I’ve been a bit delayed doing this post as I have been manning the show but I finally got a few mins free. The opening night went brilliantly, the art looked amazing and even better, hundreds of people showed up and said nice things. It was also lovely to bump into so many people I know electronically and put faces to Twitter IDs!
The only glitch was at 5.45, just before we were expecting our VIPs, the power went out! As with all the minor issues this week, we were not expecting that one! Quickly fixed by Will running up the stairs and flipping the switch back 🙂
As I come close to the end of my MA Fine Art course, I am preparing to exhibit the pieces I have made in response to the proposal I wrote at the end of 2015.
Over the course of 2016 I have read widely about mindfulness and mental illness and it began to influence the work I was doing. An artists work is very often autobiographical and provides a theraputic outlet for the practitioner and so it is with me. But as well as working through my own issues, I wanted to illustrate the benefits I have felt from learning mindfulness and learning to be fully present in my life.
“It is only when we are awakened that we realise how much of our lives we’ve actually slept through” – Ellen Langer (Dhiman, 2012)
The project started with an exploration of the liminal – liminal spaces in our environments and our minds. Liminal spaces are places of change and can be dangerous; hence, they are an apt metaphor for the spaces in our minds we are scared to cross. As part of the first tranche of research, I was interested in these scary places; the ideas and thoughts we avoid and use displacement activities to continue to avoid thinking about. I wanted to explore and convey what this felt like, using a range of media.
As the project progressed, the main question moved from ‘what does liminality feel like?’ To ‘what does mindfulness feel like?’ Mindfulness a fashionable concept, but what is it and can it help calm our frantic minds? Eventually, having experienced the benefits of being more mindful myself, the question became “How can the benefits of mindfulness be conveyed to an audience via the medium of artistic practice?“.
As someone who sees feelings and experiences as colours and images (I am synesthetic in some areas), I was keen to encapsulate the colour, shape, feel and benefits of being present.
My art is aimed at anyone who has a curiosity to learn more about themselves and is open to ideas of how they could alleviate some of their angst. I hope that the audience will take from it a willingness to learn more and perhaps to explore further themselves. Mindfulness is in a strange position, at one mainstream and yet still considered alternative and ‘weird’. My aim is to demystify some of that weirdness and show that being present is essential to our mental well-being.
Through my work, in varying genres, I aim to illustrate the feeling of; and opportunities for; being mindful.
Below is a gallery of shots of some of my work. The exhibition runs at Action Stations, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard from 20th August to 2nd September, every day, admission is free.
Pieces to be displayed include digital art, photography, painting, video and an electronic, interactive artwork (run using Raspberry Pi’s) which was recently awarded a special commendation for the John Barable New Media Award, University of Portsmouth.
Today is a glorious spring day in Gosport, and I got out early to take some more pictures in my bridge series. I am taking pictures on, from and of every bridge in Gosport. The number of bridges is endlessly disputable, but I am going with about 14 or 15 depending on how I get on over the Spring and early summer. I then intend to put these in a book, have a section on my website and exhibit a selection in August.
Today took me to an area of Gosport and Alverstoke that I had not been to before, it was lovely exploring the creeks. All of the pictures were taken mindfully, I wander slowly around the environment soaking it up, when something catches my eye, I take a picture of it without judgement – I do delete a few when I get home but I don’t censor at the camera stage.
Below is a selection of shots I took today on the two bridges in Alverstoke:
I went to Twitter to post a sunny pic when I got back and saw the terrible news from Belgium. It sapped my mood completely and left me feeling so sad. I carried on processing the pictures here, but with a different mood, I think my sadness has spilled into the pictures. Listened to Einaudi throughout which is wonderfully moody and poignant music.
Yesterday I had 30 mins to wait between trains at Brighton Station, and since I had my camera with me and since it is a beautiful place, I started taking some pictures. I tend to shoot from the hip and people rarely realise I am photographing. After about 25mins, a security guard approached me and asked me to stop. He said someone had “reported me” to the station manager. I didn’t bother arguing, my train was due and I had a good set of pics already, however, just for the record, they couldn’t actually stop me shooting because
I am a non-commercial photographer – a Fine Art student and
They would have to prove in court that I had damaged them, which I assume they couldn’t.
