Assignment Five – update prior to assessment

Assignment 5 – updated 4th May 2016

The documents that are required at A5 are a descriptor for the work and a course reflection.

The Reflection:

An evaluation – Body of Work at Assignment Five

The course has been both the most challenging and also the most rewarding. The challenge to find a way forward had me considering what it was that I wanted to gain from photography as a means of communication i.e. what did I want to communicate and for what purpose? This process of deliberation was the most difficult period of the course as a whole, and yet it proved to be decisive in breaking through with determining what, and how, my personal voice would proceed and develop. It was clear on reflection that I was unsure what the Body of Work would be ‘about’ until the end of Assignment Three, and yet through the process of reflection I became sure that what I wanted to deliver was a discourse on the ‘personal’ and how I fit into the world I inhabit.

The Work

The impetus to work in “Purgatory” provided the psychological trigger to make a work based on my ongoing relationship with my deceased father. There were a number of avenues of exploration that I tried in order to enter into a conversation with ‘him’. For example I tried to bring his effigy into view in a number of ways but it was only after retrieving the last of his personal belongings – his jewellery – that I found a route to insert ‘him’ into the frame through those objects presented as archeological artefacts.

I felt the need to provide a textual narrative device to enable the viewer to contextualize the work. My first attempts didn’t work particularly well, in that they were too diverse. Refining them, making them more specifically personal have strengthened them, although I am concerned that I have overdone this aspect, something I am sure that will come out at assignment review. Feedback through critique from various sources, as part of “Sustaining Your Practice” have helped me to place some critical distance between the work and myself in the final edit. I am mindful of a comment Fiona Yaron-Field made in her feedback regarding the texts “The last three pages from the sting of his spittle [text], next landscape, and then the rings works brilliantly together. Each element expands the narrative, is very moving and visually connects. They are all open and leave me space as the viewer to enter. Some earlier text and image are too literal and leave me outside the work.” The need for access points for viewers, to have a sense of ambiguity that fosters engagement has been a very difficult line to find and follow and one that I still find continually ebbs and flows.

The landscape imagery, though difficult to edit down to a manageable quantity all exhibit the sense that I want to express. That sense though came about as much by examining the work as a whole, before editing/sequencing, to form a narrative that worked visually. There are many images that remain outside the set that individually hold significant connotative strength but do not work in the series. And whilst I think that my visual language has developed, I recognise there is a distance still to go.

The Outcome

As the work progressed from an undefined work in progress, to a project with defined parameters, I felt a growing sureness of how the work might or might not be presented. An early decision was to make the work small. I wanted the imagery to be personal and to represent that with images that were sympathetic to that goal. I had printed and exhibited most of the landscapes at an exhibition I had organised at the South Street Gallery in the Churchill Hospital permanent artspace from 1st August – 24th October 2015. I was pleased with the way the work was hung, I was required to work with a professional technician who works for the Modern Art Oxford Gallery in physically hanging the prints which I mounted in 20” X 16” frames. Visitors at the exhibition needed to be at a distance to these prints to view them, for assessment I felt that by making them smaller, presenting them as un-mounted photographs they would be able to be held in hand and be interacted with them as objects. They would thus have a private experience with them, and so I have made them approximately A5 size. I also made photographs out of the texts, so that the words became more physically present. I felt that if there was a sense that the words were printed from a text file they would have had an ephemeral nature. I wanted the words to have a sense similar to that of the artefacts, of having a history. These words though have remained – worn with time and remembrance – either as they had been expressed at me a half century or more ago, or with my recently un-silenced voice. I’m not sure whether viewers will capture that notion, but it has been embedded. This idea of remembrance, of memory resurfacing has become a component of my research for my new work under the umbrella project title“Legacy”.

The Box

I designed the box to contain the images with twin purposes. Primarily it was a practical means by which the prints could be held and presented for viewing. The design was a collaboration between a mechanical designer, a carpenter and myself and I think it works very well from that perspective. It also addresses the relationship I have with my father and his continual disdain both for my need to design, create and make things as well as my apparent failure to do anything well. It was important to me that the box addressed those criterion and that I achieved a measure of success and I believe the box and the work achieve that mark I set for myself. I am also aware that the box has visual connotations to memento mori, a casket perhaps and that I have also chosen to call it a container.

