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Friday, 8 February 2013

The Residency at The Water Tower: Part Two, The Boats

From looking at the themes of Faith and Belief I started thinking about hopes and dreams and how the two connect in different ways. Often, in religious establishments and situations or rituals, candles are lit as a symbol of the lord enlightening darkness; therefore giving hope to the believer. In my own opinion, the light that the candle disperses is very organic, warming and calming, and does seem to posess some kind of life of its own, as well as a fragility; if it is neglected or a breeze blows in its direction with too much force, it will extinguish the flame and it will die.

To use candles within the work I was going to have to construct some kind of lantern. I thought if I could use my prints on these it would give them a new life and a new appearance. From absorbing the surroundings and the environment I found myself in, I also wanted to use them within the work somehow.

Every day that I woke up and looked out I saw Ros Stoddart's sculpture, Viewfinder. It seemed to offer a gateway in to a different, organic and anonymous world that lay beyond. I went on long walks through the forest. Nobody knew where I was, and, quite frankly, neither did I, which was a refreshing feeling that I very much enjoyed. As you became part of this mysterious, contrasting world, the first thing you crossed was the pond. I had to figure out a way of inviting other people to share the same experience and enchanting feeling, communicating this to them through the use of art.

Ros's sculpture, Viewfinder, reflected in the pond

Here are a few snaps I took while out exploring the forest... and the capabilities of my new camera! Please click on any of the images to see larger.

Spider hammocks
Marsh lands from heavy rain
Tree tops
I was loving the contrast in colours - the bright oranges against blacks - and the textures - wiggly little mushrooms against circular ringed wood with straight lines and triangular shapes
Swooshing spider trail
Harmonious colourful tree trunks
Close up texture of the underside of a bracket mushroom
Spooky tree sillouettes

Some people would look in to this environment and consider it scary and eerie rather than ideal. If there is light, people seem to find this comforting. To give the light even more life of its own, I thought that floating the candles on the pond in little boats would be the ideal way to do this. I began testing different constructions in various sizes to see which one would work best.

Testing the boats in the water bath, usually used to soak paper before etching

Then I had to test the boats in situ on the pond...

During the day...
... and at night

The way the boats moved by themselves was haunting, yet encapsulating at the same time.

After establishing that the boats would work I now had to print my designs on to the top section of each one.

During my time at The Water Tower,  I met some very interesting people. Ros introduced me to her friend, Agris Krumins and his daughter, Sarma, who make short films together. One night at The Water Tower they were showing their film, In a Tongue That's Mine, based on the Latvian community living in Corby. It was very interesting to watch the reactions it provoked throughout the audience, after it had finished. It effected everyone there, in one way or another.

After the film had concluded people were encouraged to bring questions to the floor. While they did so, I sneaked out quietly down to the pond, where Sarma and her brother helped me light the boats and launch them. When the question time had finished inside, the audience were invited to come outside and down to the pond to view a Work-In-Progress show by the resident artist - me!

I was really nervous as I didn't know if it would work or not. Paddling around in the pond in the dark was also quite a challenge! There were 11 printed boats over the pond for the audience to take in and, luckily, the weather was on my side too. It was a beautiful, crispy cold, clear starry night, which only added to the work and the effect it had on the audience.

When I joined everyone else inside, after watching the boats at the pond, the response I got was really positive. A woman told me she found the whole experience very uplifting, which was exactly what I had been aiming for! I was really happy with this. Another person said they loved the starry sky, and then the light from the little bots down below to reflect this. Obviously, this was outwith my control, but you can't knock good feedback!

Maybe I jinxed things. As I printed and constructed the boats for the final installation towards the end of the week, the weather gradually got colder and colder. The pond froze and it snowed... a lot! The boats from the Work in Progress show became frozen in to the water and, unfortunately, I was unable to launch the final ones and complete the installation.

This was frustrating, however, not the end of the world - I have left everything ready to go at The Water Tower and will return there in the coming months to hopefully complete the installation as planned!

Monday, 4 February 2013

The Residency at The Water Tower: Part One, The Banner

I've now been back in Cambridge for just over two weeks after completing a two week Artist Residency at The Water Tower just outside of Brigstock, near Kettering. It may have only been two weeks ago but it feels like it was another world, a million miles away now! A perfect environment. I was able to be completely submerged and involved within my working process during the time I was there. I felt deeply enlightened after spending time here, and saw the residency as a sort of spiritual journey. When I was there I used the studio every day, and most days I was creating work from around 9 in the morning until about 10:30 or 11 o'clock at night.

