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.

Site presentation – 26th October 2015

Site 26th October

I chose to reflect on site using my own work as a starting point as it raises many questions about site.

Slide 1 contains 3 images:

  1. a work made in the studio which was shown in 2 shows in London
  2. a work made in the studio for a specific site in response to that site
  3. work made in site as a response to the site

The audience for this work is very different. Galleries in the centre of London have a specific public and many more people see this work. In both cases with other people’s work. The site specific work was seen by an anonymous audience which included other artists in the end. The experience both as artist and audience is really different. One goes deliberately to see the art the other stumbles across it and encounters it. In the case of the 3rd image i felt I had to complete this in one go.

Slide 2  More about making work in the site and collaboration with public

This is a project called the Red Shoes collective which is led by Elina Chauvet. The project started in an attempt to about make invisible the violent deaths of young women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and has continued around the world. The public are involved in making (painting)and donating (bringing) shoes. The idea is that the issue was being ignored and that it is a complex issue for the whole of society.Elina Chauvet

Slide 3 This illustrates the display of this in sites around the world – it makes the issue very visible.

However very few people see the actual work. I for one have only seen it online, as is the case with most artwork. We see artwork everyday online – the internet is the main site for artwork whether we like it or not. We simply would not be aware of what is happening in art globally without it. I believe the best way to see work, of any type is by direct experience but I am glad I am aware of many other things too.

Slide 4 This is an example of a related web based project ‘Sleeping Beauties’ which was started in 2007 as a response to the number of women killed in acts of domestic violence in Spain. The artist or facilitator has made stickers and anyone can collaborate by asking for a sticker and documenting what they do with it. All the responses are posted on the website and occasionally there have been exhibitions of this documentation. These have been sited locally in community centres in general. sleeping beauties

Slide 5  The Tate Modern Gift shop – how many people just go to museum gift shops. I question this because a friend recently went to Vienna with a work colleague who didn’t want to go to the museums but just to shop in the gift shop. Since Walter Benjamin acknowledged the widening public of consuming art in the ‘Age of Reproduction’ this has been taken into a whole new level. Are mouse mats sites for art? I am questioning whether commodities could be considered sites.

Slide 6 Benjamin also looked historically at the previous inseparability of art from magic and ritual and traced art back to a time when its visibility was not so important. He cites veiled virgins rarely seen and cave paintings not aimed at visibility as visual art which was not made to be seen. This magic and ritual purpose of art is seen as being from the past, however artists do make non visible work. I used Santiago Sierra’s 100 hidden individuals as an example of this. I wanted to make th distinction between invisible and nonvisible. The site being a hidden location rather than a sound installation in a gallery for example.

Slide 7 Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty used as an example of something that was always very difficult to see.

Slide 8 The house of Hreinn Fridfinnsson (1974) sited in remote Icelandic crater an almost impossible place to visit. The house is inside out and he followed it by 2 others, the second in France was inside out therefore the usual way round and the third is a mere structure. We know of this work through documentation.

Slide 9 shows a close up of the house and the book which accompanies them.

Slide 10 Back to my own work and the Tabacalera exhibition in a cigarette factory – I was very happy with this exhibition at the time but now I can see a disconnect between the site and the work. It is an historical building but my work does not respond to its history.

Slide 11 This is a proposal which redressed the balance. The site was local housing from the time of the cigarette factory which is now used by one of Madrid’s universities as a cultural center. The proposal is to use the local history with in the site. For now it is just a virtual proposal on my webpage.

Slide 12 The final 2 slides are about resiting and this is about my taking or stealing objects from one setting and placing them in another. I am interested in how specific objects become placed in museums and how this is decided. These 2 cans are from the 2011 London riots and my 2015 exploratory project site close to Madrid. They are common but have very different stories.

Slide 13 makes me an art thief these plaster forms were placed in the window next to the 3rd painting on slide 3. I stole one. The objects on slides 12 and 13 are currently in my studio I am unsure of what I will do with them.


