I’ve been reviewing this blog, and wondering whether I can still use its title, ‘Narratives and Spaces‘ to refer to my practice. When I began writing this, I was fresh from my collaboration, which involved site specific work that related to narratives, and my dissertation. I imagined physical space would inevitably arise as a factor in my work again. Site specificity is very interesting to me, and something I will still use in work if the opportunity arises because it is such a powerful tool. In fact the work I have been focused on since I began blogging deals with narratives, but also the different emotional and temporal spaces they occupy, rather than actual physical space. I feel the title still fits, but for slightly different reasons.

I assumed when I started my blog that my work would arise directly from the research I have done during my degree, in particular my dissertation. Yet, in writing all these posts I have had to accept that despite my attachment to the concepts I’ve learned about, my practice has found its own way. This involves elements I’ve researched, but is driven, at the moment anyway, by a more instinctive organic response to my sources that aims to reflect muddled human impulses, rather than clear conceptual thinking about grander subjects.

Am I distressed by this conclusion? No, actually, I feel I might even have reached a ‘tipping point’. I’m five years into my degree and until now have had persistent doubts about my work’s validity. I didn’t feel I had a particular idea worth pursuing, and would assume I could imagine the outcome, rather than take the risk of trying something out.

Writing the blog has forced me to reflect seriously on old work and the research I found most interesting, together with the work I have been making this academic year. Because this is a public format, I have made more effort to work through and pin down my conclusions than I would in a sketch book. This has paid off. I know there are gaps between my research and my practice, but that reflection has been an invaluable way to recognise that my ideas and my work are developing their own momentum. This is a big leap forward. I feel more comfortable and confident because I have analysed those gaps, or ‘spaces’. Experiences such as the excitement of projecting my images (when I believed they would look inadequate) have convinced me that I should take the risk of trying things in order to discover something new and useful. I’m starting to have a lot of fun and will carry on with my project and see where it takes me. Here’s a video to illustrate how I feel (huge thanks to Guinness for getting it so right.)

So, what next? My degree show isn’t until June 2016, but here is my plan for now:

* Make more tracing paper paintings from the damaged ciné frame images.

* Investigate the best way to frame/display/project these if they are to be shown together on a wall.

* Make more light boxes, and more permanent ones for a bigger display. My prototype was too small to relate to the social viewings of ciné films that give rise to the multiple narratives which are my focus. Also compare how this looks in a white or dark space for the most effective installation.

* Complete my harvest of ‘lost’ ciné frames and add them to my slide show. Consider adding sound to it. Then analyse what these say about the narratives compared with what the damaged frames say. I think at the moment they should complement each other, but ‘lost’, or abandoned/edited frames are different to frames that are damaged by repeated affectionate viewings, and anything I make with them could say something completely different and unexpected.

* Investigate work that deals with the visual habits of the ciné film makers. I began collecting frames that reflected one film-maker’s visual tastes, but could make more of this strand of narrative.

* Look out for exhibitions/artists/writing that deal with narratives/spaces in perception in a way that relates to my project as it develops and use them as springboards for more analysis of my work as it goes forward.


I decided to mount and display my paintings on a white wall partly because I wanted to compare how they all looked with plain white backgrounds, and partly because I wanted to consider where I had got to.

I had two new ones to include in the display, both on the medium weight 90g tracing paper. One painted with water soluble oil paints and another with watercolours. This second had looked like a poor composition with the telegraph pole in the middle of the painting, until it dried and a tear opened down the pole, almost dividing the image in two – it suddenly worked:

The water soluble oil painting was not a successful composition either on first sight, but the rich depth of the paints and their deep colours made it exciting against glass.

Because most of the paintings are on tracing paper, I used fixers that held them slightly off the white paper mounts for all of them, apart from one very large pastel which was on white cartridge paper anyway. This meant that light could filter behind and through the tracing paper images a little, and also that where the tracing paper had split, its shape was not compromised. I photographed the group display, and all the individual images. Here is a selection:

I was interested to see that most of these images looked much brighter and, in the case of the tracing paper ones, more lively shown this way. I think this was partly because the white backing bounced light back through them, and also because the little bit of space between the tracing paper and the backing on a bright day meant a little shadow was cast within the pictures. Individually most looked more ‘finished’ than I expected, and I realised they would look good mounted in box frames. The two new ones were typical of this enhancing effect.

