Tessa Lynch: L-Shaped Room

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Giles Round: They bow. Curtain. No applause.

50 years ago the film The Graduate was made. Dustin Hoffman’s character Benjamin Braddock was given some advice about his future, “plastics” was whispered into his ear. Plastics was the future.

Plastics is the lens in which I approach two exhibitions at Spike Island in Bristol featuring the work from Giles Round and Andrea Luka Zimmerman. These two artists are curiously brought together, and why I’d like to metaphorically wrap their work together with a sheet of plastic. These shows feel rather poignant given our current social/political climate.

Round’s work at first glance seems rather playful. There are low hanging cumulus steel structures, artificially lit, with what looked like to me safety lighting used in large construction projects. A sky blue curtain with an image of a tower block style building made from chain, like the kind that keeps flies out of your local butcher, hangs amongst the steel clouds.


The curtain is the perfect link to Andrea Luka Zimmerman’s film Estate, a Reverie (2015). The film painfully shows that we should have been investing in people rather than plastics. It reminds me of Ken Loach’s depictions of England that our government(s) try to ignore, but the people in Zimmerman’s film are not actors.
Insincere objects with people left to rot. Pliable and brittle. Are we ready to be kinder to one another?

Round also invited artist Alex Cecchetti for an evening performance in collaboration with his work. I was reminded of a scene from The Karate Kid (1984) of Mr Miyagi trying to teach Daniel son muscle memory by making him wax his car and painting his fence. Wax on, wax off, wax on, wax off… Cecchetti’s version involved the clitoris, well, an imaginary one, but still it was a group tutorial.

Alex Cecchetti’s performance (and ours) was thrilling, in the way that it was unexpected and spontaneous. Love, feminism, toe nail clippings, Noah’s Ark, swarms of herons, mating animals, the holding of a foot, a whisper in an ear, and a face massage. It was fascinating how we completely surrendered our trust to him. Giles Round’s work set the perfect stage for this performance, and the performance added another dimension to this already thick veneer that protects the meaning behind the works in this exhibition.

This work is definitely not an Anti-Climax Climax. It was wonderfully generous, insightful, and rich with layers of meaning and complexity, oh and funny. Applauding the bow, the curtain, the words, the ladder, the clouds, the thunder, the climax, the letterpress text, the furniture, the carpet, the darkness and the toxic light.

Basim Magdy: The Stars Were Aligned for a Century of New Beginnings

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Basim Magdy’s exhibition titled The Stars Were Aligned for a Century of New Beginnings at the Arnolfini, Bristol, felt like cutting through a stick of room temperature butter with a sharp knife. Strangely pleasing. Easy. Mixes well with sugar. When I left the gallery I wanted to go right back in. Like finishing a novel that you immediately want to start again.

Above are my words in response to Basim Magdy in conversation with curator Lucy Badrocke, you can listen to it here.

More words in response to 5 films by Basim Magdy. These films are not part of this exhibition, so it was a real treat to be taken on Magdy’s artistic journey. The event began with an excellent introduction by critic and programmer Tara Judah. This was the running order:

The Many Colours of the Sky Radiate Forgetfulness (2014)

Crystal Ball (2013)

My Father Looks For an Honest City (2010)

Turtles All the Way Down (2009)

Time Laughs Back at You Like a Sunken Ship (2012)

You can watch these films from his website here, but it is always better in the dark, on a big screen, a velvet seat, and proper audio.

Basim Magdy

The videos are like kaleidoscopic streams of consciousness. The accompanying text in the films reminded me of the absurdity of Miranda July. Quirky. Amusing. Someone you wish was your friend.

Perhaps it is the memory of seeing monkeys in his piece The Everyday Ritual of Solitude Hatching Monkeys, 2014, and the warped colours, chemical stains on emulsions, and light leaked exposures on film, but it all made me think that I was a part of a hallucinogenic version of the Planet of the Apes.  Sci-fi scenes of the past or future or both.

My exhausted eyes from seeing too many images everyday found these sequences to be country air fresh. I haven’t figured out why I found comfort sitting in front of these films or looking at Magdy’s works on paper, but it brought back those feelings of hiding out in childhood forts made from couch cushions and blankets.

