On-going experiments

There is a strange transition period when boxing up work for submission. I have followed my tutor’s advice using simple boxes to present each part of the course and I have selected from the samples that she has seen – both successful sampling and works in progress and samples that were less successful, yet moved the learning forward in their own way.20170104_192737.jpg

In between times  I’ve continued to explore using the asemic text and gestural marks, creating fabric with these marks then turning these into form – notably being influenced by the visit to the Wellcome Institue and seeing the dolls used as healing forms. This is an area of my own work that continues even as the course ebbs and flows around me.

Library of images show transition from paper doll form stuffed with polyester stuffing, to fabric forms stuffed with same stuffing in ‘stoney-faced’ doll and later stuffed with the remnant off-cuts from the fabric: ‘heart of glass’.

Sketchbook drawing has become a very much daily event, and this is a huge leap forward for me from where I was last year. I continue to explore how the paint moves, how it creates its own distinct marks, how it layers, how it responds to being splattered, poured, dripped and blown, how it writes with a glass dip pen, and the difference between the same colour in watercolour and acrylic – and further how these are with different papers and different size sketchbooks.

Other experiments include creating a simple, textile form of a flower…then adding the splatter and drip to see the impact on the ground and composition.

I continue to be curious about how to blend powerful inner topographical representations with subtler vehicles for conveyance. Subtle shock versus blunt impact!

Further developments

For those of you who do not access Instagram I shall share my recent developments further to completing the MMT course.

I have decided to go for assessment. I am trying not to overthink it!

I have been using Instagram to teach myself to limit the amount of photos I use to present my work and also to develop the selecting skills that means I can only present 1 or 2 images per day even if I create 20/30 pieces of work. This is proving to be really good training for me and I have found the arts community on this app to be inspiring and accessible. I miss the words but I am trying to let the work speak for itself.

The following gallery presents the sewn shoes made from khadi paper that I entitled ‘Walking wounded’ and sewing with ‘Ugly words’. Instagram enables me to quickly and effortlessly upload a video which for these 2 shoes was a useful means of presenting a 360 degree look.

Then on with the experiments. I’m loving the combination of blind line drawing in black biro, then asemic text on top in black or red ink or watercolour and then washes and sweeps of colour, followed by splatter and splashes.

The next gallery presents the experiments in paper sculpture that the shoes inspired: what would the inner surface of me look like if it were…

…a table den to hide beneath, a secret message hidden in a bottle cast to the tide to be discovered by someone else somewhere else, if the hurtful words were transformed into feathers to fly free, if I were a fairytale landscape…

Screenshots from Instagram of other paper sculpture ideas (as I forgot to save photo…mental note: don’t).

And finally further paint/drawings experiments resulted in my most ‘liked’ piece of 2016. A6 75p sketchbook page – double spread, indian ink, brush & glass pen; wash, splatter, drip, flick, asemic handwriting.

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Growing the series

Topography of Harm still seems to have much life in it and direction. I’ve been dwelling on what purpose these works serve and what promise they could hold. Yesterday, I went to see the ‘Making Nature’ exhibition at the Wellcome Collection. I haven’t been to this museum since I was a teenager and it continues to live up to its slogan of being ‘the free destination for the incurably curious’. It was also, dare I say it, a sanctuary of curious grown-ups!

After being greeted by Anthony Gormley’s inverted suspension ‘Feel’ (2001)in the atrium and climbing the beautiful staircase we watched a film broadcast on 3 screens all about communication – and humanity’s need to create giant listening ears for alien life  (like ESA’s new deep-space listening station) across the universe without really hearing the lifeforms on this planet that are gradually becoming extinct (actually without hearing their fellow man at times). As always seems to happen, something that I thought I was just watching settles deep deep inside and then resurfaces after sleep as being of profound impact. The exhibit was called ‘The Great Silence’ and it beamed the sound of silence from deep space (intimating that any intelligent life would do its absolute utmost to stay undetectable by the human species- a contributing factor to understanding the Fermi Paradox). The silence however is the sound of space ever vibrating from the Big Bang. Space is vibrating, that sound rippling further and further away like a great wave on a puddle. Yet for all this that we can listen in on, we fail to communicate with each other and ourselves. what if we strove for listening to our internal deep space, or listening to another’s?

In the next exhibition I knew I would have rather a closed mind: ‘Bedlam’. Whilst I fully uphold the importance of righting the wrongs of those incorrectly incarcerated and those who were mental health patients whose treatment was inhumane, I do believe that we mustn’t over-romanticise the legacy of mental health illnesses on family and friends and community. There is still the drowning-the-witch chair feel to diagnosis. If you say your insane then you’re incarcerated, if you claim your sanity then it proves your insanity. The exhibition did highlight the circus of therapies available as contemporary treatment – but this made me question all the more – what do we have that we can cling to as sanctuary in our lives. What makes us feel safe? I think I was turning over in my head those amulet pieces.