I began to think about my practice and relate it to faith, belief and religion. I started examining the relationship of the artist with their art and comparing it to that of the relationship between someone who has faith in a religion or a God. Although I am not religious myself, I have a strong interest in the aspects of religion, and in the themes of faith and belief, which also inform my work. I started trying to create a visual language, which the audience would be able to interpret through imagery rather than text. I see art as a very powerful tool and believe in it like a religious person would believe in a God.

Carving lino became like a meditation or a chant to me and helped me to free my mind, concentrate and enjoy the task. It became like a hypnotic state, trance or addiction of some sort. I kept thinking to myself, 'I'll stop after I finish this little bit,' and then I would still continue, 'just a little bit more'! Until I had created a suite of 10 lino blocks.

From these blocks I could sculpt and build a bigger pattern using different colours. I mixed 5 colours and used the same ones throughout the project to keep consistency and create a link between the different outcomes I intended to achieve. 

Mixing the colours to use throughout the production
Each colour wrapped in a piece of plastic bag to stop it drying out and keep things tidy... ish!

I took inspiration from the concept of Chakras. There are seven of them in each individual, corresponding to different areas of the body, in a colum from the base of the spine to the top of the head, each with its own colour. According to tradition, each Chakra can effect psychological and physical health within everyone; the charkas have to be balanced. Although I am not an expert in this realm by any means, I found the concept very interesting and I kept it in mind while I was making.

Places of worship often use banners to communicate a message from a higher power. I enjoy creating work on a big scale as I love the impact it has. 

Developing large work on paper has become difficult and very stressful for me to transport around, so I created a fabric banner to express myself and find a release through the process of making the artwork, just as believers do through praying. The video below shows the moment we dropped the banner from The Water Tower.

I loved the movement the breeze gave the fabric, as it seemed to give the design a new kind of life about it that I hadn't seen in my work before.

The prints on the fabric are inspired by islamic calligraphy which, I think, uses beautiful forms and shapes, even though I can't read any of it!  Although this is what the banner means to me I welcome suggestions and love hearing what each individual understands and takes from what they see.

My banner hanging from the Water Tower balcony, with 'View Finder' by Ros Stoddart in the foreground

The banner was the start of things to come. When I finished making it and photographing it I intended to cut it up to make a new leg of the project, but after the efforts put in to making it, and the discouragement of others who had seen the finished banner (telling me not to take my scissors to it), I couldn't quite bring myself to dismember it... 

To be continued.....

Portable: Affordable Exhibtion at Williams Art

Since before Christmas I have been in liaison with the owner of Williams Art and have successfully negotiated an exhibition with him for my classmates and I to exhibit our work. On Thursday I helped hang and curate the show and by the end of it I was really happy with the results. The show looks really strong and its well worth a visit for anyone interested in Printmaking or Contemporary Art.

Here's the Press release for the show. More information and samples of each artists work can also be found on the Williams Art website by following this link.

Portable : Affordable

12 MA Printmakers from Anglia Ruskin University

This event features twelve emerging printmakers, currently in the final year of completing their
MA, each one of them with a different message they wish to communicate with the world,
through the use of Print. They join to present an exciting exhibition of diverse printmaking
techniques, methods and concepts. The Printmakers would like to invite you to the exhibition
at the freshly refurbished, Williams Art. The gallery, on Gwydir Street, just off Mill Road, will
be showcasing this unique body of work, including traditional processes such as etchings,
lithographs, linocuts and screen prints, in addition to digital prints and monoprints, all of which
will be for sale.

The gallery is connected to Hot Numbers Cafe so is ideal if you fancy relaxing with a coffee
and a cake, or even a spot of lunch, taking in the great work on display at your leisure. 

Williams Art
5 Dale’s Brewery
Gwydir Street

Private View: Wednesday 6th February 2013, 6-8pm.

Open daily, 1st – 12th February, 2013, 7:30am to 6pm (8:30am Sundays), Free entry.
Gallery staff are normally in attendance Tuesday to Friday, 12-5pm.
Parking outside, cycle racks nearby.

This is my friend, Jane Hellings, and I, after we had finished the hang for the show.

Please do come along to the Private View on February 6th 2013 between 6 and 8pm to see the show, meet the artists involved and treat yourself to a glass of wine. Look forward to seeing you there!