Sunday, 28 February 2010

Too Much Information or a rich rhizome?

I have been thinking of alternative locations for the remaining images for my project. At first I thought of using a variety of generic landscapes - but really this seemed too random. There has to be a rationale that stacks up. A conversation on the road with my good friend Simon threw up the possibilities that a number of equally potent sites returning to nature as Dimminsdale provides. In particular in addition to the Forest Of Dean where I shall be later this week, Simon suggested Orford Ness amongst others. Strangely I'm just completing my reading of 'The Rings Of Saturn' by W.G.Sebald and he has just reached Orford himself in the strange rambling journey he has chronicled across Suffolk. It must be an omen.

So I look up Orford Ness in good old google. But as so often it throws up delightfully chaotic linkages that can so easily set me off on other tracks...I sometimes think the net was designed exclusively for me...the 'rhizomatic' deleuzean nature of it suits my magpie mind so well! So I come across Matthew Roberts - an artist I've not previously known but now want to know better! His watercolours of the site (one above) only serve as an intro to the project he undertook in 2008.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

New Paintings

Three new canvasses that I'm quite pleased with! Nothing to do with my MA work of course...though it's surprising how the thinking about one feeds into the thinking, if not the practice, of the other. In fact there's perhaps more of a connection than I'd want to admit - the interesting element is the way the colour and incident is being pushed out of the picture plane in the paintings and into the centre of the photographs. Why this is I'm not at all sure though I suspect it may have a lot to do with the physicality of paint and canvas as a medium and the choice of digital for the production of the photographs. Even in writing this I'm thinking I may revert, if only as an experiment, to chemistry based photography to try out how it affects the image production for the MA work.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Another Session

The sessions now seem to fly by and inevitably we are now looking down the barrel of hard decisions about how and what the shape of the final project submission will look like. Be warned if you come looking here for tips on coping with the course - the time slips away mighty quickly in this last semester. It's harder too to engage in the debates around the work at the group crit - for starters one doesn't want to be too damning as we are hardly in a position to completely reinvent ourselves and our work at this late stage, neither can one suggest new directions that would require fresh investments in substantive reading around the text that - given that a draft has to be submitted immediately after Easter - is rapidly coming upon us. All that said there's still opportunities for interesting diversions and distractions...including the discussion around the revolving dildo's I saw in Venice last summer in the Glass stress exhibition! I thought this video work was amazing...check it out on Hye Rim Lee's website!

Monday, 22 February 2010

Back Home

from Stockholm where we mounted a small show of work from Harrington Mill Studios of which I am a member at Supermarket 2010. It was a fantastic experience to be at what has become the premier artist-led organisations art fair in the world. And I had personal cause to celebrate the first ever sale of one of my photographs during the event! And given that it was the only picture that I've produced for my final project that I'm at all happy about it was a double cause for celebration. As well as selling it I had several very good responses from visitors including a very well regarded Swedish photographer who thought it one of the most intriguing images at the Fair (and there were a lot there!).

Overall Supermarket is essentially a networking event and we managed a fair bit on that front with contacts established all over the place. I also sold a painting so came away pretty pleased with the whole thing. Of course taking five days out of the course now means lots of catching up to do but the conversations at the Fair have clarified quite a bit of my thinking so I feel energised to push on with the work. This coming Wednesday we have a group crit so I need to gather together what I have and make some prints for that. Busy times on the stand as can be seen from the photos...there's a refreshingly open and interested audience in Sweden for contemporary work of all kinds.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

The Elusive State of Happiness

is the title of the truly marvellous retrospective exhibition of the work of Ian Breakwell. Maybe I'm biased - after all I work in Long Eaton (Ian came from there), I was Dean of the Faculty of Art & Design at the University of Derby (Ian studied there as a student, back when it was still, wonderfully, the Derby Art School) and because I had the privilege of knowing him (not well but enough to have seen his acute intelligence and artistic talent at first hand). However it seems to me that Breakwell is one of those rare UK artists who don't fit into any obviously easy 'movement' or category and consequently often get overlooked. He was genuinely a one off...the richness of his output lies in the endlessly mutating exploration of the diary form but it manifests itself in a bewildering and kaleidoscopic variety of media. I was at the opening last evening (at QUAD in Derby) and whilst I wasn't paying the work much attention (I always go to shows I care about at a quiet time when I can engage with them properly) I caught a snippet of an audiovisual piece in which he said "I'm never bored" and that comes across in everything he ever recorded - he simply found the world and everything in it fascinating. One of my favourite works is The Walking Man - go check it out... a truly original 'Breakwellian' take on the idea of the flaneur.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Just Keep Going!

We are now very firmly into the home straight - yesterday's session was a tutorial slot and whilst I was given some solid and sage advice there is no doubt that the core message was - you have to decide and you have to find the way to do it. Of course this is absolutely how it should be, indeed when making any art, how it is - eventually no one else can tell you how you feel and how you react to the work you create. Nonetheless in the context of study it still comes hard to you! So now the really hard work is underway - and in many ways a lot of the theory quickly melts away as you start looking hard at what is being made and what will be compelling images. Though there are great ideas out there and even if you are fortunate to gain a toehold on a half decent one they will mean diddly squat if the pictures don't grip the viewer. Obvious perhaps but hard to achieve.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Getting Somewhere?

