I spent 2012/13 and began 2014 engrossed with trying to paint from a collection of rediscovered family cine films. These had been taken by different people from the mid 1960s to the end of the 1970s. The films themselves had been damaged by the passage of time, and by playing through an unreliable projector, liable to stick and overheat. The difficulty of watching them without damaging these ‘silent movies’ had meant showings were rare, and super-dramatic – charged with the smell of overheating celluloid, and the thrill of sitting together in the dark.

I was interested in the way these theatrical showings, with their sentimental audiences giving motley commentaries had spun new stories with different emotional currents than the versions which had been retold during the years the films had lain dormant. I wondered whether reproducing individual evocative frames from the films by painting them would capture something of this narrative slip.

The image that heads this Blog, and the four below are from this series of paintings.

I am a part time student so my work has developed in particular stages, and directions. I’m hoping this blog will be a useful way to consider where my work is going, but this means I have to review where it has come from.



* I experimented with rear projection and back projection at home using the same distances as my degree show space. Neither was successful: the image from the rear of viewers at that distance was too big for the wall available, and I couldn’t prevent viewers being able to see the projector beaming from the rear of my screen, so they were horribly dazzled. Here’s a taste:

Maybe some more tech kit would help? However, when I ask Matt, the technician who specialises with these things, he says there is nothing available – I just don’t have room to make these ways of projecting work. So I will carry on as before.

* The projection box is intrusively tall, so I take it to bits, lop off its bottom 5inches, reassemble it, and count my blessings that Danielle’s clever technical planning meant I constructed it with screws, and minimal glue. Then I fill its new irregularities and repaint it. Looks MUCH better! I’d already checked the projector could project from this new steeper angle, and have not bothered restoring the large cable hole in its right side, because this was close to viewers and distracting. Wires will be just as hidden if they enter the box simply from its front.

* After some stressful sewing adventures, I finally decide the net does add a new dimension to the projection. It creates a second image on itself that is distorted by how the net hangs. The other image that passes through the net onto the wall behind is straight and unaffected. The viewer experience, now I have the angle and net/wall distance apart adjusted, is of one wafting wavering image floating in front of another crisp steady undistorted one. It suggests the shifting recall and retellings that I have been investigating, and if I hang the net straight and subtly enough, even viewers who know nothing about my project should have an unusual thought-provoking thing to see. I hang the net very carefully as straight as I can, and its full length, so it just hovers before the wall. Its pole and the batten supporting it are white painted, and I have kept hemming and edging to a minimum. It is all suspended by fishing line. It hovers like a ghostly gauze. The images look good. Here is a little glimpse:

* I put the bench in its place. It looks inviting but understated and crisp. I had worried about introducing furniture after seeing the crowded effect of soft furnishings at Electronic Superhighway, but I hope I’ve managed to avoid it here. The bench will make my viewers watch from a consistent-ish height, so they experience the double image effect as well as possible. It also invites them in to an environment that is pretty much invisible from the rest of my space. Of course it also evokes the ‘sitting together round the ciné projector’ domestic experience of my source material, and the collective and personal mental editing activity that I have been investigating.

Pastel Presentation

* Hanging my pastel has not been easy. When I made it I was not clearly planning how it would be shown, and very eager to get on with making it. So it has one very long length of bare tracing paper to roll at its bottom edge, but maddeningly little at its top. I manage some reconstructive surgery, even having resorting to double sided tape, which I hate using. In the end the pastel looks as I hoped, as if it has been unrolled from a scroll, rather like a projection screen. Fingers crossed it will hold together for the length of the show, and we don’t have a heatwave to melt the beastly tape’s glue… I have placed it forward in its place, suspended the same way as the net, but at a comfortable viewing height, on white painted batten and dowel, with fishing line. It looks like it is hovering too, so the pieces feel visually related even though they are made so differently. I also like the 3D feel that hanging this way has brought to the space. They both feel like installations, and this experience of space is important to me. I think it makes a viewer feel what they are seeing in a more physical way, and for this project that is useful because I am dealing with an instinctive human impulse to make sense of our experiences in space and time.

* I have decided not to include other works in the Degree Show. These two pieces really do represent the culmination of my project to date. The pastel brought forward like it is seems to me to illustrate the prize we make of some personal or group recollections which are meaningless to ‘outsiders’. The animations are the result of all my earlier experiments and choices and edits, just like our personal internal narrative histories. So any other works would be distracting. The space is the perfect size to show these two pieces as I want to. If I put any other work in here it would disrupt our view of them, and alter the space. The bench is necessary, to create a mood, and direct the viewer to view as I have designed the projection. It references the viewer experiences I liked with Francis Alys at RISK in Margate, or the extended film in Bergen, both of which had minimalist but well placed seating that enhanced focus.

