Proud of this

Memories Project with the Echoes Group

Memories Project with the Echoes Group

I had a meeting with the Artscape Manager today to discuss the next exhibition and was very proud to see this in the Artscape Gallery next to my prints which form the basis for Assignment Two. The next exhibition will likely be in the Fusion Arts Centre, Cowley Road as well as the replacement to the current exhibition. and will likely be hung towards the end of the month. The Fusion Arts piece will be for around two weeks and the Artscape one will likely be up for a few months.

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On the Gallery wall

On the wall at the Artscape Gallery in the permanent art space at the Warneford are twelve of my images created as part of the memories project with the Echoes Group. I am very happy and somewhat proud that Artscape has put the work up and I saw them up for the first time today.

John

John

 

Peter and Graham

Peter and Graham

And further good news today is that Helen –  current project artist – and I have agreed to collaborate on an exhibition of the latest project which will likely be a mixed media show and, hopefully, a book of the current project which finishes next week with an exhibition of the work at the History of Science Museum, where it all started about three months ago.

 

 

Assignment 4, The Calendar

From session one

From session one

From session two

From session two

I have to be honest, the prospect of creating a calendar using photographs that might be considered as a vehicle for presenting by a company as a means to promote itself didn’t fill me with any enthusiasm. I wrestled for some time to try and work out ways in which I might subvert the whole process and perhaps myself in the process. I have created, and had printed, calendars before; they sold quite well and had lots of pretty pictures in them, in fact six more than the requirement for this assignment!

From session two

From session two

After some considerable thought, which included a web based face to face conversation with my tutor who thought my idea was potentially sound, I have come up with an idea to use the current project with the Echoes Group as a vehicle for both the calendar and the ‘Oral Presentation’.

At the museum

At the museum

From session one

From session one

From session two

From session two

From session one

From session one

From session two

From session two

Leaving aside the ‘Oral Presentation’ for assignment six, I shall try and develop a set of images that describe some of my feelings that have now rooted from my work in Artscape, and in particular the ‘Echoes Group’ that I volunteer for as part of the contract I have with the NHS.

At the museum

At the museum

The brief for the calendar images require seven images, one for the cover and another six that would be set against two monthly periods in the year. I have discussed this with my tutor and have agreed that I won’t be printing the days/dates on my artwork – though I will try and use the Artscape logo which I feel will be very straightforward to obtain and include, though what it will add to the series I’m not sure.

From session one

From session one

At the museum

At the museum

The current project I am working on at the Group is called ‘The Measurers’ and involves three inner city schools as well as the ‘users’ of the Group. The participants have had talks from one of the University museums – The Museum of the history of Science and have visited the museum to gain some inspiration before developing some artwork. The participants were asked to make a piece that illustrates an invention they would like see. I have been asked to ‘document’ the project with an aim to either put on an exhibition sometime in the New Year (the project has been running since early September and will run until the end of the current academic term) or develop a book – and maybe both. So I’m making lots of images, printing them and showing and discussing them with the users and the artist lead who is running the project.

From session one

From session one

A little while after deciding on the subject matter for the calendar it occurred to me that underlying the narrative of ‘The Measurers’ document was another thread about ‘time’. That a calendar is a measure of time seemed to chime very nicely which gave me a renewed confidence that the current project at the Group was an appropriate subject.

My concept at this stage is to place not one, but two images per page as diptychs. The twin images will be contrived to open a dialogue for the viewer to try and maybe interrogate their comprehension of the juxtapositioning of those images. Each diptych will have a ‘user’ and either a piece that has been used as an inspiration (from the Museum or otherwise) or an artwork that has been created in the project. My aim would be for a dialogue to opened by the slight disjuncture of the image, or perhaps by the inclusion of some text. Text was a suggestion from my tutor as I had concerns over the formatting of the twin images – there maybe instance where the coupling might contain a landscape and a portrait pairing which would leave some white space and so, by adding some text (which I think is a real opportunity for me) I can perhaps compensate graphically over the whole of the work.

I am now looking forward to this assignment in a way that I hadn’t expected to.