Take-aways

There is a fine line between allowing the work to develop, to wander, to find direction and recognizing that the work is ‘about’ something. In one of my written journals I made a note to myself to ‘believe in the project’, this was before Assignment Four. It was at a point when I ‘knew’ how I was going to complete the project – or at least the form of presentation (editing issues notwithstanding). It is evidence of maturation, I think, that enabled me to make that critical decision and subsequently feel confident enough about the work to be able to enter into discussions with interested parties about the narrative. This confidence provided me the authority to ask for feedback from comparative strangers, albeit knowing they were enabled to respond from a critical distance. I am very sure that in my next piece I won’t be so unsure about whether the project is a work in progress or a confusion of imaginings.

Once the work developed a ‘path’ I became settled in what I found myself describing, and to that extent I feel that the subject that I want to continue to research now has definition, at least for the foreseeable future. It is somewhat comforting that this sense of a ‘voice’ has found a way to direct what I shall be working on and I have some ideas about projects to work on post this course.

The comfort I feel about a ‘voice’ appearing during this final phase of the course is in stark contrast to the way in which I felt about a lack of one at the beginning of it. I feel a resonance with the way this project has developed a sense of what I want to make work about, and the conceptual framing of the work itself. The landscape imagery was conceived as a psychological response to the space that I was in and it follows that that response was a way for my voice to surface and express itself in the way it has. And I find it curious that I am still very engaged with how I see that the work is seemingly successful, but maybe that’s a part of the sub-narrative.

I would like to think that I will work on other projects that allow other voices to emerge, but the central theme of love will, I think, never be far from what I want to talk about.

Looking Forward

Presentation

Some time ago I felt that the idea of finding a white wall space to exhibit this work wouldn’t be the right way to present it. As described earlier I feel the physical handling of the images works better and various people who have examined the work have corroborated this notion.

I have considered designing a book, which would be hand-made in collaboration with a bookmaker and designer I know. My thoughts are currently that in making this book it will become quite a precious object and that might not work due to the narrative and so have stayed that decision.

I have designed a web-site to host this and other work and have had significant critique resulting in several updates to the site. There is a plan to update the site further with the inclusion of a blog that will detail developments in new work on-going. See below.

Artist Talk/Presentation

I have been invited to present some work at an upcoming symposium as part of Jesse Alexander’s residency at the Bank Street Gallery (BSA) in Sheffield. Link here: http://bankstreetarts.com/people/residencies/jesse-alexander/

“Pastoral Paradigms: Explorations in Landscape and the Self

The symposium that will run as part of the residency will consider how contemporary landscape practice has shifted from its pastoral traditions and embraced more nuanced and personal approaches and narrative strategies. It will be an opportunity to hear more about Jesse’s collaborative project with BSA, The Nymph and the Shepherd, as well as hear him discuss his broader research interests in critiques of pastoral representation, and the potential for landscape practice as autobiographical expression. Several other artists will also present their practice, including the photographer Michal Iwanowski, whose major project Clear of People (currently under publication), retraces the footsteps of his grandfather and great uncle as they escaped from a Soviet prisoner of war camp at the end of the Second World War back to their hometown in Poland. Further information and details of other speakers to follow.”

I’m very excited about this prospect. It has been suggested that I should prepare a presentation of around 30-45 min’s and that more details about the event will be forthcoming. My ambition at this stage will be to focus on the BoW but also to finish with an example of my new work, very probably a video.

The Family Ties Network is a research group of artists, filmmakers and writers who explore memory, space, place and the family in photography and moving image. I had the opportunity to present my work, in a previous edit, at an informal session on the 20th Nov 2015. I have asked whether it would be possible to resent my BoW at a formal session at the next event, which is tentatively scheduled in Sunderland in spring of 2016. I feel this would be the ideal venue to present this work for the following reasons:

  • The Network is a research group whose main area of interest includes the main tropes of my work: memory, family, space and place.
  • The mode of delivery of the work is for the presenting artist to discuss their practice (their identity as an artist) then show their work before an extended question and answer session mediated by a facilitator.
  • Notes regarding the presentations and subsequent discussions are then hosted to the Network’s website to enable other practitioners in the field of inquiry to interrogate and develop the network.

