Archives for category: art

As you know, I run a couple of courses for Spike Print Studios in Bristol. One of them – Paper Structures – was given a rave review recently by Ellen Wilkinson:

Ellen Wilkinson reflects on Paper Structures: Book Arts Unfolded

The Spike Print bursary, awarded through Spike Island’s Associates programme, enabled me to take up a place on Paper Structures: Book Arts Unfolded at Spike Print Studio in 2017–18.

I embarked on this course with a long-standing interest in artists’ books and an existing creative practice that spans visual art and writing. The course challenged my assumptions about the kind of work I thought I’d make through the year and reminded me how important the not-knowing is in creative development.

Paper Structures: Book Arts Unfolded has playfulness and experimentation at its heart, and the invitation to play was especially liberating; I let go of the worry of being artistically consistent, of feeling the need to make coherent work that neatly fits into my ‘practice’, as it appears publicly. My peers showed me different ways of looking and seeing. I took risks and thoroughly enjoyed the act of making and thinking-and-not-thinking, and followed the circuitous paths that appeared. I ran headlong down dead ends, spent hours making things that went straight in the bin, felt momentary delight and rambling exasperation: essential elements in creating anything of value.

I have new practical skills in bookbinding, box making and toy design. I tried to trap tiny paper minnows inside handmade Japanese paper but they darted away from me. I found the simplest pleasure in folding paper into 3D forms then fell down a rabbit hole of mind-melting mathematical variation. I moulded scissors from paper but they snipped themselves into self-referential confetti. I built a staircase that went nowhere. I got lost in a mirrored Cricut maze.

I left folded orange printer paper in daylight, then unfolded the sun bleached sheets and saw a calendar that recorded the final weeks of the course. This became the piece I showed at the end of year exhibition. The marks left by the light continued to fade during the show. My interest in the marking of time – which in the past I have expressed through photography and video – has found a new form in paper.

When I look back at the maquettes, the tests, the 3D sketches I made throughout the year, what surprises me most are the clear threads of ideas running through them. The act of unconsciously playing, of pressing pause on my self-critical brain, far from resulting in an incoherent mish-mash, has uncovered new ways of articulating my artistic concerns. This course enabled me to make those discoveries and leaves me with numerous lines of artistic enquiry to follow.

–Ellen Wilkinson, July 2018

(An aspect of writing that I’m very interested in is when authors – particularly of fiction – use parentheses to say the most important thing: far from being parenthetical, the brackets contain the bit that really matters. These parentheses contain Emma Gregory, who led this course with generosity, insight, challenge, support and many, many questions. Thank you so much, Emma).

And thank you Ellen.

 

 

This month I have been drawing using a mashup of print technique:

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screen printed mother and child onto feint proof of Diana Bloomfield’s engravings

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continuing the mother and child motif

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mother, grandmother, child photopolymer and screenprint

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overly complex?

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simple but bonkers? lithograph and screenprint

At the end of this week I’m heading off to a Quaker Meeting House in Somerset for a two day residential retreat modelled on Matthew Burrows’ ABC Projects. Very hard to predict how this will span out but there are four of us and we will each be the focus of consideration for half a day. I’m prepping for it now.

The other three artists are Chitra Merchant, Tina Hill and Caroline Case. All women and near enough the same age. I’ll let you know how we get on.

Working towards a trip to Kölner Graphikwerkstatt. The purpose of this visit is to reconnect with Jutta Vollmer, whom I met at Liverpool’s John Moores Uni through EightDaysAWeek.

Jutta and I began working collaboratively when paired for the project PenPal in 2011 and 2012. Something integral to the partnership rang true.

Thanks to funding from a-n The Artists Information Company we have the opportunity to reconnect. At the time of applying for the funding I wasn’t sure why I felt the need but I’ve since given this a lot of thought.  Take a look at her instagram feed. I have a love hate relationship with the treatment of surfaces – decoration and pattern. I recognise this as an element of my practice needing serious examination. I think I will be able to look into it with Jutta. I’m going to suggest we create double sided drawings or prints and fold them, as a starting point. Also, using layout pads and carbon copy paper, draw sequentially and see what happens. She has a very solid drawing practice.