However, the small images looked rather lost on the big white wall, and the tracing paper ones looked less interesting than when shown against the windows of my studio space, or projected. I think that if the wall were crowded with these images, it could look very different. I only had three of the ‘telegraph pole’ images, but showing them with the ‘engines’ pictures made both look more exciting, and I realised I should keep going and also expand the number of different frame sources I am using. This might make a good wall display eventually!

I had also been hoping to incorporate my work in an installation. This project is about the emotion behind narrative, and I have been considering the strong sentimental feelings that affect perceptions of family ciné film screenings, and the personal narratives they incorporate. The rolls of images and repeated viewings, with their layers of versions of stories and the almost ritual or emotionally symbolic act of watching and remembering/retelling made me think of worry beads, rosaries, or charm bracelets. I thought I would try to make some kind of chain with the images that captured this idea – maybe a string of light boxes would work?

I wanted to make as many as possible as a quick prototype, so I used plastic vegetable containers, painted white and a string of white christmas lights to make a chain of light boxes. Then I used masking tape to gently attach the tracing paper images that looked interesting together, and fitted, to the boxes I had accumulated.

The dark space was free, so I was able to try out my prototype installation and photograph it. I only had six useable boxes, which was an awkward even number for a laid-out chain, so in the end I decided they looked best as a dropped chain – hopefully the photos show what I mean! It also seemed to be a good way to represent the tumble of narratives I think are provoked by the ciné films.

This could grow into a much bigger more substantial installation, but for now, I am pleased with it. I was not sure about the extra lights between the boxes, but actually they hide the rather shabby prototype boxes, and their extra twinkles in the pitchy black space actually give a merry feeling to the installation which mimics the nostalgic anticipation and excitement of watching the old ciné reels in the dark, and revisiting sentimental old stories. The mix of paint finishes of the paintings and thickness/transparency of the tracing paper makes the images look far less alike than they do when displayed on a white wall, or even against glass.

Something to remember! My prototype may not do as a permanent structure – even using LED lights that are designed for safety, my plastic boxes and paper images got ominously warm during the its time lit in the dark space. If I make a permanent version I need to use something more heat resistant to make the boxes, and carefully fixing the lights so they can not come into contact with the paper.

This has made me compare my tracing paper images again with Francis Alys’ work, and I realise I want mine to do something different. I’ve looked into Matsui’s assertion that Alys uses his figures repeated poses as fragments that work like Walter Benjamin’s allegorical symbols to create “a tie, a shared life between the works.”, and that this reinforces their “certainty in one’s mind”. I think that rather than emphasising one central connection, I am making repetitious images from the same source in different ways to highlight the different truths and narratives associated with them. This is one reason I was not happy with the images grouped on a wall mounted the same way in a unifying arrangement. Making my installation using a variety of boxes arranged naturalistically, as if they had been dropped, kept the images individual within the grouping, highlighting their different qualities, and made each appear to communicate its own version of the original frame’s narrative.

At last I have harvested more lost frames to extend my slideshow. It is displaying them at 1 second per frame in this one, rather than two in the earlier version, which I hope makes it more lively and obviously related to flicking film frames, while still enabling the individual images to be seen easily. At normal speed these are all apparently invisible. It is getting more interesting. Click here to see the new slideshow.


I am not going to rattle on again here about Cornelia Parker, but I am thinking about her pavement casts, and this has forced me to acknowledge what I have learned about my own practice lately. There is a gap between it and my research. It has to do with how I feel when I think of cracks in a pavement. You hardly notice the cracks, but they are the exciting unauthorised unspecified bits – traps to avoid when we are children, places that catch lost fallen treasures, boundaries between solid ground that catch us out, hollows where things can take root. Parker uses them to define things about her pavements – she actually creates stunning structures with them. I’m not sure I do.

The research I have done during this degree has been a revelation. I knew nothing about art history, or modern art when I started – I was mainly interested in finding out new ways to make things. But I have relished learning about particular aspects of art: women’s relationship with the art world, Richard Serra’s adventure with his Tilted Arc, Cornelia Parker and her use of indexical traces, and female artists’ revolutionary use of appropriation.

