Stage 4: Sorting Part 4

In this section I intend to consider Part 4 leading to selecting pieces that have really worked for me, continuing to be tight with my choices as per feedback previous to this part. Furthermore, I intend to clarify key influences for this section of my work.

Firstly, I made a dramatic change to how I record thoughts and ideas and turned to a journal. I wouldn’t say this transition has been easy and at points has marked a separation and discomfort with my process and progress. However, I can understand the need to simplify the blog for assessment purpose, but I have felt myself as someone cut off from the usual poetry and philosophy that emerges when I consider my thoughts through the medium of the blog. I would also say it has made the coursework seem somewhat impersonal and too consciously formed. Therefore, I continue to work on how to resolve a happy medium in this matter. Notably, I have found instagram a useful resource for brutally selecting which works I share with a wider audience and which remain for the blog/sketchbook/journal. It has been much easier to sort my visual responses with this tool. Now, I need to consider what resources might help me sort my written thoughts more concisely.

Commencing Part 4, I was able to put into use a very recent workshop on using the gelliplate as printing plate. I love this process. It is fluid, immediate, rapid, uncomplicated and immediate. I experimented with positive and negative images, a variety of found objects and early on I believe I was using the gelliplate to undertake collatype (more on collatype in a moment). Furthermore, over the course of this part I attended a workshop with Cas Holmes that again reinforced and introduced new ways of printing with found surfaces and materials and embellishing this with stitch (which I have loved and continue to investigate). It is important to add that I do recognise the key difference between the ex3 collatype is its ability to be reproduced – you are creating a printing plate from which many prints can be take – the collatype style process on the gelliplate is more likely to create monoprints – ironically at the start of this course I do not get the point of a monoprints – now (except for the painting on a plate which I still don’t appreciate fully) I most certainly do; it is this spontaneity, chance, fluidity and surprise that I search for.

In amongst the significant successes there has been monumental failure and I have had to work through the disappointment and disillusionment that accompanied Project 2: collatype using filler and pva. These methods did not work for me. As detailed on these parts in my blog they were an almost insurmountable dislike and I was confronted with a total inability to surprise myself – the unexpected being something that I look for in my work as necessary.

I think what was a blow too, was having to work through exercises just as I had found a combination of print and other processes which were enabling me to create intuitive and expressive work and thereby providing me with a fascinating line of enquiry. I very much hope to resurrect this abandoned strand of ‘Not All Wounds are Visible’ in Part 5.

The printing part has been timely in that my local area holds a print festival over the Summer, which enabled me to enrich my visual knowledge of this field. I attended a number of galleries to seek inspiration. As it was, the best inspiration emerged from my prints themselves.

The key question that I’ve been exploring has been a development from part 3 where I was asking: ‘What if I cast the inner surface of me – what would that be like?’ in this part I’ve modified it to ‘What if I print the inner surface of me – what would that be like?’

The first piece that begins to investigate this concept with the added value of ambiguity as well as developing in process skills, is the green heart that I posted for crit on the forum. After this piece and the pushing of it further and further for depth, the printing exploded as I printed using brusho on acetate combining layers- finding that the usual single layer for print surface did not offer me enough of a platform to say what I was trying to feel.

This was a joy. The work was evolving and finding its own momentum. New lines of enquiry in research opened up and coalesced – I learnt about visceral wounds, the impact of trauma on the physiology, Porges research into the polyvagal nerve and I was excited and animated and enjoying the experience of creating, then putting the work out to speak for itself and convey its own message interpreted by the audience at will. This work led into a far more in-depth study of the monoprints of Tracey Emin and she has become a significant influence as a result of this, her sketches have led me on to look at the drawings of Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt as well as trying to redress my intense dislike of the prints of local-t0-me artist Billy Childish (unsuccessfully I may add). My other inspiratrice Elzbieta Kazmierczak continues to encourage and challenge me with my expression and healing. She has kindly responded to my work by email, exploring the concepts and conditions with which this investigation of my inner surface has taken me. I continue to respect and admire her work and words (thank you Elzbieta). Working alongside Cas Holmes again in workshop, has reassured and reinvigorated my exploration of the surface and I owe Cas a huge dept of gratitude for teaching me how to free-motion embroider on the machine and furthermore how to change the weight of yarn in the bobbin (thank you Cas) which I immediately employed in the next ‘wound’. As a result of being reacquainted with my machine and free-stitching with different weight yarns it occurs to me know that it might be possible to use this surface as a print base for further works in part 5. Lastly, Louise Bourgeois. Ever on the perimeter, ever fading in and out of focus in her influence.

