31 March 2010

The monster under the stairs

One of a collection of "danger signs" from this site.

It segues from my work with stairs and steps into the next area of interest - safety/danger, and the tipping point between them. I'm writing a research proposal to apply for an MA course.

The research proposal requires spelling out your methodology - how are you going to investigate the topic, with a view to turning it into a piece of art? So far, I've asked people what they think of when they hear the words safety and danger - such interesting replies!

And so many - how to pare these down, to shape the proposal...

Something you can't say in the proposal is "I will use coincidence" - but that's what often ends up being crucial - a happy accident sends you down another path. Recently I edited an article that mentioned a talk by a former editor of the BMJ, Richard Smith. He was talking about predictability - some things cannot be foreseen or predicted. That sort of unexpectedness fits with my initial idea of the sudden change of state from safe to dangerous - the perception of "hang on, this is getting a bit tricky; I want to get out of this situation". So that's a possible area of investigation.

Interestingly, it was Richard who banned the use of the word "accident" in the journal - we had to replace it with incident or a similar word. Ah the power of the editor! This diktat sent us jumping through silly hoops - road accidents (an easily understood concept) became road crashes, as though a pedestrian might crash with a vehicle...

For me, it's in an accident that the sudden change of state happens - one moment you're safe, in an instant you're in danger.

One way of investigating that is to look at accident statistics - what's most common, where does it happen, to whom - where is the greatest danger? And how are those statistics used to influence our perception of danger? So that's another aspect of methodology -- but keep in mind this will have a visual outcome, not an academic one.

Another aspect of the topic, allied to accidents, is warnings -- love those "danger signs"!

This one
is full of potential...

City Lit show - the work

Glamour was James Kelly's theme - he set up a Facebook group to investigate the topic, then painted glamorous personalities (Boy George came to the show). Instead of canvas he painted onto a snake-skin effect fabric which had been subtly stained with colour -
Definitely the most glamour came from the bead-encrusted beautician's chair -
Lucy Whitford brought in a 1920s china cabinet and all the makings of a replica of a wartime room - furnished with crockery depicting family history, the death of two young women in the bombing -
The damaged wall reveals the story via her prints, and she also used painting on ceramic -
Jo Udall's ceramics related to The Winter's Tale - behind the blue plaque is a bear, supporting the scene. (Her bigger bear-in-a-box is part of the "In between" show outside the building.) At the back, a "press pack" - the flower press format gives you a view of the information inside the boards only if you look at them from a certain point of view -
More work from the show.

Marina Sanchez talks about her paintings. I think they're gorgeous and City Lit thought so too - they are buying them.More gorgeousness in Ann Mercer's ceramic plaques and prints, heavily influenced by textiles. Her theme is "the precariousness of edges" -
Valerie Tiffin's collaged ceramic women are in tableaus spanning the centuries -

Yet more work from my fellow students on the City Lit art foundation course.

Beverly Mason started by re-interpreting Midsummer Night's Dream in a collaged book, and developed prints that take a darker tack -Jane Lodge's French connection led to her interpretation of the river Garonne in paint and print -
Anne Dierkes used coloured pencils to capture the unnoticed moments of everyday tasks -

30 March 2010

City Lit show

A view of room 308, where I spent so much time last week - work by Mike Sharp, Paul Greene, and Valerie Tiffin -and by Jo Moss, Susanne Bresges, and Glenda Scantlebury -
Room 406 had a comfortable place for the stewards -
There were 6 rooms in all, and I cant' believe I didn't get general shots of the others!

There's a podcast and more photos on the City Lit site - click here to link, look and listen.

29 March 2010

Art I like - Marylyn Dintenfass

Blogger is currently having a hissy fit about uploading photos, so this is a text-only post.

Click here to go to the website of Marylyn Dintenfass, (ceramic) installation artist and painter. Wow what colourful paintings and works on paper! Though I'm in a bit of a black-and-white phase, they made we want to run to the fabric cupboard and pull out all the brightest ones. Or - to grab a donut ...

The site is s-l-o-w to load, so be patient. Or you might want to click here to see an assortment of her work (google images).

