Visual art exhibitions and events with a platform for critical writing
Page 10 of 12 :
list in reverse orderReverse order:
This project blog »
Ideas? Technical issues?
» Feedback to a-n
By: Franny Swann
A record of my footsteps as I negotiate the projects that come my way.
# 28 [26 July 2011]
Project Two: Last week I visited a lovely artist friend of mine at her residency in a crypt in Hastings. We both have respect for each other’s work and keep saying we should collaborate on a project. Generously she has asked me to join her for the last two weeks of her residency. It is always so special when an artist you admire validates your work in some way. Now I feel I don’t want to let her down…..
She is working with the story of young women who visited Hastings for the ‘sea cure’ for TB. Some of who died there, young and far away from home.
So yet again I shall be drawing – moths this time. Universally symbols of the soul they seem to match with the muted colours of her work and to belong in an underworld. Now I am trying to decide if I will draw one moth 60 times or differing ones. As I have about two weeks to do this in I will be up against the wire.
Why do we do this to ourselves? I don’t know an artist who doesn’t overextend themselves, take on too much, can’t say no if the project is exciting enough………
Something about the way a dead moth has its legs crossed reminds me of the medieval tombs of praying knights. I can see them in serried ranks on my paper. Strange how ones visual memory works.
# 27 [26 July 2011]
Well, well, here we are again….
Three projects on the go this time. I did think about doing a separate blog for each but somehow it seemed like just adding even more to my overheated brain.
I am hoping the blog will help me separate them out and see where I am going with them all.
Project One: Memorial to the Unconsidered…..I have been collecting and drawing found dead insect for nearly a year. I draw them life-size, in pencil, onto an Imperial size piece of paper. It’s St Armaund’s handmade Turtle –white- with embossed squares of differing sizes laid into it. I have grown to love working with its fineness over the time and am now completely spoilt for anything else. Under each insect I write the date on which it was drawn. In my mind I have always seen the finished work as a triptych – three Imperial sheets framed like an old altarpiece,,,,,,,, I had no idea how long it would take when I started. Just forever I now discover. I have now drawn over 200 and another 60 to go on my first piece of paper.
There has been a recent panic when I found Falkiners had only ordered smaller sheets of my paper this time. All is saved though as I have made friends with someone in the French factory who is going to hand make me two sheets and send them over. I sent him images of the work and he loved them - and I now love him as he has saved my project for me. Memo to self – buy the paper you will need while you can even if you have to dip in the piggy bank.
So – project one rolls on like a sort of background hum………....I do some drawings and then get side tracked for a while until guilt brings me back to the drawing table. Then I get all involved and then called away yet again………
# 26 [28 February 2011]
Well here I am late at night thinking about writing a blog again........do I have enough time - do I use it as an excuse when artistic decisions get hard or does it clarify my thinking?
It is imposible to be totally honest on the blog. Should I put myself in that position?
Does that nullify the whole point of the thing?
Not my own work problems but working as I do - collaboratively, project driven.....it is the impossibility of discussing funding problems /difficulties with collaborators etc, during an ongoing project. Yet they affect the work. ones mood, the outcomes........
Plainly this is not a difficulty for those studio artists for whom the blog is between themselves and their work.
Hmm......I will give it more thought....
Meanwhile I shall add my page of a collaborative printmakers book 'Quattrodecim' that 14 of us completed this month.
Because the ants are fun and I feel in need of a smile.
# 25 [3 May 2010]
Another project successfully negotiated. Private View well attended and great fun. For a while now I have been coming round to the realisation that I work best in collaboration. It was such a buzz to see my collaborating poet so excited about seeing our work finally assembled in the fish tank and great to see young artists taking time to really look and read and consider it.
October 2009 when Rowyda and I had begun our collaboration seemed a long time ago. We had begun with an e-mail correspondance in which we discovered a shared interest in heritage,memory,loss and secret keeping. We had exchanged ideas, photographs and poems and visited the British Museum together. From New Year onwards we had worked together on the goose bones, looking at the idea of the artwork as a fabricated museum object and the concept that museum objects are displaced, far from the cultures that created them.
Now it was done and there was a sadness in that although we pledged to try for another collaboration later on.
As all the works were artist/ poet collaborations the poets had time and space granted to them during the Private View to read their poetry. It was a new experience for many artists not used to long poetry readings and a lesson in repecting others creative work even when it stopped the party in its tracks for a while.
This year I have done projects in London and in Kent and I have noticed that artists who only work in town take for granted the freedom of approach that they are afforded when making work. The constraints of the counties is subtle but corrosive. Courage is needed in the face of incomprehension and active dislike of work deemed unremarkable in a London gallery.
How long ago was that urinal?!
It has also underlined for me the sad fact that work done in London is still viewed as having a greater 'art currency' than similar work shown in Kent. One of course knows that, but it still feels like a betrayal.
# 24 [13 April 2010]
The collaborative project that I am involved with is approaching its conclusion, but somehow this last stretch is proving difficult.
My poet collaborator’s poem has placed my ‘hoard’ of objects fashioned from goose bones as belonging to a water culture that lived by the sea.
Although I like the poem I am now finding it hard to relate it to my work.
I only realised how difficult when I found myself rethinking the presentation of the work. We had discussed it being presented in a museum case or on a museum exhibits tray, but the poem now seems to ‘float’ separately.
Is this disjunction ok? Does this mean the collaboration is in some way a failure?
This type of long distance collaboration with both partners committed to both the collaboration and other projects was always going to be fraught with problems. Doubtless both will bring unspoken and maybe even subconscious expectations, and doubtless both will disappoint the other in some way. Without the trust and intimate knowledge of the other that is forged with, say, a studio partnership how to overcome the politeness of acquaintance communication/interaction to ask the other for more or different or less?
We have decided to exhibit the work in a large modern fish tank, neatly sorting many of the problems inherent in our venue and I am presently hunting acrylic boxes and blocks for the interior.
This has also necessitated the manufacture of another work to manage the space and a search for a solution that would anchor the poem to the work.
The poet has responded to my work and I find that I am now responding to the poem in the presentation. Interesting and unexpected.
Today I spent the day with net and fish bones but I am pleased with the resultant work.
Without the poem conundrum this ‘net’ work would never have come into being……….yet again being in an uncomfortable place has pushed my work into an unexpected outcome.
# 23 [6 April 2010]
Well – I am not 56 and a half anymore!
Interesting thing about the internet of course is that out there in the ether I shall be 56 and a half for ever. Maybe I am on to something here.......digital eternal youth...........
I did have a weird internet moment recently. When looking idly at the website of the poet I am collaborating with I was shocked to see my name. By mentioning her on this blog I had inserted my name on her website.
A reminder of just how careful one must be; and not the first one.
I once came across a comment I had made about Dartford reproduced on a website that I was researching. At the time I was asking for funding from Dartford Council!
Nothing amiss had been quoted - but it was a timely wakeup call. As far as I am aware, however intensely embarrassing, there is no way of removing anything from the net?
Strange thing the internet.
Internet etiquette for example……..the imperceptible slide from ‘Dear’ to ‘Hi’……….and the sudden realisation that you are now just plain wrong.
E-mails getting shorter by the day as half of each word gets swallowed up by text speak..........everything in life nowadays needing to be shorter, quicker, more impatient. How come the older we get the faster time goes? What is that about? When young we seem to wait an unbearable time to get to be 16 from 15………
Sometimes you can get an unintended internet laugh. Following a missive from an Arts Officer advertising workshops I promptly got another from an artist on the list - asking if anyone could give her cleaner’s friend a job. Sent to [you guessed it] everyone on the Arts Officer's mailing list!
I did subsequently toy with the idea of a project based on subverting other peoples mailing lists………..