Advertising – module four

Last week I went to an exhibition, my friend Sue was, amongst a lot of other artists, exhibiting her ‘Cocoon’ summary-cocoon.pdf which I used as part of assignment three. It was an interesting space of artists and craft workers, mainly textile, though some 3D work and paintings were amongst them. I was reminded of this when reading the series of comments and statements on the WeAreOCA blog following the entry on Kessels work that I saw in Arles in July. All this came to mind as I start to investigate the fourth module of this course – Advertising.

The work in Aynho was often quite beautiful, certainly a lot of very pretty work and some work that defied the notion of commerce by being both interesting and not for sale. Sue’s ‘Cocoon’ wasn’t for sale, it is still a work in progress and I have still haven’t plucked up courage to put a secret inside. I went to the show on preview, not just for the drinks and nibbles, but, hopefully, to engage with a few of the exhibitors, to explore what their work was about. I was reminded of this event when I started to read the comments on the WeAreOCA blog about the way some ‘artists’ approach their work, how their work is informed and why it is they do the work they do.

This module is called Advertising, there is some research about advertising, somewhat mixed up with the notion of marketing I feel, but nevertheless it is how the ‘artist’ might generate work that engages with the purposes of capitalism to encourage consumerism and ‘buy stuff’, or ‘invest in stuff’ or be complicitly engaged in the process. One of the exercises is to attempt to place some images with a photo agency Alamy, an interestingly timed venture as Getty has decided to place a lot of it’s images ‘out there’ for free  an action which, I suspect, will further alter the paradigm by which professional photographers will be able to engage commercially. I have decided not to pursue the Alamy route and won’t attempt to get any images ‘on-line’ because, despite having not read Alamy’s terms and conditions, I find them unacceptable. I have no reason to suspect that Alamy is a disreputable organization and it might well be an exemplar in its field for all I know; I wish them well.

It is though this notion of self promotion that I found interesting, clearly an exhibition is a self-promoting exercise; the poster for the show that Sue participated in suggests that whilst entrance is free there are items for sale including refreshments and proceeds will go to Creative Activities for Elderly People, all in a good cause then and noting that not all the work will be for sale, one can denote (there is also a section in this module on Semiotics, which seems to ignore completely the work of Peirce and others and focuses solely on Barthes and Saussure, maybe Barthes because of the work done in deconstructing advertisements….) from the poster/advertisement therefore, that there will be work at the exhibition that is not for sale

One of the main threads in the exhibition I found, was how attractive a lot of the work was, how immediately compelling some of it was. The show had quite a few textile workers who used some gorgeous colours, bringing a lustrous rich quality that drew me to their work, golds, scarlets, sapphire blues, emerald greens. The painters had what Grayson Perry described as – and I paraphrase – the societal norm of acceptable painting; landscapes with some people in the foreground and a lot of blue. Prices ranged quite a lot, from a few pounds to a few hundred pounds for different artists – some of whom have an established clientele and are starting to be collected. I suspect the timing of the show isn’t a completely random choice either, with about eight shopping weeks left for Christmas. I was glad to see that Sue had included some of my most recent photographs of her and her work in a book she had had published recently (not for sale either) to accompany her Cocoon.

A tutor sometime ago informed me that the approach of a ‘jobbing professional’ photographer was to ‘get deep quick, get the work done and get out’ (again, I paraphrase). I can fully comprehend that notion, it seems perfectly reasonable for a student of photography who needs to get the work done, submit it, get paid (marked) and move to the next job. I can also see that doing such would be a great ‘advert’ for the skills of that photographer, that they would more likely get more work from that client again for doing such an exemplary job. We, as students on this course, are often told, ‘read the brief, don’t go beyond it and submit it on time’, my previous Managing Director also echoed that comment by saying to me ‘never do a customer a favour’. There are other tutors who offer a different mantra, about exploring the idea from a personal perspective and developing a reasoned response to it – I wonder though how much they sell of their work!

