So happy to be one of the featured artists interviewed in the latest issue of Verdure Engraved, curated by Jez riley French. It is to be read, listened to, has been carefully crafted, and is one of the many acts of generosity that Jez does. He is an excellent example of what an artist should be, not just self promoting, but also celebrating the work of others. Jez tirelessly promotes the work of women in sound and art, and I can’t thank him enough. The link is in my bio, look out for the other good works he does, and try and see one of his performances if you get the chance. I am still hoping to soon.
This is a downloadable PDF. When you visit the Bandcamp site, it takes you to the purchase screen, but this is a free download, so just enter zero. You can then access the sounds + the Verdure Engraved art zine.
I have been selected to be amongst several artists to be included in the Visions of Science exhibition at the The Andrew Brownsword Gallery, The Edge, at the University of Bath. It runs from Sat 15 Sep – Sat 13 Oct 2018. You can find out more via their website: https://www.edgearts.org/whats-on/events/visions-of-science/
I am not sure where to start. So I just will. The images you will see over the next seven days are first attempts in the exploration of something new. Playful experiments in response to words and concepts found in two papers, ‘Loop-weighted walk’ by Tyler Helmuth and ‘Self-attracting self avoiding walk’ by Alan Hammond and Tyler Helmuth. I could spend a lifetime trying to understand their work (mathematics), and that still wouldn’t be long enough.
Some of the words/concepts I am directly responding to are: Self-interacting, self-attracting, self-avoiding, random walks, loops, repulsion, loop erasure, spin, bubble chain, memory, zigzag, unwieldy, spacelike, non-empty collections, hyperedges, connectedness, flips, heaps of pieces (I especially like heaps of pieces).
The following recurring themes will also be featured in this work: Reveal and conceal, affect, the use of layers and collage, sound, and the otherworldly/make-believe.
What I find appealing about these words/concepts/themes are their ability to penetrate through the membrane of the mundane. I use this affect to attempt to illustrate the exiting of the mundane with the use of photography and digital processes, a retelling of an experience.
The papers I am referring to can be found here: ‘Loop-weighted walk’ by Tyler Helmuth: https://arxiv.org/abs/1410.3119
‘Self-attracting self avoiding walk’ by Alan Hammond and Tyler Helmuth: https://arxiv.org/abs/1712.07673
A special thank you to Tyler Helmuth for taking the time to talk to me about some of his research.
Day 1. Concrete Building
What attracted to me to self-interacting/attracting/avoiding and random walks was a simple word association that made me think of the flâneur or in my case the Flâneuse. Wandering with a camera is the starting point of my image making. My approach towards photography in the early stages of a project is traditional in the way I take photographs. It is when I enter the post-production stage when I am most influenced by concepts and ideas, and my desire to leap into another world, this is when I feel that I am making photographs.
For this image I was referencing some of the illustrations of a ‘self-avoiding walk’ used in Alan Hammond and Tyler Helmuth’s paper ‘Self-avoiding self attracting walk’. Their illustrations remind me of pixels and glitched images, and why it is easy for me to take hold of them, to see them as something other than their intended purpose.
Day 2. Water
I was thinking of the words ‘self-attracting self-avoiding walk’ when making this image, and the inevitability of a union. I am also using layers to conceal and erase sections of the image to talk about memory and erased memory. I often use opaque layers like those used in screenprinting to flatten the photograph. To create an artificial landscape through a synthesized photograph. The ‘Self-attracting self avoiding walk’ comes from a mathematics paper with the same title by Alan Hammond and Tyler Helmuth. I will use this concept throughout this takeover, and although I will never truly understand the mathematics, I am attracted to the contradiction and the poetics of the words. The snaky pixel chain up the middle of the image is my interpretation of this idea.
Day 3. Shrubs
This is my version of ‘non-empty collections of hyperedges’, a term found in Tyler Helmuth’s paper ‘Loop-weighted walk’. I think of trees as having ‘hyperedges’, especially when it comes to trying to cut them out digitally. I obviously manipulated these shrubs, trying to make them look like they are consuming themselves, which also relates to the ‘self-attracting’ theme.
