Printing surfaces

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I have been printmaking quite a lot recently and realised that I really like the lino blocks even after they are ‘suicided’. I have therefore started photographing the blocks and also some collographs I have made – mainly for demonstrations. I think I like these as much as the prints as objects. In some cases more. I need to think about why this is, possibly about the direct physical relationship with them as opposed to the distance from printing.

We are Connected

We are making an online exhibition as a cohort about our practices and how they connect. This process has been managed by Les Bicknell and been ongoing since October and Mathew Aldred has done most of the work around setting up the site and making it work.I realized that I hadn’t made any entries about this project although I have actually spent quite a lot of time on it. It has been a mixed experience so far, quite a lot of technical difficulties and but also some rewarding conversations.

The concept of the site/exhibition is how we connect with each other and, I think, prepare us for working together physically through a virtual negotiation. We also chose to focus on our process rather than on final artworks. I have had problems with editing videos and them remaining huge – technical issues which I am interested in solving. This is where I am at the moment, later today we have a meeting about what we will put on the site.

Susan Miller

I had a great hangout with Sue in which we talked about too many things and agreed to edit most of them out as no one was going to listen to us chatting for an hour. The most fascinating for me were her distinction between painting and drawing and how she has been exploring drawing after already being a painter. She thought she couldn’t draw. This is a revolutionary idea for me as I see painting as an extension of drawing and drawing underpinning everything (yes everything). Part of this is educational: Sue did not come up through the foundation course BA system.. still I doubted I could paint but always thought I could draw. In fact I really think everyone can draw and everyone can channel it in different ways – but more about drawing as a way of knowing the world in another place. I also loved our awe of intuition and how hard we find it to explain many of our choices in any other way, especially in relation to colour. I believe that however much you try to explain there will always be a large dose of intuition however knowing that intuition might be.

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The technical problems were many though and the program I downloaded to record the hangout didn’t work – or rather I did not know how to use it so the only recording we have is a video I had positioned on the screen. The sound and image are therefore rather authentic, as they sometimes are on a Monday evening. I  am reluctant to rerecord as there are some great passages in this one. The idea is to use 10-15 mins of the audio and add images of our work. However it is also up to Sue what we end up with.

Tanya Ahmed

I originally wanted to talk to Tanya about how we both use the streets of the city. She photographs them and makes rich and sensual images of empty New York streets. I use them for walking and putting people in them (when no one is looking). However, Tanya, wanted to explore the idea of our beds, after photographing her own as a place both of pain and refuge. I responded with an observational drawing of my own bed which is both chaotic and reduced to one line which flows through that mess. The biggest problem was photography (ironic as this was to send to someone who uses photography in their work). I therefore sent two versions with plain / brick backgrounds.

I also used this line drawing as an experiment for my current work on muslin for the Corrala project. The lines seemed to flow well using this method so I am going to make some observational drawings of the buildings round here to feed into my own work.

Mwamba Mulangala

Mwamba was enthusiastic about discussing our interest in prostitution which has been a theme in our work for both of us. The aim is to show images of both of our work and a conversation between us. I have many questions about his approach. Unfortunately, although Mwamba was very enthusiastic about the conversation I haven’t had his latest response.

Monika Brueckner

Monika and I decided to literally work on each others’ work as we both have a textiles background and both work with cloth. We have sent each other pieces of work on which the other is to continue. This is really frightening and inspiring at the same time.

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Monika’s work

The screen printed figures echo the figures on my large hangings.I am going to start by making some experiments on other fabrics in response and then want to add using stitching.This is really frightening and inspiring at the same time but Monika’s work really feels at home in my studio.

Below is an image of the piece I have sent to Monika. She is going to respond first in words and then maybe stitch too.

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Inés Gonzalez and Máire Keogh

Inés is from Madrid and, although she is often traveling, I am lucky enough to have met her. We have even done a couple of hangouts together from here in my kitchen. So when Máire decided she would like to come and visit Madrid we decided we should get together and make something here. We have talked about a variety of ways we could work together but we can spend Saturday 28th January making something together here in my studio or we could combine some kind of walking as we are all enthusiastic about that. I like the idea of working on a piece together but we still need to record a conversation about the final (loose) plan.

Emma Delpech

I really admire how Emma has an open door studio and allows anyone in so we had a really enlightening chat about this, about how she can work whilst chatting. I am totally in awe of this ability. I also accept that I am myself and appreciate my limitations and differences. However I am really drawn to getting involved in participatory events in the future, that feels like a very different way of working.

