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By: Claire Weetman
I was awarded the Metal International residency to Shanghai as part of the Liverpool Art Prize and was in residence for four weeks in the city during November 2012.
This blog now charts how works begun in Shanghai continue to be developed back in my studio in St Helens.
# 29 [19 April 2013]
I'm not sure how this blog will progress now, as I've started a Re:view bursary blog, so you might find more updates pertaining to this body of work over there, and I don't want to duplicate myself.
Today I've been working on using the rubber stamp drawing process with stop motion animation, projection and more rubber stamps. Below is a video that I shot of the animation projected over the top of the drawing (sorry about the radio in the background). I'm about to start another stop-motion animation drawing with the stamps, but I got all set up, did some tests, then my camera battery needed charging. So to the computer for some blogging it is!
# 28 [12 April 2013]
I felt myself getting into a rut again with the stamped arrow drawings, but had a breakthrough on Wednesday this week. I'd always had in my mind that I could use this stamping process along with an animation process, so I had a go at photographing the drawings I'd made - panning across the surface of the drawing and seeing how that looks as a video.
I've projected those videos back onto the drawings and am quite excited about the combination. I think there's going to be some mileage in how the still paper interacts with the moving projection. I was at the Duchamp, Johns, Cage & Rauschenberg exhibition yesterday and among all the other interesting things there, there was a room on presence and absence - there is an interesting parallel between the permanence of the print and the temporariness of the projection and how they interact.
This morning I've made a drawing specifically for projection (although I've since played with layering it within the video edit) and thought I'd share it here. It was quite interesting how making the drawing for projection produced a flow on the paper that I hadn't tried yet - a way of not thinking about the aesthetic of the drawing too much (another link to seeing the Cage show yesterday maybe?)
# 27 [3 April 2013]
I've lots to share, it's been six weeks since I did the photograms and I've been having fun pushing the work more and refining the presentation of what I've already made.
I've framed up the photograms and I'm increasingly happy with them. I showed them, along with my other current work, to Lorenzo Fusi at a portfolio review at Castlefield Gallery in March. He felt that the photograms and the drawings were more dynamic than my proposals for the digital projection works, but I think that I agree with him and I know that I'm at the start of a process with that work.
After doing the photgrams I felt that I'd got into a rut with each piece of work following a prescribed pattern (left/right/up or down), so I've been to John Moores University to get some arrows cut into rubber stamp material using their laser cutting machine. I've also had them cut interlocking panels out of plywood to make display boxes for my pinned collages. I've spent the last 3 weeks adjusting, gluing and spray painting the boxes and three of them are finished, the last one is nearly there. I've been reeeeaaaalllyy patient with making these as I want them to look great, and I know that when I spray paint things that they always look rubbish because I rush. So I didn't. And they don't.
The rubber stamps of the arrows have been really freeing. I've been 'drawing' with them and I'm able to try different flows that I wasn't able to do when I was tracing the outlines or working 'blind' in the photograms. I've been trying to make myself work responsively to the page and the marks I'm making, trying not to think too hard, and pushing past the 'don't waste the expensive white paper' gremlins. (Thanks twitter folks for their 'just get on with it' support, it was a great help)
I've had a clear down of the wall where I peg works in progress and recent experiments and am now displaying the boxes so that I can photograph them properly. It's really refreshing to have a change of content in the studio, I'm going to look at the three sets of work (photograms, collages, rubber stamp works) and decide where to go next.
ooh, I meant to also write here that I'll be starting an off-shoot blog from this, as I'm fortunate to be receiving a Re:View Bursary from a-n. I'm going to have critical support from artists who have an established practice in digital interactive media and from staff and students at Salford University who can help me to develop my proposal for the digital interactive projection that I keep going on about.
# 26 [19 February 2013]
I've spent the last two tuesdays in the darkroom at the Brindley Arts centre in Runcorn, using their facilities to make some more work in the 'Would you tell me..' series.
I've been using the cut out arrow silhouettes placed onto photosensitive paper, then exposing the paper to the enlarger light numerous times - moving the arrows each time the light is turned off. It's a process akin to stop motion animation, but the effect is a series of stills, or something similar to those long exposure photographs of car headlights at night.
It's an interesting process to work with, as I work out how best to make the arrows move around within a space - something that is going to be really important as I make the floor projection that I plan. I am finding though that I'm doing the same thing over and over again - the composition of these works is the same as the pen drawings and my pinned collages, so the next thing on my to do list is to play with the meanings behind the arrows (as highlighted in the list of words in my last post). I think I might go back to pen, paper, and outlines - drawing around the cut out photographs, using certain arrows multiple times and trying to make the arrows communicate my interpretation of Shanghai's rhythm more strongly.
One thing that I'd note that this process has brought to light, is that not all of the arrows that I have got in my collection are suitable for creating the work I want to make, so careful selection of the arrows will be important as I proceed.
# 25 [15 February 2013]
I've been having a period of playing with the things and ideas I brought back from Shanghai in the past few weeks. I'm trying to prod and poke the ideas and works to see how they can develop further.
I've started some more pinned collages of the arrows - working in small balsa wood boxes and using limited colour palettes of the arrows. The boxes are quite interesting, as there's 2 'canvases' the body of the box and the inner lid. I'm thinking that they are like artist's books: small, contained, readable. I'd like to include some text with them, so I've been working with the script that I wrote for the show and tell at Castlefield Gallery last month.
I've highlighted words from that text, then I've been through the thesaurus for each of those words, selecting more words that seem to link in with the work. Here's the original list:
I've created a word cloud from the resulting list of words using tagul.com which I find helpful to highlight some of the more important words in my thoughts.
It's making me think more about the meaning behind the arrows, how they work in changing people's movement, how they link in with the rhythm of life in Shanghai.
I've been questioning whether I noticed more arrows in Shanghai because there were more or if it was associated with me not being able to read language so that was all I could read. I've been trying to take notice of arrows on signs now I'm back home, and they are there, but I feel that they don't jump out like they did while I was in China. There's definitely not as many stuck to the floor, and those are the ones that interest me most.
# 24 [24 January 2013]
I attended the Castlefield Gallery Associates meeting last night and was one of 6 artists to give a 5 minute 'show and tell'. I chose to share the 'Would you Tell me, please..." arrows work that I'm currently developing into a digital piece. It was really useful to condense the work into a 5 minute presentation. I also approached the presentation as a scripted talk, feeling that was the best way to get across what I wanted to in such a short time slot. I suppose it was a sort of monologue really, when I was writing it, I was trying to create some sort of rhythm. It was also useful to push me on to create something with the Flash skills that I learnt at the weekend. I've now got a slightly better version of the animation to show people.
The rest of the presentations were interesting too - a range of practices. From the research that Alice Bradshaw (http://www.a-n.co.uk/artists_talking/projects/sing...) is doing on Rubbish and it's use and references in art, to a review of work by Hannah Leighton Boyce (http://www.hannahleightonboyce.com/). Robert Carter shared his zine/cross-disciplnary event practice (http://autoitaliasoutheast.org/), Kathryn Miller is currently working at Blankspace in Manchester on the Verb Project (http://verbmanchester.wordpress.com/) and Nicola Ellis (http://www.nicolaellis.com) shared her experiences of participating in a launch pad exhibition at Castlefield Gallery. That and meeting and putting faces to names of artists I was aware of but had never met, it was a great night.
# 23 [20 January 2013]
I've started learning how to use Flash today. It's a steep learning curve, and there's loads that I don't understand. BUT, I have managed to adapt one of the pieces of code that the lecturers at Shanghai University made me, and to animate some of my arrows using the software.
Animated with flash:
One step at a time..
# 22 [18 January 2013]
A bit of a progress report:
-I've been to see someone at Liverpool John Moores University to see about getting some display boxes laser cut, and that is in progress. I figured that laser cutting plywood would give a neat finish and would allow me to pre-cut spaces for the LED light.
-I'm still working out how to do the animation/programming/interactivity for the digital arrows work. I've been to DOES Liverpool and they let me have a play with their kinect camera - however I got a bit scared of the whole programming language bit. One step at a time. I'm going to make an animation with the arrows first to see how it looks projected onto a floor and then work on the programming aspect of it. As part of this I'm currently digitising photographs of arrows, cutting them out from the background of the photographs that I took in Shanghai. I'm nearly half-way through, and that has taken a lot of hours so far.
-I've got some frames for my drawings, so I'm hoping to get them framed up towards the end of next week.
-I've had an unsuccessful proposal for one residency and one exhibition. I've got one more exhibition proposal pending. However, I am profiling the arrows work at Castlefield Associates 'Show and Tell' next Wednesday, and a meeting last week has lined me up with an exciting exhibition space to play with for July this year - more detail on that as plans get firmed up. I also need to apply to 3 community based projects to fill in the paid work and there's another exhibition opportunity that needs a proposal making too. Getting the work out there takes as much time and energy as making it!
# 21 [2 January 2013]
I normally keep my blogs here on artists talking to a narrow, time-limited period to fit in with being in residence somewhere, however, I've found that there's lots of threads of work that need finishing and developing from my month in Shanghai. So I'm going to keep writing for the time being.
I've now been home for nearly a month, although Christmas has taken a chunk out of the actual time to make much further work. I have however made the following progress:
- 3 collages that use strips of paper coated in graphite (and metallic tape, but that was less successful), lined up next to each other, and stretching vertically up the paper. I've made these to work through how I want the 'Architecture of Stairs' videos to look. I quite like them as drawings in their own right too - I plan to frame them up.
- A collage using self adhesive arrows on top of a map of Shanghai. The map itself has lots of little arrows on it - I think they are to indicate traffic direction - but there's loads of them. I think I'll also frame this up as a little piece of work. It's also a study for a series of photograms that I'd like to make. More on those as they progress.
- I've been to see my friend Gareth Houghton who has shared his After Effects editing skills (he edited this work in 2010 for me). I've started playing with the videos for the Architecture of Stairs work. It's resulted in this updated version of the video: http://www.claireweetman.co.uk/shanghaigallery_sta...
