I sent a brief outline of where I’m at to the tutor this week. They had requested it because unlike the rest of the students who did this module last term they didn’t really know what I was thinking. Here is what I sent.
Beyond the White CubeArt as Activator, Social Sculpture, and Community Engagement.
The Arte Povera movement which began in Italy in the 1960’s rejected the consumerism of the White Cube and the conventional materials associated with fine Art. Marisa Merz the only woman associated with the movement made work exploring life as art and vice versa, elevating knitting as a process and using her home as both studio and gallery (Grenier, 1994) (Christov-Bakargiev, 1999). Also associated with Arte Povera was Joseph Beuys who created ‘the concept of “Social Sculpture” which avowed that everyday actions imbued with creativity could re-shape society ( (Gyorody, 2017) This movement radically changed the Art world and created the environment where today groups like Assemble collective from Liverpool can win the prestigious Turner prize for their regenerative community project Granby Workshop in Toxteth.
Moving away from the Artist making work in isolation for an elite to commodify I am looking at Art as Activator and Artist as communicator. Can Art, more precisely art-based participatory interventions start conversations that encourage people to change their habits and strengthen communities for example Diedre Nelsons knitting project “Bird Yarns”(Burke, 2018). I want to develop an activity which will engage the rural community that I live in. I want to start a conversation about materials and processes and how the community deals with waste, specifically plastic silage wrap and how we can learn from the past in order to make our futures more sustainable. By weaving on a peg loom with silage wrap and bailing twines well as the more traditional raw wool and cotton, working with Radnor wildlife trust and local Arts charities I hope to introduce these conversations and potentially find solutions. The delivery and evaluation of this project will be the focus of my research and therefore my dissertation.
Another example of work of this kind is Bridgette Juracks “Best done in Winter” project which was part of her exhibition at Home in Manchester Nov. 2022 – Jan 2023.
“The project calls into question the impact of industrial-scale agri-chemical farming on biodiversity and interdependency of species, pollination and the importance of crop rotation in food production, through a reengagement with this craft..”
BibliographyBurke, M. O. D. W. L., 2018. Participatory Arts and affective engagement with climate change.., London/Cardiff: Elsevier Ltd.
Christov-Bakargiev, C., 1999. Arte Povera. 3rd ed. London/New York: Phaidon press ltd.
Grenier, C., 1994. Marisa Merz, The Thread of Time. 1 ed. Paris: Edition du Pompidou.
Gyorody, A., 2017. 'Object into Action and Action into Object': Joseph Beuys and the Political work of Social Sculpture, California: eScholarship, University of California.
I am also reading Gablick’s The Re-enchantment of Art, which examines an alternative vision of Arts place within society. I will be reading Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics and Kester’s Conversation pieces as well as Leaving Art by Suzanne Lacy.
Lucy has shown me how to use the referencing functions on WORD which is exciting. It means I’m not so scared about that now, as you can see from the above. I still haven’t finished that damn book. I have to be in the right head space for it and then I have to mull over the content after a few pages. It is great but there is a lot to think about. I read one paragraph four time the other day before I took in one word, my head was somewhere else. The fourth time was a revelation, mind blown, what had I been doing the last three times?? Mind wandering somewhere else, ffs! FOCUS!! Lots of stuff going on and glad to say work coming in. The full moon has been strong and I haven’t been sleeping well. Projects going round in my head. But I’ve got this years calendar up so spreading things out and getting perspective. So glad I’m not doing this full time.
The seminar this week was by Julian Green and he talked about music and we watched clips of films. He talked about combinations of media/genre and different ways of communicating ideas. He also said that if we can bring in a different art form to relate to our topic of research it will be beneficial to our final outcomes.
I am enjoying spending the afternoon at Uni with no space and everyone else busy because I end up in the library. I read about Suzanne Lacy this week and although I had come across her before I didn’t know much about her. She is really interesting and very much related to my research so I got another book to read.
Sean Edwards gave a talk about his work. Sean is lovely. He is so down to earth but his work is really complex and deep. He considers the relevance of every detail and his work is so incredibly personal. Jenny was there and I had the chance to have an informal chat with her which was nice. She told me about working in a deconsecrated chapel when she was at Uni and how her and her friends would work through the night. Once she had fallen asleep and woke in the chapel thinking she had died. That’s dedication for you, working through the night. Dedication and passion for her work. We had an on line meeting about essays on Wednesday and the issue of strikes inevitably came up. Another reason I’m glad I’m doing this part time is that there is going to be so much disruption for the full-time students because of the strikes. Of course I totally support the Tutors in striking but the students won’t get this chance again and they aren’t going to get the support they would do normally.
Ok, That’s enough from me for this week. I need to get on with sewing my banner for the "Land of our Mothers" exhibition. And the sun is shining, so I should probably wash some more silage wrap.
So life is getting busy again and I have got to decide what I am focusing on for this modules essay. This weeks seminar was by John Pigott and focused mostly on Venn diagrams as a useful tool for honing in on the important stuff. I was still struggling. I had “Waste”, “Sustainability”,”Assemblages/combines/readymade sculpture” and “Community Art, Social Sculpture”. John asked me if I had any examples of these things and I said I was working on it so that wasn’t very helpful. However, I woke up with and idea. Inspired by the idea of the Art as activator and the meme “Beware of Artist, they mix with all classes and are therefore the most dangerous” I want to look at Art outside the elitist white cube of consumerism and focus on how Art benefits society. My brain keeps speeding off in all kinds of different direction so I really need to put my blinkers on and work out a structure. Dr Natasha has asked for a working title and outline of my research but my head has so many ideas bouncing around. As soon as I grab one it explodes into lots of different direction. But I do have examples now. Sean Harris the Rhos pasture Artist in residence is a communicator and talked about how the artist can bring people together and gets a totally different reception than, say the conservationist. He collects peoples stories which inform his work. As does Marcelo who was the artist in residence in the Elan valley. He too brings communities together through art. Tim Rollins works with disadvantaged teenagers in New York making work inspired by Classic literature and totally transforms lives. There is the Portlands Street project in Stoke on Trent, The Bank Job and The PowerStation projects by Hilary Powell and Dan Edelstyn in Waltham forest, North East London. The we have the glorious Red Rebels (whom I went out with last weekend) a performance art protest which has grown and spread all over the world. Is that an example of the ultimate of Social Sculpture?