Another grey day it seemed - last Friday - but as the afternoon wore on there was some I hastened over to the woods and got there just as the last rays were disappearing over the top of the site. It was about time I was up on site anyway - the back corner is famed for its snowdrop covering at this time of year and sure enough there they were, just about to fully open up. I thought it was unlikely I'd get much as the direct sunlight had pretty much gone but as it happened that was a bit of a blessing. The diffuse light coming through the trees provided a very different range of images than those I'd achieved the last time I'd set up in the late afternoon with the sun strafing the side of the hill.

I'm trying to trust my judgment as to what 'works' now that I've decided on the formal characteristics I want to work with. These involve placing the filter stick within the picture frame, and thus framing a view within the view that the camera naturally creates. Using a full frame SLR I have options as to whether I use the full frame or crop within it. Most of the earlier pictures did just that - but having pulled back and included the device I rather like the evident backgrounding that surrounds it, creating a tension between that and the 'view' that is visible through the filter (or not depending on whether I focus through it or on it, and how much light is reflecting off the surface of the acetate sheet employed).

Another aspect of making the pictures is of course whether or not to fiddle with the resulting files beyond marginal adjustments of exposure and colour balance. As a painter I have little compunction in this - I'm after an intriguing and evocative image that 'says' something different about the scene than that one would usually expect. In any event photographers have been doing this themselves (something very forcefully pointed out to us by Mark Howarth-Booth when he spoke to us about Camille Silvy) ever since the medium was invented. So I'm definitely up for this and expect to spend a lot of time sat in front of a computer screen weaving images together in dear old Photoshop.

At present I'm holding back on taking the filter stick 'on tour' to other locations despite having made a handsome box stand into which it can be inserted - and thus facilitating shooting on solid terrain as well as softer ground (i.e I've been sticking it into earth to date!). I rather like the notion of taking a wider range of views - urban as well as rural - with the device but a concern has to be whether a meaningful range of 'typical views' (whatever they might be...) can be achieved in the timeframe - and also whether such a radical departure from original intention is a viable option.

Friday, 5 February 2010

The Final Show

A great flurry of activity from my peers as regards our final show - which we are reckoning to have sometime in mid autumn and somewhere in the UK! Given it's February already this is likely to become something of an issue if we don't settle on a venue (or venues...) quite soon. The latest in an increasingly long line of locations is back in Leicester itself. I feel this makes some sense as several of us are relatively local with contacts and colleagues who could make up the numbers and for those who have to travel at least they know how to get there! And after all if you live in the South of England then Leicester is as convenient as Birmingham or Sheffield (other locations that we have mulled over). In addition to the Leicester proposal there is some talk of an event in London that (assuming the logistics and economics can be made to work) is a very attractive additional prospect. Of course there is no such thing as a 'perfect' venue and given that I have shown in a bewildering number of contexts in the past, and occasionally in places that I've either never seen at all until I got there (!) or that I've only had photos to work from in advance I guess I'm very relaxed about what a prospective venue might look like. Hopefully we will start resolving some of the issues soon!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


I was just invited to join a Facebook group that opens with the following quote:
I have lived among enough painters and around studios to have had all the theories – and how contradictory they are – rammed down my throat. A man has to have a gizzard like an ostrich to digest all the brass-tacks and wire nails of modern art theories.
(D. H. Lawrence)

Fabulous, if only for artists currently we should read photographers! Memo to self...stop reading about it and just press the shutter!


Maybe one way forward is simply to utilise the device in picturing generic locations... though this has some drawbacks, not least the logistics of getting to the beach, the mountains, etc. in the time available. The first tryouts had better be relatively back to 'Stand 32' to capture the riverside in the manner of the 18th century landscapist obscured by acetate...

Monday, 1 February 2010


in my head at least as far making photographs is concerned. I'm thinking over where I have gotten to with the project that ought to be the bedrock of the final submission in May but it's hard to see a way forward with it that doesn't seem cliched or trite. I am also finding that much of what is written about other photographer's work seems to share a sense of hollowness in terms of what the actual images convey and the theoretical constructs around them. In short many of the pictures are banal and the theorising bullshit!

And yet without a strong theoretical underpinning even the strongest pictures seem to me to lack a real presence. I'm beginning to doubt my own judgment in all this and to question quite rigorously even those photographs and photographers that I've previously admired. Having spent a goodly part of the day rendering in paint several images that could have been almost instantaneously arrived at digitally the pure pleasure of the physicality of the act of painting and the sensuousness that derives from this is what genuinely moves and motivates me most of the time.

However the commitment to the process of better understanding the photographic act is what motivated me to take this course of study and it remains elusive. It's certain that making more images, probably thinking less about how and what they might be, and looking harder at the results is at the very least a prerequisite to understanding better. So over the next few days I shall re-double my efforts to get out and take pictures rather than agonising over what the course of action ought to be.