Aesthetica ‘Future Now’ Symposium 7-8 March 2019

Stepped out of the studio for two days to attend the ‘Future Now’ symposium hosted by York St. John University.

We are currently living in a time of globalisation, expansion and media saturation. There have been considerable shifts in civilisation in the Information Age – we now communicate with each other instantly, yet with an alarming level of disconnect. Through panel discussions, lectures and portfolio reviews, The Future Now Symposium is an exploration of 21st century culture through the mechanism of art.” – http://www.aestheticamagazine.com/future-now-symposium-2019 

There are many positives about the chance to attend a symposium but there is also the impossibility of attending all the presentations and for me the additional frustration of needing to step out of the day to think after attending sessions. This is a brief note of some of the sessions I attended and the things that struck me during them.

The Keynote delivered by Cherie Federico, Publisher and co-founder of Aesthetica magazine and Director of the Aesthetica Art Prize, addressed the themes of the symposium through the work of the artists selected for the prize exhibition and Cherie’s own thoughts on the emotional evolutionary cusp we appear to be on in the world at the moment. Clearly artists are led to question and challenge the politics, with a small or a large ‘P’, of the times they occupy but I find myself in a state of profound inarticulacy. It appears to be impossible to be clear about any stance you take or belief you hold without expecting most of the responses you receive to be confrontational. To be identified as ‘one of us’ is less the issue than avoiding being identified as ‘one of them’. Thus the assumption of you holding a set of ‘moral’ values is made by association with your presence in a particular space. Cherie presented a slide with a set of words that define our times, Leave, Remain, Algorithm, Consumption, and maybe 20 more, and noted that ‘apathy is not an option’ in our febrile times.

A panel discussion led by Kit Monkman with Charlotte Ginsborg, Ludivine Large-Bessette & Rhea Storr, titled ‘Artists’ Film: Storytelling and Concept’ was an engaging conversation about working practice, motivation, audience and medium. Rhea Storr noted that her work was defined through process, that the piece she ended up with was determined through its making rather than established in advance. Ludivine Large-Bessette talked about making work in which you directed your own movie counter to the manner of traditional film in which you are confined into immersion. Discussion continued around the authenticity of approaches to ‘art’ film and the possibility of defining such a thing, with Charlotte Ginsborg noting that any term applied commodifies the object in question. There was agreement that viewers bringing their experiences to bear as opposed to the mediated experience of traditional cinema was a feature of ‘art’ cinema, and whilst sharing their working method they all agreed that making work for its own sake and not for the mediums sake was key. A very interesting session that introduced me to work I was unaware of but that did not really address storytelling and concept. The thrust of the conversation was practice based and I was left pondering whether it is even possible to make an unmediated artwork.

In ‘Rethinking Sculpture: Connecting With Objects’ Jane Bhoyroo, Producer for Yorkshire Sculpture International outlined the development of the project by facilitating collaboration between the four venues in two cities. The event, or series of events, is designed as a set of reactions to Phyllida Barlow’s ‘provocation’ that “sculpture is the most anthropological of the art forms”. The Yorkshire Sculpture International begins on 22nd June in Leeds and 23rd June in Wakefield and runs for 100 days. All the exhibitions are free and there are a lot of things to look forward to, see https://yorkshire-sculpture.org/whats-on/all-listings/ I’m particularly anticipating David Smith at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

YSI has selected fifteen international sculptors some of whom have not shown in the UK before. They have also selected fifteen local sculptors, five as associates who will work with the international artists and a further ten as engagement artists working with the extensive education and community programmes. Jimmie Durham and Tau Lewis look very interesting at the Hepworth and Nobuko Tsuchiya will be in residence at Leeds City Gallery.