John Ahern in Artspace

I first saw this artist in the Art and Today book by Eleanor Heartney which we read last year. I particularly liked the community project the and so was pleased to come across him again in this article. I am not sure about the work in the gallery space. I also wonder about the community project basis of all this. I thought the figures were painted with the local bronx residents.john-ahearn-double-dutch     john-ahearn-kids-on-dawson-street From his website

Although his work is portraiture and mine is anonymous we have the unfashionable ‘class’ issue in common. Robinson picks up on this as being unusual subject matter and remarks that -….Ahearn’s portraits depict ordinary poor people, at ordinary size, but they are given a certain nobility all the same…..(Robinson, W)

This reminds me of my insistence about the slightly larger than life size scale and the idea of remembering the workers as history paintings (in my blog last year). I have since tempered my use of the old fashioned ‘ the workers’ and, after reading Owen Jones’s ‘Chavs’ I realize more clearly  how this sounds to British people now. I suppose I was brought up to feel pride of working class roots and missed out on the blame the poor culture. I am not sure how I feel about working class pride now or Robinson’s ‘certain nobility’ either – however I somehow still prefer pride to nostalgia or sentimentality.

fabric hung in studio

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I took the muslin off the stretchers and hung it – how it looks depends on how it is lit.


so now I am going to be experimenting with thinner washes for the first layer emulating water colours but thin acryics on canvas. I am not sure how dark to go or whether to add other colours.

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Experimentation with Muslin

As I decided earlier this month I tried stretching the muslin when wet before painting on it. This worked well. I also tried smaller and less consistent mark making with gaps as we have in our memories allowing some things (at random to remain more visible). This becomes a long process which you become lost in – you need to think about it and stand at the other end of the studio every so often but much of the time it becomes quite automatic. It felt meaningless to stop after every mark and I believe that I would lose something else if I did so. However, maybe that is my instinctive way of working – and now I am asking myself if I am making authentic marks (Cox).

I also need to try other types of mark making but think I shall try initially on smaller pieces of canvas and muslin (other cloth?). However I still feel so far that the paper worked better it’s just the scale and flexibility of display. I like way cloth moves and how it becomes a light 3D presence.

The Process

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This was the starting point and I questioned how much I had made the wash layer too vague and obscured given that I was always intending to obscure the clarity of the features etc. I had worked from a painting I have in the studio which meant I had already eliminated some characters from the narrative. Maybe for this work I need to start with all there and then obscure.

I also question the overlays of wash – there need to be more or less.

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In some cases therefore there is nothing to peer into and see in the 3D world behind. if you are looking and searching you find nothing but a sihouette. I wonder how that works with an audience. I also wonder what they would be looking for. I also need to think more about colour, composition and display.

blog 7 This is how it was still on the stretchers in the studio.

I also realise that for the present i really wanted to look more at perspective and the working environment in the wash layer – this is too flat and lacks depth for the purpose of current aims.

Intersections and Articulations – 3

Alexa Cox

MA graduate Alexa Cox talked about her drawing and painting practice. She works on different supports all the time she also makes paintings in series and is interested in memory and story telling. She positions herself alongside painters: such as Peter Doig in his use of narrative and use of paint and Paula Rego for her storytelling and references to litterary figures. Also photographer Francesca Woodman and especially how she addd drawing to her photos and contact sheets.

She sees drawing as an integral part of her research and loves the lack of pressure to complete the work. Cox also combines reading widely with writing, making mind maps and venn diagrams have allowed her to identify and focus on key areas in her practice.

She reads widely and whilst she likes art theory her work is often informed more by other disciplines. For example, Tim Ingold’s writing about gesture and storytelling has been very influential – He talks about how narrative meanders and does not go directly from point to point. This Cox sees as a metaphor for how you discover new things and a constant learning within practice. She believes its important to not have a clear idea about a specific outcome. This attitude has allowed her to break up her working habits being prepared to try something in a different way.

I found the idea of the tracing of a movement really interesting and this is all about studio based research practice. She aimed to capture the potential energy of a truly gestural mark. In the studio she experimented with capturing a truly gestural mark – this was done through painting and questioning whether we can trust that the marks are genuine. She wanted to know if she had produced an authentic line and asked whether the view could know and how would they know.

She has chosen to reduce her colour palette in order to focus on composition and the traces. Cox is also excited by the framing of the compositions and where a narrative should end. She questions whether a viewer can go from one composition to the next and also plays with the figure disappearing and emerging. This was helped by research into Francis Bacon. Cox now plans to reduce the size of the her work, mainly for practical reasons and to work on spills,stains, treads and traces.

I enjoyed listening to an artist using similar materials to me, I am not comfortable with the term painter. This lecture in many ways was less relevant – but interesting – to my reading and theoretical research and more relevant to my studio practice. Many things are common issues, for example, the pressure of having to complete something, working in a variety of formats and materials, thinking of framing. These might raise different problems for me to solve. Such as working directly on a wall in a site specific way, however they are similar concerns. I have also been thinking a lot about the balance between reading/making and how reading heavy it feels at the moment. However, I don’t go into the making blank, I try to stay open and ask questions but I do want to have some aims. The biggest aim for me at the moment is about surface and obscuring the past without removing it. I also have, in common with Cox, many questions about ‘framing’ and then therefore display.

Intersections and Articulations – 2

Helen Paris of Curious

Paris is part of Artsadmin’s ‘Curious’ (with Leslie Hill) and she explained to us the importance of research and her passion for live art and working in close interactions with small groups in site specific performances. All of their projects start with questions.

‘On the scent’ is a project about memory and smell. In this case collaborating with biological scientists and over a long period of time. They obviously both scientists and artists started off with many questions and often these came to be shared as did some of their processes. One of the main differences is that artists have less of a sense of outcome, we do not know where we are going with the project. One of the biggest questions was how they would be able to contain the different smells in a live performance. This was solved through using domestic housing. The performances were given in rooms with closed doors in order to limit the risk of the smells escaping or mixing. Performers gave their interpretation and memories of the smells and at the end of the audience’s visit they were asked about their own memories. The performances were held in various houses and all of the audience experience was recorded in archives.

‘Essences of London’ is a video which relates to the project and forms a map of London through people who work in smelly environments such as flower or fish markets or with the garbage. The interviews form a type of portrait of London through smell.

Paris is passionate about the element contact and communication that live art allows and this is a very compelling argument for live art. In a world where much of our communication is virtual this type of up close, direct experience with strangers has a new place. How would this work in a predigital world or in smaller communities? I also wonder if artists making objects in studios are doing this partially because they love making and also because we don’t want that contact – I also believe it is about shunning words in my case in allowing the work to be received without words at least initially. I also wonder about the archive. I think I understand the ideas about contact and communication element of live art and the archive appears to sit somewhere at the opposite end of the spectrum of interaction. I think this type of archive is as valid as any other but seriously doubt the intimacy of the connections it could provide. What then does it provide – or do archives provide in general?  Are they created partly to justify what is already a fascinating piece of research because it is ephemeral?

The artwork itself as research is very compelling.I also find the idea of archives interesting. The archive is something we use but feels very different from this upclose and intimate experience often missing in contemporary life.

Intersections and Articulations

Annabel Dover  – Cyanotypes

This was a short lecture about research in relation to her work by artist and lecturer Annabel Dover whose research for her PhD has been about investigating the cyanotypes of Anna Atkins.

Dover starts by describing visiting a PhD show by students at Chelsea and feeling that the work was very much an illustration of the theoretical research or that it was too literally describing it. She feels that the work then tends to lack life. Her approach is more to intertwine the research practice and research theory throughout the process and aims at interweaving the theory rather than illustrating it. (Kristeva)

Anna Atkins used the method of cyanotype photograms discovered by John Herschel. She has been labelled an amateur, photographer and botanist and it is suggested she did not even take herself that seriously. She would not have been allowed as a woman to join the Royal Society to whom she gave a copy of her book of cyanotypes as a present as an enthusiast. What Dover has discovered through her own practice of the cyanotype is that Atkins’s photograms are contrived and that they are not simply flowers or algae placed on the cyanotypes but they have been collaged and ‘composed’. She discovered they are far more than naive, innocent images but in fact are faked or idealised images, possibly combining specimens.Atkins must have been aware of this when she humbly presented her books.

The practice of cyanotypes was typically a female and children’s activity in the 18500s although later it became the blue print in male dominated work such as engineering. Atkins cyanotypes were not considered art at the time and were label either photographs or plants or facsimiles and have more recently been seen as a type of naive or outsider art.

Dover’s own cyanotype images are also faked using drawings as the original (not an actual object) she has used her step father’s sock. As it is on display also as a genuine object in the Imperial War Museum – museums adding authority. This is current use of everyday object are seen as a catalyst for us all to draw out stories. Dover’s work also revolves around stories and the objects relate to narratives from her own life

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The idea of the object which in this case represents a sock belonging to her step-father who had his leg blown off in WW2 as telling a story is fundamental. In other cases she has used objects which have been stripped of their narratives and aura – objects in abandoned buildings for example. Although these have been domestic this strikes a chord with my collections of objects for which I have invented stories.

Further in relation to my own practice – Annabel Dover’s focus on fakes and questioning the authority of the museum or archive I find fascinating. It also made me think of what Caroline Wright (my tutor) did with decomissioned museum objects. In a way I am interested in examining this question from the opposite angle. The possible inclusion of ignored objects in museum collections. In other words taking the debris of the past as an historical text. This feels like a way into my working in gallery spaces in conjunction with site specific work as it directly questions what is there and why…