I have tried to bring forward processes from previous parts to continue to explore them in different context: e.g. burning, suprasemic writing, use of the 3D printing pen, multi-layering surfaces, using a plaster cast form from part 3. I believe I will take these forward again from here. I haven’t included resin during this part but that does leave it open for exploration in part 5 if I wish.

Overall, if I were to exhibit based on this part I would chose the following pieces for their voice, use of printing technique and potential for development.

Although I had to end this part on a down note after struggling with exercise 3, by sorting through I can focus on the learning and progress that has actually occurred and which I will reflect on fully in Assignment 4.

T1: MMT: Pt 4; Pj2 ex3 finished!!

Collatype boards for last 4 samples using found items and pva technique:

I really didn’t think I was going to make it through this but it is done. I’ve hated every moment of collatype following the instructions in the course notes. It has not been inspirational nor expansive, nor has it encouraged me to be brave and daring. It has lacked imagination. It has felt dull, dull, dull. There are many, many artists creating beautiful and considered collatype landscapes and abstract works – just see pinterest! My fellow coursemate Julie has the most stunning collection of these works on her board. Yet, for me, as maker I draw a line. Then I’ve beaten myself up about why I have such a block with it and why I can’t produce something beautiful, imaginative, inspiring and creative with this process too. Then yesterday in amongst the rest of my crazy world I just realised I can’t because I can’t. And what I’m actually dealing with is disappointment at ending a part of this module on a low note. Admitting that to myself was really tough, yet writing it today seems rather foolish. What a lot of energy I have wasted wrangling with this!

 

I looked back through all my prints and realised I have accomplished the process of collatype using the gelliplate and it was decorative and textural and usable.

I have, rather, failed using the pva and filler technique. Just like I fail at running, or getting up early. I still walk, quite lengthy walks sometimes, I still get where I’m going on foot. I still get up and get on with the day – I don’t spend the whole day in bed (chance would be a fine thing) I am just not a wake up and immediately with it type of person. So enough of the woe is me I can’t do this exercise. It’s done.

What is emerging from the print research is an ongoing interest in using gestural and expressive line – a desire for something much more raw and ragged – inspired further by Tracey Emin’s monoprints and her drawings.

Continuing with more TE-style blind line life sketches:

I am still passionate about using some of the print techniques to develop the mini-series ‘Not All Wounds are Visible’, and I have made progress sketching (albeit in the tiniest hidden book) in public.

So, this post is sharing the failed collatypes, but awakening a refusal to be limited by this.

Truth be told, the only thing I do like is the left-behind damaged surface of the print-stained collatype board after its use for the last samples: made from the back of a cardboard postage packet, on which I pva’d stitched materials where I had been trying to fix the tension on my electric sewing machine and realised no matter what I did it wasn’t changing – I couldn’t control what was being drawn up from inside the machine, from the bobbin, neither could I loosen the surface tension that kept making the thread from the spool break– so the tension control has broken.

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Typing these words I cannot think of a better metaphor for where I’m at in me than that last sentence!! This work has thereby earned its title and I have understood my problem – well one of them…

T1: MMT; Pt4 Pj2 

Ex 1 & 2.

I followed instructions. I printed from prepared collage boards. It was dull. The results were dull and pre-school-esque. Actually, no the results felt like something straight out of the 80s. 

Shiver.

Moving on. One more exercise to go. 

Research and exhibitions

My three muses around which I have centred my research are Louise Bourgeois, Tracey Emin and Elka Kazmierczak. Researching the works, the process and inspiration behind these artists’ creations has led to many connections that I’ve followed up: significantly the work of the German Expressionists – in the case of Emin, Egon Schiele, with Kazmierczak – the German Expressionist woodcuts in particular. Then I’ve looked at the collaboration between Emin and Bourgeois.

It was inevitable in my research of Emin that I had to look at the work of Billy Childish. I have never liked the man or his work. He’s been part of my locality for most of my life and I have always found him, his art, his music, his poetry abhorrent. My local gallery has an exhibition of his work on so I forced myself to go and see whether I had changed my view and if not to see if I could nail down what it is that I hate about it.

Keep in mind that contiguous to this research has been my own research into trauma, its impact on the human body and brain and its emergence in my work and what it means for myself and my art. This has led me to research Bessel’s work in this field, leading me to follow up ideas born in Darwin and developed with Porges, making links with my previous research on the inner language of the mind and its representation in the work of Henri Michaux and his parallel Matta.

I am aware that my three influences share an autobiographical subject for their work. This speaks to me about human value and personal integrity. None of these artists could be described as sentimental or commonplace. Oftentimes I read of works of these types being labelled as ‘confessional’. I resent this term. It is derogatory and subtly demeaning. What has Emin to confess? A rape, childhood abuse – should this be seen as confession? Really? Asking for forgiveness?