Impressive to have a body of work fill a building, but I do wish that all of the pieces could somehow be exhibited in one gallery space, so I wouldn’t have to be forced back to reality when going from one gallery to the next. Maybe that makes the spaces all the more special, bothy like, sheltering us from the mundane.

On my second visit, it felt like the circus elephant was sitting on my chest. I was resuscitated by waves of colour, absurd thoughts and the sheen of metallic paint.

 

 

Experiments with sound

I am interested in experimental music, and in particular, musicians and composers who are using, or have used, synthesizing digital or electronic technologies.  I am especially interested in the idea of building up visual montage through the embodied relation of sound to image.  Digital and electronic music is built up by using layers of sound and metaphor, including such things as samples and loops. Often, experimental composers will create graphic music notations as scores instead of traditional music notation.

The relation between the sound and graphic layers creates a series of affective images. Essentially, I want to integrate printmaking practices with digital technologies to create a print tapestry that mimics sound – a sonic inspired montage.

Photography

While the non-representational photograph has captured my attention, I have focused on the out of focus to abstract a scene. By subtracting the detail to preserve the essence of the framed, I have used the camera as a tool to alter reality and distort vision. I have been interested in using photography in this way since the late 90’s. I am still interested in this approach, but I am looking to add complexity to the images, but trying to retain simplicity. Thinking with sound – printing with sound – may be one way to do this.

Sound

What really gets me excited is experimental music.

Sonic surprises.

The unexpected and non-linear.

Without narrative or conversation.

When I am not sure where a piece of music is going, where it’s taking me, or how it will end, I think of this as a sound adventure.

So far my art practice has felt flat. One image to be read at a time. I want to try to lend it some experimental vigour.

While the non-representational photograph has captured my attention, I have focused on the out of focus to abstract a scene. By subtracting the detail to preserve the essence of the framed, I have used the camera as a tool to alter reality and distort vision. I have been interested in using photography in this way since the late 90’s. I am still interested in this approach, but I am looking to add complexity to the images, but trying to retain simplicity. Thinking with sound – printing with sound – may be one way to do this.

Since starting this project, I have been using music as a direct source of influence in my art practice, by listening to music and creating photomontages at the same time.  Artists using music as their “subject” is not a new idea.

One inspiration for me in this work is John Cage, and his multi-disciplinary approach towards sound, print, and text.  Studying some of Cage’s print work will inform my own experimentation with multiple forms of content (images and text), so adding affective layers to my print tapestry. I will focus on the etchings Cage did over a 15-year period at Crown Point Press in San Francisco, together with his experimental writing, including the lectures and writings found in his book, Silence.

I will be thinking about the following questions when creating my sonic montages:

  1. Do images act as sound agents?
  2. Given that music is an experience of temporality and print temporal in a different way (we can explore this difference in the discussion), how can I create layered prints that unexpectedly delight, as with sonic surprises?
  3. How might we use visual registers to embody the resonance of sound samples?

My motivation with this research project has the following two objectives:

  1. By using experimental music rather than a visual object to work from, I will seek to sample, synthesize, and abstract narratives from the photographs I work from. The final images aim to be abstract yet affective, but which perform, in their visuality, some of the experimental encounters manifest in sound art.
  1. By becoming more attuned to the processes of layering and building experimental music, I want to build and layer images in experimental combinations of, like sound: texture, depth, shimmer, touch, movement, and evolution. These, I hope will add richness and complexity to my work.

By trying to add texture and dimension into a flat, static space, I have the following questions in mind:

Can images act as sound agents, and vice versa?

Can I create prints that unexpectedly delight like sonic surprises?

Can I use visual symbols to represent sound samples? And are these symbols resonant, in similar ways, for others. In other words, do particular sounds and images share an affective force, a felt embodiment that comes from the sound- image, rather than an interpretive representation that is placed on the sound. If we feel sound, literally, which we do, do we similarly feel vision. Can this force be imaged, if not represented?

Since I started this experiment, I have been listening to music differently, and thinking about the following:

What does sound look like?

What shape does a particular sound have, is it small and bright, or fat, soft, and/or translucent?