Finally, we went into the ‘Medicine Man’ exhibition with its wonderfully idiosyncratic display ranging from medical instruments (like an array of historical amputation saws) to the amusing array of rather more er sensitive(?) exhibits – a chastity belt, fruit sculptures containing a miniature couple mid foreplay. But what really caught my eye, were the amulets and reliquaries ( see Wellcome Images then search ‘amulets’). There seems to be an ancient and human need for something tangible to help us feel protected. From the comfort of a doll or teddy for children, to hope beads to enable a child to map their progress through chemotherapy treatment, to the amulets and reliquaries of ancient and other cultures.

Which brought me back to my making. These miniature amulet designs are serving not just to ward off, like the guardians, but are actually seeking to bring goodness towards. They purpose of these amulets seem to be to attract and repel. The secret script on many of the resembles the asemic texts I have been working with.

There is much mileage in the creating of guardians and amulets to protect against the harm that is being mapped out in the series.

This also gives me room to work on a range of scales and with a variety of media – significantly into 3d.

When I watched all the people hunched over at the station waiting for the train, crouched over their phones, it made me realise, we so want to be found yet we are busied up in the business of finding, we want to be discovered, yet there’s that real innate drive for discovery, we want something other to connect and communicate with us. Our sense of sight is overused – it is the sense that is supposed to protect us – alert us to danger, find a safe route, help hunt for food. Yet what about out deeper senses, what about that very human sense of imagination. Imagine if we really listened. Really heard and understood. That’s what we’re searching for in our likes and dislikes I think. Something that says, ‘I’m here’ and something that says ‘Yes’. Aren’t we looking for home? Why would we listen across space for intelligent life? It’s not just for protection against some imagined threat from alien species. It’s not to be shown how much more intelligent another life form is. It’s because we really don’t want to be alone out there in that great huge void of space. But just as interpersonal loneliness is separate from existential loneliness, being heard is separate from communicating.

Perhaps that is what we artists are doing on the page, in the air, on the bare surface: populating empty space to ward of that existential loneliness. Trying to hear our spirit on the page?

And when I realised this and looked at all my fellow passengers, curle over their phones, plugged into headphones, staring at these tiny screens, I recognised that I need to make more amulets. I need something to hold on to that shows I’m not invisible, even if it is a tiny 1″ piece of card with my marks. Those marks trace my beingness. They might speak to another too.

muddling the code

Thinking on Inger’s recent visit to CCCB where she saw the Ars Combinatura, Ramon Lull’s ‘Thinking Machine’. This reminded me of the coded work I’ve explored before and those discs that are used as code-breakers. I wanted to disrupt the sense-making further on one of my drawings so cut concentric circles, as a nod to Lull’s fascination with geometric shapes, varying widths; then played with rearranging them. It was enough to read the reference in Inger’s post to inspire (scrambling T-R-U-T-H. Rotating letters as a Material Form of Thought)

Topography of Harm: Series 5 

I’ve been carrying these cards around for days.  Little disks of potential in my pocket. I’ve shuffled them and spun them like a deck of cards wondering where this Topography wants to go next. 

It would appear it is crying out to go 3d again. I feel I’ve almost looped back round the beginning samples of ATV but at a greater depth. I’m not sure whether this is revealed by the surface?


My chosen 2 out of them all to take forward ‘resilience’ and ‘hope’. The embellished piece ‘hope’ uses scratching and piercing, stitching and beadwork because I am always repelled by the wishy washy  soft and dreamy recreations of pieces that assume this title. To me hope is gritty, and tough and damaged and scarred and pieced together, bloodied and bruised; yet still it surfaces. 

Hope never gave up on me and I on it. 

But now I realise this new series wants to be more than the previous protectors, they want to be amulets. I therefore need to visit both surfaces of them.

Topography of Harm: Series 4

These have been united: ink side and bloodied side…

…as thumatrope with the addition of thread to twist:

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Trying to spin and video these was quite a challenge, but I managed to upload to Instagram…

…or you tube if you prefer here.

Have had some thoughtful feedback on this step and the movement of the piece seems to be quite critical to what it is conveying. It leaves interpretation to the audience far more, and it allows for multiplicity of readings and layers. This is proving to be quite an enquiry.

I wonder what other ways there would be of animating these works?

I fin the film recalls the black and white movies, of the likes of Georges Melieres. The flickering and spotting, as well as the slight theatricality and of course the moon-shaped disc!

I do find though that the blood spots overwhelm the inked design – but this in itself is conveying meaning. I am delighting still in the process. To confirm this further I managed to track down an old copy of the text ‘of inner spaces’ concerning gestural painting in Modern American Art. On opening the frontispiece I am greeted with the most inspiring quote from Mark Tobey:

‘The dimension that counts for the creative person is the Space he creates within himself. This innerspace is closer to the infinite than the other, and it is the privilege of a balanced mind…to be as aware of inner space as he is of outer space. If he ventures in one and neglects the other, man falls off his horse and the equilibrium is broken.’