Spherical drawing

A few months ago, I stumbled upon a giant Christmas bauble. The surface was reflective and it distorted the image of the room behind me in such a way that I wondered what it would be like to draw.

I began to do a few sketches, first with pencil and then selecting my preferred lines and going over them with pen. I decided to try colouring them with watercolour, even though it’s not my favourite medium.

Some worked better than others, but it gave me the starting point for an idea that I’ve been interested to pursue for some time. This idea links the history of tourism with the invention of linear perspective.

The particular history of tourism that I wanted to focus on was that of the Grand Tour, a tradition from the 1600s to the 1840s, whereby European young men undertook a standard itinerary around Europe, much like the gap year travels of today.

These travellers would often collect objects and images from around the world, as well as sights through means of drawing and painting. However, in order to flatten the view of the landscape to aid capturing the likeness and tones, these artists would often use a small convex tinted mirror, known as a ‘Claude Glass‘, after the popular landscape artist of the time, Claude Lorrain.

Of course, this meant that would only view their world through a reflection, rather than experiencing the ‘real’ thing, a common complaint about today’s generation, who are surrounded by cameras and screens.

This ‘flattening’ of the object produces an effect similar to photography, as the scale and context are removed from the image as described in Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Although, photography was not developed until the late 1800s, trying to capture the way in which we see has been in constant flux throughout history.

We often consider photorealistic imagery as ‘true to life’. However, this is actually based on a mathematical invention known as linear perspective, and one that has continued to inform the ways that we see and the technology that we use for capturing images.

Linear perspective was invented in Italy in the 15th Century as a way for artists to capture 3D space on a 2D plane. The first person to undertake this study was architect and sculptor Filippo Brunelleschi (1377 – 1446). Following this, his calculations were written up by art theorist Leon Battista Alberti (1404 – 1472) in his treatise on painting, De Pictura (1436).

The capturing of 3D objects in a 2D format has been of interest to artists since the invention of linear space, but after the development of photography, artists have sought to challenge this way of seeing through exposing the mechanisms of production within their work.

Equally, the photograph as an unmediated representation of reality has come into question, highlighting the role of technologies in the way we see images. These drawings therefore are the start of an investigation into the different kinds of seeing and technologies that we use to capture and index images.

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After I wrote my last blog post, I shared it on Facebook and Twitter. As this work looks very different to my previous projects I wasn’t sure how it would be received, so I was pleasantly surprised when lots of people started to engage by writing comments and sharing their thoughts.

Through the process of writing my PhD and conversations with ethnographers, I’ve started to think about these interactions as data that can contribute to the work. In particular, I’ve been inspired by one of my colleagues J who often uses elements of conversations, texts, emails, alongside more scholarly excerpts in her writing.

Due to this, I decided to capture some of the information that people were sharing. To begin with, M said that the Bradford souvenir made her think of canopic jars, which in turn reminded her of a photograph that she’d taken of the Egyptian-style monument at Undercliffe Cemetery.

Thinking about architecture and monuments which had been inspired by Egypt also reminded me of the Temple Works building in Leeds, which had been built as a replica of an Egyptian temple. These architectural anomalies were the result of the Victorian fascination with Egyptology, which was linked with Western Imperialism.

J said she liked the bright colours and that “visually, they connect with figureheads, sculpted figures on old fairground rides, and the kinds of busts seen on buildings.” This made me happy, as I’d been thinking about the work in relation to folk art in some way, after visiting the British Folk Art exhibition at Tate Britain in 2014. She also told me about the carved village signs from Norfolk, which depicted stories from the history of the village.

Over on Twitter, the people at the Seaside Heritage Network, a new subject specialist network, noticed the work and were interested to know how many there would be in total. Whereas E wondered if I could make more hyper local versions of the souvenirs with participants.

These conversations have made me think a lot more about how I want to proceed with the sculptures and how they fit with my existing ideas. For example, I was keen to stress that I didn’t want the souvenir to be too literal a representation of a place, like a landmark, but I enjoyed the connections that people made with them.

I am also interested in exploring how the things we think of as ‘English’ are the result of trade, migration, and colonialism. Due to the nature of the souvenirs there isn’t much scope to explore the range of influences in each area. However, I think it would be good to focus on a smaller geographical area, such as Leeds, in future.


Adding colour to the souvenirs

I’m continuing my work producing souvenir sculptures for each city in England. I’ve started adding colour and they seem a lot brighter than my usual work. This feels a bit unnerving, but I’m taking that as a sign that I’m doing something outside of my comfort zone and that it will lead to a more creative result.

I began this process by researching each city, elements of its history, mythology, and heraldry. I then began sketching each object to determine how I might create it in paper. My intention was to do more sketchbook work around the imagery that would be painted on the objects, but I decided to take a more organic approach by working directly onto the sculptures, using a process of appropriation and intuition. Through working in this way, new possibilities arise for this, and future work.

