of the first things that I realised was that although I want to continue drawing and do some printmaking in paper, I am not drawn to continue painting on canvas for now. This is a big shift for me as I have been making ‘paintings’ on canvas or board: objects. As I travel around, especially on the local trains I see potential sites everywhere so I think I will start July in this way with a balance of academic reading/ material investigation and local research.

I am collecting a variety of papers and articles to read and websites such as this one which I find potentially very exciting.

And now I am ordering the books from the reading list.