(this intel comes from a friend who is a seasoned professional photographer). Ah well…
This link gives more info, although it is quite old.
It just makes me laugh really, it’s so ridiculous to stop me…
So here are the pictures they tried to ban! Pretty salacious stuff….. I’m pleased with them actually, a mix between my street and mindful styles. Colour and monochrome. Red and yellow…
I am knee deep at the moment planning my MA Fine Art exhibition in August. There is a lot to do.
But a few things are starting to happen – I got 72 polaroids printed today which go towards my liminal space series (see featured image). I am very excited about having such a big part of the exhibition nearly done already. I have a great deal more to accomplish but this represents about 20% of the final piece so sizeable!
Firstly, these 72 pictures will be arranged in a particular shape, that is very meaningful to my project (no clues!). I learnt when doing Footsteps that there is a world of difference between having 18 pictures in a row and 18 pictures arranged in a path that mimics the real world. Arranging the pictures in that way gave a narrative to the series that brought it all together.
Secondly, these are tiny pictures – others in the exhibition will be large, but the viewer is going to have to lean in and really look at these to see what they depict. I like the idea of someone having to work a bit at what the content of the picture is. I watched visitors looking at Footsteps and I enjoyed seeing them step back to admire some pictures and move forward to inspect others.
But most of all I have learnt to trust my creative instincts. I think I have a fairly good nose for what I want to achieve – how I am going to realise my ideas is another matter!
In praise of 3M Command Strips
I would like to take a moment to acknowledge that the above exhibition would not have been possible in it’s current form without the existence of Command Hanging Strips. If you have not seen these before, they are on the corner of every DIY store aisle and well worth investigating. Each one of my pictures was printed on Dibond (aluminium composite) and I did not want to have to hang or frame them. But with 4 strips on the back of each one, they stayed securely attached to the wall, in a public room for five months! I honestly doubted that they would last that long and always carried a replacement set in my handbag whenever I was in Portsmouth so that I could make repairs if necessary. I needn’t have worried!
And although it did take us a couple of hours to hang the 18 pictures, it only took us 15 minutes to take them off, take the strips off and walk away. Nothing to repair, the wall was as a good as new.
My future work will definitely involve both Dibond and Command strips.
Another busy week having fun trying new things and rediscovering old ones.
The screen printing went well for a first attempt and I now have 8 colourful large Gosport Ferry tickets! I am not sure if these will form part of my final piece but they have certainly whetted my appetite for doing some more. I rather like the temporal nature of the screen print, yes, you can do 200 copies if you want to, but at the end of the day the screen has to be cleared and you will never get that exact combo again.
This week I rediscovered my love of the work of Canadian artist Ted Harrison. I originally came across his work many years ago when he was little known in the UK and apart from saving a few websites there was little I could do to see more. Over the weekend I Googled him again and was pleased to see that there is now a book of his work available on Amazon.co.uk which I ordered. I love the simplicity of his work, the emotions they convey and the wonderful colours especially.
I have also signed up to do a repeat of the mindful photography course I did this time last year. A year ago this week, I lost my job (of 10 years) and was at a loss what to do with myself. I signed up for a course with Lee, realised I had not even got a camera and with my husbands help, went out and got myself a lovely Canon EOS-M – which has been perfect for me. I relished doing the photography course as it gave me a structure to my week and was a superb introduction to the kind of photography which interested me. I am not a geeky photographer! If you asked me what aperture I used or what lens I had I would look at you rather blankly. My camera is a tool I hold in my hands in order to do the work I want to do.
Of course I was able to practice my art quite a bit last year which culminated in my exhibition at Portsmouth Guildhall (on till March) so it was quite an influential course for me – you could say it changed my life!
Since last year Lee has revamped his course and invited me to take it again this year and I was delighted to do so and this time I persuaded my husband to have a go too. I am enjoying the more in-depth course materials and revision on mindfulness is never wasted. Find out more at photential.com.
