The exhibition called Memory.


Memory Exhibition Oxford Flyer

‘Memory’ show flyer designed by Penny Watson, image courtesy of Sue Jones


About nine months ago I was offered some space in the permanent art-space at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Hospital in Oxford, there is space for a considerable number of prints – depending on size and orientation, and whilst I have more than enough prints to fill the space I very quickly came to the conclusion that it be a largely worthless pursuit simply to fill it with old prints, or maybe even new ones.

I wondered how I might develop the opportunity into an exercise that would supplement my studies and soon two ideas developed: firstly that as the OCA is a virtual establishment working with another student might help to develop ideas of collaboration which are required possibly more so with distance learning, but haven’t really been addressed by the college to date. And secondly, the idea of curating a show and attempting to apply professional rigour to the process of staging a thematically structured, multi-artist show, with a view to achieve the highest standards possible.

I have known fellow student Penny Watson – Marmalade – for longer than anyone on the course. I approached her via the college administration before I enrolled in level one to ask her opinion and for guidance and she was very helpful, very supportive and keen to provide straight forward advice. And whilst we have met a few times the fact that she lives a long way away from me ensures that we had to find virtual ways of collaboration, which didn’t entail social activities in the student bar. The decision to ask Penny to collaborate with me has meant that, not only will the show go on, but that it will be of a standard much higher than I would have managed on my own.

The Process:

Memory became an idea because of it’s openness to interpretation – all photographs are of the past, by default, determined to be a record of sorts amongst many other things, of what was before and which is no longer present. Expressions of interest were requested of the level three students via the OCA last year and a timescale was developed leading up to the hanging on May 2nd.

We wanted to have work that provided the possibility for the artist to present a short narrative and so we decided that seven images in 20 inch X 16 inch frames would be appropriate, which limited the number of artists to seven. In the end we compromised on one artist who wanted 20 inches X 20 inches and one who only wanted to hang 6 images. We also had more expressions of interest than we had spaces for, and whilst it was a difficult job to inform those who didn’t make the ‘cut’ the down-selected artists decision was one that we agreed on without a great deal of discussion.

We took advice from Helen Warburton, who at the time was working as an Exhibitions Officer at the ffotogallery in Newport as well as an OCA tutor; her advice was rich in detail and experience, as well as extremely valuable to our thought processes.

A primary concern was to develop a show that looked like a show and not the collection of disparate students that we are. The benefit of a student year show at a conventional university is the collaborative element is taken for granted. I appreciate that there are difficulties in dealing with all the student’s egos et cetera, but the ready and available real time negotiation just isn’t an option for distance learners. So we planned to develop consistency into the project by nominating the framing policy, the frame size and style that will hopefully introduce a collective note to the works on show. The means by which the prints are hung at the site is via a fully professional hanging system, which means that obtaining consistent heights for the prints should not be an issue. We also determined the mount board type – although didn’t specify that board had to be used. In the event only one student eschewed mount board and had prints made to fit the frame on stiff board. At the time of writing this, i.e. pre hanging, the framed prints are waiting the date and transport to go to the show, and look very consistent – although the hung exhibition may prove to be another prospect.

There will be no private view (pv), there is no place to hold one within the hospital confines and so we may organize a ‘study visit’ to allow as many of the student artists to meet at one time. We have enlisted the help of Keith Greenough – one of the downselected artists – to help with the PR which will get into swing a week before the show is open to the public,  OCA are also involved with the PR alongside Keith. A copy of the brochure that Penny designed is attached below as well as her guide and I shall come back to this subject after the exhibition has opened to relay my thoughts and add some images of the exhibition. We are hopeful for a study visit type of event, but haven’t organised anything yet – two months to go!

z final exhibition brochure 27 april







Lessons in love

The previous post A kiss seems perhaps a great departure from the work I was making previously, and after discussions with my tutor about this new work it was agreed that I should try and explain how I came to this place, and indicate any connections for the creative direction of my studies.

In my literature review, assignment two for CS, I wrote: “Geoffrey Batchen’s introductory essay to ‘Reflections on Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida’ entitled ‘Palintode’ provides an explanation to the title of the critical work in the original French title “La chamber Claire”: An instrument, patented by an Englishman William Wollaston, provided the user of, what the English call a “Camera Lucida” an image directly onto the receiver’s ‘…retina. Thus, the image produced by a camera lucida is seen only by the draughtsman (as it was designed for) and by no one else…Here, then, was an apt metaphor for Barthes’ own text’ 1.  What Barthes, and by implication Batchen, is agreeing with, is that the viewer/reader re-situates the narrative of the image in their making, and that the “Punctum” ‘…that accident that pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me)2 is a very personal reflection on the narrative contained within the frame.”

