Thursday, 3 May 2012

Beginning Denebola

So where to begin, where was my inspiration, what was leaping out at me?

Initially, nothing seemed to be 'speaking' to me. I was looking through the radio section of the Radio Times (something I rarely do) and the pattern just hit me in the face.

I forgot to take a photograph of it before I drew over it but here it is after doing so, a little blurred I'm afraid but you get the idea:

I turned it on its side, then used tracing paper to get just the lines, then scanned that into the computer:

Working with it in Photoshop, I was able to create this:

Each of the three sections were cut and 'stuck' together to form one long template. The white was cut away and the lower black part was flipped over and carefully traced onto mount board (it was flipped for those who don't know about print so that when inked and a print taken from it, the 'picture' appears the right way around).

I forgot to take a photograph of this next stage. Once the tracing had been put onto the mount board, the top part of it was carefully cut away. Then the board was varnished twice both sides to turn it into a collograph plate ready for inking up and printing from.

I was not at all interested in the prints resulting from this plate, they were just a means to an end. This did not go down too well I can tell you, after all, I was supposed to be on a printmaking course!!

Collograph plates are beautiful once inked, printed from and cleaned up. I went through the printing process merely to produce the desired effect on the collograph plate itself.

Here it is, cleaned up after its printing session:

Rather unexpectedly, it reminded me of the blitz from roof tops and the search lights - my knife cuts which should not have been noticeable! Anyway, what I had wanted to do was to scan this plate back into the computer to work on it digitally.

I wanted to try and either get a stand alone picture to use with a sound piece OR a digital print that would then have the collograph plate pressed back onto it to create a meld between two different ways of working.

These are a few of my very early trial prints:

The middle black and white work has the word Denebola, loosely translated in Morse code.  I was intending to use 6 weeks worth of RT Times templates (covering the period of the star sign Leo as it happens), to eventually create a long aural and visual piece based on them. Each would be in the colours representing each of the stars in the constellation Leo. Denebola is a blue white star hence these colours.

It was during these (what was for me very early exciting possibilities) that the tutor looked over my shoulder, told me to come to his office and basically tore into me. My work was not what he was expecting from a Masters student (this was just 7 weeks into the course and at one day per week was in effect 1 1/2 weeks into it - doh!!!)

He obviously couldn't understand where I was coming from, that this was how I worked in the early days, experimenting etc. It was all to no avail, he didn't want to know and the whole thing rapidly went downhill from there. 

I'll finished for today as it just brings back too many bad memories.


Saturday, 28 April 2012

Moving on!

Firstly, welcome Hilde, glad you popped over from my other blog to see this one!

Having had 4 lovely years at my current establishment (Access to Art & Design and B. A. Fine Art) it was time to leave. I really wanted to carry on with my Fine Art as I felt I had found my niche. However, the nearest place that offered this was full time, 1 year, 5 days a week, that would be a one hour drive either way each day.

I know my limits. Some days during my B.A., the 5 minute walk and 10 minute drive was troublesome in that I often arrived home and couldn't remember the journey at all. So, Fine Art there wasn't an option.

The next choice was Printmaking at a different place. This would involve a 10 minute drive, a 45 minute train journey (and the cost of all that), a 10 minute walk and the reverse to come home. This course though could be done part time over 3 years, 1 day a week. I knew it would be tiring but seemed possible.

Anyways, to cut a long story short, I went for my interview, told and showed the tutor what I was interested in and that I planned to initially do traditional print but would later change to video. This was accepted and so it began.

However, within a very short space of time, I was called up to his office to explain what I was doing. I was perplexed, I knew what I was doing, turning data into work but all of a sudden, it seemed unacceptable. I was told to go to the Head tutor in Fine Art to see if he could 'help' me!

Said tutor thought what I was doing was very exciting and I didn't need help. I should have got the message. From there, it went down hill rapidly and within 7 weeks (just 7 days), I knew I couldn't carry on. The tutor constantly tore strips off my work, including in what should have been private tutorials where others tutors were teaching students in the office!

Need I say more. However, my saving grace was my ex-tutor C. from the B.A. course as well as some of the others. They all thought my work exciting and couldn't understand what my current tutor was finding difficult.

Anyhow, I grit my teeth, got through the first year to get my Postgraduate Certificate in Printmaking and promptly left.

Do I regret it – NO!

Do I miss academia – NO!

Could I have carried on elsewhere – NO! (well actually I did apply for an online Master's degree in Fine Art and would probably have got my place after praise from the selection tutor – but they, like everyone else, put up their fees and that was that).

As it happens, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I took ages to get over it, nearly 18 months. Now though I can feel the old bug slowly but surely beginning to bite me again. This time though, anything I produce will be solely for my pleasure, to be shown on this blog for your perusal. There will be no pressure over timetables, exhibiting, selling etc. I never wanted to be a practicing artist, I simply wanted to stretch my brain.