Here’s a recent record of play to provide visual (screen printed) content:

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I was up in Liverpool this week to introduce my work to LJMU Fine Art students. I felt envy. They were so young and beautiful. They have so much time to spend on themselves. Workshops are crowded with kit. Supportive and enthusiastic technicians and lecturers. Then they started to ask me questions. Two in particular:

what is your driver?

how does one stop one’s drawing practice from being too tight?*

I’m paraphrasing there but OMG it took me right back to being at the Central in the 80’s and these are still things I struggle with.

I don’t have the answers but I am compelled to make. Making things gives me a deep satisfaction. I do it for the flow. I do it for that moment of wonder: ‘wow, I didn’t know I could do that!’. BUT that doesn’t mean everything I make is good. Far from it. You could fill a house with the mistakes I’ve made and indeed I have.

And it doesn’t mean I know what I’m doing. Pretty constantly I feel confusion. I worry that I’m committing valuable resources (time, energy, money) on an activity that is pointless and will produce something without meaning. (I am fortunate to have people around me who resist saying ‘is it worth it Emma?’ although they can see how vulnerable it makes me and how much it costs in every sense.)

If you turn that around though, i.e. ‘I know what I’m going to make, I know why I’m going to make it…’ where is the challenge in that? Where is the opportunity to learn something about ‘how to’ and yourself? Where is the dialogue between yourself and your work and how is it ever going to surprise you?

Being confused is a painful way of being but I’m used to it now. The harder you work the less likely you are to question why you’re doing it. (Note: by work I mean play. This too I find very hard to achieve being as it’s so close to working without apparent purpose.)

When I became a mother I thought I would feel like a mother. I felt a fake for the first seven year’s of Rachel’s life. The longer you are in a role the more likely you are to feel like you are the role.

I still want to produce better work than I currently do. That must be part of the driver thing.

POSTSCRIPT: regards the drawing practice question above* start by reading

Henry Moore On Being a Sculptor pub Tate, 2010
Lines of Enquiry: Thinking Through Drawing pub by Kettle’s Yard, Barry Phipps 2006

As you know this body of work and the related exhibition received Arts Council funding. To apply for the funding you have to fill in a form online. The form asks you to describe what you want to explore in terms of your practice and developing your practice. Here is my list for this project:

— do the two lines of inquiry work together here to create fresh meaning?

— does the work progress beyond observation to express the emotional content of a thing?

— has the artist succeeded in freeing herself from focusing on meaning early on, in favour of allowing it to emerge through play and process?

— which of the ideas in the exhibition would benefit from reshaping in another form?

— is the onlooker given enough space to become involved in the creation of the work’s meaning?

— has the artist been adequately disciplined in her choice of technique?

Almost at the last minute, I added a coat and hat for a curator to the exhibition. The coat had been hanging around waiting for its role. I didn’t see how it was going to accrue enough meaning to be included but it was itself part of my aunt Julia’s collection of clothes so it had meaning for me. Then over last weekend I made the hat from almost everything on the ‘nature table’ under our stairs, acrylic paint and adrenalin.

It’s over the top, dripping with bird and wasp nests found by my daughter, moths bred by Dad, a wild boar’s jaw found on holiday with Mum, beetles and a butterfly. Now shown with the coat, which is undone to reveal part of a double injection specimen and a printed interior it means something.

It reminds of a drawing or print of a flayed arm in a book I have: ‘The Quick and the Dead – Artists and Anatomy’. It’s beautiful. (Super book if you are interested in drawing and science btw.)hat for curatorcoat with double injection specimenjacket printed with staining longshot exhib diagonal towards horses head

I’ve been sweating over the issue of labelling as you know. It’s not just how to spell it. There are issues relating to context. The exhibition is visual arts based. There are expected ways of labelling a visual arts exhibition but the venue is a museum. Labelling in a museum is more thorough and didactic. The visual arts curator’s voice says ‘allow the audience to bring meaning to the work, do not prescribe how it should be seen and understood’. The museum curator’s voice says ‘our audience expects to be given more information on what and why’. The exhibition install is next week. I won’t know what the work ‘needs’ before I see it assembled in one place and in context. I cannot currently envisage it complete and in context. (The 2D work was taken up to Liverpool a month ago.)

Still I can’t sit around so I’ve made a series of ‘missing pages’. They might not be the answer to the problem but they are the answer this week. Here’s one. They might appear in the cabinets among the museum specimens and 3D stuff. Or might be missing page 47tossed into a convenient bin: