Recent work – Ebb and flow

My initial inspirations for my most recent work has stemmed from my documentations of Farnham park from October into December. After capturing this beautiful and vast location through its natural transitions from Autumn into Winter and day into night I started interpreting these natural phenomena’s into home made ice sculptures. My mould for these sculptures was simply a shallow bowl that came from a broken desk lamp but I chose this particular form as it resembled a perfect puddle and as the weather has gotten colder I have found myself fascinated with the way puddles freeze and the debris that gets suspended in them momentarily. I experimented with taking three of these sculptures, each one representing different times of day, into Farnham park to photograph and film recording in their natural surroundings but I found that the weather was far too cold and they barely melted. I then saw that it would be much more interesting to document how they melted through the marks made by them rather than a time lapse. So instead I got a canvas and left the sculptures to melt on it one at a time. The marks made with these sculptures were very subtle as I only added small amounts of water colours and ink to slightly alter the colours of the ice. My goal with this piece was to create layers of marks to represent the ongoing changes in nature and I wanted to use the canvas to capture my interpretations of these changes, just as so many have done before me. For a recent exhibition I decided to repeat this process but this time use only paint and use it thickly within the sculpture in order to make more striking marks.

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Initial ice sculpture experiments photographed in Farnham park (December 2014)
Close up of ice sculpture and paint before it started to melt
Close up of ice sculpture and paint before it started to melt
Ice sculpture melting in the exhibition space (February 2015)
Ice sculpture melting in the exhibition space (February 2015)

In this exhibition I found that many people were confused by the materials I had used before the ice started melting, initially people thought I had placed a dome of brightly coloured resin onto a plinth, then they thought it may be jelly because of the colour, only when they touched it did they realise that it was ice. It helped that I had found a plinth that fitted my canvas perfectly as it made the fact that this was a painting quite discreet and left people to focus on the performance of states changing from one to another, which I hoped would be the most important thing about the piece. I feel that mainly this piece was positively received by my peers and tutors, with many of them commenting that it was the simplicity of the idea that made the piece successful. Useful criticisms were about my choice of colour palette, the lurid green was quite distracting and didn’t talk to the audience about nature or the history of painting as it was meant to, and also about the fact that the canvas was not clean before the ice started melting on it. I had chosen to use the same canvas as before as I liked this idea of adding layers to represent the ongoing changes in nature but I now see that a blank canvas would have been much more appropriate for the aesthetics of this piece. Another concern raised by my peers was how the piece would be displayed after the exhibition. There was concern that the canvas would be put up on the wall alongside other paintings and would then only be talked about as an automatic painting. I shared this concern so after the exhibition I dismantled my piece and found other ways it could be shown after the event of the ice melting, separating the canvas from the plinth and the plinth from the marks made by the melting water on the floor. This may be a more interesting way of showing this piece in an exhibition after an ice piece has melted, as it forces the viewer to piece together what has happened and realise that all objects are connected by an act of nature, just as everything is on earth. This is primarily what I want to talk about with art, but I think this could be done with more interesting objects which would make this idea clearer. Another way of presenting the work after the ice had melted which I found successful was taking close up pictures of the marks made on the canvas. These photos made the paint and canvas unrecognisable so that the focus is solely on the intricate and strange marks that was made by the combinations of natural process and paint, these images are so abstract that it is impossible to guess what they are of, but make for aesthetically pleasing images that show off the beauty of nature.

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Close up of canvas detail
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Close up of canvas detail

From here I want to continue to make work that talks about the constant transitions of nature, from day into night, winter to spring and life to death and become more in touch with the flow of nature and hopefully build up an understanding relationship with these natural events that I cannot get from our capitalist society and share them with my audience.