Final adjustments and details

* I have to ask Glen our tallest technician to help with some of this. It’s a frustrating thing to find I am too short to do some of the jobs that need doing to make my pieces look as good as possible, but for health and safety reasons I have to give in and get his help. Time is tight now, so I’m asking him to do all the high altitude things in one hit. So he fits my high trunking, in the corner behind my bench where it will be least obtrusive, fits the lights for my pastel space along the top of its tallest wall, tapes my wires along that so we can’t see them from below, and drills in place the batten that will suspend my net’s pole. KerChing! Things really are starting to get rather White Cube now!

* I gaffer tape the wire that runs from my trunking to the projection box to the foot of the wall and then the shortest distance across the floor into the box. I found grey tape, so it matches the floor. Also touch up areas of paint. Sweep the lot. Fit a flashing lights warning near the projection. Take some photos:

And Lastly…

My space feels intimate, but bright and clean in the pastel section, and in the projection bit it feels comfortable but uncluttered and while the light is subdued, the projection is vivid. I have one final anxious moment. It is brilliantly sunny as I finish the work, so the lights that I installed to light the pastel better seem to do nothing. They do cast a shadow through it, however, so I am ready for a gloomy day or night time, and I haven’t managed to find brighter bulbs in time despite some frantic hunting – in fact I’m not sure they exist for these modern lamps.

I hope people will enjoy them as much as I have enjoyed assembling these works. Now I can see them up and presented in what I feel is the best way, it has been worth all the planning and attention.


I’ve been preparing my space. It has its wall and projector box – hurray! for UCS technicians and all their support. The box looks rather tall, and although the projection area looks as I imagined, the rest of the space appears to have shrunk. I can’t wait to finish painting so I can practice placing work and make final decisions about what/how to display.

While I was busy filling holes I had a chance to discuss my plans with my tutor Jane Watt and whether back projecting, or suspending the projector so it cast over viewers’ heads might also work well. I have seen only one back projection, at Whitechapel Gallery, onto frosted plastic, which had looked clunky, and dull compared to the luminescence of the voile fabric I’ve discovered. I have tried using tracing paper, but it is just as dulling. I wonder if there is enough length in my space to project from the back at viewers, successfully capture the image on the kind of luminescent surface that I fancy, and also get a comfortable viewing distance. I had thought it was impossible to project a small image from that distance with the equipment we have available, but I will double-check early this week. This is a critical time to play with the space and see what is possible in case there is a better way to show my work than I’ve imagined so far.

I’m worried the projector box is so tall it will be a distraction between viewers and a screen. It is the best height for the projector, but it looks taller than I planned. At least it isn’t too small! Once I’ve painted it white, it may look fine – if not, I shall have to find a way to make it shrink…

Here is the bench I’m thinking of installing to complete my viewer experience. Unlike my box, it is average seat height.

Having said all this, the original ciné films would have been watched around a projector that enriched the activity with its noise, heat, smell and central presence, and added to the experience of the screenings. This is one reason why placing it between the viewers and screen seems natural and consistent.

I’m trying to keep calm and make progress by writing lists of jobs and decisions, but our Degree Show will be the end of six years work for me. I’ve learned so much, and been challenged in so many different ways that it feels like I’ve been climbing some kind of fantastic think-mountain. I won’t miss my exhausting drive to and from Ipswich, and I’m full of plans for the future, but so many lovely people, and all those delicious ideas…! A friend described finishing this course a couple of years ago as ‘like falling off a cliff’ – and I’ve got a nasty feeling my mountain might be a cliff too.



It’s all getting very real! I’ve had my technician session to specify my build for the degree show – with its new wall and a plinth to hide the projection kit, borrowed the projector, media player and long extension cable that I will be using for the show, and begun my risk assessment. Despite my anxiety whether to show just the projection, or include other works, I’m preparing for either eventuality, and have:

* ordered spotlights in time for PAT tests next Wednesday (to light any non-projection work – UCS has none to lend),
* ordered fire retardant white net curtain fabric to make my projection screen,
* ordered a bench for my projection viewers to relax on (Turner Contemporary provided one for the Francis Alys projection in their RISK exhibition – it really helped focus viewers’ involvement in his projection, and hints at the personal/domestic remembering experience of the old ciné viewings),
* bought a tiny audio adapter which should mean the projector can broadcast sound without a separate speaker, keeping the electrics simple.

I should have time for plenty of practicing and experimenting to see what works well. I’ve played with the new projector/sound set up at home, and it’s defeated me all over again, so I’ll be with the technicians again on Monday for another lesson…

Editing and SOUND

I’ve been continuing to practice with my projections, and have noticed the animation clips made on my phone are different speeds from one another, and the between-clips I created in iMovie are both slower than all these, and have different size frames. So I’ve been re-making and editing on my phone in its Stop Motion app, and reloading these new clips into iMovie to start a new version of the whole projection. Here is one of the very short between-clips I plan to use.

