Texts and updates

So, considering the path forward to assignment five. Probably the biggest area of concern with my fourth submission was regarding texts. Firstly there was a random mix with and without parentheses which provided a confusion/distraction. Were these texts from me or from somewhere else? Additionally there was a lot of confusion with intent – were the texts viewing the relationship between father and son positively or otherwise? And lastly, why did I have the texts randomly placed on the image? (well to break it up I think, to not be monotonous).

So I have aligned all the texts to a common starting point. I’m planning to continue to have a background tone in order to place it as an image rather than as a just text. I’m not entirely sure why, perhaps it is something to do with image and text as opposed to simply text.

One of the other comments was about unifying the texts, this may be partly because I had conflicting statements. Conflict as opposed to ambiguity didn’t seem to work, quite a few comments suggested that I had that wrong. I was being too ambitious with the texts, wanting to create too many entry points, better to have a simpler structure.

And so I have created more texts, bringing more of my own voice directly into the work. The first, third and these two below are quotes from elsewhere, the rest are wrenched from memory.

I’m planning to let them lie for a while before re-sequencing them.


Tutor feedback Ass. 4

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The first time I remember holding his hand was as he lay, I was waiting for his final breath; and when I was finally sure, I let go.


I’ve received my formative feedback from Wendy, with no surprises. I feel very close now, the scope of the work to Assignment Five doesn’t appear too far and I have some ideas about how to achieve resolution to the issues highlighted by the tutorial post Assignment Four. Overall the visual imagery appears to work well, however the incoherency of the text’s and artefacts need some more work as they aren’t as well as they could be/were intended to be.

As regards text’s, Wendy suggested a stronger methodology – up to me – perhaps a single voice as opposed to multiple. My thoughts, which I plan to test, are to use my voice. The artefacts are his, the landscapes are my psychological response to Purgatory and the text’s could be the bridge, though I am fully aware that it will be my voice bridging, excluding his. There are a couple of texts that I feel very connected to, but I need to test the presentation.

My current plan for the artefacts is to double their size, make them twice life-size in the presented state and set them centrally. I don’t think I need to re-photograph them as they are fine as they are, and their apparent ‘floating’ presentation works I feel. It is important to the work to have a developed emotional distance between the objects and I feel if I made them too large in frame they would become abstract objects and lose their emotional perspective.

I plan to re-edit the work before I go to Glasgow and present the work at the Glasgow School of Art on the 20th November. I also want to try and find a way to workshop my ideas around the reformatting of the texts. After the Glasgow event I suspect I will be very nearly ready to submit my final assignment as an early Christmas present for Wendy.


One of the principle issues to overcome on this course is to find ways of receiving feedback on work in progress, or perhaps any work. I have largely been unsuccessful on the informal fora, such as Flickr and so have developed a pseudo cohort that I am happy to go to, albeit individually, for feedback. The Thames Valley group have been very helpful and they have ‘bent’ their rules to provide indulgent extensions to the limited allotted time on occasion.

Feedback is a matter of trust, not a matter of fact. Interpretative skills are developed through discourse and time. When I set up a print group, a decade or so ago, it was for the purpose of providing critique on developing work and specifically not finished work and I take work there when appropriate. But it is to fellow students, tutors and increasingly practitioners that I am now turning to for critique/comment. I mention this now perhaps as a mark that I have embarked on the final part of the course “Sustaining your Practice” which seeks, amongst other objectives, to situate the work within a framework of a professional practice and equip me to transition from a student to an artist.

Over the past year or so I have started to develop a cohort of students whom I trust to provide critical feedback, and not to just tell me whether they think the work is good, bad or indifferent. Students operating in isolation of a pedagogic framework might appear a risky venture but I think those that I share work with provide feedback grounded in their studies. I have also found practising artists who have been very kind in providing critiques of my work – especially this BoW currently in development. The opportunity to present at the Glasgow School of Art is another opportunity to engage not only with academics and practicing artists to provide enlightened feedback on the work, but also to develop the network of connections as I transition through the course.

I have learned a lot about feedback over the last few weeks as I have ‘put this work in progress’ out there. None of it has been negative, all of it has been constructive and I plan to discuss it with fellow students at a later stage. I shall also collate the feedback and write up a post that reflects on the attempts to gain critique on this work, what has succeeded and what hasn’t.