The presentation methods at the FTN events are image projections, which may or may not incorporate sound. Some very careful consideration of how the work would be seen by an audience would be required to ensure that it was received sensitively. I have a thought that I might also accompany the work with a reading from a piece that I wrote some years ago, which would provide some contextualization as well as presenting some other work that I have completed at HE6 (level three).

I feel I am being realistic to suggest that my chances of being selected, amongst the august academics and practicing artists in the Family Ties Network, are slim.

Web-Site

I looked at the Adobe on-line courses for “Muse”, which will enable me to design and construct a web-site.

For some time I have taken an interest in the way in which artists, and in particular lens based artists, have created their on-line presence. The practitioners who inhabit the FTN arena have been of particular interest for obvious reasons, but I can discern no particular ‘house-style’ and they appear to be as disparate as any other practitioner. In fact diversity – or at least the apparent aspiration to be an ‘individual’ is the only common denominator amongst all those I have looked at. There are some who have clearly used “canned” ready-made profiles, some have used ‘blogs’ as a means to display themselves, there appears an almost endless variety of means to an end.

I have a couple of works that are ‘ready-to-go’, but I will make space for ambition, I’ll create a void in which new works will need to be made. Now complete – link here:http://www.johnumney.co.uk. I am grateful to those who provided support and critique in what is an area of real importance to a practicing artist.

And finally

I have a strong sense that this BoW, along with other works that I have worked, on will continue. This work, as it appears for tutor assessment, will have an edit which is current and this may well change for final assessment.

The presentation at the symposium will need to be tailored to the time allotted and my current thoughts are about twenty – twenty five images/slides. If I am successful for an artist presentation with the FTN I suspect that I will have a greater amount of time which would enable me to show all the current BoW and some other work.

It is all a work in progress.

_______

The Project Descriptor

The event specific descriptor for the Sheffield Symposium is as follows:

‘I keep looking for him – I think I always will’ uses landscape photography as a vehicle to reflect on personal memory and autobiography. Using the relationship with my deceased Father as a starting point, I explore the complex and multi layered nature of the father-son relationship through a presentation of landscapes set in Purgatory, an unsettled village in Oxfordshire, text and personal artefacts that relate to this relationship. Memory is capricious, malleable and fallible and this (perhaps impossible) search for the truth of our relationship informs ‘I keep looking for Him …’.

The overall project descriptor has changed a little from the document I took with me to the event at the Glasgow School of Art:

Descriptor:

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 potential 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 that I made 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.

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

Purgatory exhibition

I’ve just been told that my exhibition will be held over for another six weeks – which means it will have been on the wall for three months! Recently I went back to the gallery and met up with fellow student (now graduate) Keith Greenough to view the show. I was quite pleased with how it looked. I am meeting with some students this weekend to talk about the work.

South Street Gallery news

There is some news regarding the show at the South Street gallery.

Firstly there is a chance that’s the gallery will extend the exhibition by a further six weeks, apparently the artist following me has had to pull out and I have been asked whether I would mind having my work held-over. I should know very shortly whether it will be or not.
More interestingly I have had some feedback to the work which I have found interesting. Someone from the Echoes Group was in the hospital a while back and has taken the time to write to me regarding the work. I hadn’t invited him to the show as I had no way to contact him – the contact details at the Group are kept confidential, but I have left mine in the gallery space – so it was a real surprise to hear from John.

“You ask for feedback. My idea of Purgatory in its traditional sense is that it is a place of suffering, a purging location. I did not recognise this element in your pictures. There is a warmth in your vision which, for me at least, conveys a sense of isolation, rather than desolation. The only unsettling photograph in your exhibition was the one of the strange pieces of detritus, which could serve as an illustration to some verses of Dante. I am wincing as I write this : it sounds so pretentious. What I am trying to say is that the effect of your view of an empty landscape or close-up is to show the beauty of it, not the horror.”

One of the first references I have used is Dante, it came from a suggestion by Sharon to ‘locate’ the work and then specifically to Dante by the Chair of Trustees of the OCA. This connection pleased me greatly as did John’s reading of a sense of isolation. This emotion was something that I wanted to weave into the visual narrative but I felt that I hadn’t managed it, and certainly no-one had mentioned it to me before.

