Tuesday, 18 October 2011

'Navigating The Dark' - Kalliopi Lemos The Crypt Gallery, St Pancras

Footnote : In April next year I will be exhibting with 6 other artists in this space. There is no doubt death figures strongly in this space !

Lemos is Greek  painter scupltor and installation artist. Her recent work has explored the narrative of journeys and the displacement and the politics of forced migration.
Navigating the Dark is a three part exhibtion in Athens,Crete and London, The Crypt gallery.

She made this work at the The Crypt site specific.

This vaulted underground burial space is a very eerie and highly charged venue in itself. Combine it with this work of Lemos and terror come to mind !

Found objects, three actual boats, are filled with steel structures of snakes, black birds and figures. Voices seemingly come out of the walls and behind you as walk around the space.

It is un - nerving and left me feeling very unsettled. Not the most pleasant experience, however, the artist has set out to envelope us in these very notions of fear and dread. After all, think about the boat people, for example, who risked their lives to have the slimmest possibility of a new one.

 How full of fear must they be in the middle of the ocean in a boat full of holes? I am sure this exhibition would not conjure up for them anywhere near the wretchedness and horror they have been through and indeed go through to escape.
Aside from the drama of this exhibtion, the quality of workmanship and the presentation is brilliant. The film which  is featured depicts materials such as salt , primitive shaped wood feature strongly alongside steel mesh and  lavae shapes. The constant whispering and noise of insects sucking away adds to the atmosphere and resonates with the building itself.
This exhibition has you looking over your shoulder constantly - even the invigilator said he does not enjoy turning out the lights !

Pipilotti Rist - Eyeball Massage - Exhibition at The Hayward Gallery

Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist creates videos and installations that invite us to look at the world through new eyes.

Music features alongside delicous and colourful imagery in Rist's videos. As an artist she focuses on the fallout of the mistakes which camera's and technology often make - boldly taking them into her work.

The result on the larger screens has a dreamlike quality. She takes ordinary imagery from nature and intercepts the speed and colour creating a feast for the eyes. In the second room there are floating veils of fabric with sheep projected onto them, however it feels like you are watching nature for the very first time. There are many effects over the top of these films - I wasn't quite sure  how that worked at first, then as you move throught the entire exhibition, (which is vast) it seems to sit well. 

The very very small projections within handbags and conical shells, which are placed regally on cushioned plinths, are intriguing. The sound calls you to look inside.
A VERY small screen embedded in the floor and another huge box in which you are invited to place your head through holes to watch a film 'I Notice Everything' is doing exactly what Rist set out to do - make us view film differently. Throughout the entire exhibition this is what happens from sitting on headless human shape cushions to standing up, your head in a box, to kneeling to see the smallest film screen ever, to peering into objects. I found this exhibition fresh and very light / beautiful and on many levels alot of fun. 

Marks -Traces - Left Overs

traces + layers of history in the contemporary world
the beginning + end  of living

I notice marks all the time. It could be a road or a wall or in this case above a counter in a printers at Southwark. Layers of touch and wearing down of objects attracts me. I enjoy a little wabi sabi in my objects or things left behind. These marks could never be replicated as it is the passage of time which reveals these beautiful types of mark making to us. A form of printmaking perhaps.

I work with sheets of paper on my desk, jotting down things and ideas which come to mind spontaneously as I am working in my studio. The layers of ideas grow and as I move through them - some I use, others are there for later or maybe never to be realised.
Broken shells, dried structures of plants are, to me, like gold. They are enchanting and hold true magical possibilities.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Kevin Carter - Photo Journalist - b. 1960 in Johannesburg

Kevin Carter won the Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for the tragic photograph of a emaciated Sudanese
 child trying to crawl to the feeding station whilst a vulture looks menacingly on. It has been stated that the mother was nearby and was getting food from a plane which had just landed.
This has never to my knowledge been confirmed. We will never know what happened to the girl in the image.
It is a very difficult image to comprehend indeed. Apparently his brief for this assignment was to
never disturb the natural events which were taking place in a community.

This has been and will continue to be a very controversial photograph, of this there can be no doubt. However many of Carter's photographs are tragic and document the most harrowing scenarios. It must have been incredibily difficult to maintain a distinction between 'right and wrong'. I imagine the line would become blurred after exposure to such violence, sadness and deprevation.