# 22 [5 April 2010]
I finally discovered that my Tallit work had been torn from the exhibition wall - in front of the Arts Centre staff - by someone known to them for their challenging behaviour.
It had been rescued and stored for me and was shortly restored to its rightful place where it hung without further problem until the end of the exhibition.
My work was in the form of the Tallit - an undergarment worn by orthodox Jewish men. It takes the shape of a four cornered garment with a long fringe at each corner. The fringes when fingered are there to remind the wearer of their religious duties. Although my Tallit was sewn from a bed sheet I taught myself to tie the ‘tzizt’ or fringes according to custom so as to give the ‘garment’ the respect I felt it was due.
The work is part of a series called ‘Kaddisch’.
Kaddisch is the ancient Aramaic recitation said on the death of a family member. My grandfather died in a concentration camp and so Kaddisch was never said for him. These works stand as Kaddisch for both him and other family members lost in the Holocaust.
Yad Vashem is a huge memorial collection of names and information posted by relatives of the dead. I replicated in pencil on the bedsheet my grandfather’s entry of death and his portrait photo.
Above this on the garment are what appear to be coloured abstract patterns. These were the tags worn by camp inmates. They designated the persecuted group they belonged to – Jewish, homosexual, gypsy, disabled…… Below that is an extract from Goering’s speech in 1938 and a contemporaneous diagrammatical attempt to prove Aryan racial superiority using Mendel style ‘science.’
It sounds complex but it presents as simply a T-shirt until studied closely.
This is the way I work: always attractive and approachable but with an underlying darker narrative of memory or memorial. In this case I had hoped that the numbers on all the documentation would resonate with the viewer– a vibrant life reduced to lists and numbers.
The incident has however made me consider the content of my work and its place in a public space.
How would I have responded if the perpetrator had been Jewish and objecting to the form of the Tallit even though the message on it was of man’s inhumanity to man? Or possibly someone who objected to the words ‘concentration camp’ as being unsuitable for the space -an Arts Centre exhibition wall alongside a cafe? Do my rights as the artist override any offence my work causes to its audience and if so why? Does the fact that it is ‘art’ make it inviolable?
Had I put up the entry from Yad Vashem, the speech from Goering and the diagrams with an explanation and then presented it as a history lesson in this space would I still feel it appropriate?
I guess I might think it an odd choice – yet although I do realise that the bed sheet format of the works we exhibited and the content of my work might challenge this audience, I do for some deep seated reason, still feel comfortable with the same information presented as an art piece. Why?
Interrogating ones history is of course an area of practice that offers an artist the integrity of experience, insight, awareness, perception, and hindsight. No wonder it is well mined in every creative media.
Autobiographical work is familiar country for the contemporary artist. Maybe I should be taking heed of that word ‘contemporary’. Autobiographical artistic musings were not much in evidence pre- Freud and certainly a section of today’s artistic audience would still consider such navel gazing to be an arrogant irrelevance to ‘painting’
In an era that has seen artists document and examine abortion, Aids, death, masturbation…… should I feel less concerned?
It is - I think- in part the current political atmosphere where protest and our private lives are being scrutinised by ever more governmental forces, combined with the sudden combustible nature of Religion in the bigger sense, that makes for my feeling of worry, concern and insecurity.
Interesting - especially in the light of my subject matter.
# 21 [23 March 2010]
I have just returned from time out in Scotland with my daughter. Back through customs carrying seven beautiful roof slates and a broken down bird feeder- doesn't everyone?
So glad I wasn't made to explain myself even if I do know what I shall do with them........
Today I received the poem from Rowyda. It is beautiful. She has conjoured a world of water and islands for the woman to whom my imaginary bone objects belonged. A strange, confident woman who sings as she walks - a peregrine on her wrist........
