VRD Gardens Project – Preamble

New Blog Post:

Before I get really into this new piece I’ve been tying up the ‘geranium project’, I started with a map and plotted the pathway through the different spaces now that I’ve rendered them as separate with their own weather, and introduced doorways to the next level. I’ve also registered as a developer on Viveport and submitted the VR world as an Art & Design App for review. If it’s accepted it will be available for free to anyone with a Vive and will also allow me to point people somewhere to get it when I enter competitions and look for exhibitions. I had to develop a visual identity and supply all sorts of images as well as filling in lots of forms and uploading a zipped build file. Fingers crossed.

map of geranium

Map of the Geranium Project

geranium viveport thumbnail

geranium viveport thumbnail

geranium landscape image

geranium landscape image

Gardens Project: Preamble.

For a while now I have wanted to make work that explores the philosophy of the garden. Artists as varied as Joan Miro and Derek Jarman have had a strong attachment to garden spaces, not to mention Monet, Cezanne, or Ian Hamilton Finlay. It seems to me that as a person matures whilst they retain their breadth they can seek to contain or centre themselves in a more defined space. This is not generally a place to hide, it is rather a high point from which to view the world.

I have begun thinking about a mixed reality artwork built around a series of gardens and hung around an autobiographical framework. The piece will present a ‘player’ with a pathway through different locations in a virtual world built for HTC Vive and Occulus(?) that represent particular times historically; 60’s, 70’s, 80’s etc., and particular times of life; early childhood, teenage, young adulthood and onwards. The separate gardens will contain evidence from my history and the wider world in the form of photographs and headlines, and be soundtracked by contemporaneous music and news sources. Each garden will be accompanied by a physical sculpture developed from these sources and each of these will act as a trigger for an Augmented Reality piece elucidating the sources.

I am interested in the way we build ourselves into our spaces and our spaces into ourselves as we age, and through this what the environments we choose lead us to and from.

I’ve been reading for background and I’ve put a bibliography at the end of this piece.

This is a video of a draft I made to put forward for exhibitions and funding.

Reference list

David Edward Cooper (2011). A philosophy of gardens. Oxford Etc.: Clarendon Press, Dr.

Jarman, D. and Laing, O. (2018). Modern nature : the journals of Derek Jarman, 1989-1990. London: Vintage Classics.

Miró, J., Yvon Taillandier, Lubar, R.S., Lippert, K.C. and Reeves, J. (2017). Joan Miró : I work like a gardener. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

Young, D. (2019). Philosophy in the garden. London ; Minneapolis, Minnesota: Scribe Publications.

November Update

A brief note gathering the daily drawings.

#200 in series of continuous daily drawings

The sunglasses were the 200th consecutive day, I have it in my head to reach a full year but who knows?

I completed October, and have started on November, still left handed but the arm is getting better.

I’ve been continuing to work on the Miro VR and have been rejected by ACE for a Lottery Grant but I’ve resubmitted. This is holding off the Gardens Project, but that’s another post.

October

It’s very difficult to type when you can’t use your normal hand, so this will be brief.

I’ve continued drawing on my iPad every day, completing September, with all but the 1st drawn wrong handed,

and passing 150 drawings in succession with the middle one of these three.

lamp

Table Lamp – iPad drawing #149

glasses

White Horse – iPad drawing #150

orchid

Orchid – iPad drawing #151

I also spent some time making a series of small pastels of the garden, all left handed, moving in and out of abstractions enhanced by the camera.

balby garden, left handed, #026

I’ve continued to work with Unity, making a VR version of a Miro painting, working through lots of unexplained failures in importing etc.,

It needs a good deal of work before it’s finished.

One Handed Working

All of this is typed with one finger on my left hand as I’ve got tennis elbow! As best as I can figure I’ve developed an RSI from drawing on the iPad. It may also have something to do with digging.

52 left handed pastels

52 left handed pastels

So I’ve had to draw with my left hand, I haven’t tried painting yet – I feel as if requires more control – and made these 52 5”x 7” pastel drawings of the garden. I’ve also been drawing daily on the iPad, with my left hand since the 2nd September.

Drawing with your wrong hand is a strange activity in that it involves stilling the involuntary spasms that your usual hand makes due to muscle memory and conciously switching the natural action to its mirror image. It feels as if you are thinking differently at first, but after a while it seems as if there is a bar to your usual thinking so that the process is foggier.

Since my last post on August 18th I’ve begun a couple of paintings

Balby Garden Robin

Balby Garden Robin

This robin is 10” x 10”, as is the Edlington Woods painting below.

Edlington Woods Branch

Edlington Woods Branch

I also entered a local online competition with this small painting of birds…

Birds Do It

Birds Do It

which is 12” x 9”, they are all oils on board.

dogs on beach

dogs on beach

old mine works

old mine works

lathkill dale

lathkill dale

I also started three more, same sort of sizes, that I haven’t been able to finish yet.

All of these are a way to teach myself to paint with oils again.