Images courtesy of Rencontres Arles 2013

Images courtesy of Rencontres Arles 2013

I am reminded again when reading some of the comments on the WeAreOCA blog entry regarding the need to ‘put work out there’. Kessels’ work suggested to me various notions; yes the vacuity of the present day digital world that allows volumes of images to be ‘uploaded’ almost as soon as they are created, perhaps the availability of that capability provides the impetus to do it? And, to one of the commentators on the blog who has suggested, it may have to something to do with ego perhaps, but it might be something about value (or the valueless notion of the image, but I’ll come back to that later). My own personal perspective on this work to an extent agrees with the egotistical relationship mentioned, but I also recognise other perspectives; that of a silent witness perhaps, of a search for a voice in an increasingly mediated world, or that of celebration of love or death, or that of companionship – whether there or searched for – again in a world mediated by social media where discourse is by an avatar and moniker that translates identity to a virtual plane of obscurity and anonymity which often meets with a desire to transcend them to a desired personality from another place, divorced from the responsibility of reality.

crop1c2c2

crop7c2c2

crop3c2c2

That individuals flood the world with images suggests, amongst other reasons, a cry in the wilderness more than a cry of ‘look at me’; which brings me back to marketing and it’s associative instrument the advertisement. Increasingly, and by dint of it’s own premise, marketing will continue to strive to marginalize, segmenting the audience into smaller and smaller pieces, increasing the size of it’s apparent target to better position it within the frame of its desiredness and therefore to better mirror that allure and improve its chances of success. The Ford motor company first offered the Model T to the world (North America, which to them at the time was about the same thing) with the saying ‘that you could have any colour you wanted as long as it was black’. Now the posit of the ‘Mad Men’ is to be able to refine, by segmentation, the infinite colour proposition to better enable both the admen’s product and consumer’s inevitable resignation of triumph in purchase.

Images courtesy of Rencontres Arles 2013

Images courtesy of Rencontres Arles 2013

Kessel’s images come with certain attributes, there are those who are seemingly fixated by volume – there are xxx thousands of images in the building, there were xxx millions of images uploaded in a certain year, Fred Ritchen seems permanently in a state of awe with these numbers in both his books ‘After Photography’ and ‘Bending the Frame” (not wishing to disparage either of these otherwise very stimulating tomes). The record numbers though will be beaten tomorrow; the question as to why will unlikely be answered tomorrow, because there are likely to be too many questions being asked of them. The ‘adman’s nightmare’.

A basket of pasta, a tin of sauce, some tomatoes and other superfluous vegetables and a limited colour palette, suggests, amongst other things, that it is food and it is going to be eaten. Its ‘Italianicity’ is but a part of it’s value to the adman whose desire to entice you to buy would have a lesser value today, our (the market’s) denotating antennae perhaps haven’t changed very much in the last few decades – a post post modernist assumption perhaps? But pasta is no longer a marketing segment anymore, now the need might be for which type of wheat, which side of the hill it was grown, we (the consumer) would probably be interested in the use of fertilizer, of systemic weed-killing (or lack of), of distance travelled to the place of purchase (though not of the distance travelled to purchase by the consumer), sustainability et al, et al. Narrowing the channel of irrigation and introducing those studium opportunities, by an increasingly self proclaimed sophisticated Madman team, leads still to a still simple image though within a more defined market demographic.

That advertising works isn’t in dispute, that the advertisers continue to strive to find better and more efficient ways to ‘drive awareness’ will come as a surprise to no-one, that it has – in the main – moved on from the projections of Sabrina, except as a device of irony, nostalgia or distancing, should also be of no surprise. And so my concern, perhaps my overriding concern at this juncture, in this course, is whether I am being encouraged to consider that to sell my work I need to develop a conversation with an audience for that purpose? Whether I need to understand how my market works, to consider how to engage with it? Refine my approach to it in order to develop that ‘market’ for it? Although I actually think at this stage that the notion that I need to sell my work is being seen as a validation of the course’s effectiveness, rather than whatever sense of self awareness I might have been able to explore and comprehend. If I wanted to construct a ‘landscape with a few animals or people in the foreground; mainly in blue’, which is, according to some research quoted by Grayson Perry in his recent Reith lecture, the most popular art product, then what would I need to attend this course for? I could as a commentator on the Kessel’s blog post simply converse with my customer base and make stuff that appeals to them. To make beautiful work in gold and ruby red (and a lot of sapphire blue) without the least notion of it’s relevance to me other than my wallet. Roll up, roll up!

Postcards from the past

Postcards from the past

crop8c2c2

This image found on the pile in Arles, presumably by the staff constructing Kessel’s installation holds more fascination to me than the pretty photographs of North America above. I have no notion of the context or narrative that surrounds this found image, but I know all about those beautiful black and white prints rendered so expertly in a continuous tone which, when I used to sell stuff, sold quite well – there are plenty of them on walls in this country and others.

Reflections on Tutor report for Assignment 2

There were a number of difficulties going into Assignment two from my prespective. Firstly I had lost a lot of momentum from the need (on my part) to change tutor; I had lost a lot of enthusiasm and needed to pick things up. Secondly, I had picked on a subject that had a raft of revelation issues that would likely diminish to zero any chance of showing any work I managed to create during the module. That being said the Echoes Group have been supportive (within legal constraints) and there is now a real chance the the work will be exhibited – though I still have to overcome the assessor issue – should I make it to the other end of this course! Which of course I intend to try at least.

My Tutor sent back a very comprehensive report which has guided me on certain areas, some of which I have reflected on in this entry – which will go someway, I hope, to remedy some of the shortcomings of my submission. There are other thoughts that were supplied in the report that I will try and take on board.

My thoughts are now turning to assignment three, which I had hoped would be with the Group. I am likely to find out what is happening with the Group soon, apparently there is a meeting in a couple of days time to make a plan forward. If the Group’s situation doesn’t allow me to find a way forward with them, in respect of the assignment I shall have to find other alternatives. Before I do any of that I shall go on a week’s holiday.

I have to say that not only did I think the report was accurate, fair and very positive; but that I need to say thanks to my tutor for engaging in the way that I always hoped for!

__________________________

The Tuesday morning Echoes Art Group is an art class for people with dementia and other mental health needs, and those who might be using community based services of Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust.  – Fusion Arts. Visiting artists are engaged by Artscape to run short-term projects – up to 12 weeks at a time and I was offered the chance to work with them on a photography project.

I wanted to use the project to investigate the possibilities of developing ‘focused portraits’ of the lives of the ‘users’ of the Group. The ‘users’ comprise all the various people who attend the sessions; the patients who come from the wards of the Warneford Mental Hospital, out-patients who live in the community, full time carers (who attend with sufferers), clinical staff, and charity support workers (like myself who volunteer). Everyone is encouraged to participate in these arts based therapies and I made no distinction between any one particular sub-group or any another – they were all ‘users’.

I developed this artist statement (to which I will return later in this piece) to accompany the work:

I wanted to investigate the area of identity with a group of users in a dementia support group. How, in an age where patient confidentiality is at a premium, to present a piece of work that opens areas of discussion regarding the condition of dementia and how that condition reflects on the area of identity. Without crossing the boundary of personal revelation, I set about to work collaboratively with the ‘users’ of the ‘Echoes Group’ to produce a number of ‘portraits’ using memorabilia supplied and edited by those ‘users’. The concept was to scan (two dimensional objects) or photograph (three dimensional objects) some of their personal posessions, and then have the users place the images in a narrative sequence as a photomontage, which I would then compile into a composite image. The result would then be discussed in a group session where the ‘users’ would be invited to talk about their own ‘portrait’ and interrogate other ‘users’ ‘portraits’. It is hoped that the A2 prints will be hung in the permanent space at the Warneford Hospital.

The Project:

The first session with the group was by way of introduction to the concept, I brought along a number of different objects, photographs to illustrate differing ways they, the users, might develop ideas. I had a range of holiday photographs, some objects that I had designed (silicon chips from when I was in electronics design, as well as a plot of an integrated circuit layout that I had designed) and family pictures. There was a very active conversation about these objects and photographs, lots of questions and a lot of reminiscing. The underlying concept was to try and develop a project that relied on memory (the use of photographs and memorabilia) to develop a singular narrative that expressed a part of an identity – albeit that I expected that description to be both partial and thin.