Did he 'do the right thing' by leaving the child to it's inevitable demise ? Over his career he raised global awareness to the plight of many devastating situations and saved the lives of many people.
The debate is a challenging one with, I suspect no end.

Kevin Carter paid the ultimate price - he committed suicide shortly after he won the Pulitzer prize in 1994.
The violence he'd encountered in his life as a journalist, in South Africa, became too much to live with.

I made to etching based on Carter's photograph. The format is elongated and narrow.

'you left me'
From my own personal point of view I found this hard to draw, difficult to look at objectively and incredibly sad and moving.
Making the first image was so emotional that I came to thinking  'what can I do to make this a different scene'. 
 I decided to make a second image of a chubby, able baby standing upright. A child who can fend off the vulture. The bird fly's high up into the sky leaving the child  in peace.

This is how the world should be - an ideal world where there is no tragedy and no one has to suffer.
Not the photographer doing his job and following his brief . . . . .  OR the defenseless child.

I am beginning a new series of works which this has been the catalyst for and I have to say I will be glad to leave these images be for the time being.

The new works will focus on fun aspects of childrens lives - games !

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

'Dystopia' - Laine's Warehouse, Bordeaux, France

Travelling through France in summer was as usual a feast for the eyes. Starting with a walk  around the walled city of St.Malo, thunderous storms over the bay of La Rochelle and then on to Bordeaux, famous for wine and food.
It was there I discovered the 'Dystopia' exhibition  at Laine's Warehouse, a vast three floor building.

Dystopia is an exhibition conceived at the same time as the author and art critic Mark Von Schlegell wrote the catalogue - novel New Dystopia.The author worked closely with the exhibition curator Alexis Vaillant on the choice of works and venues set up and design.

The Greek etymology of the word 'dystopia' can mean "a place with negative connotations".
Think Alduous Huxleys 'Brave New World' 1931 or George Orwell's, '1984' written in 1949. Ray Bradbury's 'Fahrenheit', 1953 or Andrew Stanton's Wall-e, written in 2008. These are all dystopian novels.

I have selected a work by artist Michael Stevenson.  'Landscape With The Beginning of Civilization, 2010'

Ten aquaria and terraria each containing the remains of their previous tenants go to make this installation. Arranged in ascending order of size, these aquaria retrace the shared biological evolution of their former residents.
In setting up a parallel between the hermit crab and man,who, for their development,both require access to an ever larger habitat, the artist introduces the vacancy chain notion.

This theory of vacancy is based on the vulnerability of the human being in the face of the permanence of his environment.
This work felt so relevant, particularly now during these difficult financial times. As I listened to Radio 4 this week and heard that there is no country in the world concerned with the Climate Crisis since the Credit Crisis eventuated.
The feeling of desolation within these installations was to me, a stark reminder of what could be a global dystopia.

Other works exhibited in Dystopia :

Sabastian Hammwohner

Peter Coffin

Inspired: Julia Margaret Cameron - The Isle of Wight

It has been on my mind for many years to travel to The isle of Wight and visit Dimbola Lodge.
I finally got to do this over the summer holidays.
Dimbola Lodge was home to the pioneer photographer Julia Margaret Cameron. She was born in India in 1815. From 1860 to 1875 she made Dimbola her workplace and turned her chicken hut into a darkroom and studio. Julia established the photographic portrait as an art form in its own right. She photographed everyone from the famous,local children to her own maids.
The photographic album was a Victorian household article - similar to the use of camcorders and  dvds of today.

The process for Julia was laborious and she worked with three maids (assistants) to help her prepare plates and process the images. She often worked in freezing conditions and once wrote to her old friend Edward Ryan, " It has been a real labour for in all the freezing weather I have poured nine cans of water fresh from the well over each photograph"

When in London Julia would work on her images in the South Kensington Museum ( now the V&A) which had the advantage of continous running water !
I have always admired her theatrically soft,romantic imagery  -  I like the contrast of the work ethic behind it all - she worked with tenacity even under  very trying and uncomfortable circumstances.

For me Julia Margaret Cameron and her work ethic is someone to aspire to no matter how long has passed since she was in her chicken hut and coal shed.