THIS IS A SERIOUS ADVERT

A couple of weeks ago I was told that I needed to have a piece of work ready for an exhibition in my studio by this week. As I have arrived late to the course, after a brief month and a half of confusion at the University of Westminster, I have found it difficult to make friends in my new class as it is past the ‘freshers’ introduction phase. So I started thinking about who would be seeing this piece of work and how I could kill two birds with one stone, as such. I started this project by focusing on an unflattering but highly comical picture of me taken in a club. After looking at Shepard Fairey’s work with his ‘OBEY’ propaganda style posters, I simplified the image of my face to a simple black and white drawing and started adding simple text around it. I then went on to simplify this drawing even further in order to turn it into a stencil, as I found working in photoshop took away the humour of the piece but working by hand was too tedious and bland but I still wanted the piece to have a ‘hand-made’ feel to it. After a lot of development and fine tuning I came up with this A2 design:

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                                                                                ‘THIS IS A SERIOUS ADVERT.’

This piece is meant to be many things, it is both propaganda and portraiture, performance and visual. The portraiture side of this piece led me to add in a list of my ‘qualities’, which flits between negative and positive descriptions showing both sides to my personality and desperate situation: ‘FUN LOVING LONELY COOL SAD FREE SPIRIT’. I didn’t want the final poster to be perfectly presented, like the experiments I was getting out of photoshop as I felt that the messiness of it was important to show the honesty behind it. I am hoping that this piece confuses people, I hope people don’t know whether to take is as a joke or to take it seriously and get in contact, the piece contains my own contact details so I am interested to see whether anyone does try to use them. The title I have chosen ‘THIS IS A SERIOUS ADVERT’ is also meant to disorientate people between fiction and reality, does the audience laugh or do they get involved? This was inspired by my recent lectures on semiotics which has made me more aware of the viewers interpretation of my work and therefore made me question how much control I have over the work once it is out of my bedroom and into the studio for all to see. I am not usually an ‘image maker’ so I struggled a lot with getting this piece together, I am thinking of maybe turning the portrait of myself into a tag to start putting around places that I visit frequently to start making this identity and advertisement I have made recognised by everyday people possibly even mapping my journey into and around university using these stickers.

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Original image.

First week of Final Major Project – Ideas

I have two ideas for my final major project, the first is titled; ‘Newspaper’. This idea is inspired by my visual communication project which I completed in part one of my foundation course. I felt particularly driven by this week long project as we were told to buy a newspaper and find one article which we would then base the rest of the week producing work from. I found a trivial article titled ’10 things not to say to pregnant women’, and it struck me when looking through the paper how many of the articles were just filler. Developing this idea for my final project I thought about how it could be interpreted that these entertaining articles are here to distract us from important things that are actually going on in the world. So for this project concept I would be trying to uncover these untold stories, but at the same time contrasting them with the filler articles I found in newspapers each week. To do this I would have to conduct interviews with people who may have faced injustice at some point in their lives, so possibly having to visit old peoples homes and soup kitchens. As I have never conducted an interview before I would have to practice this technique so that I could get something of use from the actual interviews I conducted, as well as practicing with recording the interviews digitally, in notes and taking photographic portraits of the subject that some how held relevance to their story. For this project I would be looking at artists such as Ai Weiwei and the photo journalist Kevin Carter. Of particular importance to this project would be Ai’s work on the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, as not only did he make two pieces inspired by the untold stories, the first being ‘Remembering’ where he used 7,000 different coloured backpacks to spell out a quote from one of the school children’s bereaved mothers on a large scale, and ‘Straight’ which was a landscape constructed using the metal poles that crumbled in the school.

‘Remembering’ 2009

‘Straight’ 2008-2012

He also conducted a project to find out the names of the school children that died in the poorly constructed schools at the time of the earth quake, which is a list that the Chinese government never released. It is this concept of unveiling the truths that we remain oblivious to because the media is not thrusting it into our faces as it does with celebrity gossip that I would want to focus on in this project. This project idea has also been inspired by the book ‘Nineteen Seventy-four’ by George Orwell, as the concept of the government covering up certain truths and trying to minimize the way in which we think explored here could be really interesting to the development of this project. 

My second idea goes by the title ‘Pain and Sleep’, which is a more in depth version of my latest project where I experimented with colour psychology. I plan to continue this process in the project, but also combine it with optical illusions and 3D structures and possibly even film in order to create painful aesthetics which physically repel the viewer, or cause some physical reaction. This title was inspired by the quote; ‘My only relief is to sleep. When I’m sleeping, I’m not sad, I’m not angry, I’m not lonely, I’m nothing.’ from Jillian Medoff’s ‘Hunger Point.’ I feel that this quote explains the idea of pain and escapism that I plan to study throughout this project, possibly contrasting the idea of sleep with painful imagery. My aim in this project is to visually confuse the viewer, not only is it about trying to translate the way that someone with mental illness may see day to day life, it is also trying to get a reaction from the viewer as I feel that we are at a stage in art where we can no longer be shocked by art emotionally. For this project I am going to look more in depth at Tracey Emin’s work, as her piece ‘My Bed’ is of particular importance to this project as it combines both of the juxtaposing ideas of sleep and pain in one installation

‘My Bed’ 1998

I also think it will be beneficial for me to look at this artist because of the way in which she incorporates written work into her art, as I would like to include some of my own poetry through this project to portray the idea of both sleep and pain. To help inspire my poetry I shall also be doing reading on Sylvia Plath and Andrea Gibson. Plath is important for me to look at not only because of her talents as a writer but also because she suffered from Bipolar Disorder and I think it is important for me to do research on artists and practitioners who suffered from mental illnesses. I feel that Gibson is also important for me to look at because of the way she presents her work mostly through performance and audio, which I find much more engaging than simply reading her poetry which could be an interesting process for me to experiment with. When at the Tate Modern in London I came across Chen Zhen’s piece ‘Cocon du vide’ which is what inspired me to think about using 3D as a format to making optical illusions as I feel this could be even more effective than working within 2D limitations.

‘Cocon du vide’ 2000

This second project is the one I have decided to pursue, although at the moment it seems rather broad I plan to narrow it down through experimentation and the process of elimination. I feel that I am much more passionate about this second idea as it is something that is much closer to home and I feel will keep me more motivated than my other project idea. Although I have not fully finalised my idea I have started off making some simple optical illusions, this one was done on A3 using a black water soluble pen and a Vaseline tin for a template. Hopefully after some more in depth research on optical illusions I will be able to structure something that is a little more painful on the eyes as although this was quite confusing and painful to concentrate on a long period of time while making I feel that the final outcome is something that is actually quite aesthetically pleasing because of it’s simple symmetry. 

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‘Pain’ Project Final outcome

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For this project I initially started off trying to create visually painful imagery by dripping water onto water soluble ink in an attempt to create an optical illusion like effect. I felt that it would be more effective if I created a piece that the audience would physically react to rather than attempt to create a piece that they would emotionally react to. I realised this was a much more sustainable idea from reading the introduction to the book; ‘Enduring Creation’ where they compared classic Gothic literature to modern day Hollywood horror films. This comparison talked about how we are no longer scared of Gothic novels because they are set in a fantasy world, whereas these horror films are set in modern day American suburbia and it is the realism and possibility of them actually happening to us that evokes fear. So this led me to think about how I could make everyday objects painful to look at. My research on Tracey Emin, Olafur Eliasson and colour psychology all helped my project develop in a completely different direction to where I thought it would go originally. After reflecting on this research I decided I wanted my project to help me deal with my own emotions in a constructive way, I felt that the key to doing this effectively would be through colour and when I found out in my research of colour psychology that yellow in large amounts can bring on feelings of anxiety and depression this changed the whole outcome of my final piece.  After some development of ideas in my journals I decided that I would create an everyday table setting that all viewers could relate to and recognise. I wanted to use a normal everyday setting in order to portray the fact that everyday routines and situations can be difficult or even traumatic for people with anxiety or depression, and this fitted in nicely with what I had found out about the colour so I then thought it would be appropriate for me to paint an entire table setting in bright yellow acrylic. The paint job on this was not perfect, as when I moved the objects to different locations some of them stuck together so taking them apart would remove some of the paint, and I had to do a layer of white first on any transparent objects such as glasses making the paint inconsistent in some areas. I also looked at Raphael Hefti’s work who turns glass into coloured filters that change the way the viewer perceives the colour of the objects behind them. This inspired me to make my own filter by printing black onto acetate, this was meant to physically embody the anxiety and depression that my piece is about, as I feel that most viewers will see the table setting and think it is about happiness and vibrancy whereas when they look through the filter and the setting is obscured by darkness they will understand the actual meaning of the piece. By doing this I am trying to change the viewers relationship with colour, I am using this filter as a translator to the audience, to raise awareness of how someone with anxiety or depression perceives everyday life. There is also another concept in here where I am trying to get the point across that although someone may seem happy aesthetically, if you were to look a little deeper you may find a much darker side to them. Over all I am pleased with the outcome of this project, I have found that I have learnt a lot about the importance of in depth research to make a successfully conceptual piece of work, and this self managed project has given me a little more confidence for part 3 of my course.

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Olafur Eliasson and Psychology of colour research

To get some inspiration and direction for my project ‘Pain’ I decided to look at Olafur Eliasson as I realised that the easiest way to create pain in the viewer would be through the use of colour. The most important part of this artists practice to my current project is the way in which he uses colour, in the form of vibrant room lighting to ‘toy with viewers’ perceptions and to probe the nature of seeing.’ I find this concept absolutely fascinating as it means that his audience have a physical experience by viewing his art in the flesh. For example in some of his works he fills a whole room with nothing but neon lights emitting one colour, which results in the viewers vision being physically effected as they stop processing this colour after a while, so once they leave the room the way they perceive colour is different. I think this is very clever as very little artists work has effect on its audience nowadays as it seems that we are immune to being shocked by art but Eliasson’s technique means that the viewer has a physical reaction, whether or not they like the piece or even understand it. He has also caused some of his viewers to have a sensation of seasickness when placing a rotating mirror at an angle from a gallery ceiling. I think (although this is not the meaning of his work) that this is an interesting representation of how far art has gone, as we can no longer be shocked by Gothic novels or gruesome images, only by things that physically make our bodies react. From this interpretation I decided to look further into the psychology of colour, to see what colours would create pain in the viewer subconsciously. From this research I found that surprisingly too much yellow can create feelings of anxiety, depression and even make the viewer suicidal, whereas most people would associate this colour with happiness and positivity. I am now going to do some drawings to decide how I will develop these concepts that I have taken from my research, which I feel has been very beneficial to my project.

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Mono printing and poetry

For my final project in part 2 of my course I was given a self managed task with the title ‘Process’, for which we had to come up with our own theme. As I had enjoyed using my poetry in my work for my last project I decided to start by using these again for inspiration for this project, and decided to use mono printing to present them. After my first brief experimentation I looked at Tracey Emin to give me more inspiration as I was aware that she combined text and illustrations in her mono prints which is what I also wanted to do. I also like the way in which Emin tends to use traditional methods, such as embroidery or printing, to confront personal and traumatic topics. I feel that this makes the pieces much more painful because of the drawn out process Emin has had to go through to create them. I like the messy nature of Emin’s prints, they look rushed and frustrated, scrawled as though the person who created them has gone insane and lost all control and it is this spontaneous aesthetic that I want to create in my own work. In my second session of mono printing I produced over 40 prints, and through this experimentation I found new ways of creating prints where the lines were quite fine, which was especially useful when I was trying to write out my own poems. I also found a new process where I wrote into the ink covered surface and then printed onto the paper which made negative imprints, this worked particularly effectively on some of my darker poems. The fact that you have to write backwards I feel perfectly illustrates my poems, as I want to show how they are these difficult thoughts for me to process and understand, instead of being these beautifully written and structured pieces of creative writing. One of my favourite outcomes, which was largely inspired be Emin’s mono prints, was a simple line drawing of a sink with the words ‘WASH YOUR FACE’ underneath, I used this to represent the way that mental illness can make everyday tasks, such as simply washing your face and looking after yourself, impossible.

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Although I really enjoyed this process and hope to do some more later on at a larger scale, I don’t think I shall be developing this process for the rest of my project but I do want to carry on with this on the side of my studies and possibly create a small book of my poems and illustrations using this process. From this experimentation I have found a good concept for my project and I think I am going to go with the title of ‘Pain’ as these mono prints have helped me constructively deal with my own emotional pain, and the concept of something being visually painful or hard to deal with for someone with a mental illness, such as an everyday setting, is something I feel I could carry on to create a strong final outcome.

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‘Place’ Project


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“Take me to Egypt,

I’ll go to the Red Sea and

float for the first time.”

Here is my finished series of photographs I did for my project ‘place’. I decided to go with the sub theme of misplacement and more precisely the title; ‘I’m losing my mind’. I started off this project by writing my poems on things that we tend to loose such as a wallet, keys and even a person. The poetry here is used to represent my thoughts, as my poetry is my own way of trying to understand my personal feelings and try and use negative energy that I have in a constructive way, so the materiel objects therefore represent the physical misplacement of my mind. I then decided to incorporate nature into my work after looking at Antony Goldsworthy’s work, as I felt that this was the best way to present my work as the way that a mind deteriorates is a natural process, this is something I also experimented with in my first few photos as I wrote a short poem;

‘You bloom,

I rot.’

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On a tomato and then documented how the writing became distorted as the tomato was left to rot. The photos that I took of my poems written on objects did not come out as well as I had hoped despite the fact that I thought the concept behind them was strong, but they did not feel particularly creative and the writing was difficult to read. This was annoying as I felt that writing my poems on certain objects illustrated them really well such as writing;

 ‘I will lay with you

for as long as it takes,

I will draw poems

Onto your spine,

I will give you back

The life you gave to me.’

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Onto someone’s back. I felt that possibly these experimentation’s would have been more successful if presented physically rather than through photographs, but this completely contradicted the idea of them being lost. After some experimentation in my garden, trying to write poems with sticks and stones, I found that leaves were the best material to use as they were readily available and the writing made with them could be seen from a distance. I decided to use a haiku for this piece as traditionally this form of poetry is used to express mans interaction with nature and clearly making this piece required me to physically interact with nature. The poem is also about interacting with nature in two ways, first of all physically again and second of all the experience of the nature of depression. I photographed the leaves over a matter of days to record the way that it disappeared. The idea of this is to show how the human mind naturally disintegrates occasionally, linking this piece to mental health conditions such as Alzheimers and depression. This project was extremely personal to me but I am rather pleased by the outcome, although some of the pictures are not of the best quality because I had to stand on a ladder on a balcony to make sure all the lettering was in the frame and it could have been much more interesting if it had snowed, this piece was quite therapeutic and gave me a new way of expressing myself while also allowing me to collaborate my poetry with my art studies.

Essay Research

 For the contextual studies module of my course I have to write a 2,000 word essay comparing two artists. I have decided to use one of my favourite and one of my least favourite artists for this essay; Ai Weiwei and Banksy. I have decided to use these artists because of my very strong opinions of them both, and I want to analyse the impact that they have on their target audience and culture. Both Ai Weiwei and Banksy create art in order to make political statements usually opposing the government. Although they are both from completely different cultures and create artwork in different mediums, the aims of their works share similarities. Where Banksy forced himself into fame using street art and actually sneaking some of his work into galleries, similarly Ai took no caution and came into the world wide public eye when he was imprisoned by the Chinese government in 2010. Ai is not only viewed as an artist, but also as a political activist, which I believe shows the undeniable power of his work. He has commented that ‘Modern Chinese cultural history is one that scorns the value of the individual; it is a history of suppressing humanity and spirituality.’ From this quote alone you can understand why Ai’s work is so important to Chinese culture as change is vital in this society, whereas Banksy is known for ‘exposing the many hypocrisies of modern life.’ which in comparison to Ai’s work seems quite insignificant and petty.Image