Mathew Aldred

I contributed a photo of the Pokemon character from Sol on his break to Mathew’s grey collector (grey matters) project via twitter. I wish I had managed to get more photos of this guy. Although it is not a common profession there are quite a lot of these characters working in this way in Madrid and it is a demanding job I know little about.

 

Making large pieces for La Corrala

I have been aiming to finish this series before the new year in order to concentrate on the body of work for the MA show in June. This has turned out to be a huge task, not helped by other demands which made it harder for me to focus on the project. I recognise that I find it hard to just pick this up when I have other things on my mind or visitors for example. Although it is a huge asset to have a studio at home in some ways I am now seriously thinking how I could organise this better. In the run up to the winter break I had a lot of work for teaching commitments and also visitors which made it impossible to focus properly on this over a concentrated piece of time. Maybe if the studio were at home but not in the centre of it that would work but for the moment at least until the summer I cannot change this.

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The huge advantage is that by using what would be the living room I can make pretty big work and I can see it properly. With this project even that has been a challenge as the doublesidedness changes dramatically with the lighting. The strength of lines and colour is dramatically different also.  Once the fabric is off the stretcher everything changes again, perhaps that is why I dont find this an easy project to dip in and out of but need whole days with nothing else on the horizon.

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With this piece I was too tentative when starting to add the women. I had shown this at the group crit in November and then I think I got scared about painting on it again. The blue first layer was too hermetic and reminded one of ceramics. My fear of destroying it got the better of me so I used yellow as a way of starting to draw the women – they were far more successful when I went over with the orange. One of the things about these pieces is all the marks are there you are stuck with them and that can feel daunting. Somehow even if the marks are not what you wanted the braver ones are always the better. It is also for me finding that I am relaxed enough to make the marks and still conscious enough to remind myself of what not to do. I think it is a thin line because I want unexpected things to be able to happen and yet I am making a lot of very conscious decisions.

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With this piece it felt a bit awkward at this point and rather stiff. The line/tone not exactly working as I sometimes can. I added some darker tones with which I was still not happy about until I covered it with dots and took it off the stretcher. I am still a bit worried about not being able to explain the dots. And indeed I am not using dots on all of the pieces but am using it to link some of them together. I have always thought of the dots as a kind of grid which covers the past and as making the surface of the painting more physically there. I am not sure this is clear. I still feel compelled to do this sometimes though I don’t want it to become a lazy habit.

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I really love line drawings and I think I will always come back to lines. This piece looked great in the studio as just lines but I know I need to add much more or it will disappear in the space. I went back the overlaying I made in the pieces in 2015 in ciempozuelos. I used line a lot there and liked both the overlaying and the ‘cave painting’ feel. That work was left there and no longer exists. It feels much less of a burden that it goes away like this but I wonder if I should maybe feel a bit more materialistic or like trying to sell something but I actually feel – I do not want it back. I should maybe revisit these ideas about owning art later on.

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For this piece I have worked on top – the men in red needed more layers of line and now they feel quite balanced, but, whilst I really like this in the studio I know it will ‘disappear’ in the gallery. So now I need to decide. Do I add tone? to both? same colours? add thicker paint to work with the pink one? negative space? My problem at this point is I really need to complete these so I can finish the whole body of work. The April deadline for this exhibition isn’t real its the December one that matters. Now I am also drawn to working with other materials. Specifically cheap and non art materials but used for drawing and painting. I went to ‘Bricomart’ this morning and found a wealth of foam, wood and plastic which are potential supports. I also want to revisit complete transparency with these larger pieces and get some transparent plastic. There is also a blanket hanging up in the studio ready for experimentation. These materials also have excellent portability which is still one of my aims. Maybe what is hard about this project is a feeling I did not get to experiment enough in the process. However how much is enough?

PD: This painting from 2007 is in my bedroom (excellent storage) and I was wondering about approaching my ‘working’ subjects in the same way as I used to imagine these. This is a family, divided up by 2 canvases.  They are formally posed (as are many of the workers) for a family celebration or occasion. I always told ‘stories’ of these families in these old series and I liked to think about their relationships and how they later forgot/remembered their pasts. I like the idea of that approach and think it could work with the workers – there are also often incidental characters like the woman in the background in my sources.

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Pilgrimage to Barnsley

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Since talking to another member of my cohort and saying jokingly that I would like to walk from Madrid to Barnsley I have been gripped by this totally unrealistic idea. I cannot take 2 months (or more) out of work in order to do this walk, even if I was totally up to date with all the other MA3 requirements, so it is clearly a fantasy. However I want to think about why it is such an exciting prospect and how it relates to my own existing ideas and other’s projects.