I was so struck by James Coleman’s Untitled, 2011-15, and its hypnotic pulse soundtrack that I am considering using sound too. I fret that it will be too descriptive for my viewers, so I am experimenting first. The only sound I think will be appropriate is the sound of a projector like the one that would have projected my original ciné frame sources. I wonder whether it will create the impression that I am just mimicking that film process, and distract any viewer from noticing how the clips (hopefully) challenge them to find meaning, and how they can’t help doing that, yet also relish the way their brain does it. But Coleman’s loud ‘pulse’ did sound like a heartbeat, as well as the crank of a turn – and those narrative ideas did not interrupt my experience of his piece, they enhanced it.

I’ve found great 8mm projector recordings to download free at Freesound.org, and downloaded these to play with my clips. I want them to play quietly on my loop, and edit them in on my new iMovie version, then watch them on my laptop. I think they are not distracting, but actually add to the feeling of occasion and make me focus on the images more. When I get the UCS projector going properly, I can try it again to make sure. Sound may work.

As I play again and again with my clips, I wonder whether they really do what I hope. Some of the images are particularly indistinct. Will my audience ‘get’ them? Should they need the blurb I’ve prepared for our Degree Show catalogue to be able to enjoy them? Would that be enough anyway? Would I rather they enjoyed them in their own way without my direction anyway? Well, that is essentially what my project has been about – we all have a personal perception, however things appear to anyone else, and each person finds their own sense in what they experience or remember. This is a dilemma that keeps nagging me. I will only know once it’s up and running in my space. For now I think I will see whether different paintings of my source frames work better as ‘animated’ clips for projection. Now I’ve worked out how to make the clips more efficiently, I should have time to experiment. I’m beginning with this clip which has very cool colours:

I’m going to try re-making it with this much more colourful version of the same ciné frame:


I’ve already considered and rejected projecting a kind of floating show of my animations onto smoke. It would be too difficult to create enough of a dense body of smoke for long enough to show a projected image, and doing so in compliance with indoor health and safety regulations was definitely beyond me. But online I had seen someone projecting a floating ‘hologram’ from an iPhone, which looked charming, and safe, so I had a go. It did not work, nor did it work in the dark, nor did my attempts to film it. I re-read the instructions, and realised this process is intended to enable you to ‘project’ specially designed hologram images downloaded from the Apple site. What a shame.

I remembered recently I never checked how my big soft pastel would hang, and what backing would suit it. With a bit of help (thanks Sarah Bale and Robin Warnes!), I attached it to one of my studio space roller blinds and was able to see it with light behind:

The light behind somehow reduces the warmer pigments and as I lay the picture on the floor, it looks much richer, and more sensual and animated. It seems that it needs light to bounce off its surface, not pass through its surface, for the pigments to work. If I use it in my show, this one needs to be ON a white surface, no need to construct a light source behind it.

This month I was in Norway to visit my son and made a special trip to see HEX, The Master Exhibition 2016 at Bergen Kunsthall showing works by final year Master in Fine Art students of Bergen Academy of Art and Design. This group show cunningly made its spaces do more by lighting some for alternate hours, so projections and other work could share spaces. Fortunately I visited during a projection hour and saw two interesting pieces. One was projected from above onto an installation of irregular pieces of plywood. Although this was an exciting new way to project, it was very difficult to see the film it showed, and seemed to me to be mostly concerned with the difficulty of seeing and the intrusion of physical surfaces and limits of seeing. I want my viewer to feel something of the naturalness and inevitability of the mind’s action on my images, so this won’t do for me.

I loved another projected piece, and was very taken with its confident use of its own big white room, with speakers and seating:

This is a beautifully crafted art house film, with complicated plot, screen and sound edits, and it ran for 24 minutes, so its commanding staging seemed appropriate. I’m worried my own reanimated images do not have the elegance and substance to be given their own solo space like this, although I can’t forget the wonderful James Coleman projections I saw in London which did fill, and dazzle, their grand venue.

Back at UCS in my degree show space I practice playing my unfinished projection in different ways, hoping to establish whether it works better as a solo exhibit, or as a piece of a show of several sorts of my work. First I went big:

This needs to be in a darker space to look really vivid, and I’d need to hang the projector out of the way somehow.

Then I went small:

The big picture frame in this film represents a new wall that I would need to build to make a small film work in this space. It would then be showing in a kind of tunnel. I took a small poll of students who were working nearby, and there was general agreement that the small scale projection is much more vibrant and colourful, even with the amount of light currently in the space. I agree.


I need to decide how many pieces of work to show. If I go ahead and screen my projection small in its new ‘tunnel’, there will be several ‘new’ wall spaces, in the other area this creates which could have work on them, or stay blank. This might create a heightened sense of theatre when you leave the blank space to see the films in my ‘tunnel’ – but it could seem strangely empty. We don’t have long to decide on our degree show build – the technicians will be starting soon. After some hard thinking, I resolve to add the new wall. My animations look best on that scale. When the space has its new tunnel I shall have to experiment with different pieces on the other walls, and come to a decision about how my work communicates best. Do I just show the animations, or other work as well?