Emmy and BAFTA nominated artist Nick Ryan is a multi-award-winning composer, sound designer, and audio specialist, who discussed ‘The Future of Sound Art’ in a fabulous presentation on the Friday. He began by describing his work as examining the relationship between audio, perception and matter, and talked about the lack of a critical framework for discussing sound or listening. It may be that sound, or at least vocalisation, is the earliest art. Sound suffered historically from two limitations, transience, in that it could not last beyond the event, and transportation, sound could not go anywhere except in the memory of the listener. Ryan discussed the history of recorded sound and the way our perception of sound has been coloured visually.

The lion pictured in this image from Lascaux may well be the first visual depiction of sound.

The lion pictured in this image from Lascaux may well be the first visual depiction of sound. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bd/Lascaux-diverticule-f%C3%A9lins.jpg

He went on to show some of his work focusing on the acoustic imagination being multi-modal and the notion of co-authorship in sound art as everything we hear acquires meaning from our memories. He showed us ‘DX17’ his project with the Imperial War Museum, ‘Machine 9’ that tracks space junk and gives it a voice and ‘Tate Sensorium’ for which he built a musical instrument based on David Bomberg’s painting ‘In The Hold’. Well worth checking out at http://www.nickryanmusic.com/

A great feature of the symposium is that you can get portfolio reviews with a good range of arts professionals including some of the speakers and you can book advice sessions with ACE representatives. I did both of these and the sessions were extremely positive and forward looking.

The other aspect of the event is the networking opportunities provided between the sessions. In this regard the layout of the event – limited seats and big tables – is very well judged to encourage conversation, which, in the manner of most networking events, was mainly around the financial difficulties of practice as an artist.

A list of links to some of the projects/artists/artworks seen or discussed over the two days.

http://www.charlotteginsborg.com/ film maker, check out Melior Street

http://kitmonkman.com/about/ and http://www.kma.co.uk/ interactive and participatory art works.

https://www.ludivinelargebessette.com/ and on vimeo https://vimeo.com/106288978

http://www.rheastorr.com

http://www.aestheticamagazine.com/

https://www.dazeddigital.com/art-photography

https://frieze.com/

https://www.theartnewspaper.com/

Alex Majoli https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=CMS3&VF=MAGO31_10_VForm&ERID=24KL53W_0

https://yorkshire-sculpture.org/

https://ysp.org.uk/

https://www.henry-moore.org/visit/henry-moore-institute

https://www.henry-moore.org/whats-on/2019/03/08/phyllida-barlow-sculpture-and-drawings-from-the-leeds-collection

https://www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries/leedsartgallery/currently-on-at-leeds-art-gallery

https://hepworthwakefield.org/

http://www.nickryanmusic.com/

http://www.dianabell.co.uk/ The only artist who asked/talked about making.

NEW STUDIO Week Three (and Four)

Recap:

First saw the shop on January 25th and picked up keys the same day. Heard from Axisweb on Monday 28th that I couldn’t go in yet as the landlord hadn’t given permission. By the Wednesday 1st February the agent was saying I should just move in as the contract was a formality, so I started to tidy up. On Wednesday the 6th February I moved out of the Unit at Wheatley Hall Road and into 13 Scot Lane and began to reassemble the environment. I finished that and wrote about it in the last blog post. Since then I’ve spent most of my time cleaning. I’ve hoovered for at least two hours of three different days, spent a day washing the walls of dry food and fat and mould, and then hoovered again, and finally, yesterday February 25th, hoovered the upstairs. In an ideal world I’d have been in a position to try out different soundtracks and videos for the installation but I heard yesterday that the landlord was sending someone to do a valuation survey which meant removing the back of the installation to allow access to the upstairs that I’d blocked off. It also means that I might well be moving again if this is a valuation for a buyer. The valuer turned up at 1:00 pm today and spent half an hour measuring and taking notes. I’ve no idea whether there is a buyer or not. At the same time the landlord has offered to remove all the rubbish left by the last tenant with the proviso that anything I decide to use I move when I go.

Looking into shop 25/02/19

Looking into shop 25/02/19

So the shop floor looks like this after Monday – from the window, and like the below looking from the back.