26 March 2010

Ceramics - extra week

Because the ceramics room isn't being used for The Show, we had an extra class on Wednesday. Some of us made beads, experimenting with rolling out porcelain and sprinkling it with body colour and with kneading body colour into the clay. Isn't this a useful gizmo for firing the beads?
I had just a short stewarding stint and used the rest of the time to pack up the term's work, and to finish off the pinch pots I made so many of, all those months ago. This and another tray will come out of the kiln, eventually, with shiny and matte transparent glazes -
along with the beads - black (grey?), lime, and azure.

Some patterning seen in the room -
Robert said he uses the coils of wire to stuff cloth toys, coat in clay, and fire. The cloth burns away and the metal bubbles and melts?? I can't quite imagine the results, but undoubtedly they are "interesting"!

25 March 2010

The big day

The show opens! In the first few minutes of my first session of "invigoration" (stewarding? policing?), three quilters arrive - Pat, Carol, and Sandy are comparing notes on rust dyeing -No sooner had they gone than Vicky arrives at the same time as Maeve -
Later Jane and Philip came along, bringing these guys along - earlier, someone had suggested that the forest was the perfect place for "as story to happen" ...
It was great to see people while it was quiet, and have a chance to chat.

At the private view, the joint was jumpin' - room 308 was not only the most crowded room (it was first as you left the bar area) but it was definitely the hottest -
(That's my son in the corner.)

The party continued along the corridors -
I got a few moments to pop into room 309, where my painter friend Nod's theme was "cuboids" -
Nod is probably the youngest person on the course and was the first person I met on arrival - we shared a bench in sculpture throughout.

I'd provided a short description of the work on show, which saved a lot of explaining, but did enjoy talking to people. Because I feel strongly that you have a different relation with art when you can hold it in your hand or at least touch it, I carried around a little box with some "handling samples" of the porcelain - people were surprised; they thought the white bits were paper. (I would have liked to give the bits away to people, but have some other ideas for things to do with them...) With a gimmick like that, it's easy to start a conversation.

Here's the obligatory pic of "the artist and her work" -
And here's a closeup of the porcelain, and the patterning the shadows make.
Quite an evening!

Here's the description of "Journey" -

“Journey” has evolved from my theme of “inside, outside, in between”, which started with thresholds and doorways and the spaces they give access to, and has come to focus on the in-between state of the physical and metaphorical journey.


The installation shows that the journey can be perilous – vertical and vertiginous, without a clearly defined end. The rickety steps are similar to those that many of us find ourselves climbing constantly in nightmares, always in danger of falling – even as we see other people moving effortlessly on a different stairway altogether. In these nightmares, where are we going, and what is lurking in the shadowy corners just out of view?


The “travel writing” [on the other wall] records my daily journeys around London. Moving in between one location and another, you are in your private world – but subject to the speed and jolting of the train or bus, the condition of the tracks or road, and unforeseen events. The aim of the “travel writing” is to draw a straight line at a constant speed, perhaps pausing at station stops – making real-time records of invisible spaces.

24 March 2010

Setting up - the final push

The ultimate day of setting up the show found me at the train station with my bundle of sticks - sharpening them so they'll fit into the holes in the ceramic "steps". Every moment counts at this point!At college, the first task was to scrub those colourful marks off the floor, and clear out the dust sheets -
Nearly 11am - my things are in the space (and the board has unwarped itself, hurrah!) but the lighting needs sorting out first of all.
By noon the board was fixed on to the table and it was starting to grow -
2pm, a quick sandwich and ... uh-oh, a bit too much leaning perhaps ...
3pm, the Travel Writing is pinned up -
5.15, the final step is in place - "Journey" is ready.
The piece is a bit wobbly, because of the long legs (110cm) but has been made as secure as possible - stick-on velcro holds down the legs, double-sided tape holds the board onto the table, and there's a batten at the back on which the board rests. Even so, I'll be carrying a few spare ceramic bits around with me, just in case....

If I was setting this up again (here comes the evaluation...) I'd make it less dense overall and more dense in certain places. And I'm not sure about the placement of the ladder - if it went "up a leg" and then through a trapdoor into the middle of the "forest", that might be fun. That might move the steps on the floor out of harm's way, as well. Ah well, "next time"!

