Oooh. I am learning a lot this week courtesy of Grafisch Atelier Alkmaar.

Dutch: the word I hear most often from master printer Marja Vleugel as she tries to teach me how to make a lithograph on stone is ‘Nee’. ‘Nee nee…’ slowly with a gentle shake of the head meaning ‘don’t worry but that’s not the way’. ‘NEE!’ loudly with a sharp movement, meaning ‘keep the clean sponge out of the oil’. All her nee’s are nuanced.

Here she is teaching me how to registered second and third colours using pins and two holes made with an etching tool in the actual stone. Infinitely patient.

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Prints in the rack this morning. (Great inks by http://www.hawthornprintmaker.com: charcoal black, carbon black and dense black but water soluble. Proving it’s possible to print with a water soluble ink from a greasy litho mark.)

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Using gum arabic to create whites before tusche is dribbled onto the stone:

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Tomorrow I’m off to the Netherlands where I will reconnect with the wonderful artists of Grafische Atelier Alkmaar. Planning to make a lithograph with their master printer Marja Veugel. I hope to establish a way forward for a couple of projects and I’m giving a talk. This visit is part of  a larger project funded by an Artist’s Newsletter travel bursary. I will be sharing the experience on this blog and, if you around, I’m giving a talk GAA will host next week:

Uitnodiging Artist talk_Opmaak 1

Amazingly I did something about the entry below. I am referring to the difficulty in finding other people to talk to about one’s work. In part it was happenstance I admit but I ended up proposing a new year long course to Spike Print Studios. The course includes sessions on stuff like ‘how to have ideas’ and supports artists at around MA level who want to look at what research might include in reference to their own work and how they might build a more robust research practice. It’s a serious undertaking and we give this a lot of thought but the approach is as playful as possible. I’ve taken as my model The ABC project created by Matthew Burrows (artist, curator, educator).

The course – Press Play – is full of good people with open minds and interesting things to say, honestly the group has been a revelation. I love them because although I’m ostensibly leading the sessions I’m learning all the time and one thing I have learnt is that I work well in collaboration with other people.

This was confirmed a couple of months back when I was given the opportunity to make a series of pieces with Sarah Duncan. She has been making the most exquisite photopolymer etchings for a while now and together we messed about with a couple of these prints, the circular light wells in the corridor on the first floor at Spike Island, mirrors and lenses and came up with a truly lovely series of installations which we called Project Gemini.

I am actively seeking people to collaborate with as a result of these experiences and the Artists Newsletter people have seen fit to back me with a travel grant. The first adventure involves artists in the Netherlands courtesy of Grafisch Atelier Alkmaar. I went there a couple of years ago to take part in their festival of print and I’ve been desperate to get back there ever since. I will be working with lithographer Marja Vleugel on some stones and hope to coerce a couple of others into some collaborative drawing.

A difficult thing about wanting to develop as an artist (outside an arts school) is finding other people willing to give you critical feedback. The budget for this project included money for crit’s from Neil Morris and Emily Speed. (Thank you Arts Council.)

Neil Morris’s work:  highly skilled but not showing off, Neil as family, Neil as career artist, Neil as mood, it speaks to me. Neil’s experienced enough to have seen fads come and go and come again. Emily Speed’s drawing is inventive, brave, conceptual. Emily’s interests are wide and her attack is academic, she does proper research. One to watch. Superb artists and lovely people.

Last week I went back up to Liverpool to meet with Neil and Emily and have crit’s – looking at the work in the exhibition closing next month and my next project, which examines dimensionality using drawing.

Although I met with them individually they were pretty much in agreement. (I thought I’d got away with x and y but actually these people see straight through me… probably everybody does.) We talked about the ‘politeness’ of the work in relation to the beautiful room it’s in and the ‘heritage items’ incorporated in the central display cases. We talked about what it might be like to be less polite and show less respect for the original objects. We talked about what could be made to work outside the current venue and whether the work had a life beyond the show. Also, about presentation and the current trend in the visual arts to ‘devalue’ artwork by displaying it in an off-hand manner, and what it might do to the relationship between the onlooker and a piece of my work if I were to do that. And a whole lot more besides..

When someone really takes time to think about your work it’s a sign of respect. I was buoyed up. Thank you.

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Link to YouTube video about the exhibtion…

frog and seagulls feet rhs teapot and grans blocks prints longshot exhib rhsFilm explaining what Semi-Permanent Collections exhibition is about.. in own words

https://www.smore.com/1ke8f

https://www.smore.com/1ke8f-semi-permanent-collections?embed=1

 

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: