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Wirral Metropolitan College

By: Carol Ramsay

Studying for Fine Art BA (Hons) based in Wirral and accredited by John Moores University in Liverpool.

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U-Ram Choe, 'Opertus Lunula Umbra (Hidden shadow of the Moon)', 25/09/2008. Photo: Carol Ramsay. Courtesy: FACT, Wood Street, Liverpool. Amazing mechanical 'made up' creature, part of Liverpool Biennial 2008.

U-Ram Choe, 'Opertus Lunula Umbra (Hidden shadow of the Moon)', 25/09/2008. Photo: Carol Ramsay. Courtesy: FACT, Wood Street, Liverpool. Amazing mechanical 'made up' creature, part of Liverpool Biennial 2008.

# 1 [25 September 2008]

First week back at college to start year 3 was kind of crazy. I work part time for Liverpool Biennial and it was the grand opening in the same week, talk about busy!!

I did however manage to find time to write my learning plan for this term and try and 're-do' my sketch book which had so many ideas and sketches from throughout the whole summer  until I lost it somwhere between the Isle of Man & Germany..hmmm.

It is so great to be back at college, we have a great year and the ideas are already buzzing around between us all.

Today six of us took to Liverpool City Centre to see as many Biennial artworks as is humanly possible in one day and I have to say to anyone who happens to read this to take the time to go & see the Biennial, there is some amazing work this time (as always). My personal favourites so far have to be the Sarah Sze installation within the Bluecoat Gallery or the Annette Messager piece in the old ABC cinema (now Biennial visitor centre) or even U-Ram Choe's 'Opertus Lunula Umbra - Hidden Shadow of the Moon' on display at FACT, it is utterly mesmerising.

I have to go back with everyone next week and try to see the rest, there is so much left :)


# 2 [29 September 2008]

I decided to change electives this year and had our first meeting of the 'Site Specific' elective that I have chosen. First task is to work in a team of three, research the area of Exchange Flags in Liverpool and produce design boards & maquette for a proposed piece of work to be situated there.
I have spent a lot of time of the weekend researching the history of Exchange Flags and we're going to have a 'brain-storming' session on our coach trip to Yorkshire Sculpture park on Wednesday.
The great thing about this work is that we can be madly adventurous, money no object as it won't ever actually be produced. Fancy telling me money no object, ohh if only it was real!! 
The bad thing about this is - there is already a piece of work situated there for the Biennial  and it is amazing - so how do we even try to compete with it?
Ai WeiWei's spider has spun his web of lights right across Exchange Flags and at dusk, the crystals and led lighting cast the most amazing shadows onto the flag stones below.
Will have to try & think of something completely different that bears no spidery resemblance. Looking forward to this now :)

# 3 [2 October 2008]

This week included a trip to Yorkshire Sculpture Park to view work by Isamu Noguchi and Sophie Ryder amongst others. As always it was an impressive way to spend a day, even though it poured down most of the day and we were practically blown up the hill to the Longside Gallery. 

Been a busy week in all, we have a competition of sorts at the moment, a local firm of solicitors is interested in commissioning a large piece of work for their entrance and have asked the third year student’s at college to put forward proposal boards and maquette’s. There will then be a display in their office and one piece will be chosen to be made up and exhibited. I have been working on a piece that would involve laser cutting metal, the final prize would pay for fabrication of the piece so I figured I could design a piece I would not usually be able to afford to make. It involves using words in many different languages and it’s been interesting doing the research, not sure if all my words are perfect though but hopefully I’m not saying anything too dreadful. Some of the other proposals are very good though so I don’t know what my chances are.

 Also been researching for my elective work, so much of the work so far has been research and I’m looking forward to actually making something….. hopefully soon.


Carol Ramsay, 'Piano 1', digital photography and photoshop, 8/10/08.

Carol Ramsay, 'Piano 1', digital photography and photoshop, 8/10/08.