So, I will show you the work I produced for that first year and you can judge it for yourselves. Come back soon.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Origins - the movie!

Finally, after much hard work by myself and the animator, my son J., the work was rendered (many, many hours). 

Here it is, I hope you like it as I think it is by far, the best piece of work to date. 

Monday, 16 April 2012

Origins - Animated Graphic Notation

The final piece of work and major exhibition piece was an animated graphic notation developed from the map below which details my ancestors births, marriages and deaths. 

These areas of dots were firstly entered onto a spreadsheet, then a document ready for entering into Garageband. 

Each piece of information was turned into a musical note and put into the music programme. As I have said before, I am not a musician, I cannot just sit and play this information. It has to go through many hours or detailed work to get it to appear as a sound piece.

Once entered into the music programme, piano role sheets were printed out, then stuck together to form the story board for the  animator. Here is part of one of those sheets.

Each note had to have its colour and what octave it belonged to, for transferring into his animation programme.

As you can imagine this took a long time with much liaison between us.

I have a belief that within each of us, are miniscule amounts of stardust; trace elements that have come to earth from other systems in the universe. Many belief systems are based on our ancestors being in the heavens, looking down at us, guiding us.

It felt right then, to have each piece of ancestral information displayed as a sequence of star bursts. The task for the animator was to ensure that each piece of information (one data entry note) began at the correct time, in the correct part of the sky (the octave on the stave) and in the correct colour (the coloured thread above each note on the map).

Here are individual stills of one area of star burst. The first is the wire frame still of number 1054, the second the rendered still.

So, to reiterate, every star burst represents a birth, marriage or death. It's colour refers to the coloured thread above that event dot on the Origins map at the top of this page. The placement of each note on the vertical axis depends on which octave it belongs to.

There are 4 beats to a bar and each beat on the horizontal axis represents one year. There are 17 frames of animation per year and each year lasts for 0.68 seconds. The notes run from the year 2009 through to 1797 where the order of the notes (not the music itself) is reversed to finish back in 2009. This ebb and flow of time links to gene inheritance, genetic memory and remembrance.

Gaps between the star bursts represent silence indicating a lack of ancestral events (i.e. no-one was born, married or died). All frames have a black background to them, which ensures that the silence appears as a normal part of the sky and musical sequence.

The animated graphic piece will be added when I have uploaded it to you tube.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Liminal Fragments Semester 2

I am very interested in the liminal which refers to a state of betwixt and between, neither one thing nor the other. 

At the precise moment that life ceases, the body is in a state of flux. It is not fully living nor fully dead, neither hot nor cold, not in one realm or the other. 

Does all life die when the body dies or can the essence/spirit/soul of our ancestors live on?

These photographs suggest the possibility that our ancestors are still here; but we are unable to see them because of their liminal state.

The final pictures were developed through many stages of print and application of filters.

Original 1918-1920's photographs were used, starting with my maternal grandmother Elsie. These were printed onto thick, iron on Vilene (the kind used to stiffen home made blinds).

Each panel was pulled apart, layer by layer, leaving a print that was almost transparent. Each person was cut out, mounted and  photographed with light projected from behind them. Then it was worked on through various layers of filters until I got the effect I was looking for.

Most of my peers found some of the effect unsettling but I thought they really reflected the effect I was trying to achieve.

 The finished one of her for the final exhibition (A1 size):

Maternal grandfather Phineas:

 The finished one of him for the final exhibition (A1 size):

Finally, my aunt (in law) Mary (left) and my mother in law Olive (right).

 The finished one of them for the final exhibition (A1 size):  


Monday, 9 April 2012

Towards the end of Semester 1

First of all, thank you Anne and Kevin for being followers of my blog.

The first few months of Year 3 were an absolute whirl wind. Not only was there a huge dissertation to get to grips with, we also had to continually evolve and move our thoughts and ideas forward. It didn't seem that long at all, before Christmas was over and the hard work of getting ready for our final exhibition began.

As you can imagine, and as be shown here, what you end up with at the end of Semester 1 and Semester 2/ exhibition is very different, or should be.

Below are some screen shots of a booklet I made to show how I was thinking, some pictures of work in progress and how I might envisage my exhibition (apologies for the slight blurriness, but they are screen shots of word documents).

Finally, here is what my studio area looked like at the end of Semester 1.


Sunday, 8 April 2012

Ancestral Bowls

So began the third year of my BA Fine Art.

Being a keen genealogist, I knew I wanted to create work derived from our ancestral information. The starting point was the creation of a large map detailing (with dots) their places of birth, marriage and death where known. Once that was done, coloured threads (based on the colour of these musical bells) were placed over the map.