23 March 2010

Setting up continues

At home, a final tryout of the lighting and a little wishful thinking - there is so much to set up and there will be so little time on the final day -In daylight, my space is too bright - but the skylights have shutters and hopefully there's a way of getting at the switch, which is behind the screens -
Another factor in Room 308 is all the marks on the floor, which were for positioning easels in some class or other, extended still-life painting perhaps - they'll take a while to scrub off. But if visitors to the show are looking at the floor, rather than the art, that would be unfortunate indeed ...

In another room (there are 6 rooms on 3 floors) the boards are ready for taping, and some lengths of tape are precut to length, roughly -
Once 308 was taped, the finished work was moved there for safe keeping. Near the end of the day, it was moved to a painted room and we could start painting these spaces. For me this was a very tense time - unless my space was painted that day, I wouldn't have enough time to set up the next day.
In fact we'd just started painting it when we were told From On High, "Everyone stop painting now, pack up, clean the brushes, we all want to go home" - but as the queue to wash brushes at the one sink was loooong, we just kept painting and much to my relief the space got done, in fact the whole room was done at the end of the day. That was definitely the low point for me - earlier I'd found that my board had warped because I'd put pva glue on only the edges on the back - so I painted the back and put a weight on and hoped it would unwarp itself by morning. The abrupt instruction, and being shouted at, was the last straw. But with the help of my friends it was got through.

On the way out the door I discovered my strange ceramic structures in the vitrine -
So - another day survived, and the exhibition is "nearly" ready to roll. There's certainly a lot involved in the setting up, even when a group cooperates and works as hard as we are doing.

22 March 2010

Bags of hope

The Bags of Hope project in South Africa is helping people living with HIV/AIDS - a drop in the ocean, of course, but "every little helps". Importantly, it provides a feeding centre and safe zone for the children.

Women who have never used or owned a needle have been taught sewing and embroidery, and are making landscape panels, which are sewn onto canvas bags and shipped from the US. Each bag costs $20 plus postage.
It's run by volunteers and the group gets 100% of the profit.

20 March 2010

Getting ready

Lots to remember to bring along for setting up the exhibition -Meanwhile at home the portfolio is almost ready - these are the paper hoops we have to jump through -
Supporting statement, tutorial reports, personal statement (hidden but there), statement of intent, exhibition plan, self-reflective journal, copy of essay, sketchbooks. And of course the worksheets. Giving a true picture of our work to the external examiner?

Here's how the official assessment works. First term we had an informal portfolio review, in class, of all the work we'd done in the term - this was practice for presenting work in a portfolio (no we are not born knowing how to do this!). Second term the review was individually, by two tutors, and lasted about 20 minutes - no official grading. Third term, same again, but this time "our marks" went on record. And now, tutors who don't know our work will be doing the final assessment based on the exhibition and the supporting work in the portfolio, possibly taking a little longer than 20 minutes where necessary. Then, another day, the external examiner will be walking around the exhibition with a list, and if he/she disagrees, the portfolio will be looked at very closely.

For some people this process is very important as they've been offered university places conditional on achieving a certain grade. For others, the assessment doesn't matter so much - it's been about the doing and the learning. But of course you want to be told you've done well - wouldn't be worth doing otherwise?

"Shadows from the past"

A parking lot that used to be a building, the wall carrying those traces. Found on this blog.

And then there's this well-known image, by Lubomir Bukov -These pix of Rosewell Ruins, Gloucester, Virginia were taken by Drew -
Why this collection of photos? It's a way of researching images ... starting with an adventitious photo that "says something" to me and then trying to figure out what it's saying, and how it says it. I've used the words that were used to describe the first photo to find the others (via google images). Sometimes you can't articulate "what they're saying" at the moment you find the pictures. What was it Cezanne said - "He unfolds, as a painter, that which has not yet been said; he translates it into absolute terms of painting--something other than reality." This research is the oscillating opposite of that process.

One more, from a portfolio of industrial archaeology images by Paul Schafer -