No.

I wonder if anyone who has been abused could accept this term. Confessional is another way of supressing the responsibility we are challenged with as audience to these works. Confession leads one to consider the artist as ‘owning up to some wrong doing in order to be reconciled with the rest of the community’. It is an alienating term.

No.

Not confessional. Brutal, bare naked truth, intimate, seeking address and notice.

I have found the recent exercises trite in the face of the subject matter that is emerging in my work. The exercises are commonplace, surface oriented and feel purely exterior – something that I now recognise in Billy Childish’s work – the very essence of artifice that repels me. Marketable skills and production. Technique, pattern – nothing that reflects anything of the artist to me (or in terms of my own exercises: nothing that allows me to reflect myself). At least though I can now put words to what I reject in Childish’s works and thereby what I hope to remove in my own.

I have been in my head and under my skin battling with various demons recently. I wrote in my journal earlier in the month that ‘art is the skin to life’s gristle.’ I wanted to put this into action today, drawing on the visual research I’ve been undertaking.

Looking at Emin’s monoprints, reading about her process and needing to get out of my head and back on the surface of my skin I decided to have a go at some monoprints too. I used the back-drawing technique using the end of a paintbrush so that I couldn’t see the trace but could only feel the mapping of my view. In utter frustration at my local adult education having axed life drawing from their course directory I decided to simplify matters. Emin’s signature style is ‘repeating painfully intimate details’ (pg 78 ‘The Art of Tracey Emin’ ed. Merck & Townsend, Thames and Hudson 2002), ‘one poncif is her depiction of the open legs…a charged element’ (pg 76) ‘stripped of her clothes and reduced from a figurative element to a semantic one’ (pg 75) which is where Emin and Kazmierczak meet. If it is here that my influences meet, then to feel what they are working with and to see if it can be a powerful element in my own hands I set to. I cannot bear to look at myself in photos or a mirror. I feel alien to my body as if I don’t quite inhabit it. How can I teach my daughters to treasure and value their own bodies if I am so separate from mine. How can I show that the wounds are more than surface, that they alter self-perspective and should never be something that require confession or seek penance. They are a truth of me. What can be more true than my own skin. What bears every imprint of every moment I have ever lived. My body. I refuse to be commonplace. I refuse to be sentimental. I refuse to be afraid.

Annette Kuhn: ‘Though perhaps for those of us who have learnt silence through shame, the hardest thing of all is to find a voice: not the voice of the monstrous singular ego but one that, summoning the resources of the place we come from, can speak with eloquence of, and for, that place.’ (A. Kuhn, ‘Family secrets: Acts of Memory and Imagination, London: Verso, 1995)

This is my body, speaking through my hand. Prints of the imprinted.

I select these three prints below as the most successful of the print run, since they hold the most fluency and intimacy, yet retaining something of the influence of Emin translated through my own hand.

Something very strange and unanticipated emerges in this following print – but it is a something that needs investigating further. It seems to hold both the figurative and semantic, as well as narrative, something concealed yet self-exposed. Significantly, there seems to be something very menacing about the odd curved pincer that is central (goodness only knows how that came to be?!).

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(See Bibliography page for texts)

T1: MMT: Pt 4: Pj 2: ex 1 & 2 collatype

This post was evidently not ready for the world until today. I posted on Monday and it refused to upload. I posted last night and three paragraphs in this sad little face came up on wordpress saying ‘uh-oh something went wrong’ and deleted the whole post again. Recognising what I’m up against today I started with a different approach – I typed into word and saved it to copy and paste here. Oh, and I did some work worth posting about too!

The ethers have been conspiring.

Rather than starting with talking about all the research and deliberating further on why I hate the notion of collatype and the pointlessness of further sample making when I have a mini series emerging (‘Not all Wounds are Visible’) I grasped the proverbial bull by the horns, bought some shop’s own filler, went through all my beach finds from the last few days camping and forced myself to get making and get this section over with.

I am in hell in my head at the moment- where I thought things couldn’t get any worse and life showed me that yes, actually they could- this kicked me in touch with triggering my ‘you can’t break me’ attitude. As in life, so in Art. I shall just do these tasks and free myself of the disappointment I feel at the course materials here. Not everything should be inspirational. This part is not for me. That’s not to say it won’t be for someone else. I just need to knuckle down and deliver. Be professional and business like about this part.

I even resented having to find a ruler and making 10 ‘even’ sections. Come to think of it now, I don’t know why I didn’t get a circle and divide that up into 10 segments.

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But, it was a start and broke the silence that has been the current mode of making.

For exercise 1 I followed instructions smothering the board with glue, sticking down the finds, then wallowing these in more glue and setting this aside in the sun to dry – and touching it now it still needs an overnight full dry.