Julia Passed away in India. Apparently, as she lay outside in her bed at night she looked up at the stars she uttered her last word, 'Beautiful'.

I left feeling very moved and emotional, maybe I had been wanting to come here for so long, I don't know. I felt like I now know what it must be like to be religious and go to church !

Things That I Find - Left Behind

Often as I  walk around I come across objects which are at once
beautiful, poignant and at times disturbing. Other times they may be banal or it could be the texture  - I get my own sense of Wabi-Sabi about these objects. I am drawn in sometimes emotionally to these objects and situations.
discarded papers in Bordeaux- were they in a hurry or just too lazy to deliver ?
I find I cannot just 'leave'. I have tried to and then just end up going back, retracing my tracks - sometimes miles, to capture it on film.
a coat left on a bench in Bordeaux - what happened to the owner ?
 I think for me it is the drama and beauty of these objects combined with the 'story' prior to my arrival that intrigues and compels me to return and record.
remnants of a feast + struggle
a bow-perhaps a reference to love for life or love for death
 My camera is a very important part of my art making process. I feel lost without it. I record most days, either creating imagery or finding resources within the environment. Even before digital photography was so accessible, I took many rolls of film.
It is my way of drawing,looking,recording and capturing the essence of what I interact with.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Sheffer Gallery Exhibition - Australia

Opening a long distance show with Australian artist, Ulrike Sturm, on Skype has been a very positive experience. It reminded me of my hour on the plinth in Trafalgar Square - a work about surveillance in the U.K. - contributing to Antony Gormleys living installation,' One and Other'. 

In the Sheffer Gallery my 'head' in the form of a laptop, was placed on a plinth. I was able to chat to people as they passed and discuss my work etc. I found it very interesting that some people were very conscious of the screen and felt 'observed' - they were very wary, however eventually they would come and say hello. 

The works shown are a selection of my current etchings. Large torn Japanese paper prints produced on steel. The steel was left behind in the acid bath over night in some instances to create the corrosive and broken texture to the physicality of the finished surface.
Other works were more sculptural -  prints pierced + embossed with pins, objects immersed in plaster, cement and wax.
A lot of work is in the preparation to get everything together in one place, wrap it all and send it off,  finding the right courier and price, price lists, press release and of course liasioning with Ulrike on all of the above.

Solitary - aquatint etching on steel

Ulrike Sturm + myself at the opening

the Private View evening

Sheffer Gallery + Things left behind
I feel as a project and experiment it was all worthwhile. I certainly learnt about myself as an artist whilst printing and just how quickly the deadline looms ! Prioritized lists are an essential
part of everything coming to fruition. I left a few items too late for the P.V. such as my supporting material in the form of books from The Foundling Museum and cards.

I 'got to know' the etching plates very well and what worked with regards to laying on the ink, tone and colours. Tearing the edge of the paper with a nail to create a feeling of the discarded object and printing off the edge allowed the images a sense of being palpable.

Over all this exhibition was a rich learning curve. 

Friday, 24 June 2011

Half -Tone Experimentation

Recently I have been preparing for a show in Sydney which has been driving my practice forward.This has been a good motivator and it is always great for me to have a deadline to work to. The works for the Sheffer Gallery  are etchings on Japanese paper and sculptural embossings.
 I plan to move away from etching for the time being -  the plan is to develop my screenprinting ability. I am already quite experienced in this area however I have now moved into the Half Tone technique which I have not really ever been engaged in visually - it has never appealed. The more I do it the more I can see it's potential for my work in the future. The broken imagery really appeals and I can see that breaking the rules within the bounds of screenprinting perfection will soon become apparent !
Just like every technique there are the quirky little details you need to know. Things you only find out by making mistakes - of which I have made many !  I will be searching for books on techniques and added info in the next few weeks . . . . . .
Image for the exhibition 'Protest'

detail of half tone print

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Experimentation + new plates

steel etching plate

second edition of 10

steel etching plate

artists proof
Working with steel has its challenges. It is a hard metal and I have had trouble etching at home due to the lack of a rosin box to produce 'dust' + cover the steel evenly. Using the shaker method has proven to be hit and miss, however I do like the chance element + happy accidents. Below are my latest prints which I am working on for the show in Australia at the Sheffer Gallery, Sydney.