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.

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 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 Seven (another lazy post)

Update on the #draweverydayinmay2020

I kept going until I had 31 days worth, and I’ve drawn on the two days since, the link takes you to the completed gallery.

So this is a quick picture post as I went protesting on Sunday when I would normally have written a post.

Tuesday I started a painting and worked on the first garden in the VR world that has a working title of ‘et in arcadia ego’

underdrawing

starting tthe painting

Glover Street Yard

On Wednesday I ran and then worked in the garden. I spent the afternoon getting frustrated with the VR – it’s always about adjusting the scale to make the world realistic. (as an aside I bought a copy of MakeVR to try to build quicker but discovered that my kit isn’t upto it, it works so slowly it defeats the object of using it.)

Thursday I carried on painting and modelling.

Under painting

I carried on painting on Friday

Friday painting

On Saturday I worked on the model, changing textures (sourced from old family photographs)

Glover Street Model

The I finished the painting and entered it into a competition locally – online so maybe not just local – I had to submit a photoof me in the studio alongside it.

The artist in his studio [old codger]

The finished(!) painting looks like this…

withered rose

The Geranium Project (R&D) 34

This last week has been spent planning next steps and finessing parts of the VR. The video run through is below.

I had a few visitors, only one set I didn’t invite directly, who were uniformly enthusiastic about the work. I had another today who took the number who have tried the VR to 50. People remain as enthusiastic about the installation as they do about the VR.

Next steps are to make the physical presence more robust so that it can be moved for exhibition and get the piece out to new locations. All of this is of course subject to funding. The final report can be seen here http://www.ian-latham.com/geranium.html

 

The Geranium Project (R&D) 33

The Geranium Project (R&D) – Philosophy

A couple of weeks ago I was challenged to come up with a ‘philosophy’ for my work, an accounting of, or for, its place in the art world. Establishing this philosophy will make it easier for me to develop the work and easier for the work to be marketed (for want of a better word). I also understand that I need to try to place myself in the canon in order to help direct the work to the right curators, competitions and galleries. So this is an attempt to find my location.

Space in the imaginary of the Geranium Project

Making virtual reality artworks is presented as a new frontier where there are no maps and the viewer is faced with charting their own course, exploring in a way that suits them and exercising agency in the encounter. The difficulty with VR as a medium is precisely that it seeks to be ‘like being there’ and ‘there’ must be somewhere, real or imaginary. It is regarded as a manifestation of Plato’s Cave and we are reminded of hisi instruction to return to the shadows to educate our fellow men on the reality that they cannot see. The clarion call of this new technology is immersion and agency towards gesamtkunstwerkii, but it might equally be thought to be  “a tale/ Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/ Signifying nothing.”iii As with any new tool there is a degree of evangelism inherent in its dissemination.

On a simple level Virtual Reality offers an opportunity to address the movement between transcendence and immanenceiv as consciousness moves between representations. In ‘the geranium project’ the photographic stands for the real (transcendent) object(s) and the drawn elements for the represented (immanent) objects. The environment presents as a field for the fulfilment of perception. The ‘player’ moves through the spaces, looking, listening, considering the changes encountered as they progress. As perceptions challenge the notion of existence the project is an exploration of the act of looking.

The act of “looking” is the foundation of any art work and is the immediate interface with the audience, and this is not in any way a radical viewpoint. The entirety of training in art is about looking in a way that breaks through the filters of perception that are accrued through living. VR offers an opportunity to present a work in a format that reduces the need to suspend disbelief as it tricks the brain into an assumption of presence. It must be noticed that this trick pales with repetition and is both less and more effective with people who play computer games. Any work using this expression has to be sure of the meaning of the perceived presence, in geranium that presence is centred on space.

Discussing the Chauvet Cave paintingsv John Berger remarks that

‘The thrust of an animal’s neck or the set of its mouth or the energy of its haunches were observed and recreated with a nervousness and control comparable to what we find in the works of a Fra Lippo Lippi, a Velázquez, or a Brancusi. Apparently art did not begin clumsily.[…] There was a grace from the start.’ vi

he argues that the difference between then and now is space, rather than finesse, the space, he states, ‘in which their images exist as images and were imaginedvii This connection between the space of the imagination and the physical space in which it is expressed is central to the thesis of the ‘geranium project’. Geranium’s space is composed of versions of a real space, a private space recreated in different conditions, and versions of that space reimagined as drawings and paintings by the artist. The ‘player ‘viii moves through the gardens from a cave like space within the artist’s studio, progressing from reality to reality through the imaginary a number of times during their immersion.