Assignment four reflections post feedback

Images (as opposed to the images of texts):

Landscapes are working, the size is fine and work within the context of the work.

Artifacts: the placement and the scaling of the objects need to be refined. The current variability in the printed page is incoherent and the scale makes them more difficult to ‘read’. Maybe central, although critical to the work is the impression of emotional ‘distance’. Life size is just too small – maybe workshop, or test other presentations to gauge how to develop a stronger visual strategy. “Play with scale” and have a consistent (probably centralized) depiction. Suggestion to look at the work of Raphaël Dallaporta.

Texts: Critical area for consideration. Overall the diversity of the texts created an overdeveloped richness in the narrative which confuses and misleads the viewer. The inconsistency of the sources is perhaps at the heart of these criticisms, whilst the placing of the texts on the page also added to it. The suggestion would be to research a body of work that I might use: suggestions were temporal – a relevant subject from one time to another, or topical. The use of one personal text could be developed into multiple. Either way, refining the source is vital for the work.

A suggestion to present this work at an informal session at the next Family Ties Network in Glasgow, in November, was suggested. Wendy has already opened the way by mentioning the work – though not sharing it – with Dr. Nicky Bird one of the principle organisers of the group.


I’m pleased that the scale of the landscape images are working, and that the imagery seems to be as well. No suggestion was made to alter the image edit/sequence – though I think it is implicit that that is a significant possibility after more work is done on the artifacts and texts, which are in need of a lot of work. I will continue to work in Purgatory to look for more imagery and expect to rework the sequencing on a regular basis. No comment was made on the sequencing strategy, perhaps I should find a way to gauge it’s validity?

I am also less concerned with the artifacts, I agree that the placing of the imagery is vital and will look at scale. I’ll discuss with the archivist that I spoke to from the Ashmolean as to placement etc. Wendy said something about scratches, wear &c. on the objects, about how important/significant they are. I will think about that as my concern is critical distance between those items that were his, and which are now, by legacy, mine.

As regards the texts, I think I need to re-think the whole strategy. Texts are vital to the work, they bring context and possibly direction, but the ‘scattergun’ approach I had employed, which tried to weave ‘absence’ ‘love’ ‘paternalism’ &c., did not succeed. I have a notion that I will revert to very personal recollections.

I am now in conversation with Dr. Nicky Bird about an informal ‘New Voices” presentation at the forthcoming FTN event in November. Excited and daunted.



And more

More from the recent shoot. These though seem to have a different expression.

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Fog certainly isolates and that emotional charge seems to be in these images – at least for me – and distance.


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And the lastly these funghi which, to me captures a great deal of what I went searching for.

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It is similar to the recent post, but for me the altered perspective heightens that sense of distance.

Beautiful weather

I was asked by a fellow student how many images will I be presenting at assessment, I have no idea. I don’t intend to make any more images of artefacts, because there aren’t anymore artefacts. All there is have been documented.

However Purgatory still implores me back, and as the weather deteriorates the more expressive it seems to become:

I now have a strong sense about what the work is ‘about’ which informs the editing process from image making to sequencing in a way that wasn’t happening before. My suspicion is that the work become longer, but I may substitute imagery that better expresses what it is that I trying to narrate.

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The first frost is being forecasted this week, as the wind changes direction from the west to the east and perhaps back again. The summer of relative inactivity in image making looks to be waning quickly and I’m looking forward to looking for more opportunities to develop my vocabulary.



Assignment Four

And the wheel turns. It’s been a reflective day; I have posted my assignment four to my new tutor and, as usual, feel a little loss at it’s departing. Earlier today I found out that someone I was quite close to in my adolescence died five years ago.

There are things that I might change in the assignment, but I decided to deliberately let it go because I want the feedback to help to inform me about how the work is being read. It is purposefully as ‘open’ as I thought I could allow. I have had some feedback from a video I made, which shows a static representation, and I was very glad to receive it – the video also has certain issues. I also made this video to illustrate how the box might be opened.

I hadn’t been in contact with the friend who died of cancer, we had gone our separate ways and clearly neither of us felt compelled to keep or get back in contact. However the passing has had an effect and I think it is because it was five years ago, and I never knew. And I have a sense that I am to blame for not knowing, curious about my feelings and perhaps a little foolish.

I have also injected some energy into the studies by enrolling on SYP, this happened yesterday. I had wanted to enroll earlier but I think the timing is right and I have the same tutor as for the last two assignments for BoW. I had ‘known’ how my work was going to be presented at the end of ‘SYP’ for a while now, but in an initial conversation with my new tutor I mentioned that I have become aware and perhaps, at an initial stage, involved with Family Ties Network, a loose organization of artists and academics making work around the subject of ‘Family’. The next meeting is in November and I pan to go along. I expressed a lofty ambition to perhaps present my work there – it will certainly need to be developed from where it is at present – but the idea is starting to germinate that this could be the way I take the work to the ‘world’.

I encountered my friend’s family on-line today, raising money and awareness around cancer in the name of their lost loved one; and so I started to wonder the worth of my introspection in light of real loss and the catastrophes that surround untimely departure. Perhaps I just internalize it and move on, add it to the canon of experience for future reference.

My notes accompanying the submission are here:


 Dear Wendy,

Please find Assignment Four Body of Work: 

I came to a decision about the direction of this work a month or so back, and whilst the changes in tutor have been a distraction, it was about committing to the work and to complete an edit, this edit – far more difficult than I first imagined. Nevertheless here are my thoughts to accompany it:

The landscape imagery/s are still vested in my psychological response to the space called Purgatory. With very little graphic editing – none for the most part in terms of what I found in the viewfinder – these photographs depict what I felt as I have wandered the Purgatory landscape. I suspect I will continue to walk there and make more work as I close this part of the course and move towards the end of my studies.

The artifacts, that were my father’s, I have tried to make representations of them as if they were archaeological finds. I took advice from and archivist who recently retired from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and presented them as if they had no personal connection. I wanted to try and create a distance between what they are and what they might connote.

Similarly the texts – which have been researched from literature on the subject, largely, of father son relationships (though not all) are meant to ask questions of the viewer. The vexatious quality of the texts, if it works, will test whether the relationship between father and son and, son and father, is healthy or otherwise. I have references for the texts, but wanted to test the idea before imparting them as I feel it might ‘lead’ the viewer.

The editing process was, I felt, always going to be the most challenging. I didn’t want to ‘lead’ the viewer through the work, I wanted the viewer to develop emotional responses to the work, and if it worked well, for those emotions to be varied and mixed. The difficulty in that purpose was to not make it too diverse and obviously conflicting – it is this that I think I need to do more work on. Having the context of my father’s personal effects – all that is left of him – clearly brings a very personal note to the work, but within the work itself I wanted the viewer to be able to transcend that notion and engage with their own personal narratives.

I edited on various levels; there were visual harmonies – landscape number two and then the necklace for example, the darkness of the black stone in the ring echoed with the dark hedge row of it’s previous image &c. The visual aesthetics of the landscape imagery I think is consistent – subdued with, what I hope, is a sense of ambivalence – as compared to the artifacts which are quite contrasty, which tends to suggest to me a didactic quality which I suspect is important aspect of historical evidence. The intervention of the texts was decided upon after the image series was concluded in the main – I made one alteration. The texts were placed where they appealed to me, which I suppose denotes my meta-narrative.

I am aware that with this presentation I am controlling, to an extent, the narrative flow, much as a video I have made of it – I will publish a link to it later – and whilst I harbour some concerns about that control, it is because I currently envisage a book publication for SYP that I wanted to test this strategy out. An alternative would be a gallery exhibition, however in that case I would want to reconsider the placement of both text/image, and possibly artifact in a physical form. The idea of presenting at FTN though does seem a really interesting potential for this project…..

Overall I am pleased with this assignment. However whilst I begin to consider the final assignment I do not anticipate this form of presentation to be how I will finish the work for BoW, let alone SYP.

I look forward to discussing this with you,



Curating the evidence

As advised by Chris from the Ashmolean in Oxford, having a ruler to describe the size of an artefact is part of an archivist’s standard process when cataloguing finds. I have made composites of various items and created images of single items as if they were evidence. I have spent some time to try and ensure that the scale is correct – although their depiction is clearly different. The number of items left of him become, seemingly fewer. These objects are a selection of a very few personal possessions of my father after he died some years ago.

The next stage is to sequence the landscapes, artefacts and texts into a ‘tighter edit’ for assignment four. The scales can clearly be seen to be different on these images, but I’m interested to see what, if any reaction, people might have to the scaling – is larger more effective than smaller?


re-photographing what’s left




I have spent the afternoon in make-shift studio (the builder we have in at the moment has commandeered where I would normally go!). A few of these objects will need tweaking to resolve the discrepancies between colour temperature and brightness &c. Overall I am quite pleased with the consistency. Thinking about this now, the paper choice will be important as I want to have the flexibility to place these objects on a page on their own but aligned to a landscape. The ruler might be used to provide a scale – not entirely sure about that yet.

My next assignment (4) will be to edit the landscape images,  these objects and the texts that I have collected in a sequenced edit. My thoughts are that the landscape images from Purgatory won’t be very large – perhaps no bigger than A5. I want these objects though to be near ‘life-size’ – which, when they are presented next to the landscapes, will introduce a dynamic to do with scale, and maybe the ‘real’. I need to find more texts.



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They fuck you up

A little while ago I met up with John, he had been to the exhibition at the South Street Gallery and had commissioned a print – unframed and unmounted. He has been a support for my work and has several prints of mine which he only buys as described – I wonder where he stores them. John and I chatted about a few things, I think he misses conversation as he wife is now in care-home to which he visits every day, and he seemed genuinely interested in my work, how I had contextualised it and how I have envisaged it as a body of work – at Oxford John had had tutorials by JRR Tolkien and was at school with Tolkien’s son Christopher, I mention this to situate his place in time and space.

When I collaborated with John in making a self portrait he provided me with a file of 36 images of his books, which I then mixed with an image of him, I was very pleased with the outcome and so when I received another email from him recently with some literary references for my work I was thrilled but not surprised.

There were three ‘father and son’ references which came to mind, but none of them involve physical violence. The motivation for all of them seems to me much more trivial than what you appear to have in mind, but you might, nevertheless, be able to make use of quotations from them.

The first is a memoir aptly enough entitled “Father and Son” by Edmund Gosse. It was published in 1907 and is an account of the battle of wills between an a Victorian scientist/academic and his son on the role of religious belief in life. It is written from the viewpoint of the son and the father emerges from the book as a sort of monster determined to impose his own extreme religious bigotry on his offspring. It is a literary classic and once you have adjusted to the somewhat dated style of writing, well worth the read. It may well contain quoteable passages for your purpose. It should be readily available from the library, but, if not, you are welcome to make use of my copy.
My second author is John Betjeman. There are references dotted around his poems to the strained relationship which developed between him and  his father. It stemmed from his adolescent refusal to follow in his father’s footsteps as the director of the family business.
     Fourth generation, John – they’ll look to you…………
     I was a poet. That was why I failed……………………..
     Black waves of hate went racing round the room.
     My gorge was stuck with undigested toast.
     And did this woman once adore this man?
     And did he love her for her form and face?
     I drew my arm across my eyes to hide
     The horror in them at the wicked thoughts.
These are quotations from Summoned by Bells, chapters 2 and 8, which deal mainly with his estrangement from his father.
My last literary reference is to Philip Larkin’s poem “This Be The Verse” (They fuck you up, your mum and dad).
It is a pretty obvious quote, but if it is apt for your purpose I see no reason why you should not use it. It is a wildly over-the-top response to Larkin’s feelings of embarrassment about his parents. In actual life he recognised their virtues as much as their deficiencies and respected them both.
Best wishes
The weather has been too nice to wander to Purgatory and I’m hoping it will deteriorate soon; but I continue to walk around my home and purposefully take a camera with me. John’s references are of a specific time and place, though Larkin’s fuller text seems as apposite as any I’ve read:
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.”
This summer’s determination to make imagery and follow the course I’ve set for the course I am undertaking is still holding. Though the news that Sharon is moving on will likely test that resolve. Good luck Sharon and my best wishes for wherever you land. Pretty pictures….


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.