About Portability and Cheapness and being seduced by materials.

The issue of why this matters so much to me needs to be revisited – in my tutorial with Lucy Day last week we talked about materials and I identified these concerns of mine which I originally became aware of in MA1.  I think this will also help with my PPP this year.

I think that apart from rational ideologies this desire to work with simple materials and make them transportable or mailable is deeply ingrained in me. It is also reflected in other lifestyle choices. whilst I collect discarded pieces of junk and use them for practical or decorative purposes  I do find that possessions weigh me down.I am good at throwing stuff away. I have now more or less escaped my art school training of ‘never throw work away’ too. The things I value the most are those which have zero or minimal exchange value. I chose to live in the middle of a flea market and I love skips and dislike shopping. I do not really like many new clothes, furniture or other consumer items. Part of my interest in work is that there is so much value placed on what I see as pointless activities. I see value in caring professions, cleaning, maintaining, growing food, but less in financial services, marketing or industries creating new needs. I also question how it could be with so much new technology anyone needs to work more – rather everyone could work less.

I also believe that people are more fulfilled by having more time and less things. That making things by hand gives us pleasure. I am often ‘seduced by materials’ and enjoy working with certain media regardless of their connotations. Maybe that is why I am stripping the materials away for the final major project and collecting dirt and possibly debris along the way. In this way I feel more confident that I can justify what I do end up using in the gallery and in the process.

Although this relates to the exchange value attached to ‘things’ being over emphasized in general I think in my case the need to use low value materials is deeper. There is of course a practical element, I am not able to buy or transport expensive materials but I also question their necessity as I do with many consumer items. Most of my recent work is not a commodity that is for sale as an object. Often it can be ephemeral or given away. That does not mean I do not think I should be paid for making it but not necessarily by an individual. I have of course sold work in the past but I was making and exhibiting it in a very different way. I now need to resolve my relationship with how I make money from work. Until now I have lived from teaching or other part time employment but I would like the balance of my time to change. As teaching has become more and more time consuming I am finding my self compromised and would like to find other means of income. 



The Camino de Santiago has sign posts to help the pilgrims. I am not suggesting that there will be pilgrims other than myself but that I can show more where I have been like leaving a trail rather than giving directions. I like the idea of leaving a mark and also taking away material – collecting for what I make in the gallery. These posts or symbols act as dots or mark making a bit like leaving a trace.

Yesterday I booked to go to London at half term. I am thinking that mid week I could drive from Portsmouth to Barnsley – the last leg of the journey. After my walk on Monday I might need to make some decisions about this. The beautiful line on the map includes parts of big roads rather than abandoned villages. Whereas in Spain there will be abandoned villages


Bricks would be great but too heavy for actual walking – I am thinking fabric or parcel paper symbols – or some light wood on sticks. Some kind of graphics feels appropriate.

If I go on big roads billboards would come into play and the idea of using billboards appeals greatly as I feel they are really invasive and have huge objections to them. Using them or juxtaposing them in some way with the protest banners could be a way into the gallery (or not).

this symbol is about universal work – (see tools of the trade).

Stage 1 – walk to Algete

In order to see if I am capable of walking at least some of the last stage of my journey – Madrid to Barnsley – I am planning to walk to Algete next week. I am feeling a lot stronger and there are various places on the route that I can stop and/or return from if necessary. There are also regular buses from Algete back into Madrid. There are routes which avoid the main road to the north of Spain (the A1). I will be able to take it easy captura-de-pantalla-2017-01-30-a-las-14-00-02

I am a bit paranoid about getting sick again so I will probably have to go on Monday as there is no rain forecast. That would mean leaving at 9:30 after my tutorial with Caroline. There are more buses and things open than going on a Sunday for example. The forecast for next Monday in Alcobendas for example is sunny. I will need to watch the weather predictions and plan accordingly.

Will also take materials for drawing and then collecting too. Possibly a cleaner for a paste up somewhere along the route.

