Both my fellow MA students and collaborators on the Ireland trip have become inspiring and influential. The 'landscape' informs us all but we respond in completely different ways. This mix of responses makes for an extremely diverse but holistic partnership.
Sue Wright's approach is to 'map' the environment through the documentation of surrounding surfaces and detritus. One of her processes is to record 'surfaces' through physical on the spot printing using graphite powder, water and paper alongside the collection of discarded, mainly paper based, ephemera.
Paula Hickey's approach is to embrace and harness the aesthetical 'feeling' of being within the environment. Using natural mark making; letting materials such as Indian ink respond naturally to application she intervenes little. Recognising the points at which to become involved in the process she visualizes the aesthetics, sensations and awareness of the embodiment of a particular landscape.
With my own practice of the gathering of the 'physical' ephemera of an environment and my investigation and manipulation of this matter as a group we offer such great potential for further future collaborations and workshops and interventions.
Things are pretty full on at the moment. This week (in between working full-time) I am dedicating my time to the preparation of our (Myself, Paula & Sue) research/artists in residence trip to Ireland. I will be taking postcards of some of my work and framed skeletal leaf work to sell. I am limited to what I am able to take due to flying over but hope that these small pieces will generate a little income from my time there. Workshop and the presentation of how to present my practice will be worked on this week also. My strategy for the residency will be to harness the environment to enable mark making and to produce work that has very little intervention from traditional mark making materials.
This very much brings be back to my initial proposal for the MA. As a starting point the basic forms of mark making, prehistory, has underpinned the reasoning for my use of organic and ephemeral materials to make marks, in the broadest sense.
'As man enters the narrow opening of a limestone cave. Clutching a flickering tallow lamp and a small, precious object, he moves slowly into the dark depths. Soon he is aware of thick smoke and the overpowering odour of burning animal bone. He hears strange sounds echoing from the darkness. He knows that, in that smoke, people are scratching images of animals on small pieces of stone, and cutting across them with multiple lines' Lewis-Williams, David, The Mind in the Cave, 200
Being versatile and observant of unassuming materials presented within the landscape. Manipulating, scratching, scraping, pressing. To pick up an object; stone, wood, charcoal, soil, clay, plant life to make a physical mark is an instinctive action that prehistorical man had evolved enough to be able do. In writing this I remind myself that I have nowhere near touched on the questions I initially asked: What was the driving force behind these early forms of mark making and why did early man feel the desire to make a physical visual record of their lives? Maybe a subject for a PHD???
However, I have staid true to my practice and explored deeper the ways in which mark making can be formed through materiality intervention. It is this aspect that I will carry through into my time spent in Irish landscape.
Delighted to say I have achieved International success! A skeletal leaf immersed in hand made paper piece has been accepted as part of the 2017 Annual International Mail- Art Exhibition in Canada. It is pretty mind blowing to think that a piece of my work will be situated as part of an exhibition so far away. The process undertaken to make these works consists of myself within the landscape here in the UK, Yorkshire. Materials are then brought into the studio space and manipulated to understand more their physical make-up and mark making potential. It is hoped that the work translates this physicality of materials and the environment in which it came. When situated in Canada it is my ambition that the work invites my audience to think twice about the overlooked and discarded ephemera of the land and how they themselves interact with the environment.
Current work 26/5/17
Also bubbling away in the background is my ongoing process of immersing skeletal leaves into hand made paper. This work has so much stark contrast it works extremely well when being photographed. It is a process I cannot ignore. From scrunched up masses of decaying leaves they are carefully pulled apart to reveal their delicateness. The leaves that are at the point of decay where only the veins are left are turning out to be the most striking. They are almost drawings in themselves, carefully positioned lines, marks within the paper.
Developing needle prick work further is carrying on in the background of other developing work (Ice Forms). The needle is a drawing tool for me and a process that I will continue to use and develop within my practice. Preparing work for exhibition opportunities is taking much of my time. It is time consuming and often my application is unsuccessful but all the work does not go to waste and adds to my collection of pieces. I am experimenting with size some pieces being 1.5m x 1m, highlighting detail and non intervention after needle prick drawing is completed. Less is more and work that has not been singed makes for a more sensitive aesthetic; a purity of process and texture. This needle prick work is hard to photograph and show at its best. Highlighting its textures and contrasts is difficult and lets the work down on applications. I will perceiver as I believe this work is worth putting out there!
“Beauty, which is what is meant by art, using the word in its widest sense, is, I contend, no mere accident to human life, which people can take or leave as they choose, but a positive necessity of life.”
The Beauty of Life (1880).
A recent lecture I attended on the Modernist Jeweller Ann O'Donnell reminded me of the modernist themes of form and function,truth to materials and the strive to create objects of desire. Pictures above are a few of my favourite pieces from the exhibition of her work. All pieces are organic in design and in themselves present as sculptural pieces. The individuality of piece is formed around the main semi precious stones. In an era of male dominated makers Ann progressed and established herself and her unique work against the trend to make 'factory made' jewellery of the 70's and 80's. She opened a retail and exhibition space in Leeds 'Anno Domini' transforming into a gallery space after she began curating international shows of contemporary jewellery. Stunning work!