# 4 [9 October 2008]

Research, research, research.  I think people who are not artists or art students do not necessarily understand the amount of research involved in producing or even proposing a piece of work. This week, once again, I have not actually achieved any ‘art’work but have spent hours online and in the library and out in the field gathering information. I’m researching Sarah Sze as I have chosen her as the artist I will write my dissertation on this term. Prior to that I have to hold a seminar with fellow students to contextualise my practice and compare my own work with hers’ and offer questions for discussion. This is actually more difficult than first thought, as with a lot of contemporary artists, there seems to be not a lot of written information on her work. I have acquired a beautiful, old and badly tuned, broken walnut piano that I am hoping to use for my final degree show piece, so have been photographing and photo-shopping the images, I know what I want to do but am having to put it on hold as it will be such a huge piece of work. I don’t want to make any mistakes, so this term I will be finding other musical ‘items’ to use as maquettes for the final piece. I am spending a lot of time in charity shops and antique shops lately searching for the ‘right’ piece. No luck yet though.  

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I do think that we are pushed towards the idea that research is sometimes more important than creativity but without research where is the creativity? They do go hand in hand at times. I personally believe that the initial ideas in my sketch books have vibrancy and real energy about them but to then be transformed into a viable work of art I need research. I am meticulous with attention to detail and without research there wouldn't be as much this a bad thing? Possibly not but I feel my work benefits greatly by the backround information I have. It is true that most viewers would never know what has gone into a particular piece but I know and that is important to me. As for natural creativity, there are often times where I produce 'off the cuff' pieces that work amazingly well and that I am proud of so I feel creativity does not lose out to research. It is always present, just sometimes in need of a lick and a polish.

posted on 2008-11-29 by Carol Ramsay

I read with interest your post. It's interesting to have an insight into another world of studying the "same thing" What are your thoughts on the notion of research having to be behind a creative act ? I have been disappointed in the previous years where it's apparent that research has been more important than creativity. It's an age thing I guess, but are fine art degrees producing people able to research well and not necessarily promote their creativity ?

posted on 2008-10-10 by Andrew Martyn Sugars

'Carol Ramsay'.

'Carol Ramsay'.

# 5 [17 October 2008]

Had a bad health week so not as much work done as hoping this week. Saying that, I have used my sketch book a lot more whilst waiting for hours in hospital corridors and being laid up, the ideas were still flowing. I have scoured charity shops and internet auction sites for the right objects to start off my work, I know the piano will form a final piece so have decided (so far anyway) to stay music oriented so that the work will progress naturally to the piano. I eventually managed to acquire a radiogram and a broken violin…for free too! The violin will act as a maquette in theory.  I toyed with blowing it up, smashing it with a hammer or jumping up & down on it but in the end I very carefully took it apart piece by painstaking piece and have laid it out in a plan form. It is waiting for me now, to get to the next phase, exciting stuff. 

Site specific is going well, so far a lighting installation and a stainless steel sculpture and I have chosen a 3rd site to research. 3 down two to go!

'maquette for 'trust'', ink on glass.

'maquette for 'trust'', ink on glass.

# 6 [29 October 2008]

Time seems to be shooting by, I have been so busy that I just forgot to diarise what I’ve been doing. I am stressing a bit about time, saw a great quote today which sums it up– Time is what we want most, but... what we use worst.  ~William Penn. 

The solicitors holding the competition met this week to view all the presentation boards so we should find out the results very soon which is good a lot of work went into the designs by all of us, actually felt guilty doing it when I should have been concentrating on my core work really.  

I have been collecting & recycling objects, I love the way being at college works, we all help each other out, three of my friends have given me broken musical instruments already, I am enjoying the monotony of taking them apart, cataloguing each piece so that they will all ‘fit’ together again of they were ever to be rebuilt. Rebuilding them is not part of the plan, I want people to explore the boundaries between art & everyday life, wonder why an instrument can become a piece of art, question the presentation of it in it’s many pieces. Music is a huge part of most people’s life whether they know it or not via radio, cd’s or ipods.I feel people will relate to a musical instrument even if it takes on a different form. Think of the humorous ‘Loophonium’ or ‘Harpic-phone’ by Fritz Spiegl., it has been a huge hit on display at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool since it’s acquisition. 

Also been working my way around the many Biennial art works there are to see, it’s the long night tomorrow which I am looking forward to. I’m taking a group on a tour of the various galleries and public art pieces which stay open until 11pm for one night only, should be really good, I am full of flu but will wrap up and have a brandy to warm the cockles.