Another interesting term in this paper was ‘bubble chain’, but in this case I wanted to think of this idea in an absurd way, more like shrubby bubbles, hence the bulbous crude cutouts. Some of these ‘mathematical’ terms are so curious to me. They almost seem like they were created for self-amusement, and perhaps one of the reasons why I like them so much. Finding these curious terms in an unexpected place speaks to my dis/interest in the mundane.
Day 4. Hedge
When I found this hedge I was struck by the patterns of life and decay, and how the line between the two seemed like a map of a ‘random walk’. When making the image I was also interested in the ‘flippable’ and ‘flippability’, terms used in Alan Hammond and Tyler Helmuth’s paper ‘Self-attracting self-avoiding walk’. Using a repeat image in this way also made me think about altered memory. Or a memory from a different position.
More recently I started thinking about whether plants can feel, and this simply came from a sound memory that I have from Michelangelo Antonioni’s film ‘Blow Up’. There is a scene at the location where it is thought that a murder took place, and the leaves are rustling creating white noise. It is as if the trees and leaves are asking for help and attention.
When I came across this hedge, I wondered if it was trying to tell me something.
Day 5. Nested Loop
When making this image I was interested in sound loops and the repetition of sound and the term ‘loop erasure’ from Tyler Helmuth’s paper ‘Loop-weighted walk’. I couldn’t help but associate William Basinski’s album ‘The Disintegration of Loops’ when thinking about the term ‘loop erasure’. The combination of these ideas takes me to a sonic place. This idea will definitely need to be explored further in the future, most likely in the form of a book.
For the past year I have been exploring affect and sound, and making photographs in response to sound. Trying to create sonic documents based on experience. What is interesting about responding to text that embodies a sound idea (even if it is imagined in the case of the ‘loop erasure’), is that I am making a photograph about sound without sound, but imagining sound.
When you spend too much time with mathematicians polygons fill the sky.
Day 6. Water Tower
I have used various mathematical words and concepts as an experiment to see how it might bring something new to my photographic image making. For this image, I am using the concept ‘heaps of pieces’, as I really wanted to make a photographic heap. I dissected the image of the water tower and layered the little pieces into a heap. I wanted them to sit next to each other to show a deconstruction. Possibly a comment on the water tower being a ruin. Although, I find the pieces look optimistic, like seeds.
It was thought that it might be interesting to you that when I am not making photographs, I spend half of my time working with mathematicians. I have photographed them, made films about their creative process (not very good ones), and I have noticed that there is a ‘type’ of mathematician depending on what area of maths they do. If I should take anything from them, it should be their focus and stamina to solve problems. I would be further along in my career if I had what they had.
I made a series of images in response to some mathematics in the past, but I was asked to do it as a gift. The past projects have been public engagement efforts, not art. Some might want to label those activities as ‘art and science’ projects, but my opinion is that ‘art and science’ is an empty concept. When scientists suggest that art has impacted their research, then I might come around.
It has only been recently that I came across the papers I have been referring to this week, and that was slightly accidental. It was the titles that intrigued me. They were words without maths that I could attach meaning to. At the start of the week I wrote the sentence, ‘What I find appealing about these words/concepts/themes are their ability to penetrate through the membrane of the mundane’. What I meant by this was that most of life is the mundane, if you are lucky enough to have found a passion then everything else slips into the mundane category. So, when I was in a deep mundane moment, and these interesting words presented themselves, they seemed extraordinary because I found them in a place I wasn’t expecting to find them.
This image shows an exercise that people do when they are interested in ‘found poetry’. I wasn’t interested in poetry in this case, but by stripping away the mathematics (sorry mathematicians), it amplified the words/concepts that captured my curiosity.
Day 7. Overpass
I was thinking about two magnets when making this image, and how in certain positions they fly apart and seem to be repelled by one another, but when flipped around they cannot resist each other. To my simple mind, this seems like ‘self-avoiding self-attracting’ (the concept found in mathematics that I have been referring to throughout the week). This magnetic appeal is also felt when using Photoshop, when images or layers lock to the grid or other layers, a kind of digital magnetism. I used thin layers when making this image. Like the thin layers that make an onion. There is a fragility with each layer of this photograph, which is a bit of an oxymoron when thinking about magnetic strength, and that the subject of this photograph is an engineered concrete structure.
The subjects of the photographs this week were of nature and concrete buildings and infrastructure. Some of them shared the theme of systems or repetition. Such as the high and low tides, the ritualistic cutting of a hedge, the cars flowing on the overpass, etc. The idea of ruin and decay also featured. What once was. A memory, but no longer a collective one. Whether it is sound/music, photography, memory, nature and our hand in it, you and me, I am thinking of the temporality of it all.
The images I am sharing this week are new, not seen by anyone other than you. Works in process. An experiment to see how words and concepts from a different field might influence my work. I am not sure if I will continue exploring the subject of mathematics in this way, but it has stimulated some new ideas.
Bound to Bristol pop-up exhibition
Tuesday 20th March – Friday 23rd March 2018
F-block gallery, Bower Ashton, UWE
The MA/MFA Curating students produced an exhibit of artists’ books from the Sarah Bodman’s personal collection, which is vast, so to help narrow the field of vision, the focus was on Bristol practitioners or books with a Bristol theme. I was thrilled of course to be included with this group.
As you would expect, it was a contemporary presentation. Works without labels, but a map for visitors to find out which books belonged to which artist. The viewing height and tables reminded me of book fairs, but usually book fairs don’t look this clean and contemporary. They typically are held in tired venues, and usually the tables are covered with black table cloths, so this was a breath of fresh air to experience the books in this way.
This show was inspiring to emulate somehow in the future, as our cohort has a large number of artist bookmakers, but also inspiring that the Curating programme was interested to show the works. It has me thinking about future possibilities when I finish my course next year, and am desperate to continue my studies.
For more information, please visit a write up about it here.
Phantom shapes & ghost events
Leslie Mutchler & Jason Urban
6-16 March 2018
F-Block Gallery, Bower Ashton, UWE
These images are works by artists Leslie Mutchler & Jason Urban who exhibited ‘Phantom Shapes & Ghost Events’ in F-Block Gallery, Bower Ashton, UWE, from 6-16 March 2018. This was a must see exhibit for anyone who was interested in print, instillation, the materiality of memory, history, and the documentation of the ephemeral (and more). Bristol’s print girth is slightly rotund, but here we get to see print in a completely new way, one of the reasons why this exhibit is so timely and important. It rearranges our expectations.
A few months ago Paul Laidler planted a seed that was extremely weighty and has formed roots in my thinking when he said the words ‘conceptual screenprinting’. Of course, I fumbled along with some flimsy ways of trying to visually express this, but the work by Mutchler and Urban illustrates this concept perfectly and gave me an aha moment.
Leslie Mutchler & Jason Urban are making conceptual works related to print, but not making work that we would typically see from printmakers. For example, on their website, you can see images from a project titled ‘UNIVERSAL’, there is one image that shows a rock sitting on a stack of printed newspapers. The rock references the history of lithography printing, and printing from slabs of limestone. Modern plates replaced limestone, and that increased production for the newspaper industry. Today we have print on demand digital print companies, such as the Newspaper Club in the UK, that allows you to print small editions and distribute your own newspapers. I suspect Mutchler and Urban used a similar company, or possibly printed their own small edition of newspapers that we see in this image. The pile of small run newspapers under the limestone rock gives you the history of print without having to show a framed work conventionally hung on the wall.
The work disrupts our expectations in how we experience book(s). Whether in a library, bookstore, or how we turn the page. On a superficial level, I love how both Babel Unbound and Revisited look. And I can see how this project takes us to their recent project ‘Phantom Shapes & Ghost Events’, in how the instillation of an idea occupies and overwhelms beautifully.
This was my first time at the Small Publishers Fair. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but somehow, because it was in London, I imagined it to be bigger. But it was a nice size and had a broad range of participants, something for everyone.