It is the drive to create beauty within my work that drives me forward. In a society of constant there is a need to stop and value. To take stock, look rather than skim the surface of each other, materiality and the environment. By seeking out materials within the landscape and engaging with an alchemic approach I endeavour to visualize the beauty of the ephemera in order to enhance and change an individuals view of the way they interact with environment.
Truth to materials and the real are paramount. There needs to be grounding; a link to physicality. We continue to become a quick gratification society of 'how many likes' we can generate from individuals we have never or will never meet. People who, without physical regular interaction will not remain within our minds; they are forgotten with ease.
Over the past few weeks conversations with my tutor have highlighted to me how important my legacy; my life experience of growing up in the countryside is. It is significant and relevant that I tell this story and demonstrate the emphasis of tactility in play and making. To involve the younger generation in the investigation of the materiality of the landscape in order that they can learn about the physical world around them and set the seed about the possibilities creativity can bring to their lives.
I attended the lecture of Frances Morris Director of Tate Modern last night which confirmed my thoughts and the importance of my role as an artist. She spoke about artists being 'time travellers'; we do not operate as static beings we express our life experiences through our work; we tell 'our' stories. She herself says she is who she is because of the many artists she has worked with Louise Bourgeois being one a highly inspirational woman who worked as an artist into her 90's!
She spoke about the role of 'The Gallery' 'The Museum' in todays economic climate referencing the new generation of independent galleries and how The Tate will carry on/sustain their place. Because of its main ownership (Department for Culture, Medium & Sport) I feel, it has restrictions and as a director her job is a difficult one in respect of having to please everyone, tick the right boxes be ethically responsible etc. When asked a question from the audience about how she sees the future of the Tate she spoke about the need to bring everyone into the realms of the gallery space; to make it accessible to non creative people, to make it immersive so everyone can get something from it, that you don't have to have an art education to enjoy art.
She spoke a lot about the need to involve people, to not have a closed art institution that 'play & creativity' go together. I could not agree more but am amazed that it has taken this long to be recognised or highlighted!
It made me reflect on my dissertation 'Childhood Play to Practicing Artist in the 21st Century' 2016 my own experiences as a child, how much this influences my practice now as an adult and the importance of my knowledge and the need to pass this on.
With last nights talk still fresh in my mind my experience as a child growing up in the countryside is fresh in my mind. Cameras were expensive things to own back in the 70's and photos were not taken like they are today. I have very few images of this time as a child and it is the haptic memories of embracing and immersing myself into the landscape with family and friend that sit deeply within me today.
I remembered I had the remains of some wild flowers I had picked and pressed in 1976 and found them (see pic above) These are the only ephemeral physical things I have of that time. They are now one of the most important things I own. They are the archaeological remains of my landscape childhood, they are a reminder of processes that I have within my practice today my legacy and the need to shout about it!!!
As Frances Morris said last night 'Bring back play we bring back process'
Life is pretty intense, busy, immersive, tiring but enjoyable. I remind myself why and where all this creativity I have has stemmed from. Why I pursue this need to express myself through the visual arts. It is because it is all that I am. I am a creative I will be nothing else and wish to be nothing else. Through the writing of my dissertation has cemented the way I practice as an artist is a direct response to childhood experiences playing within the rural landscape. A far away time so far removed from this fast paced 21st century craziness. I remind myself today of that treasured time to keep me focused and energized.
'When we are not roaming the hills in our childhood, we were walking and playing in the meadows. An open ongoing meadow was my field of dreams as a child. In that expanse of land and magical growing things I felt sublimely blissful, able to sit for hours, to lie back and soak in the sky, to feel the coolness of earth on my back and the heat of the sun covering the front of me. This was heaven- this world of weeds, wildflowers, wild berries and asparagus.'
Hicks, Bella, 'Belonging a Culture of Place' pg. 203, 2009
Things have been busy the past couple of months and I am experiencing to full effect the juggling of everyday chores, working 5 days, doing an MA and most importantly fitting in making and producing work. I was lucky enough to be shortlisted for a commission with MEPC Wellington Place, Leeds which I unfortunately didn't get chosen for but the experience was a very positive one. Feedback from the presentation was extremely good and all concerned loved my work and were very interested in the concept and reasoning behind it all. They got it! and a comment from one of the panel 'I will never look at a leaf in the same way again' made the whole experience worthwhile; that is exactly what I want my audience to come away thinking. After the disappointment of not getting the commission I was lucky enough to be contacted by one of the panel who was interested in buying one of my pieces. This was a great compromise and a recognition of how good my work really is.
I have also sold other smaller pieces of framed work over the past few weeks and an image accepted in the A5 magazine which circulates in London. I am frantically applying for other opportunities nationally and internationally so we will see what the outcomes are from these in the next month or so.
Instagram has become a slight obsession with me at the moment! For creatives I feel this social media platform is a perfect format. Its all about the image.Being linked to other like minded people gives you another support network (be it a virtual one) to validate your creative efforts. The layout of the profile page also acts as a kind of ongoing calendar of the different stages of work and pieces I am producing; it is good to see them visually laid out like this to reflect on the journey of making.
MA Creative Practice