The project or ‘Artistic intervention’ “Birds Yarn” by Artist Deirdre Nelson on the Isle of Mull helped raise awareness of how Climate change and the rising temperature of the sea affects firstly the migration patterns of eels which then in turn affects the feeding and migration patterns of the Arctic tern. I am hoping to organise workshops over the summer that will involve weaving with plastics in order to start a conversation about excess waste and how we deal with it alongside the use of ancient technologies and historic knowledge to inform the future in a more sustainable way. If I manage to pull it off and do a good job on the evaluation I can then use that as part of my dissertation.
Then there is the river. I was out with the Reds to raise awareness of the pollution being pumped into the river wye. Artist Dominique Mazeaud began an Art project called the Great Cleansing of the Rio Grande river, where she ritualistically cleaned pollution out of the river. Friends of the Upper Wye test the river al along it’s route every week and I have an idea for an art project which developed into a group of women artists who live at different points along the river submerging themselves in the river in white muslin dresses on the solstice/equinox and then showing the dresses and the residue left by the river as the Artwork. Alketa Xhafa Mripa’s work “Thinking of You” brought together victims of sexual violence perpetrated during the conflict in Kosovo by collecting dresses. This project helped to disperse the stigma that was associated with such victims of sexual violence. Also in relation to the river project I am thinking about Helen Chadwicks work with blood and the microscopic blow up imagery she used super imposed on the landscape.
As you can see, and this is the narrowed down thinking, there is a lot going on. Does any of the above relate to my practice of making “Rubbish Sculpture”? No but it does relate to my facilitation work and the other community projects that I am involved with like the Teen club in the woods. The reason for doing this was to focus and narrow down my field of interest and I am doing that, at least I am trying to….
I am so glad I am doing this part time because it is going so fast. The full-timers are thinking about their dissertations already and are worrying about what comes next. At least I know I will be able to continue doing what I already do but hopefully do it better.
I was excited this week. I was up early and on the road by 7.20 because this weeks lecture was around Eco-literacy and it didn’t disappoint.
The lecturer was Robert Hopkins, Architect. He was responsible for the “healthiest building in the world” The Spine in Liverpool, designed and built for the Royal collage of Physicians. Robert studies Biophilia which is the way in which nature affects the human body. For example, how having a window and being able to see plants shortens recovery time in patients and how being in a space which has plants in it reduces stress and anxiety. He took us through the design process and explained all the different ways they had solved the various problems along the way. He talked about the extensive research processes and how they had imbedded the biophilia principles in every aspect of the design so it could not be removed. He sourced all the materials as locally as possible and used only natural or circular economy based, products. I learned that there is a data base of materials that Bath University have put together (open access to all) that lists all building materials and their ecological impact/measures their sustainability against similar products. All the time he referred back to man kinds innate biological connection to nature and the hardwired connection we have always had, bringing the outside in as far back as cave painting.
He talked about the “Pythagorean Triple” and “Voronoi Geometry” which I have to look up and explore more as it connects to the mathematics of fractals. And of course the wonders of plants that can remove toxins from the air and replace them with clean health air.
It was brilliant and to top it off he talked proper, he is from Manchester and so was totally straight talking. When he discovered the carpets he had commissioned from a local company were sent over to holland to be stamped? He vowed never to use them again. The session continued in the afternoon as we examined the sustainability of our practices. We used a graphic that he had designed as a starting point which had the “three Pillars of sustainability” as “Social” Economic” and “Environment”. It was good to chat about this stuff. Rosie was struggling with it but I tried to reassure her that it was only important to be able to say that she has considered her practice in these terms and as someone who draws her practice is very light in relation to negative environmental impact. Dr. Natasha was present at the lecture and at the discussion in the afternoon. She was very enthusiastic and I look forward to working with her on my C&M essay.
Elsewhere my space in the studio is still empty. I chatted to Erin about her work and André popped in to ask what I was doing there, lol! I said I had warned him I was hard to get rid of. Meg and I confirmed with him that we had a meeting on Wednesday as the course representatives. Ellie has succeeded in making a collage the size of a postage stamp.
I came across the term “Social Sculpture” which Beuys had created so I have done some research around that. It relates to the political forums he started in the University and then his involvement in politics. In 2017 Gyorody from uni of California, discussed the links between Beuys and the Occupy movement. As much as I love Beuys work, the more I read about him the more his ego spoils things. His work dramatically changed the development of Art and has considerable impact on Art today and what is considered Art but I’m afraid for all the good that he did, it was done from a self-serving point of view. From there I decided to look closer at Agne Denes and I like her work but it all seems a bit grand and unrealistic even though she has succeeded in realising some incredible schemes.