Until I started at UCS it hadn’t crossed my mind as a C20th girl with choices that women had spent centuries being inspirational objects in male artists’ work, while being ignored and excluded as artists themselves. I had no idea that a huge lump of steel inserted into a city could inadvertently and dramatically reveal secrets about the state’s relationship with the public it served (complaints were made that Tilted Arc obscured the view of “security personnel, who have no way of knowing what is taking place on the other side of the wall…”Crimp, D. (1993) On the Museum’s Ruins. Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.pp. 180-1). I didn’t realise you could make art that told a multitude of stories and asked a mass of questions by destroying dull objects. And it had never dawned on me that by stealing something and reframing it as yours you could make a respected revolutionary art work. I have been really drawn-in by all these new ideas.

What I think has united all these bits of research and pulled me onwards is that they are all about art work that has used the invisible parts of life to say something revealing about stories we assume we know. I love stuff that appears to say or do one thing while actually saying or doing something else – I’m a sucker for reading between the lines of things (the cracks in the pavement…) – and I’m in awe of these artists who think so clearly and make it look so effortless. The trouble is, this has been such an exciting voyage of discovery that bit by bit my own work has felt less and less significant and at times in my degree I’ve really struggled to find any validity at all in the work I want to make. Doing my dissertation about female appropriationists was really rewarding intellectually, but I wonder whether that is the sort of work I have ever been likely to make myself?

I think I have to accept that at the moment one important impulse behind my work is a simple instinctive response to my source, not an intellectual one. There is a sentimental earthy part of life that is caught in the lost frames I’ve been using as subjects for my work, and this is what sucks me in when it comes to my practice. When I think of the my old cine films, for example, what I really want to convey is something of the emotional echoes from those lost frames that we don’t usually notice, in order to evoke lost narratives. So although my research, and my dissertation, has really focused on specific conceptual aspects of art, and I do use elements of this when I am making work, what actually makes me do the work the way I do it is an instinctive gut reaction to my source.

For example, my current work does involve appropriation, because I am copying images created by other people, and I am reinterpreting their stories by the way I am replicating them, but the images I am making are done quickly in a way that yields to the medium I am using, and reflects how I feel that moment about the original cine frame’s shapes, textures and colours. Seeing my paintings projected really proved this. They became separate from the tiny scale of the original celluloid images, and far less frames than expressive shapes, lines and rich colours that said new things in their own right. I liked them far better this way.

On top of this, if appropriation as an intellectual concept truly was my motivation, I think it would be natural for me to know what I was ‘détourning‘, but I can’t bring myself to give the work that amount of steer – I don’t want to undermine the main stories, or create or direct particular new ones by having something specific in mind. I’d love to be a ‘proper’ appropriationist or other sort of conceptual artist. For now, however much I agonise about what might be possible, and copping out intellectually, I seem compelled to focus on the excitement and promise of these tiny lost narrative remnants and to play with the suggestive emotional response this can provoke.


I have projected photos of my cine frame paintings in the studio dark space. I thought I knew how they would look, but I was surprised at the new life they took on shown this way. The actual paintings are small and fragile, but I projected them using two projectors onto two walls so that each image almost filled its wall and met its mirror image at 90 degrees. Their colours were so much brighter this way, and the images so full of information at this size, that they became a rich sensual experience. This just doesn’t happen when I look at them in their normal size and light, although several have a particular emotional pull.

If I put photos of the projected image below with the original painting stuck to a window, perhaps something of this altered effect will be visible even on a computer screen:

The most successful projections were when the two slideshows ran together. This was a fiddly business, but here is a link to a video of the most successful projection. Click here.

Excitingly, the double projection revealed unexpected aspects of my work. The figures in some images became far more prominent. This was possibly because they were much bigger and therefore easier to notice, but it may well also have been because they acquired a relationship with their double on the facing wall.

This was really interesting. I’ve identified with Francis Alys while writing this blog because I have not wanted the figures in my images to acquire the baggage of identity rather like anonymity is important in Alys’ work. In the projections any figures have a relationship with their mirror images, which somehow gives them identity they lacked before. This is not simply due to repetition – I think it is because their new spatial relationship with their opposite is theatrical. They each become the other’s audience, like we are theirs when we see them in their paintings, or in this slideshow. This mirroring creates a lifelike tension between the figures in each image: they become ‘them and us’ to each other, and somehow this elementary positioning makes them separate characters in our minds as viewers.

Or at least that is what I see when I watch the slide show. I wonder whether this effect is there for other viewers?