Now we have to agree in what form we present our two works. This is new to me and strangely harder than collaborating on the work. I can already see the presentation and just want to go forward with it- time is getting tight for me; I have a lot of things on. I have to ask R. what she thinks and offer alternatives and I wonder how I shall feel if she wants something completely different……….this of course is what collaborating is also about. Not just the exchange of knowledge and ideas but resolution management, rejection and frustration. Fingers crossed!
This evening I have had an e-mail saying that friends had gone to see the bedsheet works only to find mine was not there…………….I am now awaiting an answer to an e-mail to the Art Centre.
I am not sure how I will react if it has been taken down because it was deemed in some way offensive. I run a fifty strong Arts Forum group in the same building - a further complication. Will I feel the need to go to war for it- to the local paper for example? If I don't will I feel I have let the work down?
# 20 [15 March 2010]
Well, the bed sheets have apparently elicited much comment and no one has asked us to take the exhibition down on the grounds that they are unframed. Nor has the Tallit been deemed unsuitable or offensive. I seem instinctively to produce work that is aesthetically attractive and that will entice the viewer into staying long enough to be intrigued into finding a darker message. However in the present febrile climate I fear always that I may find myself answering for having inadvertently offended religious belief. Maybe this, like political correctness in the office, is just something that stalks every artist engaged with some subject matters. It feels a little as if there are a set of unwritten rules out there that I might inadvertently transgress - find that I had stepped on the cracks………………………..and face an unspoken punishment.
Today was the first day the sun has really felt warm on my shoulders. As the days lengthen I can feel my brain unfurling.
I swear it curls up with its tail round its nose all winter long.
This weekend has been spent helping paint signs for an exhibition in June. Fowle Hall 4 will be the fourth year of a successful contemporary art exhibition in Paddock Wood, Kent. I exhibited last year, had great fun, met some brilliant people and got involved with Accident and Emergence. I was thrilled to be invited back again this year.
When you do these things you never know where they will lead. Looking back on it now, nearly a year later, I can see that A&E has crystallised for me how much I enjoy working collaboratively and how important meeting new artists, crits and projects are to the way I work.
Today I stood in the sun in the orchard where all the artists who exhibited in the stables last year will exhibit in 2010....and now I wait for that trickle of ideas that will whine to be written down in my notebook to begin again............
# 19 [3 March 2010]
It’s been a busy week. The Tallit is finished. As is usual in my practice the piece is attractive to approach and slow to reveal its darker side. The Tallit [life size] now has four tzitzit; one in each corner. I am proud to say I learnt how to tie them myself using a Jewish video that I discovered on the internet. Mind you I am very sure that any self respecting Jewish person would have laughed until they cried had they seen me manfully trying to master the art. And an art it is.
My primary interest in this work has been in the diminution of a lived human life into numbers and symbols. The work shows a portrait drawing of my grandfather and numbered sections of his entry in Vad Yashem – the Holocaust memorial site. It is decorated with coloured badge shapes that labelled concentration camp prisoners Jewish, gypsy, homosexual….they have an abstract beauty despite the terrible history that they hold.
Below these are symbols from Hitler’s genetic science – a crazed Aryan world reduced to Mendel's fruit flies.
The work is to hang in a restaurant area in the theatre. I shall be interested to see if anyone will study it closely enough to deem it inappropriate company at afternoon tea.
This week has also seen the end of a collaborative book project. Eleven of us; printers, painters, poets, a musician, fashion designer, gilder, all swopping our precious pages after a great lunch…….As we did so we all talked about the work on the page and the journey that took us there. Sometimes art is very close to therapy. The pages are beautiful. Somehow they seem generous- as in a gift. Next month we meet again to bind our book before exhibiting them ………….
Page 10 of 12 :
list in reverse orderReverse order:
This project blog »
My practice has evolved into interdisciplinary project work and I now call myself a multi-media project artist.
My work tends to be underpinned and referenced by memory and memorial; a citation to family members lost in the Holocaust.
It is important to me that within each project I solicit the freedom to be able to choose whichever media will best offer the viewer a multi layered narrative.