There is always that awkward exchange over the table of exhibited books. How much are you meant to talk to the person on the other side of the table. Some seem to want to talk a lot, others not so much. Do you have to buy something or is positive feedback enough? My most memorable interaction was at Kurt Johannessen’s table. The initial shared hellos were exchanged, and then he selected a passage from one of his books for me to read. This performative invitation broke down barriers and created an instant blanket of warmth and generosity. It reminded me of travelling abroad to a country where you don’t speak the same local language, but you have a moment of understanding with a stranger.
There also were some familiar faces which was nice, considering I am new to the scene. There were also books that I had in mind to buy prior to the event, so this seemed like a good opportunity to save on postage, and make the load a little lighter for the participants when they pack up at the end of the event.
I also go to see the greatly anticipated artist’s book aptly titled The Object of our Affection created by Angie Butler commissioned by the Making Books in Bristol Project. Sarah Bodman wrote about it here. In my mind this is an example of a perfect book. It contains all of the elements that I love to see when flipping through the pages of a limited edition book, such as inserts and other surprises. Different paper weights. Clear collaborative additions such as a wood engraving by Ben Goodman, a poster that Angie created with Jim Smith, and a foldable page that was made with the Books at Bristol lead academics from the Centre for Material Texts, Jenny Batt and Rhiannon Daniels. If you get the chance to see this book, make sure you do. A must have Object of our Affection for artists’ book collections.
The books that I purchased from the fair fall under these categories:
Educational books, such as the books I got from Uniformbooks, Unshelfmarked, Reconceiving the artists’ book, by Michael Hampton. And, The Keartons, Inventing nature photography, by John Bevis.
Inspiring, educational in an aesthetically pleasing way. For instance, there might be elements that I may want to incorporate from the purchased book in my own work. A good example would be ottoGraphic’s Photoshop for Screen Printing. This is a beautiful book. An informative how to manual, but also an object of affection. The printing quality, the edges of the paper, the centerfold poster. Wonderful!
Books as gifts. Such as the books from Sato Hisao. These are paper-craft marionette books. There are instructions so that you can fold and make your own moving paper toy. I purchased two for my niece and nephew.
Attending book fairs are part research and part pleasure. A perfect way to spend a day.
I thought this exhibition was an excellent example of conceptual screenprinting. I know that wasn’t the motivation behind this work, but it has been a concept floating around in my mind, and seemed to come to life in this exhibition. Primarily because of the polka dot motif that seemed to be used throughout his work. Also, the layering used in his sculptural works. For example, one of his pieces titled Triptych (1970-2015), was a large wall mounted box of layered mixed-media pieces. Layers of painting, ink on paper, found objects, almost like a shrine, but if you put your eyes slightly out of focus, this could have been one painting, almost in the style of Rauschenberg, but less representational, and more muted in colour. A controversial statement I realise, but there is a similarity I cannot ignore.
Other pieces were much more minimal, like the Untitled paintings from the 1990s. These are large works, maybe 7 feet x 7 feet, with large coloured dots the size of your hand. These made me think more of zoomed in dots through an overhead enlarger from primary school. The way they were painted soft, like a memory, nostalgic.
I think one of my favourite parts of this exhibition was his sense of humour. He left handwritten notes in pencil beside some of the works. It was a real treat to find these. Often conceptual work can be very serious and inward thinking, cerebral and difficult, empty and pretentious, but I really admired his sense of play. Without knowing his work, I can’t help but make a huge assumption that it is the artist’s age that has allowed him to relax. Imagine if we all started that way!?Spike Island, Bristol, 30 September to 17 December 2017
10 October 2017
It became clear in the research practice module how important photography is to my art practice. And although I typically create digital abstract collages with my photographs, it is still important that the work remains a photograph, rather than a photo etching or a screenprinted photograph. In this way the photographs sit within the photographic historical landscape, even if the traditionalist contest against my process. I am still traditional in the sense that I use my own photographs and will often photograph with a project in mind. It is in the post-production process where I digitally create my collages with cut-up pieces of my photographs, layering pieces of pixels like they are musical notes. These scenes can be quite abstract, but I have more recently started incorporating figurative elements. The overall image hints at the digital in how they are constructed photographs, but I am also incorporating parts of the human body or plants to root the viewer into a familiar territory, but in a make-belief world. I think a tension is formed when the photographic medium is cut up and reinvented, but the output remains as a photographic image, rather than using a printmaking process are usual fictional and illustrative.
I am new to making books, but this is an area that I want to explore in this module. I want to create a small series of books that incorporate my photographic collages and text. Words that I might define as automatic writing. Text that appears in my mind similar to how a visual idea might form. The photographs and the words have formed separately, but I wish to bring them together in a book to see how a relationship is formed.
At the moment I see these books to be archival pigment printed, with a simple stitched binding, an exposed knot. Probably in a category of photo zines. I may add a hand printed element, just to remind the viewer and possibly myself that these are gestures of books within the larger category of artist publications.
I do have a preference for quite traditional books. Linen hardbacks, clean design. Simple books. I would like to eventually make my own cloth bound books. Perhaps using letterpress for the text. But I don’t want my books to look too crafty, or to appear DIY. I like those kinds of books, but I don’t want to make them. I am not sure if I can make books to the level of quality that I want them to be. Therefore, they may need to be printed for me.
I also like the idea of digital books. This is an idea that is a bit odd for me, as one of the wonderful things about books is the tactile and intimate nature of them. The digital book could create experiences that are impossible to print, such as moving image and sound. This would be controversial to the communities committed to print and paper, but could offer some experimental elements that l am curious about. Whether the book is paper or digital, I think of them as a vessel for ideas.
A new project I am thinking about is called ‘Feeling plants’. There is some background research I want to do with nature and affect, but I thought that this might be one project where I could be more representational with my photographs. At the moment I see black and white photographs of pants printed as archival pigment prints or riso prints, and then either screenprinted or lino printing with some minimal shapes to act as barriers and distance between the viewer and nature. I do want there to remain a photographic element, which is why I was thinking of adding printed elements on top of a pigment print. But I thought that this might also be a project where I could incorporate some field recordings. I think this speaks to the poetic yearning for the landscape. The sentimental and romantic sense of loss. The desire to feel it, to get close to it, to be it.
During the research practice module, I focused on sound, photography and affect. I used affect and sound to guide the creation of my photographic montages/collages. It was sound that allowed me to think of print in a fragmented way. Layering sound, like a screenprinter might layer colours on a print, or in my case, layers of photographic images. One of the artists that I focused on was Jez riley French. He is a sound artist, photographer, composer, field recordist, writer, book maker, and educator. He combines all elements harmoniously. He also is a sound geek and makes microphones. I would be keen to take one of his workshops for the professional practice module, so that I could make my own sounds. Although I am slightly daunted by his experience, and the lack of mine. His work in my mind is perfect and is highly respected in his field.
Tessa Lynch’s L-Shaped Room at Spike Island are primarily sculptures, some obvious everyday domestic environments like a kitchen sink in Ikea yellow, and other pieces felt more abstract and seemed to be memories of urban spaces, such as Tunnel 1/4. This piece could be an upside down skateboarders half pipe, or what looked to me like a shelter at a bus stop, but made with portrait canvas, so wouldn’t keep you dry from the rain. Societal suggestions found in her work makes this exhibit a portrait of our times.
The bright pink L shaped piece, Building per hour/bin shelter, was the most powerful in the way that it allowed me to attach my own meaning to it. It was painted in horizontal gradation, that looked like a sedimentary scene of pink, and triggered the idea that this L is a sample of an Anthropocene of gender.
I feel slightly guilty that this work seems to speak to me. The domestic scenes. The pink. The metaphorical bus shelter implying, in waiting. These are historical female themes. And as much as I hate the themes that these pieces are hinting at, I still find her work appealing. It is a conundrum. Is it like secretly enjoying a romantic comedy? This work is far from Bridget Jones. This work feels like Tessa Lynch in drag walking the streets at a flâneur’s pace through a disapproving lens.
Her work at first glance appears simple and playful, but when you take the time, rich meaning is revealed. Similar, I suppose, in how many of us are initially judged, especially if you are female.
This exhibition was on at Spike Island in Bristol from 8 July to 17 September 2017.