My creative reflections were all discussed in my previous blog post. I discovered more than just artistic revelations on my residency.

Now I am back from Kurt Schwitters Merz Barn in Cumbria, I am pushed back into city life. I have had a lovely bath and snuggled in my own bed, however, it is the simplicity of Merz Barn I am missing.

It has been amazing to retreat for a week.

I loved the fresh air, fresh eggs, the DIY approach. I enjoyed cooking vegetarian food with Alana and our evenings of chat.

I thought pictures would do more justice than words to my time spent at the Merz Barn between 13th – 19th October 2014.

Thank you Ian and Celia xx


On the last day on my residency at the Merz Barn in Cumbia it was time to reflect on my thoughts over the duration of the week. As I mentioned in a previous post, I had stapled a huge sheet of plastic to one of the gallery walls and had been writing the contents of my head on it all week with a permanent marker pen. It had grown quite a lot, as I had added to it whenever creatively conducive thoughts popped into my brain.

At the beginning I really struggled to write anything, but by reading, thinking and talking I managed to squeeze out lots of interesting ideas, starting points, questions and suggestions.

Before I set off to the Merz Barn, I had been questioning what, how, when, where…. I had been trying to think about my practice conceptually, formally and aesthetically and question myself on all accounts. I was trying to get to the bottom of why I was doing what I was doing, without losing any integrity and my personal interests: – I wanted to come away from the residency with some starting points for the future, not end points to a final work or to draw a conclusion. I wanted this residency to help challenge my ideas of thinking and allow me time to question my main concerns.

On the last day of my residency, Mark Devereux of Mark Devereux Projects was due to visit both fellow resident artist and buddy Alana Tyson and I for a critical feedback session. Alana laid out her works in the gallery space and I was ready to show Mark some of the photographic projects I had done over the course of the week – it was the sheet of plastic with my scribbles on that he was more interested in talking about.

Firstly, he asked me to talk through everything I had written down and add to the diagram if I needed. By saying my internalized thoughts out loud, I heard them for the first time (sounds obvious, I know). I further emptied my head during our conversation – this was a relief as it had been swirling for weeks regarding the questioning of my practice. Mark added to the wall diagram, picking out pivotal things I was saying and adding his ideas too. By the end of the session my mind was spinning again but this time in a good way instead of a confused way.

I had begun to realise what my focus was; I had even managed to pin it down to just one word: Luminous! I had thought about which of my previous works were the strongest and why, I had clearer ideas for the future and for possible lines of inquiry, I also had room to add to the sheet; which is exactly what I am going to do when I get back into my studio at Rogue.

It was through externalising my thoughts that I had come to realise that it wasn’t the objects within my work that was of deep interest; they have been there as a device to stabilize the lighting elements and to create bridges for the colours to balance from. It is the purity of colour and how it effects our senses within an immersive environment that is of real interest. How do different colours affect us mentally, psychically and spiritually? How do our eyes respond to light? It is artificial light that interests me the most; where the colour choice is the saturate hues available in chemical manufacture, that I will investigate with rigor, intregue and delight.

The pieces of work I have made up until this point have lead to more sculptural end-points, where the lamps act as divisions or additions within the space; never-the-less illuminating it. It has been a frustration of mine that when people visit my works/exhibitions they sometimes fail to notice the glorious reflections and reverberations of colour around the room. Colour theory at work. It is my job to direct people to look at what I want them too, as well as their surrounds.

I want to take away any structures and investigate the impact of coloured light on us as a pure form. Light fills spaces, like a painting or sculpture or video or a performance. Only in my future inquiries it is the viewer becoming the performer and the walls becoming a huge light painting.

Then in was Alana’s turn to have a critique. She learned lots of things too, you can read her blog from our time at Kurt Schwitters Merz Barn here: alanatyson.tumblr.com


After finishing my book yesterday, I was left with lots of different ideas for how to start testing and playing. I wanted to carry on with the mini-projects I had begun to set myself (I like good project), they were proving both useful and practical.

I was beginning to find my voice again, after initially going on this residency with the aim to strengthen my ideas and challenge concepts within my practice, I was gradually learning bit by bit more about myself. Re-discovering why it is that I am so immensely fascinated with colour and light combined.

Luminosity was the word that encapsulated both interests in a way that made sense to me. The notion of luminous colour seeping, spilling, bleeding and staining the surfaces around us has been present in my practice for years, now I had a word for it.

In the essay ‘The Luminous and the Grey’ Batchlor writes;

Luminous colours, however old they are, appear to have a particular relationship with the world around them and with their beholders that is unlike that of other colours. First, these are colours that escape their containers and bleed into the street; they deliver what colour always promises bus doesn’t always achieve: a release from the surfaces and materials that support it, a release that leads to the fleeting magic of the ‘fiery pool reflecting in the asphalt’. p.49

My has always been my challenge and interest to capture this notion within my practice. This concern, I feel, now has to be researched, pulled apart and made into being work, as my understanding of the medium deepens.

Reading whilst on this residency has been initially challenging for me, but has given my so much back in return. When I return home, I shall keep it up, keep learning and keep feeding this knowledge back into the work I develop.

Today I started to think about luminous colour within nature (as it was on my doorstep). Making a series of ‘colour slides’ which became little jewels when held up to a light source. I was thinking small-scale in order to trial the idea, the photographs below demonstrate how flat surface colour become luminescent.

Remember what I wrote on Day 3? – “What interests me about colour in the natural/rural landscape is the vividness created when the intensity of the sun shines onto/though it. More on that later…” In this experiment I was testing this thought out, instead of using the sunshine (of which there was very little on this cold autumnal day) I used a bulb.


As my residency continued into day 5 at the famous Merz Barn, I became increasing aware that I had slowed my pace of life down. Reading had pretty much taken over as my daily task, then amusing myself by making relatively quick responses to the chapters in the form of mini-projects.

So far these mini-projects were helping me understand the meaning and concept of each chapter, allowing for a deeper knowledge of colour concerns, perceptions and discussion.

Today I had reached the last chapter. It was all about grey. I am not fond of grey, admittedly. The rest of of book had highlighted the use of luminous colour around us; in the media, in our cities, in our general everyday lives and why is is so brilliant and optimistic. I was not looking forward to the chapter on grey. I thought to myself – “no one is ever going to manage to convince me that grey is a worthy colour, is it even a colour? – more like a tone…”

I read on regardless, trusting the voice of the author wholeheartedly. His writing so far had been accurate, believable and educating.

David Batchelor’s first line of the chapter is; “Grey is the colour of dying” – great! The last sentence of the chapter finishes describing the closing sequence of Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Andrei Rublev (1966), it reads:

“The last, silent shot returns to the living world and to a panorama of grey, but a quieter, more humane and perhaps more luminous grey.”

LUMINOUS F*****G GREY! The longest and most convincing chapter by far, but all that was written in between these two quotes was the most useful of all. I have been looking at grey as the neutral, bland, pessimistic, nothing colour for years.

I went outside of the gallery and pondered, looked around me; I noticed blues, reds, greens, oranges and all different colours within the greys around me. I realise that this is not a breakthrough for mankind, but I had been so dismissive about grey that I had not looked past the end of my own nose (and I have a sizable nose!) and so this was a small revelation for me personally.

“It is close to impossible in practice to find a grey that is not inflected by some other colour, although the not-grey of grey often only becomes visible as two or more different greys are placed next to each other. It is as if when a patch of grey is first seen it is more assumed than observed.” p.78

Having completed this chapter and finished the book, I went off in the beautiful landscape and woodland of the Cylinders Estate where the Merz Barn is located with my camera and came back with the following set of images – as confirmation that blue -grey, red-grey, green-grey, really do exist and are BEAUTIFUL!

Now I had finished my book and nearly finished my residency – what was I going to do?


Today’s mini-project revolved around the notion of how we remember surface colours and how our eyes respond to light.

Batchelor writes about the way in which we see colours as the property of the object. Even in different lighting conditions; our colour memory tells us what colour we think an object is. We make assumptions about the colour of an object based on what we have previously experienced, even when we see the same object under different lighting e.g. in a darkened room.

Colour constancy: “The facility that enables us to piece together wildly divergent perceptual experience of colours – a coloured object in sunlight, at dusk, in shade, at a distance, in varieties of artificial light, against other colours and so on” Batchelor suggests.

“Seeing the same objects under… different illuminations, we learn to get a correct idea of the object colours in spite of different illumination. We learn to judge how such an object would look in white light, and since our interest lies entirely in the object colour, we become unconscious of the sensations on which the judgement rests.” – Hermann von Helmholtz (physicist and theorist of visual perception)

I wanted to test this theory.

I gathered a few objects from the Cylinders Estate, all of which depicted colouration of the chemical variety; colour only available within industrial manufacture (plastic, paint, etc). The hue in these objects is unchanging, until decay and weathering takes hold. They are entirely monochrome.

I photographed them under different lighting conditions: outdoor natural light; against a natural background, under artificial light; fluorescent and halogen. Below are the resulting images.

Although my experiment was fairly crude, it points out exactly what the text is talking about.

I am trying to think about exactly which colour I remember these objects to be; out of the possible three differences I saw. I ‘think’ of it to be the most vivid. To someone else, however, this could be different.

Interesting much….