This is a diagram of this process as the original, made from laminated pages of road atlas, didn't photograph very well. A small part of it before it was laminated is shown here.

The original map measured 5' tall by 4' wide. Wooden batons top and bottom, with little nails every centimetre, held the coloured threads in place. Being a sound/data artist, the threads would later be used to make the sound element.  For now though, this information would be of use for other work.

I came across an article on prayer bowls and felt this would be a good place to begin as I think about my ancestors on many occasions. I like working with textiles where possible (as noticed previously in my Titanic Life-jacket). Over the years I have acquired quite a few bits of silk and felt. Using these to create small sheets of fabric, would create an ethereal effect where light can shine through and radiate around it in the sun. These sheets were based on each person's colour code, taken from the corresponding thread colour above their dots for birth, marriage and death on the map.

Using a small bowl as a template, (covered in cling film for easy release) the squares of silky felt fabric were glued over it and left to dry. Here are the before and after shots of the bowls. 

Each one measured about 3" across and 2" deep. Here are two more close up:

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Constellation Titanica

As the centenary approaches of this dreadful disaster, I wanted to get my movie finished and uploaded. Although you can hear the morse code message in its original format, I have also re-worked it to give a different sound. Everything else you hear, is a result of quite literally plotting the night time constellations onto a stave.

I am still not very proficient with i movie 11 so hope you forgive anything you don't like but this is the best I can do and feel it is better than the original.

Hope you like it.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Titanic Part 4

By now, I felt I was well into my stride but felt something more could be done to visually represent all the nations of those who died.

Using many web sites, I was able to get as close a representation as possible, to what each countries flag would/might have looked like in 1912.  Working out what size I wanted my finished project to be, I replicated the required amount of flags in various subtle hues of the same colour to give a photo mosaic program, enough flags to work with.

The original photograph of Titanic came from here

Eventually, with much manipulation, the following picture represented a near finished product, ready to be sent off to specialist printers:
I asked them to print on silver paper before laminating and this was the end result:
It doesn't much look here, but on show in our dining room, it glints and shimmers, changing and reflecting different colours as the sun moves around the room!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Titanic Part 3

I thought long and hard about the Morse code messages that were being sent during the sinking. The message CQD, CQD (Come Quick Distress) this is Titanic, was repeated over and over for as long as possible. I wanted to create a piece of work which, with artistic licence, reflected this distress message, travelling through space.

Radio waves can be heard in space, how far away I didn't know at the time of making this piece. I have however now found this web site, which provides many answers to any questions you might have about such a concept:

This was to be part of my printmaking module and I wanted to produce work that was different. The technician kindly cut out of zinc, lots of 'dots and dashes'. In effect, these measured 1” x 1” (dot) and 2” x 1” (dash).

Whether you survive a disaster like this depends on many things, primarily getting to a boat and keeping warm. However, as I have previously said, it is not the survivors I am interested in but the victims. Many ended up in the water with and without life-jackets. Most would have died of hypothermia/injury. Those in life-jackets would have floated but the rest would have eventually sunk.

By dipping each of my zinc pieces into acid for varying lengths of time (judged by eye rather than time), I was able to obtain different etchings on the metal. Lightly etched was to reflect those in life-jackets/on floating debris, who may have stood a chance had they been rescued quickly. The darker etched pieces were for those unfortunates who died via injury, drowning or just got tired of swimming.

Using 5 pieces of mirrored tile a box with a re-enforced base was created. The base had the Morse code message zinc plates glued on. These plates contained a mixture of light and darker etched pieces. The 4 sides were gradually attached.

You can already begin to see the effect. Once the final side was in place, if you hunkered down to just level with the top and looked inside, this radiating message appearance was visible - camera notwithstanding!

The outside of the box was painted with several coats of silver metallic paint to give it the appearance of a more solid object - resembling in some ways, the modern equivalent of the 'black' box more commonly seen today.

Here it is on display.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Titanic Part 2

For the few days following the sinking, ships traversing along the route commented on what appeared to be 'flocks of seagulls in the water in the distance'. It was only as they drew near that they realised it was not seagulls, but the deceased floating in their life-jackets. There were also numerous empty life-jackets floating in amongst them.

Wanting to remember the victims of this disaster, the eloquence of such a statement again stirred something in me. The shape and style of life-jackets then, were completely different to today. The ones aboard Titanic had 4 small and two large oblongs of cork sewn into pockets, both front and back. Whilst cork floats well, the act of jumping into the water whilst wearing one, often resulted in bruised or sometimes fractured jaws!

I used this shape to design and create a 'rag rug' type jacket, similar to the above but with a different slant. Mine would be made from wool which although designed to keep someone worn, would also be waterlogged once wet. In effect, creating an item that might harm you as well as being ineffectual in keeping you alive once in water.