The line it makes through Spain, France and England on the map is quite lovely because it is relatively straight but not. It also symbolically links Barnsley a town that is happy to leave Europe back into its own European heritage. I would not be making a line in the way some artists (Francis Alys springs to mind) literally have so my drawing of the line would not be literal. I could however, consider adding pointers more like the ‘camino de santiago’ shells mark out the routes or traditional road / way side markers measure the distance between 2 points. These signs often become like codes and I like the idea of symbols. Apart from how straight the line is, the other curious and rather surprising thing about the Google route is that it doesnt go through places I know in any of the countries it is all untrod territory.

The Lure of the Lost was Anthony Schrag’s 2015 Venice bienalle project to walk from Scotland to Venice in a kind of challenge to the Biennale. This project which is called a pilgrimage and took it’s name from his saint Anthony – the patron of lost things. After looking at the website I was taken by the idea of how he planned the journey: I had initially thought of taking things and leaving things along the way – Anthony Scrag called for collaboration. I would also need to contact people for help, shelter and contributions. That would be one of the most frightening aspects of the project.

Of course I cannot take 2 months off work. So the pilgrimage idea will not work – 322 hours 2000 kms – it is not realistic. Also my initial idea seems to have been done to a large extent. The difference with my connection to Barnsley is about work – Barnsley is not Venice. I would find it interesting to connect both Barnsley and Madrid and all the places in between.

In my tutorial with Emily Speed she suggested I look at Hayley Newman as she fabricates documentary evidence and from there I wondered about pretending to make the pilgrimage. I also wonder how I can connect the pilgrimage to existing work about the nature of work. 

The Natural Flow of Things

Here is my exhibition review for Monday 12th December. I chose to look at an exhibition which is very much about processes and that chimes with our current focus on process in our ‘conversations’ for the online exhibition:

The Natural Flow of Things – Casa Encendida – 14th october 2016 to January to 8th January 2017

The idea of process and taking the necessary time for a task are embedded in this exhibition through its starting point: a quote taken from Joan Miró in 1958 when the artist was in his 65th year. Miro is quoted by Yvon Taillandier as saying ‘I work like a gardener’ during a long conversation he held with the artist about how he worked. The curator Tania Pardo has taken this quote as a starting point for an exhibition which is spread over 3 spaces in Madrid’s Casa Encendida. Each space interprets this theme differently which I believe leads to a rich experience and although the whole show is relatively small it leaves one much to ponder on.

img_3377Adolfo Schlosser, El Cielo sobre la Tierra (The Sky/Heaven above the Earth) 1994  

How then is an artist like a gardener? Let us start in Room A, although there is no prescribed order. In this space we find a wealth of materials that could be found in a garden and with which the agricultural labour might feel at home. They have been manipulated and displayed in a thought provoking way. The natural materials have been categorised, framed and stuck together at times to form figurative images, but were perhaps their most convincing when displayed in a way they themselves had so strongly suggested. In the ‘Heaven Above the Earth’ by Adolfo Schlosser we see cut and burnt pine branches placed on the floor of the gallery in concentric circles of ever smaller pieces. There is a sense of how we can use natural elements to reflect upon our lived experience through the considered repetition and use of simple humble materials.

In a small annex to Room A, a video of Francis Alys’s 2002 ‘When Faith Moves Mountains’ was playing. This work, for the 2002 Lima Biennale tells the story of a how a group of volunteers, mainly engineering students, use shovels move a dune on the outskirts of Lima by 10cm. The action took place at a time of great upheaval in Peru’s political life: during the final month of Fujimori’s rule and as a direct reaction to the dictatorship. This is an allegory which is an enormous effort physical effort to achieve something so imperceivable. In the video they form a quite beautiful line as they all dig together.

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From ‘When Faith moves Mountains’ Francis Alys 2002

Here the work of the gardener is the most physically demanding but also is about working as a team in close harmony, not only with nature and the elements but also in time with a large group. At the end of the video the students joke about the next project which they say could be to ‘paint the sky’. There is a great sense of achievement in modifying the Peruvian landscape, which of course is unnoticeable and seemingly pointless.

The act of digging and planting like a gardener is most literally seen in Room B which includes actual soil and planting. Nicolás Paris for example uses elements of an allotment as part of his work ‘Garden needs Watering’ and adds the idea of an educational function to the piece which is displayed as a slightly raised wooden bed and invites one to get on a small ‘stage’. However we are not allowed to get up there. The staff do the watering and this stage will change with the time however this feels disappointing and in relation to education and possibly restricts our learning. We read about it and we look at from one point of view at the installation but is ultimately frustrating as we can not participate.

butter-cup-2000Polly Apfelbaum – Buttercup 2000

A more satisfying aspect of Room B which were the works which relate to gardening in a less direct way. Here the idea of stopping pausing and looking more closely was easier and one could see the smallest details. Polly Apfelbaum’s enigmatically lit ‘buttercup’ in particular made one stop and examine the marks and subtle colour changes whilst circling the floor and worked as a sensual experience as a symbol for a huge spiral flower and, on closer investigation, as hundreds of small velvet paintings each different and yet the same. The form echoing Schlosser’s pine installation in the previous room. This alongside the small delicate twigs on rotating mirrors of Daniel Steegman, in ‘Split Branches’, invited the viewer to look closer at familiar shapes and forms from new perspectives. These works drew one in.

Although the exhibition can be visited in any order, the final room (C), which is very much about colour does make a fitting finale to the exhibition. In this  space we see work from a range of artists who all work with organic forms using a wide variety of media. On entering the room there is a great burst of colour and also sense of play. Here the sense of flow feels like a celebration. The ceramic mural of Betty Woodman is made up of movement and flows across the far wall acting as a great backdrop to the smaller pieces.

room-cRoom C works by Melena Muzkiz, Betty Woodman (from left to right) and Matthew Ronay in the distance.

Plantlike ceramic pieces by Melena Muzkiz are like a small exotic and exuberant plot in the middle of the room and appear to be growing from an eclectic and non homogeneous combination of textures and materials. As with most of the pieces in this and the other spaces, there is a great sense of play in these organic forms which allow us to consider our relationships to nature, working and perhaps most importantly contemplation and time. The curator Tania Pardo sees the exhibition as a story, It felt rather more like a journey to me, a journey which we could take at our own pace and using our own compass. Although they might be very different what artists and gardeners share are worth considering and looking at.

We read our reviews at the hangout on 12/12/16. The idea being to reflect about this type of writing for our exhibition catalogue piece or other writing about our work. It was interesting to hear what other people had chosen to focus on in their reviews. We had only 1000 words to use for the piece so it was hard to choose. I felt at the end I could have described individual pieces in more detail and in the end I skated over some things and therefore did not get enough depth. I also felt that I do not have the review voice yet. Although I talk about artist’s work and exhibitions from a personal interest view point in my journal this more detached but not academic writing was a bit of a challenge. I don’t think I would have made a good journalist.

The exhibition webpage in English There is also a video on the page in Spanish with English subtitles.

Video of interview with Tania Pardo – Curator

Francis Alys video

 

Basurama Agostamiento in the Matadero

I was thinking of writing my review of an exhibition about this work but in the end I decided to focus on another show about objects. I thought that as this is essentially one piece the other show would give me more to develop. However, we have a word limit so I hope I can do it justice. I wanted to reflect on this work as well here as I think it also has direct relevance to my own practice in that it is something essentially made in a specific site but then shown in another context. This site specific to gallery installation is especially relevant although I am also interested in the issues this piece raises. img_3296

link to video of process (in Spanish)

The project started with the community planting of sunflowers in an abandoned space in a large empty boulevard on the eastern edge of Madrid. This area was being developed during the early 21st century and much of the work was halted because of the 2007 economic crisis. These neighbourhoods on the periphery of Madrid are controversial because they have been seem to have driven that crash or at least be a significant aspect of it. Many citizens lost money and homes in the process and tax payers (we the public) bailed out the banks. We are still left with unfinished places which lack services or community meeting places.

The Gran Via del Sur Este  is one of these places and the activist group Basurama (established in Madrid 2001) worked with local people to plant 7000 sunflowers in the central reservation which is 350 x 30m wide. The idea was not only to use the land but also to help build community. Sunflowers are significant in that here it is usual to sit and eat sunflower seeds and there was not even the evidence of the sunflower seed shells in the boulevard to suggest the neighbours sitting and talking. When I lived in a village in the South I remember the sunflower seeds in my street where people had sat and chatted. Basurama posed the project as an invitation ‘to chat and eat sunflower seeds’.

The second part of the process was the installation of the work in what was the refrigerator of the slaughterhouse – a space already laden with past meaning. In this dark space the bulevard was recreated and an image of the gran via de sureste projected on it. There are benches and ruble on the ‘central reservation’ which invite the audience to sit down. The sunflowers, or some of them, are installed hanging from the ceiling and are drying like carcases might have been hung in the large fridge. It is a somber scene in which to reflect on our city and how we develop them. A theme which is a large part of Basurama’s work elsewhere. One of the things that impressed me was the monochromatic nature of the installation which was almost sepia in colour like an old photo. The colour image of the actual location is a contrast although the slaughterhouse fridge is still way more beautiful than those abandoned, semi inhabited, bank owned blocks on the edge of town.

 

Writing Workshop 28th November 2016

‘I felt that everything is beautiful, but that which man tries intentionally to make beautiful; that the work of an ordinary bricklayer is more valid than the artwork of all but a very few artists’. Ellsworth Kelly

Unlike Ellsworth Kelly I am not evaluating the validity of work here, either as artists or bricklayers, but in examining how we look at work: how we notice it. One of the problems I had when making these images on objects was not to be seduced by any perception of beauty and rather to use them as a means of examining space and how an audience encounters that space by placing them on the floor of a gallery. This remains unresolved as does the question of my intentions towards beauty when making. I took old house bricks and represented illustrations of tools which are, and have been used for paid and unpaid work. The tools lose their practical work function as do the bricks. Whilst sharing Kelly’s suggested respect for the (ordinary) bricklayer I am very uncomfortable with the implied suggestion that some work might be more valid or more ordinary than others.  (153 words)

I found this exercise really hard as I had no literary reference for the work and spent a long time searching for a quote that allowed me to talk about my work in a direct way. In the end I gave in and used an artist quote with which I was not familiar but allowed a way into the work. I had not intended to use this as a point of argument but that is what followed. I am pleased I managed to address both aesthetical concerns and ideas about work but I am not as convinced as the rest of the cohort that I like writing this way. For me this feels forced and lacks authenticity. It works really well for them because their ways of working mean it is not so contrived as it is for me.

The Workshop

This workshop was led by Joanna Lowry who is a theorist and lecturer at Brighton uni. She was really helpful in making us think about the elements that make up writing about our artwork:

Description, Context, theory and significance.

We examined 4 1000 word pieces from 1000 word mag. I found this writing really useful as it was relatively short but strong on context and short on description. This I believe led me to the images and allowed us to look rather than see through the interpretation. There was not much theory in most of the pieces but it was helpful. If anyone were put off by the theory they would be able to continue reading easily and, I believe, still gain understanding and perspective from the writing. I felt that the pieces were not too intrusive on the work. The most surprising thing about the writing was that the individual paragraphs felt very separate. This was something Joanna then confirmed as her belief that the order could be played with if you had written these paragraphs well.

I am used to trying to find a logical order in writing and was trained to link paragraphs when I wrote. Has this changed with digital technology I wonder. I noted that the 1000 word essays worked well so I would like to try this approach.

The other piece we looked at was Susan Morris – Drawing in the dark from 2012 which is on Tate papers website. This piece of writing has a great start and the title is very appealing to me also. In theory the subject of this piece is much more appealing than writing about photography which I like but do not practice and therefore have a distance to it. ‘Drawing in the Dark’ invokes a very immediate and poetic experience to me. The first paragraph then drew me in further as it related to the experience of a house and a specific place. As Morris described her initial studio attempts to map the experience on large paper in the studio I remained very engaged and this continued as she referred to more theoretical ideas such as those of Merleau Ponty (in Paragraph 6).

As Merleau-Ponty claims, something of being is excluded in the very attempt to represent it, excluded by the process of representation itself, which, in order to signify, to make meaning, must engage with an Other.9

However, over the next few paragraphs, whilst the overall ideas of her work remained in the back of my mind I found myself disengaging from the process. The theories were too many for me and not at the core of the work as I had visualised it. when she finally comes back to the work I felt it was only tenuously connected to the beginning and I had gotten lost along the way. In this piece of writing I found the disconnect between the paragraphs or stages of the structure too far away from each other to carry me along.

It is possible however that there is a slightly separate reason for me personally to feel more disappointed in this piece of writing. The 1000 word pieces were of interest to me as a person and artist but not specifically related to my practice and therefore my expectations maybe are much lower in terms of engagement or utility. The Susan Miller piece began by engaging me as a practitioner and therefore the investment is different and the potential for disappointment might be higher.

I found Joanna Lowry’s ideas very interesting, the fact that she kept coming back to being true to the work was very important I felt as writing about art can often lead away from the work.