Looking to window 25/02/19

Looking to window 25/02/19

There is still no contract and I’ve got the only keys apparently!

As I was waiting I started work on a new sculpture today, making use sets of shelves that have been left. There are four sets of four shelves each supported by welded steel frames. I made scale models this morning to begin to explore possible uses of sixteen slabs measuring 1700 mm x 210 mm x 25 mm.

Two maquettes 26/02/19

Two maquettes 26/02/19

They will be landscape based drawings I think.

John Berger says that ‘it is the actual act of drawing that forces the artist to look at the object in front of him, to dissect it in his mind’s eye and put it together again; or, if he is drawing from memory, that forces him to dredge his own mind, to discover the content of his own store of past observations’ 1 Deciding a direction for work functions in precisely this way for me, the repository of past observations is composed of times, places, drawings, conversations that form a series of stepping stones that carry me across to the finished work, if you’ll forgive my theft of Berger’s metaphor immediately after this quote. This points to both the reason the environment is not finished and the state it will be in at that point that most closely matches its finish. Essentially it is pursuing something in the manner of T.S.Eliot in Burnt Norton.

‘Go said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,

Hidden excitedly, containing laughter,

Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind

Cannot bear very much reality’

Albeit inadequately, this is as close as I can get to the meaning of the installation, perhaps I might get a little closer if this is crossed with lethologica2 or onomatomania3.

Purely by chance my last day in the studio this week is the last day of the month. The aim for today was to receive delivery of the materials for the downstairs dividing wall and build it. The delivery was late so I worked in the sketchbooks, I’m still trying to resolve a look for the garden images – the environment in its current state is somehow too literal. The drawings are developments of earlier sketches.

Rag paper sketch 28/02/19

Rag paper sketch 28/02/19

cartridge sketch 28/02/19

cartridge sketch 28/02/19

Once the materials were delivered It took the rest of the day to build the wall, about two and a half hours.

Looking into Shop 28/02/19

Looking into Shop 28/02/19

The wall is moveable, supported by braces at the rear.

Its main function is to contain the workshop and the sawdust etc., generated by making.

back of the wall with brace 28/02

back of the wall with brace 28/02

workshop area

workshop area

The wall, not including time, cost £76.00 and £18.00 of that was delivery.

1Berger, J. 2016. The Basis of All Painting and Sculpture is Drawing. In: Overton, T ed. LANDSCAPES John Berger on Art. England: Verso, pp. 27

2 The inability to remember a particular word or name. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/lethologica

3 An abnormal concentration on certain words and their supposed significance or on the effort to recall a particular word. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/onomatomania

Painting Diversion January 2019

On Friday (26th January) I went to view a potential new studio through Axisweb. It’s a town centre shop with four floors that would be ideal for a studio/gallery. The last occupant was a charity, the Doncaster branch of The Real Junk Food Project, and the place is a bit of a mess. Lot’s of tidying up to do and rubbish to dispose of, but I was so taken with it that I asked when I could move in and was given the keys.

Subsequently Axisweb contacted me and told me the Landlord had not yet given permission for the shop to be rented to them so I’m holding keys for a place I can’t access. Fingers crossed that agreements are reached as I envisage some really interesting projects coming through the space.

As I have no reason to go to the sculpture studio until I shift my gear I’ve been finishing off some paintings I’ve been working on in my attic on the days I’m not at the studio. My working practice has been to spend some time painting on each day I’m not building and I have nothing else to do.

I made a series of paintings on a small scale, a mixture of 10cm square and some 13cm x 10cm or 12cm. I also have some A4 ish canvases and off cuts of MDF that I’m painting on.

The paintings tend to be landscape based, drawing on imagery I’ve been using from the garden series and the views through the window, treated abstractly, working on colour balance and dynamism.

balbylandscape_jan19_003

balbylandscape_jan19_003

I’ve also experimented with coloured backgrounds painted directly onto unprimed, and primed, hardboard.

balbylandscape_jan19_001

balbylandscape_jan19_001

Toying with formats, so the first pairing is presented on a background cut to the golden ratio and the one above is cut square, as is the one below.

balbylandscape_jan19_004

balbylandscape_jan19_004

There is occasionally some pencil work in them as well, to pick up textures implied by the painting and glazing.

balbylandscape_jan19_006

balbylandscape_jan19_006

There are also a series cut to landscape format like the one below.

balbylandscape_jan19_005

balbylandscape_jan19_005

Paintings on MDF off cuts like the one below

balbylandscape_jan19_007

balbylandscape_jan19_007

and paintings on small canvases, about A4, like these two.

balbytreescape_jan19_001

balbytreescape_jan19_001

plantstudy_jan19

plantstudy_jan19

These are some examples from a total of around forty small paintings.

Studio Build TEN

Week Nine in the studio.

Effectively the last week.

I received the ceiling material for the installation so before I started to pack up I installed that and ran a quick test.

projector wall view

projector wall view

The change in lighting works, but it obviously takes some time for your eyes to adjust.

projector wall view

projector wall view

It does enough to give the sense of space from close up, and once the focus is correct the image is sharp enough. It is seen better in the video.

The video shows that my order for black muslin was delivered short by over a metre which is a bit of a bugger but I had enough to try it out. At the end of the video I deliberately step in front of the project lens to cast shadow, my intention is to add some texts that can only be read when in shadow, a different texture of white perhaps? The audio is still a test piece.

After this test I had to start dismantling the space, by the end of Monday I’d reached this state.

half environment

half environment

partly dismantled stuff

partly dismantled stuff

Then back on Wednesday to complete the breakdown.

The Unit is back in the state it was when I moved in and all I need now is to find another studio and move everything. I’ve got sixteen days to go but I’m seeing another space tomorrow.

Studio Build SEVEN

Week Six in the Studio:

Missed a week as we went to Edinburgh for a short break. Then delayed coming back to the studio as I had to be here on a Tuesday to have the door fixed. After much toing and froing the time was set as 8:00 am. They wanted to come at 5:00 pm or later but without lights that was out of the question. I took this video to show how dark it was first thing in the morning.

I’m at the stage where I need to begin the interactive part of the project and I’m sorting the computer for that in my home studio. It’s also nearly Christmas so I’ll be here less frequently until the new year when I can bring the tech down.

I spent some time sorting the mess I’d left before I went away and then worked on sketches and the small sculptures.

Garden Sculpture One

Garden Sculpture One

All of these are based on the sketches I made in the garden in the summer and have been developing in the sketchbooks here.

Garden Sculpture Two

Garden Sculpture Two

Garden Sculpture Three

Garden Sculpture Three

The last of these is only just started and the second may well have a pierced screen suspended in the large gap.

The sketches are below, and the worktable which is becoming the place I spend most of my time.

Today's Large Sketch

Today’s Large Sketch

Today's Small Sketch

Today’s Small Sketch

Studio Worktable

Studio Worktable

Normally I’ve posted a whole week but as it’s nearly Christmas I’m posting when I can.

Studio Build SIX

Week five in the studio:

Very mild this week but absolutely throwing it down, I arrived wet and my coat was still wet when I left in the afternoon. I’m writing another post on the Doncaster Art Fair that interrupted my building. Today I wanted to treat the leaves so they can retain colour and paint out more of the big drawing.

First I painted in the leaves in the big drawing with Indian ink, then I treated the leaves with PVA and then painted over the big drawing with more white. I only took photographs at the end for reference so these go around the space.

right wall one

right wall one

right wall two

right wall two

garden wall

garden wall

left wall one

left wall one

left wall two

left wall two

projection wall

projection wall

The very light wall taken down further to facilitate projection.

Wednesday started badly, it was chucking it down and the walk to the studio was very unpleasant. I didn’t really know where to start so I set up the light and put the heater on to dry my shoes.

first I turned the leaves which were dry on top but still wet underneath.

Then I dug out the sketch books and did some work on the garden sculptures.

These are sketches towards stand alone sculptures but also inform the look and feel of the space, particularly the right hand wall, opposite the projection wall.

I then cut the wood I prepared last week, or the week before, to build small sculptures exploring the garden in Balby.

The second picture taken with flash to emphasise how dark it was at that point.

I rounded the day off by painting the projection wall out more and resolving to purchase small stepladders.

Friday was a better day weather wise and therefore lighter.

The leaves were dry so I set out to put fishing line across the space and then hang sets of them.

fishing line as ceiling

fishing line as ceiling

Putting the line in and then stringing the leaves took me most of the day and I ended up with this

I did some work on the sketchbooks and thought about the effect I wanted for the leaves in the space, is it getting too busy?

I won’t be here next week so that will give me time to think about what I want from the space and also to work on the projection – in sketchbooks and mentally. I still need stepladders and I need to get the computer and webcams down to the site.

 

 

Studio Build FIVE

Week Four in the Studio:

The start of this week was very cold. This has caused me to think very clearly about the things I want to do and work quickly when I’ve decided. Ten minutes of inactivity can mean my hands are too cold to hold a hammer and a paintbrush has no chance. So there is a cup of tea on the go almost continually. Today my biggest expense will have been boiling the kettle.

back wall with text, charcoal

back wall with text, charcoal

I first wrote out the text I wanted on the piece using charcoal and white conté. The words are from TS Eliot’s ‘Burnt Norton’, where he contemplates time and the loss engendered by presence, this is the closest I have got so far to the ghosts I’m exorcising in the work as a whole. The insistence of the birds drawing you into the garden resonates.

corner outlined lettering

corner outlined lettering

I managed to paint in the letters in black, white and grey, before working over them with the paint thinned down and tearing some of the collaged paper. Then I had to stop to allow the work to dry and the cold drove me home!

Wednesday visit from Axis Web and DMBC rates assessment, they check to see the space is being used for the purpose stated and confirm the rebate/exemption. Apparently councils vary in their interpretations.

I opened the fire door for the first time to look at the back of the unit and so I could collect some leaves.

looking right out the back

looking right out the back

looking left out the back

looking left out the back

The river is a few metres away.

I have an idea for a curtain of leaves towards one of the corners of the space, not enough to create a barrier but enough to provide a visual disturbance. I can’t decide between this and a scattering, in the air, of leaves throughout the space. To facilitate this I set out to stretch some fishing line, I have no idea if this will work, but the straighter it is the more it disappears.

stretching fishing line

stretching fishing line

I also collected some leaves and set them out to dry.

120 birch leaves

120 birch leaves

I’ll paint them with PVA when they’re dry to preserve the colour as much as possible.

After this I mixed some white emulsion down with PVA and water to paint out some areas of the drawing, I feel the text needs to disappear to a large extent, and the space needs to become whiter. I then worked back into some areas with Indian ink thus negating the work I’d done to lighten the space. It’s in that flux state now where it will either coalesce into a convincing whole or collapse into a horrible mess.

corner painted in

corner painted in

end of Wednesday

end of Wednesday

This week has been shortened as I am also preparing for the Doncaster Art Fair on Sunday, so this video shows the work at the end of Wednesday.

 

Studio Build FOUR

Week Three in the Studio.

Worked on stabilising the big table for the 10” saw. Bought fishing line and tried a leaf to see hoe it worked in the space. I’ll need to stretch the line out so it hangs straighter.

Collaged elements onto the big drawing using PVA diluted 50/50 with water. The idea is that the bubbles will be split and torn when the glue is dry and text has been applied over the top.

Decided I needed the extra panel filling in and a small door added, I’ve made it 60” so you have to stoop to get inside.