“On the subject of literary sources, I always assumed that Waiting for Godot was a version of the purgatorial myth and it did occur to me when I saw your picture of the frosty grass with a misty background that it would serve as an excellent backdrop to that play, assuming that the solitary tree called for in the stage directions would be on the stage itself.” Of course I know of Beckett’s drama, but don’t know the text and would never have thought to have made the connection – something I shall try and make time for.

I’m really pleased to have entered into this conversation and will try and meet up with John, though his Care duties keep him very busy.

Purgatory hanging

The view from one end of the gallery space at the South Street Gallery at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford. A poor composite of the twenty three framed prints (the corridor is wider than appears here) with tools still in the frame. The sequencing I had envisaged needed to be changed when I arrived due to rod availability and placing, but I’m reasonably content with how it looks. I suppose the acid test will be whether any sell, or I get some/any feedback.

The work that Penny, Keith and I hung at Nuffield helped immensely with the timing as this secure hanging system was similar and I had to work with Scot that the Art space manager requested – his ‘main’ job is at the ‘Modern Art Oxford’ Gallery, so I suspect he knows what he’s doing! Scot seemed pleased with the way it went up.

A light goes on in Arles

The decision to go to Arles this year was made very late. I had felt for some time that I should go back, but wondered when it would be. Maybe the idea was prescient, as I have come to a place in my project where I can see clearly what work I need to do and the outcomes that I feel I need to achieve including aesthetic decisions. I have always felt that once I ‘knew’ which way to go it would be easy to comprehend it and therefore follow it through. light entrancec2

Some things don’t change

I’m aware that things may alter/change/become modified but the intent of the work is fairly well defined – I have a clear idea of what work I need to do – and I have sent an email describing those ideas to Sharon for her comments, though I suspect as it is holiday time her response may come in a couple of weeks or so, but I will continue. I will describe my ideas and plans after that response and commit them to the project. I am excited about the prospect. It may be that I would have come to this set of ideas about the work independently of the trip to Arles, but I can’t help feeling that being immersed in the city has helped to progress the situation that had become stuck fast.

Waiting room on platform 1, Arles railway station.

The Arles experience this year was mixed for me. The Ateliers have been reduced to a very much smaller event than when I was there two years ago, the organisers have improved the viewing experience and some of the ‘sheds’ now have air-conditioning, but what it gained in ‘ease’ it seemed to lack in gravity. The Atelier des Forges had a large work based on the album cover and after I ceased to try and see how many of my own record sleeves I recognised, I wondered about the contrivance of art and the commercial, a bit like ‘fashion photography’ in many ways. And saying this isn’t meant to denigrate it, but I feel a lack of depth as opposed to a great deal of depth of professionalism. Good to see editing decisions, but I felt that the size of the show might have been influenced by what appeared to be some sort of sponsor-shipping, maybe I am wrong.

Inside the “Grande Halle”

I quite enjoyed this series of works by Robert Zhao Renhui who must surely have been influenced by Joan Fontcuberta, asking the reader fundamental questions about the ‘real’, but so beautifully constructed – his miniature frogs were very difficult to see however.

Ambroise Tezenas’ work “I was here. Dark Tourism” was one that I enjoyed greatly. Asking serious questions about the nature of catastrophe and voyeurism and commercialisation of tragedy. There were other interesting works in the Atelier, but nothing that really jumped out at me, and a few lowlights as well. The Ateliers were perhaps a defining component of the festival, they have been irrevocably changed. light framec2

A view across the Atelier development

In the Grande Halle – seemingly a lot of space unfilled…

light stairsc2

light poster wallc2

Part of Majolli and Pellegrin’s work entitled “Congo” in the ‘Magasin Electrique’ (Atelier)

light leakc2

Workers looking at an issue on the floor in the ‘Facades’ by Markus Brunetti in the Grande Halle which was supposed to question our perceptual relationship with reality – it appeared more to me to be about technical proficiency and the ‘unreal’. The ‘book’ seemed to be occupying more of the stage at Arles with new awards and a significant increase in the items on display. However I think that there needs to a radical retying about how these books are curated for the viewer. Long treacle table at just over knee height in the sweltering heat with no conception on genre or subject left me bewildered about where to look, or even to start to look. Volumes that I recognised, that I thought might lead to volumes of a similar or related subject was a misconception. One either waded through risking a back-ache and a slowly cooked body or flipped randomly through with a hope that something might turn up. Like going to a library and stumbling on a reference, and whilst serendipity can work, in this atmosphere one needed a great deal of stamina to stick at it.

And so what took me two full days the last time I came took me less than a day. There seemed to be a lot of space in the Ateliers, like this one above which had a show before. I wonder what this new development will bring, if anything to the future of Arles.

light parrc2

I found the whole concept of Parr’s work confusing. The show was held in Eglise des Freres Precheurs where I had seen Alfredo Jaar’s work two years previous, one artist moved me the other didn’t. The fashioning of a concept which wasn’t clear to me didn’t help me to come closer to what Parr’s work is. I know I am missing a point, but the coupling of some quite surreal electronic music to each of the installations moved me away from the work instead of helping me to connect with it. It advertised over 500 images – I suppose eighty per cent were digitally projected. An absolute highlight was the work by Dutch artist Alice Wielinga whose work “North Korea, a life between propaganda and reality” was a delight. Beautiful imagery set in a film, structurally a documentary but offering many narrative motifs on truth and reality both contrived and ‘real’. I watched the film through a couple of times and would do so again, there was so much to discover. Wonderful. Wielinga’s work contrasted with a major exhibition in the Place de la Republique, that being “Another Language” in the Eglise Sainte-Anne, where last I saw a large retrospective of Sergio Lorrain.

Eikoh Hosoe’s work spoke to me of a crisis of identity, a theme which I felt echoed across a few of those eight Japanese photographers and one which I felt lacked a little in imagination. Two of the photographer’s had very similar imagery – dense over-processed, difficult to discern prints – and one which didn’t stand much comparison to the Japanese work at the ‘Together, Forever” show from ‘The Collection of the Maison Europeenene de la Photographie’ which had Moriyami, Shibata, Tomatsu, Sugimoto and others and one of the ‘laugh out loud moments for me when someone did this:

Couple HCB with Parr, not once but, I think, four times! This exhibition from the archives had some great prints and whilst the show was conceptually weak I don’t think that was the point – the prints were wonderful and diverse.

From Klein, Leiter, Callaghan, Close, Brassai and a lot of others. Another site which had a selection of ‘Greatest Hits’ was the Musee Reattu which had: “Daring Photography 50 years of avant-garde collection in Arles”. Though I’m not sure about Ansel Adams and Edward Weston in that list, but it was nice to see some Sarah Moon prints along with Kertesz, Klein, Plossu, HCB (again), Man Ray, Strand and others. Two heavyweights at the festival were undoubtably Evans and Shore. Walker Evans’ show focussed on his magazine work, and whilst it was interesting to see the images, some i had seen before in other places, this curation did nothing to dispel the obsessive nature of his documentary work and this influence was, I think, cleverly echoed in the exhibition of Stephen Shore’s work who has noted Evans as a big influence – but then so many have. Shore’s exhibition was of a size that would have similar in scale to some of the retrospectives two years ago, but in this years festival almost stood out for its size and scope. A good deal of Shore’s various phases were on show, from the early monochrome work through to colour, back to mono and a return to colour. My view of Shore is that he, along with the master Evans, personifies the notion of ‘do the work and find out what it is about later’. Though I can only say that my comprehension of his Montana sticks and stones work defies me, perhaps mostly because of their repressed aesthetic.. The walk along to the Evans’ show allowed the viewing of a curiosity of the festival which was the curation of a set of images, under the festival theme of ‘Odd Collections’ that depicted early photographic images of the Sphinx.

I suppose about fifty or so of them. A curiosity. I haven’t covered all that I saw, and haven’t covered Natasha Caruana’s work which had been awarded the BMW residency for this year very well which I thought was a highlight, so is the catalogue – much improved I think. I had a great time in Arles but I suspect it will be the last time I will go….

Purgatory exhibition

 

The exhibition space at the South Street Gallery allows for two A4 size paper inserts. One is expected to describe the work – some kind of artist statement – and the other with pricing and contact information. I have decided to be guided on the statement by the Churchill exhibition staff, so about half of the words in the statement belong to them, this relinquishing of editorial control comes after the episode at the Nuffield where some of the work was required to be taken down. The staff had contacted me about the notion of Purgatory – not wanting it to be ‘morbid’ – and it is for that reason that I have included an excerpt from a OS pathfinder map to ‘situate’ it as a physical presence, though I do reflect on it’s psychological ‘space’.

New exhibition

ridge snow 2c2

I’m really pleased that the Purgatory work will be exhibited in the South Street Gallery – part of the Churchill Hospital – in August. It is a really lovely space situated in a wide corridor and having no chairs and a lot of flat light from a vaulted glass ceiling. An altogether better place for viewing prints than the NOC, grateful as I was for the opportunity.

The big difference will be that it is a ‘selling’ show and I have to decide what price to put on the works. I will have a price – list and another sheet of A4 (under perspex) to describe the work. The space could easily host thirty or so 20 X 16 inch frames and the Purgatory set might make a dozen or so at this stage. I have asked how much space they want me to occupy as I could put some more work up.

Texts do not signify the world; they signify the images they tear up.

with permission of the artist Leigh-Anne James

with permission of the artist Leigh-Anne James

I was fortunate to be given an invite to the Exclave exhibition and symposium at the OXO building in London yesterday, which also marked the graduation show of UWE where my nephew’s partner recently received a first with an extraordinary body of work.

The symposium was titled “Photography and Integrity” which I though was an interesting title for a set of talks with a mainly student audience, but the speaker list was very interesting in order of appearance where: Claire Hewitt a photographer, Max Ferguson a photographer and publisher of Splash and Grab (graduated from UWE two years ago), Olivia Gideon Thomson an agent, Natasha Caruana photographer and Emma Bowkett photographer and picture editor at the FT Weekend Magazine.

I don’t plan to rehearse all the talks but consider some of the points made by each of the speakers. Hewitt’s work and practice reminded me somewhat of Laura Pannack’s talk in Barnsley; she had strategies to cope with ‘grey periods’ but committed herself to long term projects that she fitted in around her commercial work. These long term projects – like ‘Eugenie’ where she visited Eugenie once a week for a long time with the project lasting three to four years. Hewitt explained how, despite the project being concluded, that she felt a certain guilt in not visiting Eugenie as often. Hewitt has also embarked on another project where she wrote to a prisoner on ‘Death row’ in a Kentucky prison to develop a collaborative project. The artist has no idea of the crime committed, they will never meet except by written correspondence and Hewitt will make work that she will share with the convict. There was one image from the work that she shared with the audience. It was of a landscape with no horizon.

Ferguson started his talk about a series of work he undertook in Rwanda shortly after graduating, of being in a very special place at a very special time, about revelation, both personal and political. Interestingly Ferguson attended a prison whilst he was there but, unlike Hewitt, made images of people who had committed heinous crimes and then explained other images that he couldn’t make. He then discussed the ‘Splash and Grab’ project and how his ‘Integrity’ as a publisher is different to that of his photographer identity. He has never featured his work in his own magazine, which is a strong sense he described, of that integrity. Issue three is now asking for submissions. Issue two had over 1000 submissions and each submission was viewed at least three times and only 10 submissions were accepted to the publication. Another manifestation of his integrity to the submitting artists/photographers. I wonder though if the rise of such a magazine might hinder that cause for integrity on all fronts.

I was less interested from a personal perspective in Gideon Thomson’s contribution, although she has a great deal of practical experience with some luminaries in the ‘industry’, her insights were mainly about how to get noticed, practical tips on websites and reminiscences of her artists like Kander etc.

Natasha Caruana was very good, she provided us some(very personal) backgrounds into some of her work – for example “The Married Man’, ‘Love Bombs’ including some audio that she normally doesn’t share. Her recent residency for BMW in Chalon-sur-Saone called ‘Coup de foudre’ was interesting, humorous, informative and delightful. I had considered asking Natasha to present at Barnsley, on her performance in the OXO Building she would have been terrific.

Emma Bowkett, amongst other topics discussed the position of the image in a documentary setting, I asked her about why it is that the image still has to conform to very rigid anti-editing strictures otherwise they will be rejected – recent debacles at the WPP event were mentioned, and that there seems to be no such rigour regarding the written word. Bowkett couldn’t find an answer. I was reminded, but decided not to press further with this thought, about Flusser’s comment about words: “Texts do not signify the world; they signify the images they tear up. Hence, to decode texts means to discover the images signified by them. The intention of txts is to explain images, while that of concepts is to make ideas comprehensible. In this way, texts are a metacode of images.” (Towards a Philosophy of Photography – Flusser)

This primacy of the written word seems to me to be wholly out of place. Flusser also discusses the mediation of narrative through text and image, but the fixation on the veracity of the written narrative is assumed – ‘I saw and I wrote’ – whereas the fragility of the integrity of the imagema is viewed with constant caution. Interesting.