My expectations were wide and varied, having not done this before i.e. not having a precise outcome in mind and so I tried to have an open mind about outcome. My background as a leader in business would have prevented me from starting something without a predefined outcome, but with this group activity I wanted to, and indeed expected to be led to, areas I hadn’t countenanced in an effort of collaborative exploration. The ‘users’ had free range on the specifity of the objects that they wanted to bring to be recorded and the narratives they wanted to share. Though I have no doubt that some of their decisions were fed by what I had brought to the opening session.

My original concept was to work with the ‘users’ to produce large A2 size images, which had a photomontage of, hopefully, a cogent narrative that would then be annotated by the ‘user’ to bring an added dimension to the work. I have been studying the value of text recently and wondered what dynamic this addition would bring to the work. The work has now been annotated, though the work was interrupted by the Group to ‘fit-in’ another project which, I feel, interrupted the flow from the ‘users’. This break in the flow slowed the current of expression that had been quite creative and I feel that perhaps it has diminished the overall effect of this part of the work. Some ‘users’ decided not to annotate at all, others preferred me to provide the writing skills whilst others wanted to have their thoughts printed and glued to their work

I found the completed works quite fascinating. All of the ‘users’ expressed a narrative that said something, I feel, about themselves, as well as about the subject of the work they produced. In that sense they were, of course, self-portraits as much as anything else. Their relationships with the people they brought to the narrative, mother, sister, children, parents, partner and indeed self in a couple of portraits as the primary motif

I’m not sure if this is in the right order of things, to modify an artist’s statement post the work being completed; instinctively I feel ok about doing so because the work is a continual process of evolution – the one informing the other, developing the trains of thought and informing the direction of the road forward.

I think I have clarified what ‘users’ are, though I fully realize the connotative power of the ambiguity of the term ‘user’. Had I had a clearer notion of that when I started the project I may have chosen more wisely, but on this occasion, and at this juncture, I will leave the title ‘users’ to mean all present at the Group sessions. But the question of whether the term “I want to investigate the area of identity with a dementia support group…” was specific enough I think is a good question and one which the following statement is hopefully clearer on.

So my Artist statement could become:

I wanted to investigate the area of identity with a group of users in a dementia support group. How, in an age where patient confidentiality is at a premium, to present a piece of work that opens areas of discussion regarding the condition of dementia and how that condition reflects on the area of identity. Without crossing the boundary of personal revelation, I set about to work collaboratively with the ‘users’ of the ‘Echoes Group’ to produce a number of ‘portraits’ using memorabilia supplied and edited by those ‘users’. The concept was to scan (two dimensional objects) or photograph (three dimensional objects) some of their personal posessions, and then have the users place the images in a narrative sequence as a photomontage, which I would then compile into a composite image. The result would then be discussed in a group session where the ‘users’ would be invited to talk about their own ‘portrait’ and interrogate other ‘users’ ‘portraits’. It is hoped that the A2 prints will be hung in the permanent space at the Warneford Hospital.

Which is of course the same as before, but now with a (hopefully) clearer understanding of ‘user’.  I know I will come back to this again and with the benefit of distance from the project may have a clearer idea of how to construct the statement in a more rounded way.

The whole project was very beneficial from a number of aspects, firstly the ‘users’: I was surprised at their creativity, their histories, their willingness to engage in the project and the expressions of interest in both their own creations and those of the others around them. Their willingness to have the work exhibited, the diversity of their narratives. The poignancy of their stories, and the way in which they were at ease with exploring some of their emotions in public.

I am aware that I didn’t direct as much as maybe I should have/could have  – this was certainly down to naivety in both the role as an artist and as a leader at the Group. Being stronger of purpose with the completion of the project, I feel I let some of the ‘users’ down by appearing to be a trifle weak in letting another project interject and allow some momentum to be released. It is a curious thing this lack of ‘directiveness’ as I have spent most of my adult life ‘directing’ things – work as a leader, in the theatre as a ‘Director’, local community groups etc etc. This lack of surefootedness in a curious one to feel, and something to ponder over.

Overall I really enjoyed this module, from a shaky start to a possible shaky end, the journey from than ’till now has been very productive.