Do the shapes flow from left to right, or have a gravitational pull from being weighty, or do the sounds float and dance up like bubbles in a carbonated drink?

And how does print’s feeling, texture, and depth, rather than simply the flatness of photography play into the reverberation of this felt process.

We know that we can print sound, as in vinyl; feeling sound is another matter. Perhaps vision, and the textured vision of print, may help us to appreciate how we are literally moved by, and so moved to make things, by the resonance of the sound-images themselves.

Do Ho Suh: Passage/s

Victoria Miro, London, until 18 March 2017.

Entrance, Unit 2, 348 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011, USA, 2016

Bristol’s Museum and Art Gallery had shown Do Ho Suh in 2015, I hadn’t heard of him before, and was very surprised by the exhibition. I was looking forward to seeing his work again, but anticipated it would be similar to what I had seen before. Did I necessarily need to see it again?  There are so many shows to see in London, perhaps I should go to one of the others on my long list of, try to see.

It is almost like seeing the x-rays of architecture, but not in a scientific way, more ephemeral.  We were reminded by the fleeting delicacy of this work by the gallery attendants, as we were herded through the fabric structures of brightly coloured polyester.

Do Ho Suh: Passage/s

It was intensely busy for a commercial gallery, and perhaps this work would be better suited to a permanent collection, as people want to experience it. If there is an afterlife, I am sure this is how the buildings would look. And perhaps that was the appeal, like moths to light.

Do Ho Suh: Passage/s

I was not expecting to see works on paper, and these were just as inventive as his structures.  Thread drawing, gelatine sheet embedded on STPI handmade cotton paper. These were pressed architectural details of apartment entrances which you might find squished in the middle of a book, like one does with flowers.  Much too large for a book, roughly 150 x 100 inches.

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Architectural replicas of memory, place and questions of identity. If these pieces weren’t so beautiful, you might get a better sense of displacement. Just passing through. Even the delicate structure hints at the lack of anchored structure one desires from a shelter. The steel structures themselves are very reminiscent of tenting.

Equally as beautiful and technically competent, was a drawing titled, My Homes. This showed an almost metamorphosis of three dwellings. Were they actual places in which he lived?  I am not interested to debate that actual question, but they were empty spaces, just like his fabric structures. Perhaps more reflective on time, like snake skins.

Lubaina Himid, Navigation Charts, Spike Island

I knew before visiting Lubaina Himid’s exhibition, Navigation Charts, at Spike Island, that it wouldn’t directly relate to my own work, but an important show to see and support, as it isn’t often that a black female artist has a gallery all to herself.

Her work is strong, colourful, illustrative, and certainly nods to her past as a set designer, especially the large life-sized painted figures on woodcuts titled Naming the Money (2004). Her almost naïve painting style, bold colour, and flatness remind me of picture books for children from the 70’s.  This isn’t a criticism, rather the opposite, as I am a big fan of picture books from this time, and one of the reasons I recently purchased Stephen Fowlers book titled, Rubber Stamping: Get creative with stamps, rollers, and other print making techniques. Perhaps there is a twig of sentimentality in the deep folds of my brain that latches on to this painting style, reminiscent of visuals seen in my formative years.

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Sound recordings could also be heard in the gallery to go along with the figures, such as:

My name is Walukaga

They call me Sam

I used to chase wild boar

Now the dogs do it for me

And they have the meat

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The layers of imagery, sound, colour, pattern, cutouts, flat painting, made me imagine how this could work in stop motion-esque animated films. I couldn’t help but wonder what a collaborative project between Lubaina Himid and William Kentridge might look like. I certainly wouldn’t want to include a white male to give her legitimacy, she can do that on her own, but it was more the style of Kentridge’s films that triggered this thought. Along with, his own telling of a colonial past.

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At one point it struck me how odd it was to watch a bunch of white people move amongst the sea of Hamid’s life-sized figures. It seemed almost as if she was recreating an auction style preview to see who to bid on. These are the moments when my skin colour is disappointing. The weight and history it reflects.