Over the weekend I went up to the Royal College of Art where their MA students had an open studio weekend I could wander round and see what they were up to. Not all the pieces were completed (and sometimes it was hard to tell) but it was still a valuable visit. I enjoyed the photography students work and got some interesting ideas on presentation too. Other areas that I popped into where jewellery, printing and ceramics – all of which were in beautiful places showing impressive work. After lunch (and meeting up with Victoria) we spent a long time looking at the MA painting students work. Personally, I found it a mixed bunch, I loved some and some of the others not so much. Yet again (as if I needed to be constantly reminded) I loved the highly colourful, highly abstracted work and have resolved to only do this work which I love in future. I am not sure why I persist in trying to paint stuff that I actually don’t particularly like sometimes!
Below is a small album of pictures I took of the day. And above one of my own pictures that I took of a stairwell at the Royal College of Art.
This week I have been continuing my research into creativity and subversion. I had one of those wonderful afternoons when I started off with Picasso, read all about the women at ‘Remaking Picassos Guernica” which lead me to a whole activist movement I have not heard about – Craftism. I love their style!
I was reading a blog about some of the stuff they do and one craftist leaves small cross stitch works with inspiring messages on ‘in the wild’ for people to find. The same principle as Free Art Friday. She said she was inspired by the artist Susan O’Malley. This led me to spend a couple of hours researching her and it was a bitter sweet experience. I love her work, the colours ping and her work is touching, moving and amusing. She really embraced living in the moment and I was so excited to have found an artist that I really connected with and yet the sad news is she died unexpectedly last February aged 38 – life is short and most of us do not make the huge impact that Susan did.
I really liked her “Finding your center” exhibition from 2014. It has echoes of what I am thinking about at the moment.
I was left with a sense of sadness but like the craftist before me, I am inspired to do something similar, particularly with my Free Art Friday pieces which I want to get back into doing each week.
I also spent the week listening to the excellent Leith Lectures with Grayson Perry – hours and hours of them! I have listened to them before but now I am more of an insider than an outsider so much more made sense. I was about to replay some pieces in order to transcribe some quotes when I found that the BBC have helpfully done transcripts.
He seems to be saying that subversion has had it’s day:
“And if you think about it, all the things that were once seen as subversive and dangerous like tattoos and piercings and drugs and interracial sex, all these things, they sort of crop up on X Factor now.”
He’s very cynical about there being any true subversion any more. But then in an earlier speech he describes his own pots as subversive…..and they certainly make you think and challenge your beliefs!
We talked about a lot in our tutorial this week, I have 3 pages of notes to follow up!
Empirical research – how do artists do something considered so scientific? As I have a science background I would gravitate to empirical research, but in art I have yet to find an application in my own research. I find it difficult to categorise the research I do into types.
In his book “Art as research” Shaun McNiff considers that in science there is introspection as part of the empirical approach and in art research there is empirical experimentation as well as reflection.
“Art based research comprises both introspective and empirical inquiry. Art is by definition a combination of the two. The artist researcher initiates a series of artistic expressions as a means of personal introspection and the process of inquiry generates empirical data which are systematically reviewed.”
To subvert is to overthrow the accepted norm. Does that make any scientific discovery subversion? I feel that the definition of subversion is more geared towards political / social acts rather than new discoveries or else all scientists are subvertists? When searching online the word has an underground quality that I am not sure most scientists have. Of course there will be cross overs.
Propaganda and advertising are designed to subvert but are usually done from the position of power (the government / political party / large organisation) so perhaps rather than subversion being underground it is more underhand…..
We talked briefly about semiotics (the study of meaning-making, the study of sign processes and meaningful communication) which I had never heard about before – having done a little reading now (OK, Wikipedia!) it is a whole new world which includes semantics, syntactics, pragmatics and seimology! I think it will take me a bit longer to take all that in.
Does Twitter subvert journalism by making us all journalists on the ground? The other day I was tweeting pictures from a pro-refugee rally in Portsmouth and a news channel retweeted me. Was I being subversive?!
Why does being subversive feel like being a little bit naughty as a child? I guess we all like to kick back at those that rule us.
I’ve added some pictures on Flikr of the Gosport Ferry and have started to have some ideas about how these might be shown as a whole.
I did a big acrylic painting this week, not sure it’s finished yet, but I like where it’s going.
This weeks featured image is a reflective shot under Forton Bridge, Gosport – a liminal space. (Actually a liminal space twice, it’s low tide too).