 

 

John – a self portrait

John comes to the ‘Echoes Group’ with his wife and as a full time carer. He seemed particularly keen when he found out that the project was going to be about photography – he was an active photographer and still has a Nikon FE which he was keen to bring in. The first ‘memory’ he worked on was of his wife – and very touching I think it will be, but I decided to buy him a roll of XP2 so that he could ‘remember’ what it was like to take pictures with an old camera and I asked him to make a self portrait. I had little or no idea what he would photograph, I thought maybe his house, some memorabilia, but I was a little shocked when he came in with thirty photographs of books:q4c2 q9c2 w7c2 w10c2

It is important not to portray John from this small selection, not to decide that these few books represent him as I took the images from Lightroom at random not being able to see the titles. As I said there are about thirty three photographs all of different books. John  had asked if I knew a painting by Picasso that showed half of the artist, as the artist, and the other half as a montage of his paintings – I said I didn’t, but he asked if I could portray him in that way – ‘to do something in photoshop that would reveal him through a notional portrait and his books.

I started to think about this as a representation of a person, I had asked for a portrait, well I think that these books portray John, who would I be to judge him differently? His ‘self-portrait’ through the titles of books, a representation of himself through the written word, but associated through an integration of an actual image of him and those books.

Of course, like so many others would do, was to look at those titles and see which title I could recognise, which I had read and which I knew I would never read. There were lots in each category, but I then began to think about what John had done in representing himself in this way – what he hoped to reveal and what he had hoped to conceal. Books to me are special, I have an attachment to almost every book I have read, I can’t abide throwing them away – I always feel as if I will need them, read them again, pass them down – something! To throw them out would be to devalue them, make worthless those words that have meant so much to me; so I feel some affinity to John already.

I needed a portrait and John brought me a choice a print and a negative (with a contact set including the image on the negative strip)

Film scan

Film scan

Contact strip

Contact strip

John wanted to to use the above image as the base image from which to make the photo montage, but he expected that I would use the print from the contact set. He realised that this print was small so he brought this very formal shot – below – as an alternative.

John

John

Here are two impressions of the book collections:

Books as a library (I have cloned three book 'tiles' in order to make an even constrcution

Books as a library (I have cloned three book ’tiles’ in order to make an even construction)

An impression of all the books loaded randomly as an alternative view

An impression of all the books loaded randomly as an alternative view

I’ll now spend some time integrating a composite of John and his books to complete a ‘self portrait’ as he sees himself. An expression of his identity

 

 

 

Identity

More work on identity.

In the ‘Echoes’ world identity is a problem for a photographer, patient confidentiality and other issues combine to reduce the flexibility to reveal identity. It isn’t surmountable, just tricky. I have done some work on identity and this another piece of work on the same subject. At the Group I am running a project, based around photography and the ”Users’ are enthusiastic about the project. They have to construct a memory along a single topic line – which could be family, holiday etc. I hope to be able to show this work here, but in any case it will be exhibited at the Warneford hospital in their permanent exhibition space in any case.

One of the ‘Users’ has brought in two photograph albums and I noticed that some of the photographs weren’t there, perhaps they had fallen out or maybe removed, This set me thinking about the topic of identity, especially as the spaces were annotated by the owner. So I have borrowed the album and have looked the absence of the owner in places where she has suggested that a photograph of her had existed (I have also added a few more with compelling notices).

School photo

School photo

 

I decided to leave the first photo in the album and use that as a reference for the viewer. I wonder if it will allow a narrative to build….

spoilt viewc2 rudi and walterc2 royal eagle hotelc2 roof of Alexandrac2 pete and myselfc2 Larry - wifec2 me1c2 Mum and dad's weddingc2 mum1c2 myself and rogerc2 one of our walksc2 parisc2 jim and myselfc2 absent photoc2 showerc2 I expected grass not snowc2 having a great timec2 having go to the topc2 enjoying the viewc2 dad outsidec2 cliff and myselfc2

 

And then this, the penultimate image in the album, inside the back cover, not really a part of the album, forced in and the last image is a photo of some flowers and not of people or person or place.

Happiness with Chris

Happiness with Chris

Some of these spaces existed, others I have created – I don’t plan to reveal which I have done. My overall thoughts are that this has a strong sense of identity, and also that a strong sense of narrative starts to emerge – it maybe that I have come to know the lady in question, but I wonder what others think…..