- I've been sat with a calculator all morning, going through some statistics that I got from the museum of urban planning in Shanghai. And I've drawn some diagrams representing per capita living area in Shanghai, and how it has increased in spite of the increasing population. I'm quite pleased how the boxes I've drawn seem to reflect the skyscraper-isation of the city over that time. Make me feel that the piece of work is heading in the right direction.
- I've been to see the William Kentridge print show at the Bluecoat in Liverpool and also to the 'Tracing the Century' show at Tate Liverpool, where I took some time to watch Kentridge's animations (Mine, Felix in exile, History of the main complaint). It's made me think about how the video that I'm trying to make for Architecture of Stairs needs a narrative to it. The Kentridge films are aesthetically and technically interesting, but they are also moving because of the story that they tell.
- I've been making a template for display boxes for the pinned collage works. A bit of a play with a LED from Maplin has resulted in a better lighting solution than standing next to each work with the flash from my smartphone. I'm thinking of getting the boxes laser cut in plywood and then sprayed black,
Ooh, and Christmas has brought a selection of further reading - I've now got Lefebvre's 'Rhythmanalysis', which is a longer work than the essay I was reading in Shanghai, plus the tome that is 'The Production of Space, which I think I'll be dippling in and out of. Plus a Psychogeography book by Merlin Coverley, the Pina Bausch DVD and Kentridge's Traces book of prints from MOMA which is a beauty.
I'm thinking that I'll need to set myself some deadlines for making work to ensure that I get on with the work that is underway, as I can forsee that balancing making this work with the freelance work and general admin that will start next week will be tricky (although at the minute the creative work is winning hands down over a backlog of admin)
# 20 [13 December 2012]
I've arrived home, rested from a peaceful holiday in Japan, unadjusted to the coldness and excessive Christmas songs of December. I feel like I might have broken through the jet lag, although I've been in bed by 9.30pm the past 2 nights.
I've actually come here to reflect on my use of the online exhibition that I created at the end of the residency, spurred on by this news item on a-n yesterday:
"We see the Internet as a 'para-site'; that is, a virtual space made up of multiple sites of articulation, that nevertheless function in relation to the properties of physical space. In this sense, the INMG can be seen to operate alongside the physical art gallery, and extend the boundaries and possibilities of exhibition into the expanded territory of the World Wide Web."
I had hoped that as I came to the end of the residency that I would be able to show the work I had made, along with earlier works in a physical exhibition at Shanghai University. They had gallery spaces, an amazing selection of AV equipment and I felt that having some sort of deadline to work towards would help to spur me on to finish things. As it turned out, there wasn't the time or the space available at short notice to realise the physical presentation, although the university will present my work to their students as part of their course in the near future.
Initially, my aim of creating an online exhibition of the work was made as a backstop - a plan B. Less important than the physical presence of the work in a physical space. However I found the method of bringing the works together for the online show really useful for reflecting and contextualising what I had made in this intense period of time. Right now, I think that if I hadn't done that reflection then, then it would have been sometime before I did it back home - what with the distractions of washing a month's worth of clothes, working out what to cook, and whether I've bought Christmas presents for everyone.
What has really surprised me though, is the feedback that I have got from sending the online exhibition out to my mailing list. I've had people reply to my invite to this 'exhibition' with their responses to the work. It's only a handful of people, and they are the people who I have an existing critical dialogue with, but it has felt as though people have taken the time to view what is essentially just a series of website pages, as a coherent exhibition - they have visited in the mindset that they might visit a physical gallery.
The idea to create a solely online exhibition came out of the work that I've been doing with POST (www.postliverpool.com). Our current project TRADING STATION was established to investigate whether creating a virtual/physical cross-continental artist exchange fitted better with the complex family lives and artistic practice that its members have. Through that project, we have tried to use online technologies to communicate the work, physical exhibitions and a series of newspapers that can be sent around the world cheaply. I think that the online technologies for communication and sharing in that project have been a bit hit and miss, but the combination of physical work, printed publication and the ability to share that publication online easily have been successful.
It is here that I refer back to the quote about the International New Media Gallery. About how they see an internet gallery operating alongside a physical gallery. TRADING STATION had the physical exhibition, but I feel that the physical publication reached more people due to it's mailability. Before leaving for Shanghai, I created a catalogue of works from the previous 2 years. A way of visually describing what I do, and a calling card to leave with people that I met. I've been mailing out the catalogue, along with the online gallery link to people both at home and in Shanghai. I'm hoping that this combined approach will generate further feedback from contacts, both known and speculative.
Claire Weetman, Visual Artist. Based in St Helens, UK.
Since 2009 Claire Weetman has worked internationally on exchanges, residencies and exhibitions including Linz, Schiedam and Istanbul.
Claire studied Fine Art at Liverpool John Moores University (2003). She is a founder member of POST Liverpool, a co-curatorial group of female artists working internationally with European Capital of Culture Cities. In 2011 she co-founded the artist-led studios and artist network Platform Art St Helens.