Yayoi Kusama, 'Gleaming Lights of the Souls', LED Light installation, 01/11/2008. Photo: Carol Ramsay. Courtesy: Liverpool Biennial.

Yayoi Kusama, 'Gleaming Lights of the Souls', LED Light installation, 01/11/2008. Photo: Carol Ramsay. Courtesy: Liverpool Biennial.

# 7 [3 November 2008]

Well, the big news of the week is….. I won the competition in college, which came as a great surprise. A few of the entries were really good so I was genuinely shocked that I won but hey, woohoo to me. I will get some prize money for myself but also they are paying to fabricate my piece of work which will be a couple of thousand pounds, very exciting stuff. More importantly I will be able to use all the work & research towards my site specific elective work, imagine how brilliant it will be to have a professionally fabricated steel artwork to show to the assessors. What’s even more fantastic is because my work will only cost about £2K to make, our lecturer persuaded the company to take an extra piece of work so my friend Julie also has a commission now, so pleased for her too.

I have a seminar to go to on Wednesday, 9 of us present a brief seminar on our essay’s  and have a question and answer session, should be really interesting to hear everyone else’s research and ideas.

The Long Night of the Biennial that I mentioned last week was a great night; we viewed a phenomenal amount of art, walked for miles and still managed a good few pubs in between, my cold was much worse the next day but so worth it!!! Saw Sarah Sze work at The Bluecoat again and it re-enforced to me that I have made the right decision choosing her piece to write about.The next day went to see the Biennial work at Pilkingtons Warehouse, again all impressive but what stood out most to me had to be Yayoi Kusama’s light installation which was utterly mesmerising. An unreal infinity that you could stay in all day.

On top of all this, I have worked incessantly on Critical Study write ups all through Reading Week and am glad to be back in college to actually ‘make’ things again. Oh, also this week I volunteered on a collage workshop at the Williamson Art Gallery. Thoroughly enjoyed it and have offered my services again whenever the organiser needs me. Some of the works were really impressive and It was such a buzz to see the kids faces when they realised they had actually produced a piece of art that then went up on the wall of the gallery.


Carol Ramsay, 'Deconstructed hymn book'.

Carol Ramsay, 'Deconstructed hymn book'.

# 8 [15 November 2008]

So busy it’s untrue, I’ve taken next week off work so that I can be in college more, just have too much to do before the Christmas assessment!! I have finished my essay, which was a huge relief, needs a bit if tweaking still but otherwise I think I’ve cracked it.

 Core work itself is going well, I have been working on my musical ‘airfix’ type models and didn’t realise quite how much would be involved, each piece has to be so precisely positioned so that the item could actually fit back together again. The ‘instruction manual’ plays a key part of the work so I have spent hours reverting to my ~long idle~ graphic design skills and also getting printing quotes this week.A fabulous local company have amazingly offered to print these for free, I shall be eternally grateful! On the other end of the artistic scale I’ve (literally) smashed up an old ‘Pye Princess’ radiogram to be hung from the ceiling & wall as if exploded - nothing precise about this work! Trying to smash the casing whilst leaving the actual radiogram in tact so that I can play music from it was difficult. It would be so much easier to just set to with a hammer and vent all my artistic frustrations into smashing it completely to smithereens, alas it was not to be but once I’d prised the casing off, I had a good old go at it - strangely therapeutic actually!This work will be actual & tangible, encased into or exploding out from a pre-constructed frame.

There will also be ‘deconstructed’ sheet music books to accompany the instruments.Music is such a huge part of most people’s lives that I’m hoping the final installation may well reach out to a new audience, viewers who are not necessarily interested in contemporary art but who will recognise the instruments and perhaps just enjoy viewing them in an altogether different manner.