The work in Purgatory was to try and find imagery within the frame – not in the landscape, if that makes sense and whilst not entirely in a haphazard way, at least without the trappings of traditional landscape photography – tripod &c. I attempted, and to some extent succeeded, in finding imagery that punctured my sub-conscious and revealed to me narratives from my past. Which is interesting as Purgatory has no connection to the past I was considering, but nevertheless I purposefully became ‘open’ to it and by doing so found it. This latest development is about how I can develop imagery in front of the lens to purposefully reveal – and in this case illustrate the feelings that I hold to be the most important of all feelings. In Purgatory I went outside to find what I was looking for in my relationship with my father, now I don’t feel that urge, here I can purposefully work close to home, in my home even though I don’t feel limited by any geographic place.

I had always wanted to write about love, the last work that I did in the Documentary course was largely a reflection on love  – in an ‘open’ way – and the work that I am putting up for the Memory exhibition will be a new presentation of that work.

On a morning stroll recently I found, under a newly blossoming magnolia tree, a part of the bud that had protected the blossom through its infancy and development into maturity. It appeared to me to provide a metaphor for familial love, that nurturing force that conceives, develops and releases humanity into the world. I felt the tenderness of this discarded protection that must be both strong and tender to resist the worst of the weather and yet caring enough to nurse the bud from conception through to adulthood. And it reminded me of someone – the subject described the The kiss.

Sharon suggested that I develop the metaphorical potential of the magnolia bud, but having looked at it, it appears to have lost a good deal of its previous vigour and so I may have to come back to that a little later. Purgatory as a space was overcome by love, I don’t mean the spiritual discourse provided by Catholicism – Dante’s journey – I am talking about my personal departure led by the love of, and by, someone else. The weather has changed. “The Kiss” a very short exert from a longer piece which was influenced in it’s structure by Calvino’s ‘Difficult Loves’ 3, a series of ‘open’ texts that enable the reader to develop a way forward. This will be very important to how I develop my work as I feel there is no single truth in life only stories about truth.

Purgatory still radiates with potent allegorical strength, my visit there earlier this week found me dismissing the place as I walked right on by, focusing on the land before I reached there and on the arrival of Spring as I left it, on the hour or so walk home. If Purgatory is about life and afterlife then the images I made on that walk were about birth and decay, where decay is but one part of the continual organic process of life that includes birth. I don’t see this project morphing to a comment on ‘green-ness’. It will however, be about love.

1 – Batchen , G, 2009. Palinode. In: Photography Degree Zero reflections on Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida. Cambridge, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, pp 10 – 11.

2 – Barthes, R, 2000. Camera Lucida. London: Vintage pp27

3 – Calvino , I, 1996. Difficult loves. London: Minerva.

A kiss

I’m fairly sure that my first memory of kissing a man has remained faithful to the event; I was twenty-one, he was much older. It being late in the day, I remember the sensation his part grown stubble had on my lips, I also remember him being embarrassed and turning his head away right at the last moment. I remember him being flustered and recoiling a little in this very public display of affection. I remember this today as I write these words, realizing that I had perhaps overstretched my love for him; the love that I still feel for him, that unconditional love that I had felt for him for as long as I can remember.

My first memory of him was standing at his side when he shaved. I looked on incongruously at the steam rising from the bowl, the water having been emptied from the kettle lifted from the gas burner on the stove. I watched as he applied the shaving soap and lathered his face before purposefully removing it and his bristles from his cheeks, his neck and from under his nose. I wondered about the white of the soap as it turned to the pink of his skin as he rinsed himself, whilst gazing at his own reflection in the shaving mirror. The final ablution almost complete was finished with the application of a tonic for his hair, a clear orange liquid from a bottle retrieved from a cabinet to his left and combed into his neat and regularly barbered hair.

Perhaps at about the same time I remember him holding me, furling his hand around my neck and pulling me to him, making me feel safe, taking me into his world. I knew then that he loved me and would do so forever. We would walk in his garden, he would talk to me, it seemed to me that he wanted to know what I thought about things, what was important to me. He made me feel special, I felt I had an importance to him and when he held my hand he became and stayed the most important man in my life. Strolling slowly down his garden path, towards the vegetable patch, he would want me to know about his feelings on politics, on music, what it meant to him so that I knew him, understood him and what he stood for.

The first present I gave him were a set of cufflinks, they were bought from Clifton’s of Bedford. ‘Real Mother O’ Pearl’ was the label inside the gift case and after he carefully unwrapped them from the Christmas paper he looked at them and let me know the alternate name of Nacre and how it was one of the oldest naturally formed organic substances on the planet. He made my inexpensive present seem so much more valuable to him than I could have imagined. I have worn them whenever I need to feel him close to me.

Spring is Purgatory

I had hoped that the view around Purgatory was going to be less clear. I know now that I need to get up even earlier.


I walked straight past the building that occupies the central space of Purgatory, the light seemed to provide no sense of narrative potential, or maybe it says something about what I am thinking.

I had taken two cameras, both with fixed lens’ to try and help me focus on the task in hand. I found the camera with the wide angle lens a more compelling perspective.

Just evidence I suspect. I feel more words than images at the moment.

I’ll have a think about what all these mean.