I also finished the August Gallery

Quick, Look Like You’re Busy

coffee cup

coffee 13th August #100

What have I been doing since the 5th August?  I’ve been working on four or five different things. The picture above is the 100 th consecutive drawing on my iPad made between 9:00 am and 10:00 am each day since the 6th May. I picked the coffee cup deliberately because this is the first drawing I did.

Coffee 6th May #001

Coffee 6th May #001

I think I might be improving. I’ve kept up with these and they can be seen on my Instagram latham_1959 or in these galleries.

I’ve also been painting, continuing to work on the sequences from Edlington Woods and from my garden in Balby. They’ll be displayed on this website

http://www.ian-latham.com/painting/

These are the latest ones.

Edlington Woods Orchid

Edlington Woods Orchid

Balby Garden Baby Crow

Balby Garden Baby Crow

Balby Garden Dunnock

Balby Garden Dunnock

But mostly I’ve spent the last fortnight finishing off my ACE funding application and submitting it through the online portal. Fingers crossed.

A Tentative Stroll Down the Garden

Et in Arcadia Ego

Balby Garden Sculptures June/July 2020

The Garden is not strictly a theistic or spiritual phenomenon. It has its roots in more basic impulses: to carve off a portion of the landscape, and distinguish it from ordinary places. This is suggested by the origins of the word ‘sacred’: from the Indo-European ‘sak’, meaning to separate, demarcate, divide. The opposite of the sacred is not the secular but the ordinary, from which it is set apart. In this light, the garden is one of the original sacred sites, preceded by groves like the Lyceum: an area cordoned off from purely natural or human activity, but which explicitly unites both. While perfectly secular, its walls, fences, ditches or hedges symbolise a break from ‘common sense’. “

Young , D (2019). Philosophy in the Garden. London: Scribe Publications

Balby Garden 5 in situ

Balby Garden 5, June/July 2020

I have two works in progress at the moment that explore the occupation of spaces separate to the world. One of them is a series of small sculptures that take elements from untended patches of garden and ‘elevate’ them through the application of gilding and oil colour. The other is a virtual reality work that traverses a series of yards and gardens highlighting, without explanation, elements of (auto)biography constructed through family photographs.

VR Glover Street

VR Glover Street, looking back past the introduction

As is often the way with the gestation of new works these works have both existed, in a kind of cinematic soft focus, well in advance of their articulation. The use of the garden as both a means of separation and as a motive for building or making has been at the centre of my work for as long as I’ve made it, but it was only reading the quote at the top of the post on July 12th 2020 that I clearly understood it.

Before this event, reading something that resonates is always an event, I had been struggling with ways to describe works that look to this “break from ‘common sense’”. A desire to show, not tell, by pointing at things and not expalining. I began with the Four Quartets, where in Burnt Norton

Footfalls echo in the memory

Down the passage which we did not take

Towards the door we never opened”

and through Baudrillard

Fiction is not imagination. It is what anticipates imagination by giving it the form of reality. This is quite opposite to our own natural tendency which is to anticipate reality by imaging it, or to flee from it by idealizing it. That is why we shall never inhabit true fiction; we are condemned to the imaginary and nostalgia for the future.”

Baudrillard, J (1988,1989) trans. Turner, C America. London: Verso

in the end encountering Poussin’s ‘Et in Arcadia ego’ and through this the Arcadia of Jacopo Sannazaro and the awful dream that induces his return to the city (Naples) through a dark tunnel.i

Balby Garden 3 (detail)

Balby Garden 3 (detail)

Maybe because of the way I was educated the development of the piece and the underpinning philosophy of the piece are both happening during the process of making. As an example I had struggled with the two tall pieces in the small sculptures series until one morning (this morning – 14/07/2020) when I saw the grass on my run, there is a tall grass that branches leaves like a crabgrass. I drew it a lot for the Balby Carr paintings I did in 2012, but I hadn’t thought of it until today. This realisation helped me resolve the need for the space around the ‘stems’ to be more active. It could also be considered a bit of cheat as plants are inherently interesting sculpturally and it turns the object into a sort of plant.

Balby Garden 2 (detail)

Balby Garden 2 (detail)

That also highlights the contrast in qualities I want to be present in the sculpture. The objects should appear to be plant like and an ideal might be that they are only occasionally noticed when in situ. So that they appear suddenly, demanding interrogation, emerging from their surroundings. At the same time I’d like them to be difficult to see, which is where these versions fall down. Looking back to my opening quote the objects should lift the environment from the ordinary by emphasising its sanctity. There will be another set. The first set are documented in the garden on this site Gardens Sculpture

VR Greenway View

VR Greenway View (still)

The VR piece has been hanging at the back of my mind for a year now, pushed back by the geranium project, and will step through a set of stories from gardens. Using a series of photographs (untitled) and some way of telling tiny stories as you progress through the space (currently experimenting with written notes in the space). This short film shows the beginnings of what is very much a work in progress.

The VR project will be updated irregularly and, when finished, be summed up here ‘et in arcadia ego’

 

iAll of this comes from a need to understand the desire to stand separately as an artist and look at the world from an imagined outside which is becoming more crucial to me in the age of ‘participation’ ‘community’ and ‘wellbeing’ in the arts. I don’t object to that but I don’t think we should all do the same thing, I don’t think ‘art’ should be defined, and no one is telling me what to do, or what not to do.