Then, for exercise 2 I got the filler which I hated working with. It wouldn’t adhere to the card surface. It wouldn’t spread. I then decided that I wouldn’t fight it but use this to my advantage, making the pasting of the board the process of mark-making. Then I tried using a pencil rolled to alter one sample area, a pencil point to stab another, a thorned-stem from the rose bush to make marks in a third section and finally I pushed a leaf onto a 4th surface and lifted it away (taking most of the filler with it in the process).  Set aside to dry to tomorrow for printing. Which leaves exercise 3 and then the summary and review of the whole part.

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It would appear from my blog though that the research section for printing has been scant. This is very far from the truth and deserves a summative post in and of itself.

Combining MMT pt4 pj1 ex 3 and mini series

This is where the exercises and the mini series combine further.

After doing the back-drawing on to the blouse I had another go using the 3d printer pen, writing out and insult then placing it on to the gelliplate to take the first and ghost print – on to paper and on-to the blouse. Looking at the effect I decided to layer on the actual 3d printing too. This blouse now has all stages of printing and layering – yet it still felt incomplete, so I worked further.

I am pleased with the different layers of text, the back-printing that I wrote by hand, the shadow print of the 3d printed insult, and the 3d printed text. Using the 3d printer I can make writing for the stencil of ex 4 and can choose whether to have the text mirrored or normal on the gelliplate.

This piece builds from the babygro sample as it was a threat I received, an insult that still haunts me and I need to spit it out of me. These wounded prints give me a safe platform to do this. It doesn’t need to be decodable by the ‘reader’, but the many layers of its imprinting damage are inferred.

Using dissolvable fabric I was able to stabilise the layers and embroider using the machine with the thicker bobbin thread on the bottom, but once the stitching was done and the material dissolved this became the upper surface. The stitching enabled me to hold the binding in place, the bandage at the angle I wished and then I could layer one more ‘bleed’ print to the surface. This time I left the sample to dry and it bled through onto the reverse of the garment.

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For some strange reason this moved me more than all the rest of the surfaces I have created.

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Again, I deliberated for some time over the title of this piece. Did I use the insult? Did I find another saying? How could I convey the ambiguity of viewpoint? How could I convey the effect of gaslighting and the denial of injury by others. I settled on another common phrase of those times – something that is impossible to prove and disprove and over which I am still stunned at its efficiency in quashing the truth:

“You’re imagining things…she’s just attention seeking.”

I hope the image and the title create the confusion and impact of being injured and denied, hurt and disbelieved. I hope it also acknowledges what it probably on the lips of many critics – the self-serving therapy of this art, this work, ‘the attention seeking’; but then immediately throws you with the realisation that this is how abuse and bullying work: denial and diminishment.

Let me know – I’d really appreciate your reading of this piece in the same way that many have helped move this printing part on with the forum critique.

Tell me what this piece does – straight and without gentleness works best I find for me. Thank you.

 

Developing mini series

I bought a white babygro for this sample that becomes part of the mini series ‘Not all Wounds are Visible’

I wanted to combine techniques learnt so far and add to these the back-drawing of exercise 3.

I had a big lump in my throat when I approached this work. I knew the wound I was going to make on this pristine and baby-pure basic item might bring some stuff up for me. I bought the babygro at a second-hand shop. I don’t know its story except it has a tiny pink stain at the centre of the neckline. I don’t know whether it is necessary for any purpose to share what my intention was – except that it was important that I acknowledged the wounding and gave myself a means of expressing it and thereby grieving a multitude of losses symbolised by the garment as well as actual losses.

I did weep.

But looking at the piece now, the wound is too low. It should be higher – centred around the belly button where the umbilical cord would have been.

I worried this piece was too graphic. But I kept on with the layers: printing the babygro, then printing bandage and dictionary page, then assembling, then heat-gunning a hole, adding more, then using the technique I learnt at the Cas Holmes course – loading the bobbin with embroidery thread. In order to free machine on the growing layers I placed a page of dictionary, embroidered over this and then tore it away.

I had many possible titles but settled once I found a Danish proverb that explained everything. With three babies I could never leave carrying them all in my arms, on my own, quicker than him, down 3 flights of stairs down from my then top floor flat to escape. He who dealt the wounds, would sleep across the front door, or across the door of the girls’ room or always made sure he had one of them in his arms. This proverb said it all and gives the piece its title.

‘Whoever takes the child by the hand takes the mother by her heart.’

This is a personal piece, but sadly it is not unique. I hope one day it can speak to others of the truth behind these silent invisible wounds that many bear and help someone else to heal too. If nothing else I hope it shouts out for those who are suffering silently.