For example, the objects of Bath and Brighton are represented using human figures. I began by painting them bright colours in a similar way to the others. However, I wanted to pull out their features a bit more, so I repainted their faces white. Although I will do more work on these sculptures, I like the effect of the white against the colour so I’m documenting the process to return to later.

One of the finished souvenirs, representing Bradford, takes the story of a wild boar from the Middle Ages, the motif of which is featured on the city’s coat of arms. Using the boar as the object, I then took the image of the brick well and highlighted the shape of the bricks as a reference to the building material of the Industrial North. The design running across the top of the boar’s head reflects the water motif also taken from the city’s coat of arms.

As I am working on each of the sculptures, I have started to see similarities in some of the motifs, therefore they have come to represent both distinct and general aspects of the histories of English cities, to highlight the separate elements of a homogenised country, united through language and government.


Souvenir sculptures

I’m currently working on my exhibition for the PhD which consists of a series of self-designed souvenir sculptures to represent each of the 44 cities of England. I’d originally considered producing souvenirs for the whole of the British Isles, but then decided it would be better to make it a bit more specific and self-reflexive.

The idea behind the work relates to the study of images of culture and how such images are produced as a dialogue between producers and consumers of a culture. Based on England’s long history, I decided to use a range of influences, including heraldic imagery, landmarks, mythology, and historical and contemporary figures from the region.

Each of the figures is made from paper, reflecting my previous practice using the medium, as well as the role of the material in the colonial history which tourism studies draws on. The lightweight, ephemeral material also echoes the throw-away and transitory nature of souvenirs, despite their often artisanal qualities.

Taking influence from the bright colours of tourist souvenirs and artefacts I have drawn previously, I decided to decorate these sculptures with acrylic paint, applying a vibrant background colour before painting additional imagery from the region on their surface. The work also borrows from kitsch and pop art in producing ‘mass-produced’ objects as part of a fine art tradition.

The object as representative of a location or region shows it as being part of a larger network of tradition and imagery. However, it also obstructs the agencies and decision-making processes that contribute to the production of images of culture. In this way, these sculptures are an ironic comment on whose agency is represented through souvenirs and tourist art.


Kinesis and Stasis conference

The Barbican
London, UK
27th November 2015
Organised by TECHNE

“Kinesis and Stasis, movement and stillness, embody an essential component of human life, and a fundamental dialectic within any culture. All entities move, and their social milieu evolve with them. Ever-newer waters flow onto those who step into the same river. Yet the constant state of flux and perpetual kinesis of our living world ultimately evokes an enduring stillness: change is the only permanence. Culture is an ever-present yet ever evolving form of sociality. Creativity is a moment of reflection and a moment of action, a mode of doing and being.” (http://techneconference.com)

The Kinesis and Stasis conference was held at the Barbican on 27th November 2015, and I was invited to present my paper ‘Fragments of Venus’. Taking my previous explorations of the Venus figure in art, I decided to present a threefold process of capturing movement in art: Firstly, my studies of the Venus sculpture by Antonio Canova described a way of navigating the object through drawing. Secondly, the Venus figure in 15th Century Florence incorporated a method for drawing movement in hair and drapery borrowed from antiquity, such as in the painting ‘The Birth of Venus’ by Sandro Botticelli. Lastly, the Venus as a motif in art and culture has perpetuated from Antiquity to the present day. This omnipresence represents the movement of pagan imagery, both geographically and temporally.

As well as providing evidence for the movement of iconography through Aby Warburg, Hugh Honour, and related topics such as Image Studies, I also discussed how my artwork had been influenced by these ideas. I showed how the initial drawings made from the sculpture had been digitally printed and then recreated into a geometric shape, in order to reassemble the drawing into a 3D form. The digital images were also bound into an artist book, reflecting the time-based element of both experiencing the sculpture and viewing the book. The presentation was supported by a selection of images from the artist book presented as an exhibition.

Bookbinding at the British Art Show

The British Art Show arrived at Leeds Art Gallery on 8th October 2015, and I was invited to participate in a socially engaged performance as a bookbinder as part of one of the selected works. The work in question was by Italian designer, Martino Gamper. Entitled ‘Post Forma’, it situated custom-designed, functional objects in the galleries to be activated by local artisans.

“Martino Gamper is a designer who resists the distinction between design and art. He describes his approach – which has seen him dismantle existing furniture, craft new items out of discarded ones and produce 100 chairs in 100 days – as both ‘conceptual and functional’.” (http://britishartshow8.com/artists/martino-gamper-1513)

In the foyer there was a beautifully inlaid bookbinding table which has been produced by Gamper and I was almost scared to use it in case my craft-knife accidentally slipped off the cutting mat. Alongside the table were seat frames waiting to be re-caned, and a cobblers chair (although all of the cobbling had to be done off-site, due to the nature of the machinery required). In the other gallery there was a loom for a weaver to work at. Each of the artisans worked in view of the public and answered questions about the project.