I am also, slowly making my way to the end of the Re-enchantment of Art and it is discussing how we define what is and isn’t Art. It appears to come down to intention and functionality. If Dominique Mazeaud had made sculpture out of the rubbish she collected/cleared out of the river, then her actions may have been accepted as Art but because she is simply cleaning the river it is seen as a functional act and therefore not Art?
I am going to have to read this book again once I get a clear idea of where my research is going. I have two more books that Dr Natasha recommended. A Grant Kester, about community and communication in modern Art and Relational Aesthetics by Nicolas Bourriaud.
I have got my feedback and preliminary marks for my Viva last term and I am really pleased to have been given 68/100. The criticism is expected and why I am here. I need to be more specific in my direction, area of study and hone down where I want to be and what I want to achieve. All valid and I am working on it. I am hoping that the C&M work will help with that.
I have started weaving on the peg loom with the silage wrap and bailing twine and I have started setting up the big loom too.
I have done a couple of workshops. Firstly working in collaboration with the Radnor wildlife trust, Rhos pasture projects Artist in residency, making lantern covers for his installation with local school children. It was a long day as we did two school in the same day and the children were a bit young in the afternoon. We were relatively successful, as in we have some useable lanterns but nowhere near enough so we will have to come up with another plan before the installation in March. Then I got a call from CARAD and did a session making papé Maché bowls. The Celf o Gwmpas LDA sessions will be starting up again next month and I have agreed to do one a month as well as a more focused block with a smaller group so that will be good. I’ve also been contacted by Arts Connection in relation to a project about toxic relationships that I had given up on. That will involve screen printing with teens I think.
The Artists Network meeting was great this month. We decided on our next event to take place before the insurance runs out on the Stiwdio. “Land of our Mothers” will start on 1st March/St.Davids day and cover International Women’s Day and Mothering Sunday, So a celebration of Welsh women. We also discussed Graham Haslock’s exhibition. He told us about his process and how he arrived at the decision to make work which works from a pure mathematical system. It is fascinating and he and Geraint and talking about collaboration which will be a match made in a precise heaven. However it might take a very long time.
However, in relation to my Masters I need to develop the activity and contact people I want to work with. It would be good to do this soon so I can get some workshops done over summer or in early autumn then I’ll have the research done for my dissertation. Artist as activator. Can I encourage the farming community to be more mindful of their waste and help to dispel the fear of going backwards in relation to using their grandfathers and great grandfathers ways of working to inform sustainability in the future.
Before I get into the Metaphor lecture from Prof Clive Cazeaux I want to talk about the exhibitions I saw in Manchester on Saturday with my daughter (Lucy), Dad (Stuart) and step Mum (Judith).
My favourite galleries in Manchester when I was a student in Salford where the Castlefield and the Cornerhouse. When I tried to find them recently, I failed. I turned to the internet and discovered they both still existed, but Cornerhouse was now called HOME. This time I was with Lucy who had recently been to the Castlefield, and they confirmed that they had indeed moved at some point in the last 25 years.
Chatting to Dad over lunch, we discussed the reactions of an artist when the viewer sees something they hadn’t in their work (an Ice cream cone perhaps?). Dad had been discussing this with his philosophy group and had been explaining that the Artist uses a different part of the brain to make, than to analyse the work so we too can see things in the work overtime that we are not conscious of during the making process and therefore welcome alternative interpretations from elsewhere. He was frustrated by the fact that the intelligent group of philosophers didn’t ‘get’ Art.
The Castlefield gallery is literally, set back a little admittedly but the only thing between the bar/restaurant and the Train station. I had looked on the website and had a feeling this exhibition would be controversial as the work was quite challenging aesthetically. Nina Chua’s drawings are playful and chaotic. She talks (YouTube interview on the gallery website) about wanting the drawing to “..escape from any intension..” which I love. She uses felt tip pens and there is a lot of colour and different mark making. They remind me of drawing I did as a child. Judith liked there controlled, ribbon like marks but not the writing and was drawn to the the monochrome work more than the colourful ones.
Accompanying Chua’s drawings are Sculptures by Daniel Silvers. Made in clay and painted in oil paint they are also playful and colourful. Dad talked about how the materials chosen are known for their malleability, but the artist had chosen to present the work when the materials where almost as close to their natural form as they could be while still being recognisable as figures. We spent ages in the gallery discussing the work and it grew on us while we were there.
The exhibition I really wanted to see was at Home, a massive new shiny glass building behind where the Cornerhouse used to be, towering over the old brick railway arches. Brigitte Jurack is described as ‘artist, maker, educator and climate activist.’. Her exhibition “Fieldnotes” is her largest solo show and contains sculpture, drawings, photographs, and interactive activities. Again, there is a playful feel to the work, especially the ceramic animals scattered around the large space. Foxes and crows face each other off and monkeys watch from pedestals. The animals are full of expression and animated emotion. The photographs are of a collaborative happenings with her students from Manchester school of Art in Spain. The drawings, of rock and fungi found in a Welsh slate quarry were made during lockdown. These two sets of images are displayed opposite each other and “function as a homage to water, an increasingly scarce natural resource.”
Finally, the work I found most interesting was the workshop set up, where people had been building straw beehives. She calls this workshop “Best done in Winter” and says “The project calls into question the impact of industrial scale argi-chemical farming on biodiversity and interdependency of species. Pollination and the importance of crop rotation in food production, through the reengagement in this craft” This is essentially what I want to do with my peg loom project, weaving with silage wrap and bailing twine. I want to start a discussion about waste and how we can use/reduce waste but also introduce the subject of learning from the past by engaging in an ancient craft, to inform future sustainability. The beehive sessions had been 80mins long , therefore not long enough to make a full beehive (an experienced maker would take 2 days) participants would contributed to one that had already been started "inadvertently team working with those from previous sessions".