Another lovely effect of viewing the images this way is that new shapes appear where the images meet, which gives them a new dimension altogether. In some a moth appears, in others a kind of monstrous spider! You can still see all the original images, but all the shapes give way to this new ‘creature’ because it is centrally placed in the slideshow, so any narrative the images convey on their own is completely hijacked by the experience of seeing them this way. I had really been taking my images too seriously. This effect should not have come as a surprise. After all, the projection was really just a giant recreation of two kaleidoscope slides, but it is a very long time since I had any contact with a kaleidoscope and it did surprise me.

The new experience of sensual size, colour and texture, as well as the theatricality given to their figures, and the dominating new shapes and creatures are all new effects given to my paintings by the projection. I find them all exciting and pleasing, and I think the reason for this is that they are effects that we experience on an almost physical animal level as human creatures.


This has been a mixed week. I had a real battle with my laptop and new software I got for it so that I could capture individual frames from the cine film dvd, and then build those into a new ‘moving picture’. Like all tech battles, this has taken time to overcome, but I’ve slowly learned how to use the new software. Hopefully I shall have a more exciting video to show for it soon. There are more interesting lost frames further into the dvd, but as I’m collecting them chronologically, they don’t feature yet! So far I’ve just made a very short slideshow.

During my tech battle I’ve been reflecting on Cornelia Parker again, and fretting about how to treat the ‘lost’ cine frames. My little YouTube slide show seems much less interesting than some of the tracing paper paintings I’ve made.

In the essay I wrote about her work I focused on how Parker uses indexical traces of action to bring process to the fore. It is easy to see photographs as indices of the action they record. A sign becomes an index when “There is a direct link between the sign and the object…smoke is an index of fire…Traffic signs in the street are index signs: they have a direct link to the physical reality of where they are placed…” (Crow, D. (2003) Visible Signs: An Introduction to Semiotics in the Visual Arts. 2nd Edn. Lausanne: AVA Publishing SA.pp.13-31). An index “retains at least something of the existential ‘having been thereness’ of that which is signified” (Gibbons, J. (2007) Contemporary Art and Memory: Images of Recollection and Remembrance. London: I. B. Tauris, p.30).

I’ve mentioned in an earlier post that my cine film project made me think about her Pornographic Drawings, 1996, because Parker also dealt with film and the actions and narratives it recorded. Parker is also interesting to me because her work acknowledges a problem with photographs as indices of action or process that is at the heart of my fascination with these old cine films and their individual frames. Gibbons (pp.34-7) drew attention to this issue, stating “Photographs are ‘degenerate’ signs, an idea expanded by Victor Burgin, who explained, the ‘viewer comes to the photograph with pre-textual knowledge… the naturalness of the photograph is a deceit'”. This is precisely what I am trying to get at with my treatment of these cine frames. People are in the habit of treating photographs as excellent evidence – think how society has come to rely on cctv, for example. We imagine each photographic frame records its own truth, but in fact everyone who sees a photographic print imposes their own interpretation on its image.

In my research for the essay I noticed that Parker used photographs differently during the course of her work from 1988, when she made Thirty Pieces of Silver, 1988-9, to 1996, when she made Pornographic Drawings, 1996. In her 1988 work, photographs were initially exhibited as part of her original Ikon Gallery installation, but later omitted. By Pornographic Drawings the only photographs, video images, associated with the work’s process were destroyed.

It seemed to me that Parker recognised photographs might constrict the openness of her intended narrative. Her photographs for the 1988 work dealt overtly with ‘before’ and ‘after’ Parker’s steamrollering of the ‘pieces of silver’, and might have suggested too much of Parker’s intention in work that she realised had more power without it. When she made Pornographic Drawings, Parker created a compelling demonstration of real photographic degeneration. Her piece reduced the actual space between processes to a physical minimum of mere indexical traces of those processes – the allegedly pornographic acts, physical filming, institutional judgements and decisions, chemical melting etc. all reduced to a solvent that Parker simply prints. By reducing the photographs to mere ‘traces’, Parker’s argument about purity vs. pornography comes to life.

I can’t destroy my family’s collection of well-worn cine films. But I can investigate the images that record already lost actions. I will persist with my lost images video and see how it looks as I add in more frames. Maybe re-filming them in this way will develop into something interesting in itself.