“As part of Post Forma [Gamper asked] the public to bring along belongings to be renewed rather than thrown away. This new commission [was] driven by Gamper’s interest in how an object can be transformed or reused and by interactions with the public.” (http://martinogamper.com/post-forma-british-art-show-8)

My role in the project was to rebind ‘treasured tomes’ which had been brought in by members of the public. Included in the materials to be used for this purpose was the bookcloth which had been screen-printed by another of the BAS artists, Ciara Phillips, as part of her own participatory practice. It was fascinating to see the kinds of things that people were willing to trust me with, and I heard stories about all the books, such as a unique edition of a self-published book by the audience member’s grandfather, a scrapbook of family history dating back 100 years, and a wooden bible from the 1950s.

It was also interesting to see people engaging with the process, and often visitors would stand for an hour or more watching each element of the book come together. During this time, they would ask about my work as an artist and tell me about their creative interests and endeavours, as well as finding out more about elements of the book making process. I really enjoyed being part of the artwork and it reminded me that people are still interested in craft and enjoy learning about how things are made.

The Excursionist conference

Organised by b-side,
Isle of Portland, Dorset, UK
8th – 9th October 2015

On October 8th 2015, I was invited to present an ‘artistic provocation’ at The Excursionist conference on the Isle of Portland in Dorset. As the theme of the conference was art and tourism, I decided to present my curatorial postcard project ‘The Imaginary Museum: Monuments and Landmarks’, which explored co-authorship, audience participation, and tourist culture and imagery. Alongside a spoken presentation, I displayed the range of postcards from artists participating in the project for the delegates to see the work first-hand. The other artist provocations were really entertaining too and it gave me lots of ideas of how I might present my work in future.

The conference ran over two days and was well paced, with performances, presentations, discussions, and excursions. As the organisers, b-side describe on their archive page of the event: “b-side welcomed over 80 delegates to the Isle of Portland for b-side’s second Symposium event provoking debate on current issues. ‘The Excursionist’ explored the growing industry of tourism and its relationship with the arts exploring the impact of tourism on community, environment and economy and the role art and artists can play. ​Delegates enjoyed two days of provocations, presentations, discussions and artistic interventions including a bus trip to Portland’s premier tourist attraction and an unexpected performance in a graveyard.”

I met lots of interesting and friendly people, including b-side organisers, Sandy Kirby and Julie Penfold, artists Alistair Gentry and Katrina Palmer, the co-director of Art Angel, James Lingwood, and long-time Facebook friend and artist/psychogeographer, Phil Smith. I was a bit nervous about presenting my work in front of Alistair in particular as I’d seen his Arty Bollocks Theatre previously, so I hoped that my work wouldn’t fall into that category.

Another unexpected benefit of attending the conference was the opportunity to experience the immersive audio walk ‘The Loss Adjusters’, which was commissioned by Art Angel, and explored a fictional history of the island’s inhabitants, shaped by the surrounding quarries. The pace and range of activities meant that the conference never felt tiring despite the long days, and enabled me to present my work to new audiences, as well as finding out about other organisations and artists.


Leeds Revisited

Dortmund, Germany
12th October – 7th November 2014

plakat-leeds-neuEast Street Arts has been invited by Dortmunder Gruppe to curate an exhibition of members’ work at the BIG-Gallery in Dortmund, Germany.

“The project is a continuation on an ongoing creative exchange between East Street Arts and Dortmunder Gruppe. The first East St Arts Salon, launched in November 2008 at Patrick Studios, was then materialized in the Torhaus, Dortmund as ‘Salon:Dopplegänger’. In 2009, ‘Salon:Vardøgr’ was East Street Arts participation in that years’ Leeds Art Fair, celebrating the 40th anniversary of twinning between Leeds and Dortmund, which culminated with a visit to Leeds by German artists and their works later that year.

Dortmunder Gruppe, originated in the 1920’s as the ‘Dortmunder Künstlervereinigung’ (“artists association”), disbanded in 1934 because the members were not prepared to comply with the dictates of the Nazi Regime. Re-forming in 1956, its roots lie in artists of the 50’s need to rediscover the buried traces of modernism. Although the Dortmund Group initially decided to devote its activities to abstract or non-figurative painting and sculpture, without however drawing up a programme of artistic principles, i.e. a manifesto. Other forms of expression were gradually taken into consideration.

Today the ‘Gruppe’ has 22 members. One of the important aspects of collaboration with the City of Dortmund, is the development of contacts with artists abroad. The ‘Gruppe’ has exhibited in Romania, England, Lithuania, Netherlands, Serbia and France, and invited artists from those countries to exhibit in Dortmund, as well as from Switzerland, Austria and Latvia.”