Another activity which was there for anyone to do was a table covered in sticks which had been painted white and visitors were invited to decorate them and pieces of slate with felt tip pens. Dad managed to fine a relatively clean one and wrote ‘STICKY’ on it.
Everyone loved this exhibition, especially the animals. I am lucky that my family are so engaged with the Arts. Dad commented on what a pleasure it was to be in our company and what a joy it was to have a granddaughter who is so articulate and knowledgeable when it comes to discussing art.
And so to Uni and a lecture in Metaphor from Professor of Aesthetics, Clive Cazeaux and strangely we talk about how others interpret our work just as Dad and I had been doing two days before. First however Cazeaux talked about metaphors and what they are, different ways of defining them and how to use them. The difference between metaphor and simile, Interactionist theory, synaesthesia and critical sensibility. Metaphor is reliant on shared experience and understanding. The nature of perception, truth and lies and how sensory processing is a form of metaphor. Of course I got excited when we got to materials as metaphor but there wasn’t much time to delve into that much however I have got avenues to explore, David Gauntlett’s Creative Exploration, for example.
We looked a two pieces of work by fellow students and tried to understand what the artist was trying to say. This proved difficult with a piece of pottery, as the artists frustration was more evident than his concept in the photograph presented which proved interesting as we dicsovered his true intention.
Metaphor: one thing as something else. An invitation to play.
It was lovely to see everyones work up in the studio and we had Erin who is on a fellowship (I think) join us as we did a crit. André popped in briefly as he had been very impressed that we were doing this without him and of our own will. Erin was lovely about my work describing it as magical and other worldly. Rosie's new work is a great development from the architectural to the domestic and André joined the discussion encouraging her to go bigger before he had to see to the first years. After the crit, I took my work down and we went to the pub. It was lovely to spend some chill time with the girls and I am hoping to go out with them to see Caitlin and her bloke play.
First week back and I’m early, really early, because the timetable is wrong. However, I was lucky that Dr Natasha Mayo (ceramics lecturer) was in super early too. Our conversation became like an impromptu tutorial. Her research is about the domestic and we discussed the difficulties of maintaining a practice alongside parenting. She encouraged me to see the things that I did during my time as a mother, that maintained my creativity with, artistic value. Her friend, Claire Loder, is involved with a community garden and she now sees this as her practice. Natasha also suggested I look at Grant Kester and Nicholas Bourriaud to help me think about an artistic practice in new ways. I tell her about “The Re-enchantment of Art” and she hasn’t heard of it. I haven’t finished reading “The Re-enchantment of Art” yet and I am sure I will re read it because I have learnt a great deal from it and will continue to do so. It is helping me to look at the different aspects of my work and re-evaluate them in relation to artistic practice. She was encouraging when I told her about my planned project of weaving with plastics on a peg loom saying she thought I was heading in the right direction or that I’d got it covered? Something like that.
The actual lecturer for the session arrived and the conversation shifted. Natasha had just popped in to welcome everyone back after the Christmas break. The rest of the students arrive. Julie and Chris from Global Design sat with me, and my group sit at the back.
Sarah Smith is talking to us about Future thinking – Creative Entrepreneurship. She asks the group to define “Entrepreneurship”. No one mentions money and she is pleased saying we are her favourite group. “to initiate an idea, to start something.” “..creative ideal, about how our ideas can be applied in the world. To find new and innovative ways to apply them.” “Sharing ideas and answers to the public.”
Sarah provided lots of tools for helping us to place our focus into context and hone down our area of concern. Take the lake and turn it into a puddle not a well.
We were shown a diagram that had been devised by an academic research group that identifies the issues of our time. I chose ‘Mitigating Environmental and ecological Damage’, ‘Civic Disaffection’ and ‘Void of vision and foresight’ as my areas of focus and these corresponded with ‘Environmental Sustainability’ from another list created by “nesta” and “Pearson.”
How do we define ‘Value’ and value creation? Why would people want to engage with my work? We need to find “the Hook”.
We were then given a formula for mapping out the entrepreneurial canvas.
D x V x F > R
Dissatisfaction with the past (X) Vision for the future (X) First steps must be greater than the Resistance to change.
I am dissatisfied by our disregard for the finite resource of our planet. Over consumption, inequality, and waste.
My Vision is of a sustainable future which considers future generations and is based on equity and well being.
First steps, create a project that will bring people together to highlight waste and find ways to utilise waste using ancient skills to start a dialogue about how the old can inform the new.
There will be a resistance to the idea of going backward instead of forwards and a belief that I want people to reject “progressive” technologies. There will be an issue with time, efficiency, and commercial viability.
I found all this very useful, and it is giving me confidence in my project and tools which will help me to sell the project.
A couple of people shared their research areas. Hali is looking at women and trees and how both have been reduced to commodity, and Rowan is looking at the role of class in the fashion industry and how teaching sewing in schools could break down the barriers around class and gender that he has faced entering fashion. Both such interesting projects.
My project is weaving with silage wrap and bailing twine on a peg loom. I am hoping to develop a more domestic version of this idea using single use plastics and maybe cables, I don’t know yet. I am going to have to experiment more. But the silage wrap/baling twine can be done alongside traditional wool weaving to bring the sheep farmers and the price of wool into the mix, as it is a much undervalued and useful resource.
It was lovely to see the MA gang and involved lots of hugs. I got my display up in the studio. Having the bottle top tendrils on chains makes them much better to handle and I am much happier with the central sculpture. My final job that I did in the studio was to make small mushrooms so that the tendrils then turned into mycelium.