Is it still Lockdown? (Twenty days later)

Frustrating month trying to get my head in gear to work on the gardens project. I’ve got a chanace to put this out for feedback through the CAST scratch night but I’m having real difficulty with the animation and scene loading in Unity/Steam so I’m reverting to the travelling through tunnels, or dropping down holes to progress.

In the meantime I finished the set of five sculptures and placed them in the garden. The  Garden Sculpture website can be seen on this link. I’ve set it up seperately so I can send it out for applications.

The sculptures are smaller than I’m used to and I’m not sure about them yet. I’m working on a piece about the garden as an inspiration and a site for sculptures that will be posted soon. (don’t hold your breath).

I also set up a site for the paintings I’ve been working on over the last couple of months.

There are three series of five, one completed – still life – and two in progress. Edlington Woods, the one above is the latest in this series.

And paintings of my garden like this one. The site can be seen here Learning to paint

I’ve also been drawing on my iPad each day, since May 6th, so I’ve got 82 drawings/sketches up ’til today.

The rest of my time I’ve spent staring at computers, 3d modelling, getting VR wrong and checking over my application for a new Lottery Project grant from ACE.

Lockdown Nine (the most bored week so far…)

This gallery has the continuation of my ‘draw every day’ attempt, so far I’ve managed every day since the 6th May

and now through June since the 6th.

I continued with the scyulptures, making six maquettes last week.

These are using the cast plaster rocks and the steel rod. I managed to submit for the Cast ‘Scratch Night’, that might be interesting (if I get it) and continued working on the ‘et in arcadia ego’ models.

I finished this painting.

Still life with fox jaw, lemon and dried rose

There is now a set of five of these,

each 10 inch square, oil on board, an attempt to relearn painting by drawing directly with paint onto the board. The middle one is in the Doncaster Art Fair competition on line and I’ve got my fingers crossed.

I’ve tried gilding the first of the small sculptures, that and painting being the next step, and it looks like this now

 ‘Balby Garden No5 (June 2020)’ plaster, steel rod, paper; 1’x1’x1’6” approx.

‘Balby Garden No5 (June 2020)’ plaster, steel rod, paper; 1’x1’x1’6” approx.

 ‘Balby Garden No5 (June 2020)’ plaster, steel rod, paper; 1’x1’x1’6” approx.

‘Balby Garden No5 (June 2020)’ plaster, steel rod, paper; 1’x1’x1’6” approx.

 ‘Balby Garden No5 (June 2020)’ plaster, steel rod, paper; 1’x1’x1’6” approx.

‘Balby Garden No5 (June 2020)’ plaster, steel rod, paper; 1’x1’x1’6” approx.

Still thinking about the VR work and how to build a structure to house the experience. Also varnishing BGNo5 and finishing the others.

Still difficult to focus thoughts on the work as its impossible to get away from it!

 

Lockdown Eight (Too busy to think)

Another lazy post, been too busy gardening and prevaricating since the last one.

small painting gif ‘fox jaw’

I made this small painting, and I entered the last one into an online competition…

It’s there on the right, you can click this link to vote for it https://www.doncasterartfair.com/?pgid=kb84pw6k-c20b0fd7-b161-42b3-ac0a-0086832b9f2e but I don’t really stand a chance, the final 30 are picked through the online vote and half an hour in some of these had 500+ votes. I don’t know enough people online. It was free to enter though.

I’ve been continuing to work on the ‘gardens’ project, tentatively titled “et in arcadia ego” the viewer moves through a series of gardens, all the gardens I’ve spent time in. I think its about the pursuit of quiet spaces, the expanding and contracting nature of safety – mental and physical – and the chimeric nature of confidence (for a start).

This is the first space, the back yard at Glover Street in Birches Head, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. The spaces will eventually lead to the garden I used for geranium and I’m working on a post explaining the concept fully for a new funding bid (small funds but tech support).

I’m building sculpture this week, I’ll post it next week or on the internet as I go.

Lockdown Six (and on, and on, and on…)

Lazy post this week…

The gallery has been updated with the daily drawings.

I’ve also spent quite a bit of time working up the parts for some maquettes, the series of photographs tell the story…

paper drying in the sun

paper drying in the sun 25/05/20

mould making for rocks

mould making for rocks 27/05/20

mould making for rocks 27/05/20

mould making for rocks 27/05/20

finishing the moulds

finishing the moulds 28/05/20

Outdoor workspace

Outdoor workspace 28/05/20

Solid Castings

Solid Casting 30/05/20

Solid Rocks and half rocks

Solid Rocks and half rocks cast in plaster of paris 29 & 30/05/20

Outdoor workspace 31/05/20

Outdoor workspace 31/05/20

Plinths

Plinths 31/05/20

I’ve made a whole series of parts for the maquettes I’m planning.

I’ve also modelled the old backyard from the house I grew up in in Stoke on Trent for the VR piece I’m working on.

Onwards and onwards!