When entering a new space we are faced with a number of responses, curiosity, intrigue, anxiety, or perhaps even irritation. We spend our attention on the environment according to our preconceptions and our intentions within it, so that we may, if we have an appointment, search for signs and follow them trying to exclude distraction, or if we are there without purpose, or only to look, we linger over details allowing ourselves to be drawn into reveries. If this space is a museum we might aim for a studio or a particular collection or gallery, even a specific work, we might search for order, a chronology or stylistic guide to help us navigate, or we may just wander, a glimpse of colour or light catches our eye and we move towards it, spellbound. When the space is the artwork these same intentions direct us as entering a virtual space is essentially the same as entering a building.

The installation itself is experienced in both the physical and virtual worlds, it is a confined space, around two and a half metres at its widest and of a similar height, with illumination provided by a video projected onto a cloth at its end. The journey through the video is replicated in VR as the introduction to the garden spaces. The space has a soundtrack of birdsong that gradually gets louder with the interjection of thunder at some points as the audience passes. Additionally there is a representation of the birds from within the VR that can be viewed as Augmented Reality objects using an android app. The passage through the installation in its physical manifestation is replicated in the VR world as the player passes through (into) the video and enters the virtual garden.

Sartre suggested that imaginary objects are a “melange of past impressions and recent knowledge”ix and the virtual space in geranium explores this idea. The space is represented in a way that is clearly not intended to be ‘physical’ reality but is instead an ‘imagined’ reality requiring the same distance and suspension that we experience when we view a photograph. It is not the ‘thing’, but we accept a perception of it as the ‘thing’ without deep consideration (most of the time). Joseph Kosuth’s ‘One and Three Chairs ‘x is a more explicit expression of this kind of thinking. If we accept geranium as, on one level, a manifestation of conceptual space there are still questions of agency and intention within the space. Intention needs to be questioned from the viewpoints of the “player” and the viewpoint of the artist. Geranium presents itself as an exploration of the transcendent act of drawing, challenging the binary contrast with the immanent and the interpretation of the imaginary through the presentation of analogons as described by Sartrexi. The artist asks the player to view a translation, in the mind of the artist, of a photographic view of the garden into a garden rendered in a three dimensional representation of the garden as a drawing. The photographic garden is presented in three ways, playing with scale, weather conditions and intensity of observation, sparsely populated with birds that, upon closer inspection, are discarded drawings. Each of these spaces leads into a rendered garden presenting an interpretation of those differences. All of the spaces, photographic and drawn, are accompanied by a soundtrack of ambient garden noises with slight differences for each. The intention of the player is, hopefully, to explore. The idea of having any agency in relation to an artwork is difficult. On the one hand a work requires the application of imagination as well as the simple choice to engage or not. The structure of the work should coerce the operation of this agency in the audience.xii Against this the audience as ‘player’ in a VR work has to choose beyond this intial engagement and must exercise this agency within a tighter structure to fully realise the experience. In geranium’s gardens the audience choose their speed, and their direction as well as what they see. There are spots where they can stop to listen and there are places where they might find a secret.

Geranium explores the way engagement with all aspects of a space can be imagined and recreated as an immersive artwork.

Notes:

i Gill, N.S. “The Allegory of the Cave From the Republic of Plato.” ThoughtCo, Jan. 28, 2020, thoughtco.com/the-allegory-of-the-cave-120330.

ivWhere an experienced, represented, and remembered object (e.g., a tree) is inside consciousness (immanent), whereas the real object itself is outside the mind (transcendent).

v Chauvet Cave (also known as Chauvet-Pont d’Arc) is currently the oldest known rock art site in the world, apparently dating to the Aurignacian period in France, about 30,000 to 32,000 years ago. Hirst, K. Kris. “Chauvet Cave.” ThoughtCo, Jan. 28, 2020, thoughtco.com/chauvet-cave-france-170488.