So glad to be back. Grateful to find my little caravan was relatively dry and looking forward to more Context and Methodologies lectures.
I got my portfolio in early. I decided to add a couple (4) of photos of the Celf o Gwmpas Stiwdio gallery/shop at the end after Andre was really vague about whether I should or not. “Yes, include if appropriate.” No idea if I’ve got it right but I will soon find out. I think we should have our results/marks on 20th Jan. which is also the day I do two Rhos pasture lantern making workshops with local school. Next job is to put together an instruction leaflet for that.
Stiwdio Celf o Gwmpas Gallery/Shop
Last Month of term 2022
I was reminded the other day that I hadn’t done a blog recently. “Where’s week 9 in your blog Jane?” the message said and of course the answer was I haven’t done it yet. That week was so mental and the following weeks similarly so that I am only just recovering and by recovering I mean, in the oh too familiar way of having to stop because I’ve come down with a cold.
So, week 9 was the week we were given access to Umbrella gallery in the Capitol Centre in Cardiff to start planning our exhibition. I got my work ready and pretty much installed it on the Tuesday 15th November. I had made the decision early on to take a step back and allow the other students to organise the exhibition because I have quite a lot of experience doing that, it is my happy place and I didn’t want to take over. As it happened I work in Llandrindod that distracted me anyway.
There was a lot of work to do for the Stiwdio Gallery/shop opening and I didn’t get my new work done for the window. I did get the bags made which I am really happy with and we got into the paper. There has been a steady stream of people visit but no big sales and it is the last week, which I am covering this Friday and Saturday(Xmas eve). The ceramicist is ace and a great addition to the network. Opening has also brought us new members which is great.
When I got back to Cardiff on Tuesday 22nd everything (not my work) was covered in a fine white dust as the others had spent most of the week sanding down the walls. There is lots of discussion and indecision, so I get them started by attaching Rosie’s batons to the wall. Things start to move now. I make the finishing touches to my installation interspersed with helping the others, drilling hopes for screws, etc. André is on strike on Thursday so he won’t be critiquing the show, but Paisley says she will do it.
I was back in Llandrindod on the Wednesday for work.
Final touches on Thursday morning and the show looks great. It’s not how I would have done it, but it works.
Paisley and Evelyn are really positive about my work and everything they say I have already thought myself, except they describe the central form as an ice cream cone and they’re right. If I had written this at the time I probably would have had a lot more to say but I didn’t so what I will say is that I altered my work as best as I could and when it comes to the portfolio presentation at the beginning of next term it will be very different.
I invigilated with Ellie on the Friday and we had a really lovely day getting to know eachother better. We had a few visitors and I bought some pens and a comments book.
The opening was great. I had done a leaflet with a statement about everyones work in. I printed 30 and they all went in no time. I had felt anxious because I didn’t have anyone coming but Kelly visited in the day which was nice and everyone was really lovely in the evening. I chatted to André about my work and he said “ Is it not meant to be an ice cream? It looks like and ice cream!” so I said it was a nod to Rauchenburg and he said “WHO” so I corrected myself and said “ the guy who made the soft sculptures” “Claus Oldenburg” “Yes that’s the one!”, lol! We had a right laugh about getting old and the menopause. Then I persuaded the stragglers to go to the winter wonderland and we went on the Waltzers. It was lush.
As tired as I was I was still buzzing on the Sunday. We took the show down on the Monday more than 50 people had been through over the weekend. I managed to get all the work in Vic’s van and took it all back to the studio. Then back up north for Artists Network meeting.
Now we are in week 11 and 1st December, I had a tutorial with Jenny about the redesigning of my work for the Portfolio display. Everyone is stressed about a context and methodology essay they have to do. I pack my stuff up and head home exhausted.
André recommended a book at the beginning of term which I am loving Suzi Gablik’s “The Re-enchantment of Art”. It is all about the need for societal change and Artists attempts to do something about it. From a sculptor who makes stands for raptors to help prevent them from being fried by electric cables, composers who perform work on a lake at sunrise and a guy collaborating with disadvantaged teens. It makes me think about the Portland street project in Stoke on Trent and the Bank project in London. Rosie told me about the Turner prize winners who had rejuvenated a street. Community Art. One of the reasons I’m here is to work out how my practice can become more relevant to my community work.
Week 12 and we have to present a draft of our Viva (oral presentation) which is part of our final assessment for this module. The rest of the class are frazzled from the Context n Methodology essay. I go first. I got a well done and some useful pointers to work with.
Vic was very supportive during the writing process but he doesn’t quite get it. Lucy tried to help too but was more concerned about presentation than content. My mate Jane Titley on the other hand totally gets it and after a couple of hours with her I feel so much better about the whole thing. A few tweaks and I’m ready to go.
I won’t bore you with all the drama that is ging on in the background of my life and the back n forth to the gallery/shop in Llandrindod. The day of the Viva arrives and I have spent days preparing and rehearsed it over and over.
I have to wait my turn. The others are also nervous and there are technical problems. I am still not confident that what I am going to present is what is expected/required. I am happy to go early when Pascaline has a problem with her powerpoint.
17 seconds short of the 12 minutes, perfect. André comments that it is obvious that I rehearsed it. The others say, in the group chat, that I have a really soothing voice that they could listen to all day, that’s a first!!! Jenny starts the feedback with lots of love. She really likes this and that, the way I romantically describe the making process. I am blown away. André wants to know more about bits and talks about post punk and the squatting scene and building alternative community, saying this is where I am from and he wants to know more, I should be building on that. “Very Professional” he said it was “Very Professional”!! I am bouncing with joy. So happy I miss Joe’s presentation completely which I regret because the moments I caught looked really interesting.
So I have a lot to think about. I am definitely learning and developing in the way I hoped.
I’ve got a project with the wildlife trust next month. I’ll be working with local schools to make lanterns to add to the final work the Rhos pasture project Artist in residence is presenting, which is exciting. I had a really interesting meeting with them. I hope that by the end of the course I will have more confidence and more focus so that I can develop projects of my own which will bring people together like his work does.
I am so glad I decided to do this course and I am looking forward to next year.
For anyone interested I have uploaded the slideshow and accompanying text below.
Week 8 MFA CSAD
I am working from home mostly now. Instead of the exciting playground I had fantasied about, Health and safety prevents me from utilizing all the facilities. I’m not complaining, it was naïve of me to think otherwise. If I attended inductions into each space I could probably make use of all the different spaces but I have what I need at home and my own exclusive technician on hand to bounce ideas off and help me find solutions to problems whom I have spent 20 years training (my husband). So when André said I was coming to the end of my time in the studio, although it was a shock (I don’t remember having the conversation about the details of my part time status) it’s certainly not a problem.
I got into the studio Wednesday afternoon and did some reading, wrote last weeks blog as I hadn’t got round to it until then. Meg was in and is getting on well with her washing machine. Laura has said they may be able to make it shake which would be awesome. Rosie has moved in by me taking the space Daniel saved but never occupied. She came and went, she is using colour and showed me the prints she did during the print induction that she and Paskaline went to. I’m loving this development in her work it is adding a freer dimension to it. Sean popped his head in and asked if we were ok, we are.
Thursday is gallery day. I am early. I have parked above Umbrella which is our last stop and walk across town to find Ten gallery which is way out of town. I find a café for a coffee and find M.A.D.E. at the same time. The exhibition at Ten is ceramics, lolly pops, black balloons and giant pills, black totem like objects and small bowls all with this velvety finish and those that aren’t black are brightly coloured. The owner represents 20 Artists and talks about being in a long term relationship with her artists. André makes it clear it is a plutonic relationship as he is represented by her. She had recognised a lack of representation for successful contemporary Welsh artists in Cardiff and started with a couple of pop up galleries in the city centre collecting artists as she went. It was an interesting story. She now owns the space and has two small children. Like I say she represents André but she also represents David Nash.
Next is M.A.D.E. I chat with André on the walk down there and he talks about how Kat from ten as helped him. It’s all about making contacts. M.A.D.E. is a very different space. There is a group sat at a table as we walk in having a meeting of some kind. There is work all around, shelves to the ceiling and card racks and a café style bar. However behind all that is the gallery a little smaller than ten but not much. Here we have photographs of bins and it is at this point that André makes a comment about me not being around for much longer. The fact that the photographer had killed himself has everyone a little shell shocked and that covers my reaction to the news that my time in the studio was nearly up. I am part time after all. Rosie seems as upset about this as I am but like I have said at the beginning of this blog it is fine and André predicted that I will come back into the studio in 2024 with loads more work than anyone else. So I won’t be exhibiting with this group in June/July but I am now and I will pop in and see them all regularly while I do Context n Methodology next term. Anyway, back to the bins. They are a really interesting selection of images and it is really interesting which ones have sold. Of course selling is important to the gallery owners, that is how they survive but this space seems more community oriented that ten which has a much more commercial feel. Ellie must have work in an upcoming exhibition because the owner recognises her.
Next is g39 which of course I know and have visited on a number of occasions including having “UnEarthed” in the made in Roath open exhibition. We entre by the back door, Sam who meets us is familiar and the space looks very different from the last time I was there. Gone are the blue walls of the Principle Boy exhibition, the space has bee white washed ready for the DAC exhibition which opens next weekend. I wonder if I will know any of the contributing Artists, has Lou got anything in it? I will have to try and get down for it. We are shown round the studio spaces and sam explains that they are coming to the end of a five years project and are going through some changes in the staff structure. So I will have to keep an eye on how things develop there.
We have lunch in the restaurant that I have been looking for where I’d had dahl n rice on a different occasion then finally on to ‘Umbrella’.
Paisley is really nice. Rosie and I catch the others up on the space and Paisley tells us they will do a bar for the opening. We all show her what we are doing for the show and we set up a new WhatsApp group that includes her. We arrange to meet again on Tuesday to start installing the work then go our separate ways.
Lots to think about. I go to the studio and collect most of my stuff. I needed the ball so I could finish the stand but I figure I may as well take all the other stuff I have there while I’m at it. I leave my mark, the fabric spiral and the test pieces that are on the wall and the inspiration pictures.
The time has passed so quickly but I am happy that I am achieveing what I wanted to achieve. Still another month of this term and the assessments to go.
At home I focus on getting my work ready for installation. So many problems to solve but I get there and I am hopefully that it will work on Tuesday. I just hope they don’t want to move anything once I’ve built it in the space, lol!
Once I am done with that I focus on the preparation for the Stiwdio/gallery/shop opening. The ceramicist I met loved the space and has moved in. I have made screens up to print bags and tarted making frames for the snowballs I want to make for the window. So much to do but I do like to be busy.
Week 7 MFA CSAD
Week 6 and work keeps me at home. The rest of the group have tutorials related to their context and methodology module which I do next year. I have to cancel my tutorial with Jenny. However I do work at home. I need to wash the silage wrap and work on the base for the CD ball. I play with the mike stands and see if I can make a satisfactory curtain of tendrils with them using old tent poles. The mike stands are great but I need to bend the tent poles to give me an arch.
I have a pile of old light fittings that I picked up years ago. They are large square white metal boxes and I used one for the base of the Milk carton Goddess. In principal they should make great bases but in practice they are a bit too light weight and flimsy. I had to fill the Goddess one with expanding foam to firm it up. With this top heavy form it isn’t working so I re think. I am going to try an old car wheel next. It fits with the aesthetic and the concept. I hope I can fix it so that it can be transported as component parts.
I try wrapping the green top tendrils around the stand and that doesn’t look right so I am going to wrap it in silage wrap, the ‘oil’ rising up holding the ball.
It’s coming together and I will have something to show at the end of the month but I have got a lot of work to do yet.
I had to stay home because Celf o Gwmpas were having a visit from an Arts Council Wales representative. I have met her before and she was keen to see something done with Celf’s old home the Beaufort Gallery and I have filled the shop front windows with Art and got Artists in there working. We also have plans to open as a Gallery/shop for the 6weeks running up to Christmas. She was really pleased and encouraging, as ever, and she suggested we visit projects in Wrexham.
We are all set to open on 18th November.
Typical me, this means that I will be simultaneously setting up the gallery shop in Llandrindod Wells and the Exhibition in Cardiff which opens 24th November. I have my timetable of events set out at home. I can do it.
In other exciting news we now have a potter moving into the stiwdio In Llandrindod Wells.
Week 6 CSAD MFA
It’s been a good week. After getting rid of the offensive tooth and splitting my toe open, I had to slow down and look after myself and feel so much better for it.
I added some yellow mohair stitching to the CD ball and made a tool to knit a rope to add as tendrils on the top. I am thinking of the work more in terms of installation now, bringing my love of curation into the mix and creating an environment rather than presenting a sculpture. I need to make more milk top tendrils and have reached out to the woman who collected them all to see if she is still collecting.
I saw an exhibition in Leeds last year at the Henry Moore institute which was really interesting. Strange glass shapes and casts of soft things (made hard) thin metal supports and a huge carpet. The Sculpture magazine I have borrowed from collage has an interview with the Artists, Julie Crabtree and Willian Evans.
I relate to their way of working.
“The composition of elements changes in every iteration; for us, nothing is “complete” or “total”- the exhibition is a frozen moment in the continuation of things.”
My work involves the explorations of what I can do with the materials, how I can transform them in order to get the most out of them which usually involves accumulation and repetitive processes. The presentation is dependent on the context and the space I am given to work with.
More from Crabtree and Evans,
“…the objects weren’t made with the final installation in mind. Each was a product of a contained experiment exploring the materials and potential processes and applications that can be employed.”
I found the artist Alexandra Bricken (ex-fashion designer) in "Vitamin 3D.." and her approach to materials also resonates.
“Every single ingredient gives out some type of energy. I try to put them together as a whole, to give them a connection.”
I have always thought that by using simple platonic solids I allow the materials to create a narrative of their own. The combination of different materials starting a conversation and by moving into installation I am forming an environment in which that story can develop.
My tutorial with André was really good. I am getting better at talking about my work as my understanding of what I do and why I do it increases. We talk about installation, and he directs me to Sarah Size who creates these enormous installations, the likes of which I have seen at the Venice Biennale and have always blown my mind. How does the artist collect all the stuff? How do they decide what goes where? Why?
We talk about having a collection of objects which can be employed in whatever way seems fit, like stage props.
I tell André about my research into political Art and my ideas for running a series of workshops to try and evidence whether participation in creative activities can change people’s point of view, “A case study”. (It could be helpful in structuring my dissertation.) We talk about how art has always been political in the sense of its use as propaganda. The research continues. He suggests I read Suzy Gablik’s “Re-enchantment of Art”, so I have it reserved. We talk about the extinction of the human race, getting old and the work the next generation have to do. A good tutorial. I really like André.
Friday, I met Rosie and Paskaline at the Umbrella gallery to check out the space and what we have to do in relation to event planning and marketing. The group in there at the moment are third year illustration students from College of South Wales. They are really helpful and give us free reign to explore the space. We discuss curation and I am looking for ways to hang the milk top tendrils. I’m going to have to make something, but how? We explore the rest of the building. It is a great space but mostly empty. "A sign of the decline of Capitalism." The capitol Centre. There have been things hung from the large dome at the top of the space and the clips are still there with clear lines hanging from them. 'Could I reach them?'. Paskaline asks me to film her. She is making a film which we encourage her to show at the exhibition. I remember the mike stands I was given on site and head back there to pick them up. They might work as a base for tendril rails.
In the afternoon there is a forum for all master’s students. I call in the studio and Meg is working on her washing machine. She wasn’t in a good place yesterday but seems to be more positive today. Washing machines are such an important invention when it comes to women’s liberation, it’s a great subject. She is planning on having it ready for the show next month.
Rosie and Paskaline are at the forum when I get there, and it has already started. We are meant to be talking to people we don’t know as I sit with Rosie. She is talking to an American sounding woman from illustration. We move around and I talk to a woman who is researching children’s stories and working with children. She is lovely and has read “women who run with wolves”. Two other women join us, another illustrator who is working with childhood toys and Julie, who is my age and doing Global design (Chis Evans’ friend from week one) she is off to Thailand for 6weeks, I’d like to get to know her better. The most exciting connection however was Miriam, second year master’s student, Russian(?) and working with clay and flowers. I show her my “Mother” from the Sculpture Cymru exhibition in Aberystwyth and she say’s “You get it!” We have added her to our group chat, and I hope we can work together. She wants people from different cultures to plant flowers that represent their culture in her sculpture’s womb. I want to plant a red rose (obviously).
I load my car up and head home. I’m buzzing but by the time I get home I’m tired. The neighbours are partying, and the band are here. We play early on Saturday night. Our new Saxophone player is ACE!! Just call me Poly I say to my mates, “Polyester?” “Polyamorous?”
The set goes down well and I’m home before bedtime.
Now how do I turn those mike stands into rails for the milk top tendrils?
Week 5 CSAD MFA
Week 5 and everything is going well except my health is slowing me down. My teeth are a mess and it is really getting me down. Getting it sorted over the next month but it has dampened my enthusiasm.
We had an email from André saying he has booked the life room for us to work in on Wednesday afternoons so I took advantage of this to spread the CD’s over the floor like we had discussed in the crit last week. I took some silage wrap in with me and laid that down first, like an oil spill. I played with the placing and laid out the finished ball panels, then brought the bottle top tendrils in and hung them on an easel. I was thinking about the way that plastics break down and disperse into every aspect of our lives.
Vic and I had been talking about how fossil fuels were made. Fossil fuels were laid down in the Carboniferous period when there was nothing on the planet that could breakdown the lignin in trees, so they simply fell and other trees grew out of them and then they fell etc.etc.. This world was populated by giant insects because oxygen levels so were high they had to evolve that way to survive. But then around 299 million years ago there was fungus/bacteria that evolved that degraded lignin and so the laying down of fossil fuels ended as the lignin was now broken down.
Now we are discovering fungi that break down plastics and so the cycle continues. I liked the way the plastic silage wrap spread over the floor and gave the impression of oil and the idea of the bottle top tendrils rising out of the oil spill, with the CD flower/ball on top suggesting growth.
I was late in on Thursday. I don’t know where the time went. Faffing in my caravan and chatting to Jill. I bumped into Paskaline on the way in. She had been on the London trip the day before but had a cold and was feeling really rough. She showed me a photograph of a black sculpture which was figure shaped and looked like it was made from plastic, She thought I would like it which was nice and I did. We missed registration and André wasn’t happy. Meg is full on with the prep for her show at the bar. Rosie is working hard and Jo is starting a new painting. Paskaline has a large canvas on an easel and Cora is working on prints to make cut outs for her light installations. No Ellie who is also ill. No Inez or Faye or Daniel but Joe says Daniel might have work which is preventing him from coming in.
I start to make a triangular base for the ball out of tent poles and sew the ball together to fit on the wire frame.
We have a meeting about the exhibition and discuss more names and what connections we have within our practices. There is a bit of a three-way split. The front of the studio is dealing with Identity, then we have place, architecture, and domestic interiors and finally politics, environmental and satire. We discuss names and decide that we will compile all suggestions to vote on next week so we can decide and make the posters.
We are still chatting when Sean arrives for our tutorials.
I’m up first and I have done some prep and feel I explain myself better than I have done previously (I am learning!). Sean is helpful and positive, offering constructive ideas around presentation. We discuss how I can make the work more confrontational by obstructing the viewers movement around the space or forcing them to move in a certain way. He describes a work he had seen in London where the audience had to navigate a series of lockers which created narrow passageways leading to a video installation. He tells me how some of the students he was with were wary of what they would discover as they went through. Do I want to create a sense of foreboding? I have been trying to create work which is beautiful but does that really achieve what I want the work to achieve? I think I need to work on doing both. I don’t want to lose that beauty as I think it is important that we see the beauty around us and try and make what we can with the resources we have already so transforming our waste into something better is important but yes there is a sense of foreboding which I would like to portray. An unavoidable problem which cannot be ignored. That occupation of space, the confrontational, “LOOK AT ME!”. Sean also points me towards Artists Tom Freedman and Samara Scott both working with plastic. Everyone likes the bottle top tendrils, they are so tactile. I think I need to make more.
I have now got the CD’s on the frame and I’m not totally happy with it. I need to do more work on it. But what? Add decorative stitching to the seams? Fill the space on the top with something? I was going to put the motherboard cube on top creating a figure? Lots of decisions to be made and ideas to experiment with.
Megs work looks great in the bar. Turns out I have been here before which is quite surprising since I have very rarely spent any time in Cardiff. it is where the Celfies did the spoken word work for the clinical psychology conference. Meg has two pieces of work displayed. The door and window piece fits perfectly on a raised area with a books case and a large armchair, creating an inviting space. The second piece is the large degree show work and that is outside the back of the building. It flows down the wall and pools in the space. It is beautiful. The other work on display is attached to pallets, hence the name of the project “Pal let”. I recognise the work of the woman I spoke to at the masters show. Prints of the inside of her grandads draws, a representation of a life lived. There are paintings taken from the Simpsons Halloween episodes and some beautiful portraiture. I really want to stay and relax into the environment and get to know Meg better. Ellie and Rosie are meant to be coming along too. But I have had a hard time eating and I feel really old and tired. I drink my lemonade, say hi to Meg’s boyfriend and parents then slip away and drive home.
I will feel much better about everything once my teeth are fixed I’m sure. I feel better after having my daughter home for the weekend and then writing this. I am learning and I am getting to know people and Cardiff. There are health and safety issues I need to deal with. Everyone is concerened about my melting the CD’s in a safe environment and André expressed concerns about organic matter still attached to the silage wrap so I need to wash that. This reminds me of Short n Forward’s plaster casts of sheep footsteps which had to be treated to destroy any bacteria that might be lingering in the residual dirt. Do you think I’ll get away with putting the silage wrap in the washing machine??