As part of the Leeds Revisited exhibition, I will be showing my works ‘Head of a Nat Spirit’ and ‘Figure of Ganesh’. This body of work is produced using drawing and collage and focuses on collections, particularly the relationship between objects in a museum context. In studying the formal qualities of ethnographic objects within fine art practice through text and image, my aim is to consider the categories used to describe artworks from around the world, and how this contributes to ways of understanding cultural production across disparate geographical regions.

Works exhibited by: Louise Atkinson, Lorna Barrowclough, Carine Brosse, Ellen Burroughs, Paula Chambers, Paul Digby, Jon Eland, Hondartza Fraga, Christopher Hall, Fiona Halliday, Jason Hynes, Andrew Lister, Ellie MacGarry, Eva Mileusnic, Carla Moss, Annie Nelson, Eleni Odysseos, Kathryn Oubridge, Anna Turner, Katrien Van Liefferinge, Chris Woodward, and Valerie Zwart.

AMBruno Editions @ Berliner Liste

Berliner Liste Art Fair 
POSTBAHNHOF, Berlin, Germany
18th – 21st September 2014

“With 112 galleries, from 24 countries, the BERLINER LISTE will once again be the largest of the Berlin art fairs. It will be held from 18th – 21st September as part of Berlin Art Week. The spectrum of exhibited art will range from contemporary painting, sculpture, drawings and graphics to installations, video art and performance. The new Editions Section will also present limited edition art including books, photography and small-format paper artworks. See more at www.berliner-liste.org

I’ll be exhibiting my Brimstone Almanac bookworks as part of this group show at Berlin Liste Art Fair. Artists from the AMBruno collective have been selected to exhibit their artist book and print work by curator Dr. Peter Funken. Exhibiting artists also include Barbara Greene, Cally Trench, Claire Deniau, Jane Grisewood, John McDowall, Judy Goldhill, Julie Johnstone, Kathryn Faulkner, Manya Donaque, Marco Cali, Philip Lee, Sharon Kivland, Sophie Loss, Steve Perfect, and Valerie Mary.

AMBruno 2008 – 2014

Bower Ashton Library 
UWE, Bristol, UK
3rd March – 3rd April 2014

“AMBruno is a coalition of artists with diverse individual practices, including painting, photography, video, performance, printmaking and sculpture, with a common interest in the medium of the book. First brought together in 2008, we are a London based group which has since grown to include artists from further afield.

Making books is challenging for most of us as artists working principally in other mediums, though it takes us out of the habitual into new spheres of thought, engaging in conceptual adaptation to a different methodology of a new medium.

New books are made for each event such as specialised book fairs and exhibitions. Since 2011 we have been working to a theme; a call for proposals is made, given a subject title to respond to, such as Blue, Lines, Black Circle, One-fold books. These may be taken as a formal, conceptual or referential springboard. As only a certain number of books can be shown, a process of selection is undertaken; the proposals (made anonymous) are given to an independent arbiter. A choice is made and the selected artists proceed with the production of their book. Working to a theme creates a mini show, a self-contained and cohesive body of work connected by the thread of the motif.

In addition to books, other projects of ours include film/videos to the constraint of 101 seconds duration, shown in New York. Surfaces: works on paper exhibited in Porto and 18 prints by 18 artists to the theme of I’m telling you stories. Trust me. for Multiplied at Christies in 2013.

Lists etc. is our current theme for at the Leeds Contemporary Artists’ Book Fair in March 2014, Gustavo Grandal Montero, Chelsea College of Arts Library, made the selection for this. The works will include favourite shirts that the owner can’t wear, failed collections, and an archeology of erotic writing.

Also to be exhibited at this event is Book Act, for this artists perform and embody the concept or essence of their book through the medium of film. The exhibition will comprise of the originating books and corresponding video work including live performances.”

Artists in the AMBruno 2008 – 2014 Bristol survey exhibition include: Alvin Watt, Ana Efe, Barbara Greene, Cally Trench, Charlotte Andrew, Christian Nyampeta, Clare Deniau, Francesca Galeazzi, Heidi Locher, Ingrid Jensen, Jane Grisewood, Joanna Hill, John McDowall, Judy Goldhill, Julie Johnstone, Karen Blake, Kathryn Faulkner, Louise Atkinson, Lydia Julien, Manya Donaque, Marco Cali, Mary Yacoob, Maureen O’Brien, Nancy Campbell, Paula Naughton, Penny Matheson, Philip Lee, Sara Dell’onze, Sharon Kivland, Shelley Rae, Sophie Loss, Steve Perfect, Valerie Mary and Veronica Pérez Karleson