New Tools of the Trade

As I have been quite ill this month I have not painted very much. Whilst recuperating I chose to add to the tools of the trade. I have been helped in this by the conversation I had with Lucy Day who is helping us to define what it is we are doing in words.

The tools of the trade are all items we use at home in the domestic sphere. They are all used in unpaid or ‘housework’ however they all have a role in paid work which is generally given a low social status, cleaning, caring, maintaining are all low paid work. This work is not always, but often, subject to poor contracts and often illegal working conditions. However it is valuable and important to our well being.

Cleaners in the media

In 2016 there were 2 cases of interest in the Spanish media.  The first concerning a right wing politician Pablo Casado who compared cleaning a room in a hotel for 2 euros per room (the workers had to clean 400 rooms per month to earn 800 euros after paying tax and social security)  to that of his brother, a doctor, seeing 400 patients.

link to article Pablo Casado

In another article a tv personality took on the job of cleaning a hotel room for reality tv to the indignation of actual workers. This lead to a cleaner writing a letter of indignation which as then published in the media.

link to article and letter


Taking the Dots off

img_2424I have been questioned about the dots a lot and always struggled with the words to explain why I put them on. When Máire came to visit she explained that she always wanted to take them off so she could see what was behind them. This I found really interesting because it means they are in some way annoying to the view that in obscuring a figurative image they stop us from seeing something. This is sort of what I am wanting to do. To make the image fall back into another plane behind the surface of the fabric and to make it’s superficiality more apparent. The life scale humans therefore being part of an irregular grid pattern.

Obviously the size of the dots matter and some obscure the image more than others.

img_2432For this exercise on our making day I chose to remove the dots. With this one it was easiest because the dots are large. I realised I could therefore do it much quicker. They also follow the rules of aerial perspective in that the blue people recede and the warm coloured dots float forwards.

This was also an old making day experiment so it was appropriate that it could be chopped up – it was the first time I stuck muslin to a wall – in my flat.

Left – Máire with the first dot I cut out. She was a bit concerned I was unmaking something as a reaction to her comment – I reassured her I really appreciated her comments.




Another image of Máire moving the dot I cut out – the wall I revealed is even more invasive of the ‘people’ image in a way – some of the paint came off the wall too so that revealed the original wall from decades ago within the image.


I wonder which gallery would let me do this?




fullsizerender-2                                                     fullsizerender-3

The final dot I left in – a reference to the old red dot when you sell something? Of course taking the dots off is nothing like not painting them in the first place and there are dots which obscure way more than others. By taking them off and working directly on the wall the work has sunk into the wall in a more complete way. The wall is very much a part of it. I will leave it to Máire to describe what she did with the dots. I am thinking of redrawing the irregular grid on top.

Pecha Kucha 16th Jan 2017

The presentation

I have been sick this week and missed the pecha kucha presentations on Monday’s hangout. As I was not able to present mine and don’t have much of a voice to record one I thought I would add the notes here.

Slide one  I am still using images such as these, in this case from online archives to develop my work. This one is from the mid 20th century from Ciempozuelos. I am still using the agricultural images to show the transition from rural areas to the city and factories in the 20th century. This research began in MA1

Slide two my original idea for the exhibition in La Corrala was to hang the paintings in the courtyard like the washing – there were health and safety issues. Nevertheless I can still hang in the gallery so both sides will be visible.

Slide 3  I began with small pieces on paper which I am now developing and thinking about how to display in the space alongside larger wall pieces

Slide 4  Approx 140 x 190cm Single image covered with the small dots of thick paint the idea being to make the surface tangible and the past untouchable. Although the figures are life size they are illusions. The muslin also helps with this.

Slide 5  Approx 140 x 190cm – nurses from the psychiatric hospital and agricultural workers – I chose this area because i know people from there so have some idea of the past from oral history.  Single image covered with the small dots of thick paint the surface is made visible and physical  The images are fading

Slide 6   These tobacco factory workers are looking way too pretty and nostalgic – they look like they are painted on pottery. I did really enjoy the textures of the tobacco which looks like agriculture (from which they had come probably)

Slide 7   By adding the women in complementary colours I think this works better. This avoidance of pretty imagery has been complicated for me. I do not want to churn out a show but I do need to have a coherent body of work for the exhibition. This has been a difficult balancing act.

Slide 8   Another hanging in the studio to show the transparency – I need to think about lighting a lot. The lights have to be on the thick paint but cannot be too close.

Slide 9 An old piece of mine from 2010 – I want to get back some of my use of line and personal storytelling back into this work. What I have lost is that element of fantasy about the characters. I am also looking at different ways of using line.

Slide 10   This is doublesided as they all are. This makes it very hard to photograph. I wanted to try overlays as I had done in Ciempozuelos and also the use of thicker paint contrasting with lines.

Slide 11 At the end of last year I got given this book which is full of oral histories of Madrid.  The book is printed by the local council and the stories were related by the elderly in homes and some of them were telling their stories for the first time. This gives me a valuable new source.

Slide 12   I am also continuing to develop line through observational drawing. This was my bed for Tanya’s project. I then took the lines into paint onto the muslin as an experiment which I think has potential.Not sure for what yet though!

Slide 13 Importance of lines – I tried to carry through onto the large muslin but these lines had to be worked on further as they would disappear in the space. However I would like to come back to them at some point. Although they do not fit in with this work they could work in another context.

Slide 14  For this piece I then added washes and  modeling on some places with thick paint

Slide 15 I am also noticing that I want to do something with the lines you can make for collagraphs – these are just string pasted onto cardboard. The printing process might be more interesting to me than the print. Although I do love collagraphs.

Slide 16  Since the summer I have become more and more interested in the act of walking. There are 2 main ways it interests me:  That I walk to process information and to research as my practice – I leave the studio and often get ideas (we think at 3mph). The other idea is of the pilgrimage or the coming together of people as a piece of work – the stations of the cross especially appeals for me.

Slide 17 The tools of the trade are also very important and have become seen as a way of negotiating the space in the gallery

Slide 18  The tools are things we all may use in our lifetimes – common everyday objects that could be used in paid or unpaid work.  I think these objects matter whether we can replace them with technology or not.

Slide 19 I have been playing with the tools as non functional 3D forms

Slide 20  As with the collagraphs I am becoming more interested in the lino than the prints

Research into The Miner’s Wives of Barnsley


I am not sure if this is direction I want to take but because of my interest in work I chose to look at the miners wives and their positive story of the miner’s strike. Many of these sources are from the 30 year anniversary events or at least grew out of them.

Map of coal mines in Barnsley area – the page also has a list of mines  with dates of opening and closure – could be useful for visiting.

Barnsley women against Pit closures Video about the women by the women.

Barnsley Museum 2014 – women against pit closures – 30 years anniversary a longer video of a talk in the Southbank London – lead by a Journalist who reported the 84-85 strike.

British Library – women against pit closures – part of oral history of the women’s movement.

Guardian article about Betty Cook

http://www.experience-barnsley.com/barnsley-women-against-pit-closures text from locally organised event 2014 (anniversary).

Social deprivation and widening participation: the continuing power of local culture – Wayne Bailey – University of Huddersfield This is largely related to deprivation and education – the author’s main focus relating to work is via HE which might be relevant when looking at the employment scenario now.

Barnsley Main Colliery 2016


Photo Roger Butterfield 2016 – Google maps accessed 15/1/17

I do not think I want to do something so directly related to mining but I felt the need to understand the changing nature of work more specifically in Barnsley. Having looked at these – and not read the whole of the huddersfield paper but parts of it I think the issues  are quite global. I need to visit Barnsley to see what is different about it. Why cling to the past? Pride in the past is important but there does seem to be a negativity and need to move on. The amazing pride in the place also needs investigating – this does not happen so much in other areas – why do people from Barnsley appear to love it so much whilst listing it’s faults? How does this all affect the identity of people growing up in Barnsley today?


We are Connected -Feedback

In this evening’s session we all fed back on our experiences of connecting in ‘We are connected’ as it is so far. There was some really useful discussion and everyone it was very different in terms of their experiences and approaches to the project. For me it was always about the process and making it visible. But there were a wide range of connections which I have divided into contributions, conversations and collaborations.

Contributions –  I found some of the participation to be contributing to others’ projects which I enjoy doing but I would not necessary term collaboration as I am not necessarily imputing on ideas. I contributed to Mathew’s Grey Collector project with an image of the Pikachu from Sol taking a break in a side street. This is part of my research into work and tweeted as ‘laborolove’. I am pleased to participate in this project and aim to continue. Tanya’s images of beds were supposed to show some intimacy and I am not sure my line drawing did this but as it wasn’t a collaborative project in that way and I felt comfortable with this and then worked further on the image in other ways in the studio. These were easy to contribute to and I must admit only collaborated with the ones I felt I had something which was helpful to me on some level. For Máire’s project I did not feel like writing about myself even anonymously and it was just before the holidays so I decided to send photographs of drawings of birds nests and baby birds which work autobiographically in another way which I hope was helpful. Tanya’s final project about books was potentially interesting but arrived as I was finally off on holiday. Given the year ahead I am pleased I said no at that moment as I needed a break.

Conversations – I had very valuable and enjoyable learning experiences from the conversations I had. With Sue we talked about painting and our approaches to this. This was so refreshing as with a Fine Art MA we don’t get to get down and talk media in this way. Although, and because, we are so different this was not only enjoyable but also very enlightening. The discussion we had about the difference between drawing and painting was very thought provoking and brought me back to something I was struggling with in the studio – knowing when to stop, when something is ‘finished’. Sue’s approach was really refreshing she has really stripped back her process through drawing and found something very essential in it. She is then going to take this back into painting. This conversation felt very real and the actual one went on for over an hour and had to be edited.

I also got some great insights to myself through talking with Emma. We talked about my need to be alone to focus on work and her abilities to carry on working in large groups and while people are talking to her. I am totally in awe of her and started off very jealous of this ability to work and focus on a multitude of things then I just realised we have our own ways of working and kind of accepted my own process – by the end of the conversation I no longer felt bad that I work how I work. That paradoxically does not preclude that I can sometimes work with others which is also a great. This link and understanding through practice allowed me to move on in how I see myself and  how I work.

My conversation with Mwamba was unfortunately greatly slowed down by internet problems. I would love to continue as we have many things to explore about prostitution. It would also be great to analyse this more closely with the work.


Although currently in the form of a conversation with Inés and Máire this is about planning an actual collaboration on 28th January here in Madrid. This could take many forms but probably we will do something here in the studio. This is really exciting because it is something I wanted to do anyway and I think this being the final year and Máire getting on the plane to Madrid is significant.

The ongoing collaboration with Monika is also exciting and here I felt a bit held back by all the video editing and organising which was stopping me getting on with it. We swapped textile pieces and are allowed to work on them in any way we wish. This is a genuine collaboration and very exciting. It is also very

The collaborations and conversations are where I learnt the most and will continue to do so with the collaborations. I have enjoyed contributing to others’ projects in the past and if they work for me. I also feel some of these elements of the website are less about process, which was the focus, than others. That being said the experience was very rewarding overall and continues to be so. In the discussion I was left with this recurring idea of making the process visible and talked about how that can be the work. I also touched on the ideas, discussed with Emma and Sue about feeling good about how I work and the fundamental importance of drawing in its widest sense to me.

Apart from this the most important point (and there were many others) which came up was the idea of the website stopping us getting on with our work. I felt this too, and as Les said maybe we were working but not just in the same way. My problem is the admin side took over and I am not sure that this helped so much as physical making, BUT it is important to avoid the ‘churning out the same old work’ scenario and the collaboration aspects will help so much with this.

 We are connected website click here.