To date there are 3 things which to me have struck a chord during my residency:
The gossamer thin flags that are displayed in the Buff’s Chapel
The images from Dane John VAD Hospital and the fracturing of identity I have associated with the un-named people depicted, rendering them in my mind as ‘forgotten’
The combination of the poppy as a symbol that by many is now seen as far removed from it’s original purpose to not only to remember those who lost their lives during WW1 but also as a reminder that war should never be allowed to happen again. As history testifies this last bit didn’t last long.
Ideas and works have begun to form and here a few images of some of the first test prints and the link to a short video of the testing of imagery for a series of flags.
Each image is made from hundreds of damaged poppies that can be seen when up close and only reveal the true image when moving further away from the work.
Click this link for video of flag tests
I haven’t written any blog posts for a while. Not just on here but also on my main blog. When I started this residency I wasn’t sure where it would lead me, but that is what is the exciting thing about working with archives and having a practise that is very research based. The research has taken much more of my time than I had originally thought and although ideas are forming and there is a layer of materials: paper, lead, ink, glue, thread, textiles, screens, acetates, plates, cups, saucers, clocks, poppy seeds, marker pens and card, slowly covering surfaces in my studio that would indicate that making has begun; I still haven’t reached that point of ‘I know exactly what the final work will be’
So, on that note, I will continue to share my research in the hope that the writing and sharing process will help to cement my thoughts
Finding an original 1921 poppy in the archive has seen an unexpected connection between some research I had already begun for another project called From Wasteland to Wasteland.
My interest in the poppy was ignited when visiting the Lochnagar Crater at La Boiselle, France. I have written several blog posts about this visit and the subsequent work and these can be read:
The Remnants of Remembrance
The poppy as a symbol of remembrance can be a contentious subject, particularly if it is questioned. With numerous options for poppy colours this too can add to the debate and in particular I am aware of strong feeling surrounding the ‘rights or wrongs’ of wearing a white poppy.
RED for remembering those servicemen and women who were killed during WW1 and in subsequent conflicts. Associated with the Royal British Legion
WHITE for remembering those killed in conflict with an emphasis on a commitment to peace. Associated with the Peace Pledge Union
PURPLE to remember animals killed in war. Associated with Animal Aid.
BLACK to remember the contributions made by the African/Black/Caribbean/Pacific Islands communities to various wars since the 16th century. Associated with BlackPoppyRose
Alongside the original poppy in the Canterbury Cathedral archives, contained within a scrapbook once belonging to Mrs Ella Constance Woodruff are original newspaper cuttings reporting the the first poppy day in 1921 and recording the wreaths laid at the Cenotaph that year.
Interestingly it appears it was not an issue that both Queen Mary and Queen Alexandre laid wreaths made entirely from white flowers. Given that this was also the first year that the poppy had been adopted as a symbol of remembrance it would seem that originally it was not important what colour the flowers were or even what they were and seems sad that the topic of what is deemed the ‘right’ colour poppy to wear seems to cause problems today.
I promised in my last blog post to share the process of making the book ‘I am not Jasper Phillimore’ so here goes.
The initial images were taken from digital photographs of the originals. These were turned in to half tone images using Photoshop and then printed on to acetate using a digital printer. These ‘transparencies’ were used to expose the screens ready for printing the images. I produced two different sizes to begin with as I wasn’t sure what scale I wanted the finished book and so made two maquettes; from these I made the decision to make the smaller scale version as it felt far more intimate and more akin to the experience of exploring the archive. Once the scale was decided it was possible to work out the measurements for the paper – a long length that could be folded to make a concertina.
The paper was measured and marked for the layout of each ‘page’ making sure two blank sections are left at either end to attach the covers. Each page was then screen printed one by one.
The printed paper, when dry was then folded into it’s final concertina form making sure all the folds were equal and then put under weights overnight.
The covers of the book are made from card, grey board or mount board works well, and then covered in paper that has been printed digitally with the book title and image. I used a PH neutral paper wheat paste glue and acid free card and paper throughout to avoid discolouration and to ensure the archival quality of the finished book.
Once each cover had dried thoroughly they were attached with the glue to the blank sections at either end of the book.
Once the covers are dry the end papers and sewn signatures are added. Each of these were designed and printed digitally.
The signatures are sewn using a simple 3 hole pamphlet stitch. The whole book is then folded and placed under weights overnight.
Last week I managed to complete the book ‘I am not Jasper Phillimore’ in time for Canterbury Cathedral Open Day where it was shown for the first time.
The finished book is much smaller in scale than my original trials. I decided that I wanted the book to have a more intimate feel, to make the act of looking through the book a more private act and to enable the reader to be able to hold it comfortably in their hands.
I am not Jasper Phillimore
Screenprint, digital print and stitch
I also made the decision to create a box for the book; a nod to the archive boxes I have been researching from.
I don’t often share my processes but as I am now in the process of making an edition of 5 of these books I will now document the making and share this in my next blog post
I am not Jasper Phillimore
Screenprint, digital print and stitch
I have been in my studio beginning to experiment with ideas that have begun to form in response to my initial research in the archives.
Since I began working with archives the on constant experience is that the archives can only ever offer a starting point. The information they contain, if taken in isolation is incomplete and easily misunderstood. Digging deeper can sometimes bring clarity and confirmation but very often looking beyond and outside the archive is the only way to actually get the whole story.
To get a clearer picture I have found I have to look beyond what is in the archive. It is very easy to get tunnel vision, to get so hooked on looking at what the archive is presenting you with that it becomes easy to make assumptions. It is also easy to accept that what the archive is telling you is correct. This experience has been an underlying theme to my work for many years. Often deliberately using a piece of information gleaned from an archive in a misleading context.
Researching at the Canterbury Cathedral archives is no different and it is comforting to have found evidence that suggests that I am not the only one to find that but also that sometimes if you just look closely enough the answers are right there under your nose.
Cat no U88/A7/35 contains photographs of young men who attended St Augustine’s College who served during WW1. Most of the men are depicted wearing their military uniforms and nearly all the photographs are marked in some way with their names. It is always a happy discovery; finding photographs of named people as it at least offers the possibility of searching further afield for more information about them. On the other hand, finding unidentified photographs means that further research might be difficult.
One photograph in particular, or to be clearer, what was written on the back of it, caught my attention when I first looked through them.
These altered notes, identifying the man as Jasper Phillimore and then deciding no it’s not him and making the decision to mark the photo finally as ‘un id’ connected with my ongoing thoughts about nameless people in photographs and how this links to acts of Remembrance. see my blog post ‘Fracturing of Identity’
The result has been the beginnings of an artists book entitled ‘I am not Jasper Phillimore’. The concertina book contains a series of screenprinted images and when opened fully is deliberately confusing.
I hope to have the book printed and available to view at the upcoming Cathedral Open Day on Sept 20th when I will be on site discussing my residency so far.