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Absolutely, I refer to Cornelia Parker in my journal, the flattened instuments was called 'Breathless' and is an amazing piece. I have posted an image of my radiogram but I need to tweak the 'actual' work so will post real photo next week.

posted on 2008-11-29 by Carol Ramsay

My thoughts too, Parker also uses instruments in a few of her pieces as well as the 'exploded' form. I cant recall the name right now, but theres a piece of flattened brass instruments. Just wanted to say that ive got an incredible visual image in my mind, would really appreciate seeing some documentation and installation photos.

posted on 2008-11-16 by Erin Rickard

I read with interest about your smashing practice. Can you link your creative activity with Cornelia Parker's at all ?

posted on 2008-11-16 by Andrew Martyn Sugars

Carol Ramsay, 'Songbook 1', paper and cotton.

Carol Ramsay, 'Songbook 1', paper and cotton.

# 9 [23 November 2008]

It’s the closing of Liverpool Biennial on Sunday and we are auctioning off furniture and items from some of the installations and I have two Swedish artists coming over to finish their final work, so I’ll be in work and trying to look after them from Thursday which means I really have to get all my work finished and displayed by Wednesday…a few more long nights ahead but it will be worth it (she says hopefully……more to herself than anyone else). 

 I am in my element at the moment, as much as I hate the stress I also thrive on it I think! I love the vibe around college right now, just over a week to go until the assessments and people are getting ever so slightly crazy. 

Essay and seminar notes all have to be handed in tomorrow, thankfully I finished that last weekend so I haven’t been too anxious about it. 

I have managed to get some 12ft wood pieces fitted to my space so that I can hang my work from above. (Our ceiling at college is way too high to reach so this is a ‘make-do’ version.) I feel a bit like I’m working in a restaurant gazebo but it seems to work. 

Finally completed one of my ‘songbook’ pieces and have the frame of the radiogram fixed to the wall. Just have to ‘explode’ the sections of that now. The airfix style guitar and violin are well on the way to being finished and the instruction plans are at the printers so all in all I’m on track. For those who remember the A-Team, in the words of the great Hannibal ‘I love it when a plan comes together.’

Carol Ramsay, 'Deconstructed radiogram', recycled radiogram & fishing wire.

Carol Ramsay, 'Deconstructed radiogram', recycled radiogram & fishing wire.

# 10 [29 November 2008]

Madness ensues….I have started exhibiting my work for assessment. The Radiogram is now exploded and hangs as if in suspended animation in my studio space yet curiously I prefer it moving, when it brings the radiogram alive once again. 

I have started a second song book, which take such a long time to construct I worry that I may not complete this before Tuesday’s assessment but I will continue as I feel the collective works better with two books. 

The airfix models need yet more plasti-cote spray paint but I ran out today so need to venture to B&Q again tomorrow for more, another 2 coats methinks.

I had a disappointment this week with the plans though. The printers have just used white 80gm paper which is not what I had asked for but I felt I could not complain as they had done a favour for me and not charged me. Now I am in a quandary, do I use the copy I have or do I run around like a lunatic on Monday to fins somewhere that can print onto newsprint as I envisioned? Attention to detail is key to my work and I know I’ll be unhappy if it’s not exactly what I want but I wonder where will I find the time?

 I wanted to call my work deconstructionism but the literal meaning of that does not have the right meaning for me.

deconstructionism - a philosophical theory of criticism (usually of literature or film) that seeks to expose deep-seated contradictions in a work by delving below its surface meaning. 

Then I thought maybe deconstructivism may be a better term:

deconstructivism - a school of architecture based on the philosophical theory of deconstruction school - a body of creative artists or writers or thinkers linked by a similar style or by similar teachers; "the Venetian school of painting"

but again I don’t feel that suits. Yet to construct fits even though I am taking apart or exploding items the meaning is appropriate.

construct Verb1. to build or put together 2. Geom to draw (a figure) to specified requirements 3. to compose (an argument or sentence) Noun1. a complex idea resulting from the combination of simpler ideas 2. something formulated or built systematically 

So; constructionism the use of or reliance on construction or constructive methods.

..seems right, even though I rely on deconstructive methods I have decided that constructionism is how I will refer to this genre of work.

If that seemed complex you wanna see the work!

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Carol Ramsay

Illustrator for 18years & now mature student on Fine Art degree course and loving every minute of it.

I seem to be concentrating on Installation work, very far removed from the work I used to do.

Final year, leading into our degree show I am hoping to keep posting regularly on this blog. But with 2 kids & a part time job too...who knows?