In the exhibition leaflet/programme about this work, there is a passage about how slaves are portrayed in European paintings:

“Depictions of African servants are found in paintings of high society figures from the 17th Century where they are typically isolated and shown in the margins of the image, there to signify the wealth of their masters and mistresses”. On the backs of the painted life-sized wood cutouts, there is a description of the person, for example Dog Trainer, and their African name, as well as the name they have been given, along with a stated monetary value, which was zero, no value. Also on the back were little zip lock bags, tiny, like evidence bags, and each one had what looked like fragments from a painting, or tapestries. I wondered if Himid was placed the pieces of the 17th Century artwork where she may have seen these slaves before, in the corners of paintings, but recreated them, and gave them life, rather than in the margins, she has given them life.

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Finally, Bristol seems to have some momentum representing the large West Indies and African communities in its major exhibitions featured in the last year. Situations produced Theaster Gates’ Sanctum, John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea was at the Arnolfini, the RWA curated Jamaican Pulse, and now Lubaina Himid’s exhibition at Spike Island. I am sure there were others that I have missed, but I sure hope the trend continues.

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Laser Cutting

5 Jan 2017- Practical Workshop, Introduction to Laser Cutting, with Zarya Moskowits and Richard Falle.

There are endless examples of laser cut objects, usually in gift shops, where you stumble around trying to find something just right in a sea of disposable consumption. I think my first introduction was seeing heart felt messages engraved in wood picture frames and various other saccharine gifts for Mother’s Day or to celebrate the birth of a child. It is with great relief that I never received a gift like this, as I do tend to keep the gifts I am given. More recently I have received some interesting laser cut specimens. Although upon receiving them, I never really thought of them as laser cut, just appealing in the way that I couldn’t have made them myself. There is always going to be a group of people who can see the potential of a medium, to experiment with it to create something new, and that is what is so thrilling about laser cutting. Moving beyond the inscribed sap, and into the world of concept and craft. Infinite possibilities.

What was fascinating was seeing a sample print in the fabrication centre by Arthur (Arthur Buxton?), where he laser kissed the surface of a painting. This added another interesting layer to an already beautiful print. Here is an example below, but seeing it on the screen does not do the print justice as the haptic nature of a laser cut needs to be felt. In this example, I would be inclined to call it a laser whisper rather than a kiss, and could easily be missed, but this visual treat was rather grand to me.

Arthur Buxton (?) Laser cut (kiss cut) sample in fabrication studio.

This could be a way of creating a hybrid print, by adding the digital layer (the laser cut etching) to the handmade print. I am currently thinking of two possibilities here:

  1. My idea of glitching William Morris Wallpaper.
  2. Creating visual sound samples and loops referencing the etchings of John Cage.

Both can start as traditional printmaking techniques, such as etchings, but then could be laser kissed to add the digital element I have been wanting to experiment with. In this way it could be much subtler, as I have been worried that both techniques could compete with one another and disjointed and look more like two separate prints rather than a combined effort.

Laser cut sample in fabrication studio.

The only negative is how technician dependant most of us would be at the beginning stage, and I hate having to ask for help. This is probably the reason for my hesitation with a few of the different print areas. I come from a photography background which is usually a solo pursuit, and of a can-do generation, and would rather not have my hand held or spoon fed, at least not for another 40 + years, I hope.

Chrystal Cherniwchan- Laser cut test

Rise of the machines, Gabriel Prokofiev: orchestral mechanical and hybrid-printmaking

Rise of the machines, Gabriel Prokofiev: orchestral mechanical and hybrid-printmaking.

This is a moment. An epiphany. Something monumental in the way ideas congeal.

I only recently came across the composer Grabriel Prokofiev, and his work concerto for turntables and orchestra.  This is the sonic version of what could be possible for hybrid printmaking.  The perfect use of tradition and technology. Prokofiev does it wonderfully. Satisfying both the classical ear, and the contemporary ear that may not have experienced much of the classical world. The sound is so big. How can one surprise and cause such an intense reaction to print?

Here is a clip from the 2011 BBC Proms, concerto for turntables and orchestra performed by DJ switch (full version).  I highly recommend watching this. It is great to listen to, but to see the performative aspect is exciting. Also rare to see a DJ and turntable playing with an orchestra.

I have also found a short interview with Prokofiev explaining the influence of machines on his work.  This was quite an important interview to get an understanding of his motivation. Listen to it here.

