Introducing the work – updated 9.11

I am in the fortunate position to be able to show my work for critique before I finish the final assignment for the course. I have been offered the opportunity to present my work for critique at the Family Ties Network event in Glasgow on the 19th of November, I will be amongst other students presenting their work in an informal session, called ‘new voices’ by the organiser Dr. Nicky Bird who saw my work, in a previous edit and thought it worthwhile to have at the event. The programme details are here: Family Ties Network – events

It is a great opportunity and despite comments from my tutor I am a little daunted at the prospect – but in a good way. I attended the previous event in the University of Bedford and wrote about it here. I wasn’t able to stay for the post event reception last time, but I will be able to this time and hopefully find some opportunities to discuss my work within the context of the Network’s aims.

I have spent a good deal of time re-editing the work, the scale of the artefacts, the text and its position on the image. Tomorrow I will present the work to Tom, an artist I have known for sometime and who has agreed to provide a critique. Assignment five asks for the final edit (I won’t be ready too make that cut until after Glasgow) as well as an introduction. I will take the opportunity to provide Tom with an introduction I have recently completed and an artist statement – both of these I have shared with Wendy.

I shall ask Tom for his response to both these texts as well as formative responses to the BoW. No-one has seen this current edit, I have removed the video of the previous sequence due to its inherent issues as much as it is out of date.

My Introduction:

I keep looking for him.

 I think I always will.

This work deals with the relationship I have with my deceased father. Through various phases of my life I have faced success with greater trepidation than failure, for failure was a constant prediction and, therefore, more readily welcomed. Despite many clear and very obvious personal and professional achievements my learnt responses to them have always been negative. This work is the first structured correspondence into a relationship that has maligned many events in my history. And whilst he has been dead for nearly twenty years it is this burdening legacy that I have confronted here.

Purgatory is an unsettled space a few miles from my home in North Oxfordshire. I found a trigger for this project there because it had both physical and emotional resonances at a time when another success loomed (the final project of these studies). My technique was to try and elicit an image with the eye and then ‘find it again’ in the viewfinder. I wanted to respond to the image in an emotional way, fully aware of why I was in this ‘place’ called Purgatory. These images have very distinct personal connotations, which I recognised and composed for, seeking that ‘Punctum’ that Barthes talks about but, rather than in a photograph, I sought to find it in the making of the image.

In Purgatory I went searching for unspecified imagery that would become specific, to see if I could find, through the sub-conscious, a ‘punctum’, fully aware that the context of the image is rested within only one person and perhaps might never resonate elsewhere. And whilst I had been focused solely on that bondless father and son relationship I now realise that the work, in its construction, reflects also on it’s meta-narrative, love.

The work comprises views of the land in and around Purgatory. Intertwined with these perspectives of the place I have introduced artefacts from a box supplied by my mother. This small box of items was given to me as a response to look at whatever physical objects had survived him – this appears to be all that’s left of him. My mother didn’t want the box or its contents returned, in which I found an interesting corollary with worth/value. They were of no monetary value, nor it appeared any emotional substance – she was happy for them to leave her as he had done nearly twenty years previous. The texts are principally from my own recollections, though a couple are drawn from art literature, a key is provided.

I am principally concerned with relationships, personal and close bonds, both intergenerational and otherwise. Ideas around the presence and absence of love and how those twin perspectives might be described and illuminated. Purgatory deals with love at a meta-level, but from a single perspective, no account is made of an others view – either his, my mothers or indeed, a detached observer and this may form the basis of further research.

1Purgatory is an unsettled space a few miles from my home in North Oxfordshire – see attachment. I have not provided this attachment in this post.

My artist statement is:

John Umney’s project – “I keep looking for him. I think I always will.” – provides a psychological response to an environment inextricably coupled with memories from his past. Currently completing an undergraduate degree in Photography with the Open College of the Arts, John Umney has previously exhibited at Nuffield Orthopaedic Hospital permanent artspace May/June 2015 and the South Street Gallery, Churchill Hospital, Oxford July/October 2015 and will informally present his work for critique at the upcoming Family Ties network conference in Glasgow in Nov 2015.


19 thoughts on “Introducing the work – updated 9.11

    • Thanks Brian, It would be nice if they did, but when I started the work it was whether I could connect to it that drove it forward – if others find some connection that will be a real bonus. Will let you know via the normal channels!

      • Well I think that is essential, at the end of the day to make the work we ourselves have to connect with it. I find your work resonates with me on many levels. Obviously it resonates because I have seen it evolve and develop during our discussions in the hangout. But it also resonates on a more personal level because in the story you tell I can recognise fragments of myself and my relationship with my father in it. I am sure others will recognise themselves in it too.

  1. The Glasgow event sounds like a great opportunity. Looking forward to hearing how it goes.

    Was thinking about finding the punctum
    in images of Pugatory. Barthes I believe found his recently deceased mother In a photograph of her aged five. There was clearly something about the way she came over in this picture which clicked with Barthes. He was not clear and maybe it is not possible to be clear on something so subjective. Her look, her manner, her pose we know not. Reading your introduction made me wonder if you found your punctum and if you are able to describe what you found.

    • Mostly what I found was compositional constructs I wanted to print full frame, and in most cases I did. The Punctum, came from inside in the main, how it resonated the memories, I will discuss this in my dissertation. Thanks for looking Keith.

  2. Good luck with it, John; I have no doubt at all that the event will go very well and that both you and your audience will get a lot out of it. Reading your introduction makes me hope, above all, that you are finding what you seek in the making of this work.

  3. Sending wishes that the event will go well for you. Wish I could be there to see it ensue. The images and concept are so haunting that I’m surer they will speak for themselves.
    That sentence is perfect for the opening statement and as an introduction to the work – setting the viewer at the beginning of a journey.

  4. Great news John and wishing you well – no good luck sent as you will not need any – the work does it all in spades. Like Brian I can take bits out of it that relate to me and I feel sure that others will too.

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