vi Berger, J. 2015. The Chauvet Cave Painters (c 30,000 years BC). In: Overton, T ed. PORTRAITS John Berger on Artists. London: Verso, pp 1-6

vii Ibid p2

viiiThe term ‘player’ is used deliberately in the context of Virtual Reality, more active than ‘viewer’ whilst still, in effect, a witness.

ix Sartre, Jean-Paul,The Imaginary: A Phenomenological Psychology of the Imagination Translated by Jonathan Webber, (London and New York: Routledge, 2004)

xii In the social sciences there is a standing debate over the primacy of structure or agency in shaping human behaviour. Structure is the recurrent patterned arrangements which influence or limit the choices and opportunities available. Agencyis the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. The structure versus agency debate may be understood as an issue of socialization against autonomy in determining whether an individual acts as a free agent or in a manner dictated by social structure. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agency_%28sociology%29

The Geranium Project (R&D) 32

This week the project hit a bit of a standstill as all I need to do is round things off for the project. I’ll post a version of the final report next week as a final R&D post. I sgot hold of a 10m HDMI cable to move the projector to a darker part of the studio and put up some extra curtains to restrict the light.

Projection from Unity executable

The projection is not great although it is better than the photograph shows and I can run the VR from an executable file now.

I’m writing an essay about the philosophy of the piece after my last meeting with Mike Stubbs but I’m not entirely comfortable with it. I’ve followed up on the artists he mentioned and I find little common ground other than technology. They’re all interesting artists in different ways and I’ve always found it much easier to be interested in artists who I don’t feel as if I’m competing with. I’ll think about explaining that sentence more when I’ve finished this project. The closest work I’ve seen to mine is Jakob Kudsk Steensen, there is an interview with him on the Louisiana Channel here, https://channel.louisiana.dk/video/jakob-kudsk-steensen-%ef%bb%bfour-middle-existence

and he has this work https://catharsis.live/ on at the Serpentine. It represents an ancient forest, created from studies of several real life locations in America, and he models in great detail. In the end though he’s made a film. What I’m really thinking about now is agency within the artwork and whether that is important or not?

This video is from the executable file.

The Geranium Project (R&D) 31

Monday was spent making further adjustments to the VR world. One of the difficulties of working in VR on your own – the way I do it – is that you are continually moving into and out of the virtual as you make slight adjustments in Unity. It is hard to tell what effect they have had without taking the time to try out the world. On Monday I spent time doing this having been frustrated that I forgot to copy the bird_knot animations onto my portable disc so I couldn’t bring them into the model.

You get a sense of the small iterations I mean from the video above.

I’ve managed to work out the PIR for my arduino for the thunder inside the installation but part of working it out meant I discovered a collection of new parts I need to make the finished article. I tried to get the webcam working to cover this on Wednesday but there is a fault that means I can’t adjust the motion detection subtly enough to detect movement when I want it.

Friday was a chance to copy the current version of the VR before I attempt the build again and to shoot a view of the installation in its almost finished state.

I’ve also managed to set up a projection of the VR experience.

Projection from VR

The Geranium Project (R&D) 30

Monday 20th January, finally managed to work on the textures for the gardens and the bird knots. I painted another, final?, coat on to the installation as well.

Starling Texture One

I overworked this one a bit, so it needs to dry.

Starling Texture Two

This one is better.

entrance

This is the entrance to the installation,

looking back from the screen

Looking back from the projection,

towards the entrance

and back to the entrance.

I think I’ll have to call it a day if I want to get the other things I’m working on done for February 10th.

On Wednesday I had a visit at the shop from Juliet Farrar who runs Doncaster Creates for the council. She tells me that the target for the project is to develop knowledge of the arts presence in the town, at least I think that’s how it breaks down. There isn’t the investment for a city, or town, of culture, and there is little to no value in a festival yet. There is a strong offer in the arts in Doncaster but it is disparate and therefore has no discernible presence. Once again we seem to be at a point where things might happen, there is a lot going on, but it may be another false dawn.

On the Tuesday I made a new version of the geranium project installation projection. This is a low resolution version of it.

The rest of the week was interupted by Vets, Dentist, and rats in the garden. I managed to do some more work on the animated birds and Luke has pretty much resolved the AR for the installation. It may well be that we make a version that works externally to the installation, or can be carried in to it.