This is only just a seed that has been planted, and there will be so much more on this from me. I can’t wait.

Textile Printing

1 Dec 2016- Practical Workshop, Introduction to Textile Printing, with Andy & Duncan.

Textile printing

This workshop was in two parts, longer than the other workshops planned for us, and an optional sign up instead of required. I really did struggle deciding whether I should use this time in textiles or spend the time working in one of the other print studios expanding on some ideas I haven’t brought to life yet. I just thought that so far, there has been some really unexpected results when trying something new, and my curiosity took over. When else will I get this time to explore.

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The pace and planning did frustrate some of the other students, as they thought that perhaps too much detail was given to some elementary areas, as most people already had screenprinting experience. I on the other hand felt fine with this, and thought that this could be the one area where I might feel the most confident going back to.  But I probably have the least printmaking experience compared to the other students in my cohort, and therefore didn’t mind more information and time spent preparing to print.  Once we could roll up our sleeves and start printing, everyone thought the wait was worth it.

I was also apprehensive, as I tend to think of textile printing as being quite applied and or commercial. T-shirts and curtains come to mind. Decorative arts. Making things for people to buy. And, by-the-way, I love to buy these things, and do wish there was more of it. But do I want to make them? What about the conceptual in textiles?  I just don’t know if it is a medium for me. To use for making. I do love printed textiles, in particular Marimekko. I recently read an interview with Geoff McFetridge in Huck Magazine, who also went to the same art school as me, I guess all the successful people graduated in his year…  He offered some good advice.  He loves tennis, but he doesn’t make art about tennis. Helpful to keep that in the back of my mind, because I love many things, and it can be distracting at times to not want to incorporate it all into what I make, but we can’t do everything, and like the Hiut’s philosophy who started Hiut Denim, and only make jeans, ‘Do one thing well’.

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I do think it is interesting, so far the workshops that have been most satisfying, have been the ones I have had the lowest expectations and enthusiasm for. Enamelling and textiles. I was initially apprehensive, and wondered what on earth will I make, but we achieved results almost instantaneously, which was very appealing. Some of the printmaking processes can take so long, so it is appealing to have something to take with you at the end of the day.

We knew ahead of time that we would need to create an image to print on an A3 Folex prior to the workshop.  I rather enjoyed creating reductive scenes inspired by architecture, transport systems, and quasi-cityscapes. I had three possibilities, but had to go with one, and this is the result.

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Andy was very helpful and suggested to flip the screen for a layered effect which was fantastic advice, it made the piece much more successful.  I would like to explore textiles more. If I have a bad stretch of not producing work that I feel good about, I will head over to textiles. Colour and shape is rather jolly.  And sometimes we need that.

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Musical and Visual loops: Ed Harcourt and Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats play at Colston Hall

I have seen several live musical performances when there is one musician on stage using a looping device to make the performance feel much larger than one player, as if playing with a full band. For example, they could record a few drum beats, loop the recording to create a rhythm section. Clap and record and loop to add another layer. Record and loop some piano sounds to create a background melody. You can loop and record and loop and record to create a cacophony of sound. I was reminded of this last night when I saw Ed Harcourt open for Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats play at Colston Hall. I was actually slightly distracted from the performance, as my mind was trying to come up with different ways I could loop visuals, just as musicians do with sound.

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I will attempt to create visuals to represent different sounds, and therefore create a visual score. This visual score could then be printed on one wallpaper roll, and pasted horizontally onto a gallery wall, ideally, in one piece. Horizontally so that it best represents a musical score. Because this visual score will be representing visual loops, it will be important that the wallpaper is viewed, as one would read music. There will be a sparse beginning, as you would expect when building sounds through a looping device. It will slowly build, creating many visual layers mimicking how a musician plays music on top of loops made through a looping device at a live performance.  This will create an abstracted sonic/visual landscape.

In essence, this could be done on a much smaller scale for curiosity and test purposes. One could create an artists’ book or even a digital artists’ book with this idea.  If it were digital it would be easier to incorporate the sound used to make the visuals, as I imagine that I would first need to create a soundscape and then create visuals to match.

I will also research the work of John Cage, as he created some wonderful visuals based on his music.