After the talk I was given a private tour of the work, which I wont go into detail, other than to say two things: The ‘space’ given over to the work is generally poor. The lighting is very low and quite difficult to gain a reasonable view of the works on the walls. There was quite a lot – about 45 student’s worth – up and down about three floors. However the standout work was accomplished by my host! And no wonder she got a first. Leigh-Anne’s work included a video installation, a handmade book of individually printed cloth specimens assembled as a cloth sampler and a wall installation (above). The work didn’t contain one conventional photograph on display – whose surfaces became, as Flusser suggests, significant surfaces – but echoed a retelling of her family history told via a textile medium in form and forms with machine and hand sewn items. Quite delightful, extremely creative and with depth. Excellent!

The work overall was better presented in the catalogue for the show and I will have a closer look at some other time.

 

Aha news and an opportunity

cover

This cover contains both my photography and some art I made in the project at the ‘Echoes’ group, earlier this year, and the work below is also something I’m proud of:

InfoBoards_A4[2pp]-1

 

Yesterday I received an email invitation to exhibit at either the JR (John Radcliffe) Hospital and/or the Churchill Hospital. Both have professional hanging systems and encourage artists to sell their work from the wall. I will participate if I can this year – August – for the normal period of a month. It won’t be anywhere near as much work as the Nuffield show.

These successes have come about by the work I have done with Artscape, notably the ‘Echoes’ ground prove the benefit of networking – though I don’t think I am very proficient at it – and in doing so it has brought me into contact with artists across different disciplines, though all in visual arts. The only slight reservation I have is that, other than Artworks, the work is going on the walls in hospitals – albeit purpose designed art spaces. I’m not going to look at the teeth of a gift horse though.

The learning curve

Image courtesy of the photographer Penny Watson

Image courtesy of the photographer Penny Watson

I had been planning to write this piece about exhibiting when Bryan wrote his piece for the WeAreOCA blog that offers some very interesting advice/suggestions. I wondered how I should measure success concerning the two exhibitions of Artweeks and ‘Memory’. Artweeks is now finished and what I know is that just over 160 people came to the exhibition and I sold eight prints, I introduced a good many to the ‘Memory’ show by means of the brochure that Penny designed and at least one has definitely been to the Nuffield to see it; subsequently providing positive feedback. The Artweeks visitor numbers are up on last year, so are sales and many people have come back (not counting family and friends!) who visited the show last year. So far so good!

Bryan suggests considering what might I do better for another time, what didn’t work as opposed to what did. This is somewhat easier to discern for Artweeks as it was a ‘manned’ show, lasting a short time – nine days and quite close to home. The Memory show is much further away and manning would be impracticable, even if it were closer and for a shorter term; it isn’t a ‘selling’ show and the vast majority of the many hundreds, perhaps thousands who will pass in front of the work will have no easy opportunity to provide any feedback whatsoever. At the time of writing Bryan’s latest suggestion is to try and get a review made by a visitor – I’ll try that I think.

Artweeks I have done for a few years now, my fellow artist and I have been in the same place for that time and we have become established, and whilst I know there are things to be done better, the Memory exhibition offered a greater amount of opportunities for learning.

Virtual collaboration isn’t easy and relying on email transactions doesn’t make it simpler. Words slip and slide and nuance is very difficult, especially with the hastily typed sentence. I wanted the opportunity to collaborate, I wanted to experience the ebb and flow of negotiation with both Penny – in this case – and with others such as the fellow exhibiting students (including those that we didn’t choose), the host facility, PR &c. I feel that what we achieved is very good, the look of the show – at least at surface level – is very professional. The Artscape project manager who facilitated our access the space was very pleased with the outcome and the way we went about the process. The consistency of the hanging, the quality of the prints, the attendant information (which Artscape funded as their contribution), the brochure all added up to, in his opinion, an excellent exhibition. So, feedback! More to come as and when it occurs.