My 'jacket' needed to reflect not only the victims but their varying nationalities. After many weeks, each nations flags were identified relevant to that period in time. The borders were kept plain to reflect the colour and shape of an actual life-jacket. The cork areas would be replaced with individual knots. One knot one victim, in the colours of their nations flags. Here are the front and back photographs.

These next two show the side and inside views.

External comments at marking seemed to indicate that 
a) it looked like a child's cardigan or 
b) it was too pristine, should have been more distressed.

Those comments missed the point. Reading my explanation might have helped. Even though at first glance it could be interpreted as above, my point was that this was neither. It was a memorial, newly created therefore it looked pristine in the same way a new memorial would. If allowed to be exhibited permanently outside, it would in time become distressed.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Titanic Part 1

The second piece of work tackled concerned RMS Titanic. Like many people I was interested in the story and the unnecessary loss of life. These people in particular, many of them children and babies, spoke to me, pleading to be given a mention in the here and now. This 'plea' was to manifest itself in many different ways. 

Although most of the work I produced concerned the 'victims', the sound element was generated from remarks made by some of the survivors.

Allowing for the hours they were in the lifeboats, many spoke of how bright the stars were in the black velvet sky. To help pass the time, some endeavoured to find and identify the constellations.

I found which constellations were visible in the northern hemisphere in April 1912, looking from the west, up to the north and to the east. The pattern they created gave me my music. Not being a musician is where my working pattern takes a long and winding rode.

To begin with, a large piece of lino was drawn on (constellations reversed to print correctly) then each star drilled out to give an indentation.

As drilling progressed, an interesting look emerged. In the end, a print was not taken from the lino as the ink would have obliterated the pattern. Unfortunately, I can't find the end photograph - sorry.

For this lino to be useful, photographs had to be taken of it (reversed again to get them in the correct formation). Then each star was plotted onto an excel spread sheet before being transferred into my music programme, note by note.

Here you can see one of these designs, constellation lines marked in and errors being highlighted ready for correction. For now, on this particular element I have to stop. I have viewed the video/slide show I originally created and its condition is quite poor for some reason. Until I can create a new one, I'll show you some more of the work created for Titanic.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Clock Patience - The video!

For those of you I know who have been patiently waiting to see the very first sound work I created from data, here it is.

This was produced 4 years ago now and things slowly but surely got better.

Well, providing it all works okay, I hope you like it. If not, I hope you find the concept interesting.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Non-sonic side of Clock Patience

Whilst waiting to sort out the sound side of Clock Patience, I decided to weave the music. My husband built me a 34 piece peg loom and using fishing line, the music was slowly weaved onto it. The stave was created in different coloured foil threads and the notes were added using washers.

The whole idea was to create an ethereal piece of work. These two photographs are all that is left of this particular piece. A shame really, as looking at them, I realise now how nice it was as a standing piece of art.

Monday, 27 February 2012

My first attempt

The first inkling of a new form of sound, to me at least, came through playing a card game of patience known as 'Clock Patience'. As the cards were turned over, I realised if I noted down in what order they were played, this might form a basis of a short sound piece.

Game 1 
18 cards left

Game 2
K,3,Q,K,5,7,10,7,J,4,10,8,4,Q,9,A,6,K,6,9,2,5,3,J,8,J,4,8,10,2, 6,
5 cards left

Game 3
28 cards left

Game 4
1 card left

As this sound piece was designed around a game of clock patience, it seemed fitting to use a clock face to place my notes. Initially, I didn't want the King to be played. It was in the centre where the clock hands would sit and therefore was not part of reading time. 

However, it proved too difficult to miss a note so the whole thing had to be rethought. If sharp notes were excluded that would leave only 7 notes for a 12 part clock. Still no use. If we still placed the King in the middle of the clock face and allocated one note only to it, that would leave 6 notes to be divided between the rest of the clock face. So we decided to allocate two opposing numbers on the clock face to one note. Sounded simple once we decided. However, how do you decide which notes to allocate to what number and which of the four games to play?

Below is a chart working our way through this conundrum beginning with Game 1. We then realised the answer was staring us in the face and decided not to proceed with converting the other three games!

12:00 = Note G was not used as we decided to keep G solely for the King card.

If you look at the line with 12:00 = Note E, you will see 4 notes underlined. They spell the name CAGE. It is the only place in this whole sheet that the name appears. As I was investigating John Cage at the time, it seemed right to use this variation of note to number allocation. There you are, never look a gift horse in the mouth. 

As I can't play any instrument (well, a keyboard but quite badly), my husband offered to be recorded playing Game 1 for me. I simply handed him the sheet as above and asked him to play it anyway he felt like. 

I am still working on that very early piece of video to upload it to You Tube so it can be shown on this blog eventually.