Construction involved breaking down the easel I made as I needed the wood and I can’t stretch paper here until the weather is better. Once completed and fitted I painted the new panel and door.

The large drawing looks like this as a whole

Whole drawing flattened

Whole drawing flattened

Studio Build TWO

Studio 071118

A full day at the studio. A full day means arriving at 11:00 and leaving at 15:50, I am retired after all.

First off I stretched the paper in the foreground, I’ll be interest to see how this dries given the lack of heating and fabulous ventilation. The time is an hour ahead on this photo, I couldn’t be arsed to change the time when the clocks went back. I moved on to constructing the panels for part one of the installation.

I cut all the wood first, twenty eight short lengths and then moved onto assembling the panels. I got the timing down to fifteen minutes a panel when my portable drill finally charged up. Before that I was putting the screws in by hand, each panel has eight 100mm bullets and fourteen 25mm bullets. The photographs illustrate the very simple production line approach.

An aside for today about the electricity. The supplier is e-on and their standard tariff is around 15.75 pence per KWh. The meter read 277 when I took possession and read 283 after today’s work. The advantage of having only one socket to power everything from.

The video is here so you can hear the noise the rain makes on the corrugated roof.

Friday 9th November. Arrive at 10:45 am with a view to completing as much of the structure as I can. Obviously someone has been in on Thursday as the lights come on when I enter the building. As it’s Axisweb’s rental I have to accept access by them and the landlord without prior notice. This could be either and maybe I won’t see the visitor I’m expecting today.

I made eight frames today to add to the six from Wednesday, each frame uses 4×2.4m C16 CLS 3×2 (48x75mm) at £3.10 each length and one sheet of whiteface hardboard at £7.75, so £20.16 per frame plus screws. Eight 100mm bullets costs about £1.70 and sixteen 25mm bullets are 23 pence. So £22.09 x 14 is £309.20 for the whole assembly. You could say £310.00 including the electricity.

I’ve got one spare frame to test the surfaces for the internal finish and I’m still toying with having a door. There are also a few spots that will need extra screws to lie flatter. You can also see how dark it is, 15:30 in November.

Here ends week one of the new studio!

Studio 091118

Tomatoes

Over the summer I planted tomatoes for the first time in years. I didn’t get them in until May so the fruit ripened in September and was so ugly that may wife declared they could not be eaten. So here’s what I did with them.

This is the first painting – I tend to find first versions are over involved, become fussy and subject to continual finessing, and make me wish there was someone there to tie my hands so that I stopped. These are placed on a drawing board on my turntable in my attic studio. Oil on Paper 90×90.

Two tomatoes Oil on board 46x81cm

Two tomatoes Oil on board 46x81cm

As I progressed I used a lot of red and yellow paint so I started other paintings so as not to waste any. This is the first, on hardboard that was lying around. I’m trying to establish their weight and get the right shininess onto the surface.

Two Tomatoes Two oil on board 46x81cm

Two Tomatoes Two oil on board 46x81cm

another Two tomatoes version done at the same time and with the same ends. I decided I wanted to paint all eight with a different background to concentrate their redness.

Tomatoes on Yellow oil on paper 115x90cm

Tomatoes on Yellow oil on paper 115x90cm

The photograph doesn’t do complete justice to the yellow, the two tones are a lot closer.

At the same time I made two sets of three tomatoes.

three tomatoes two oil on 200lb watercolour paper A1

three tomatoes two oil on 200lb watercolour paper A1

I did these as I had some watercolour paper stretched and I wanted to see how the absorbency affected the paint.

three tomatoes oil on 200lb watercolour paper A1

three tomatoes oil on 200lb watercolour paper A1

By this time the tomatoes were beginning to get soft so I disposed of them humanely! They are heirloom beefsteak tomatoes and the biggest of them was just over a pound in weight and about eight inches across.

The whole episode took about three weeks and is easily enough red for one project.