One technique that both artists have used is the defacement of cultural artefacts. For example Ai has produced a series of ceramics such as the Han Dynasty Urn with Coca-Cola Logo, in which he destroys a historical artefact that has been dated back to around 206BC, with an iconic branding of the modern era. The way in which he tackles this in a pop art fashion, shows how individualism and traditional techniques have been discontinued to make room for mass production in a culture that seems obsessed with consumerism.Image

Conceptually this is similar to Banksy’s Vandalised Phone box where he has mutilated the phone box making it totally unusable, much like Ai has done, as he has destroyed a historical artefact that we can assume the state would want to preserve for museums to encourage tourism and therefore profit, so in practice this is an act to get under the governments skin by destroying what they want to preserve. The reaction to Banksy’s piece was much the opposite, a BT spokes person described it as ‘a stunning visual comment on BT’s transformation from an old-fashioned telecommunications company into a modern communications services provider” and reportedly BT requested to keep it in their head quarters. I think this is a prime example of how Banksy’s and Ai’s work differ, although the work was removed, Banksy lives in a culture where freedom of speech and creativity is encouraged, the work was reported on the news as another of his ‘audacious, clandestine pranks.’ This is only a small amount of the research that I have done so far, but currently I am looking forward to completing this essay as analysing artists work is one of my favourite things to do and something I believe to be vital to my own practice.

Postcard project

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The first postcard I was given was one of Farnham Castle, a point of interest in the town I am currently living in whilst at university. My other post card was sent to me by one of my closest friends of his university campus in Cambridge. As I wanted to keep the message he had sent me on the back intact I had to consider in my design process how I could do this whilst still altering both postcards together. My aim was to mix the two postcards in a way that shows how the two different places contrast but also show how we still communicate as our friendship still connects us. My first composition idea was relatively simple, this consisted of me cutting off the bottom of the postcard I was sent so you could no longer see the location ‘Kings College, Cambridge’ and then sticking on ‘Farnham Castle’ underneath as this ironically shows the difference between the two places we are currently living in. The composition idea I felt was the strongest was the one I used in the final outcome, I feel that it works best for the sentimental value of the postcards as it creates a hybrid image which shows how my friend and I have been split up to go in our separate directions as indicated by the way I have cut up the separate postcards. When putting my postcard up in the exhibition space I decided to place my postcard next to the right of the door at average eye level as I thought that this way the majority of people that went into the exhibition space would see it. It was interesting to see the set up of everyone else’s work but I felt a little disheartened as everyone’s work was much more impressive and creative than mine, and I now wish that I had incorporated a different technique, possibly painting on top or even sewing into the postcards themselves, as I found mine was pretty simple in comparison. From this exercise I have found that I am not confident having my work in a space where it can be compared to others.

30 seconds/1 cut

Here is my short film clip from a group project ’30 seconds/1 cut’. I was very enthusiastic when I heard about this project as I really enjoy working in the media of film and wanted to experiment with it more after my week rotation in moving image and photography in part 1 of my course. I decided to take this opportunity to film myself screaming at the camera for 30 seconds without stopping. I used this as therapy for myself, letting out all of my current frustrations and anger but channeling it into something constructive and hopefully creative at the same time. This is how I feel about a lot of my current work, as by focusing on my own frustrations and therapeutically channeling them into my art I sometimes can feel quite relieved and as though a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Unfortunately I was unable to scream for the whole 30 seconds as my throat began to hurt, so the last 10 seconds are left in an eerie silence with me out of shot before it carries on to the next persons 30 second clip. My film contrasted very dramatically next to the other clips as many of them didn’t include much sound and many of them were practically silent, so when mine came on it was quite a shock and made a few of the audience jump. I was pleased with this result as it meant that the viewers physically reacted to my work and made an impact on them, I also feel that this video could be interpreted as a literal cry for help. I do wish that I had got better lighting, focus and symmetry in the shot and possibly more white to give a more clinical aesthetic to the piece. When I asked my peers what they thought of my clip they said that they found it frightening and uncomfortable to watch and listen to as I had recorded myself in a very intimate way making myself appear vulnerable and mentally unstable.