The time is rapidly slipping away…we cleared the studios last week. This is a rather sad picture of all my possessions in a large blue bag. Goodbye to my desk forever ! I've been focussing on getting my portfolio sorted out for the last four days. I really wasn't prepared for how long just mounting stuff takes ! Of course there's lots of bits to finish off, samples to neaten up and also pages to compose really but it is taking such an age. As I'm doing it all on the kitchen table I've used every surface including the hob so am having to subsist on tea and biscuits and oven-ready meals. I can't now see any surfaces at all and the poor dog is constantly covered in bits of masking tape. I had to take my plinths back in last week for the tutor to approve – and I've left them in the studio with my name written in huge letters across the top. If they've gone walkabout I shall be pretty incandescent. This week is painting the studios so I have to go in tomorrow afternoon for a few hours. One week to go till the deadline !
I've been working on my journal for hours – trying to make sure its in a good shape for handing in tomorrow. So I feel a bit dazed ! I also had to write my artists statement which will appear with a horribly cheesy picture of me pretending to be working in the machine room. Oh lord. Anyway this is my statement – as amended by my tutor (although I didn't take on board one change – I've stuck with 'asking' the viewer rather than 'challenging' the viewer. I think the viewer must get ever so tired of being challenged).
"These books are a range of responses to a film with which I have been obsessed for years – Powell & Pressburger’s ‘I Know Where I’m Going’. Each piece reflects an aspect of five of the key characters and incorporates their words. In some cases I have been influenced in making the book by something that actually happens to the person within the film; in others it is a response to how the film treats the character, for example, to the editing process or visually to the film making process itself. I am particularly interested in the book structure – in the interdependence of form and content, and in exploring how each can illuminate the other. Books are resonant objects, carrying immediately a range of connotations; they suggest narrative, imply authority and structure. In taking the physical form of the book and breaking it down or changing its shape, I am asking the viewer to consider how that affects the content. Just as a film can give visual expression to a script, in the same way in my pieces I am exploring ways of endowing words with visual form. I am also interested in how much we overlook the technical aspects of a film, the editing and cutting, the fading in and out of scenes – we are so familiar with the language of film that we accept it automatically and are unaware of these techniques, yet are drawn in and emotionally manipulated by them. In my work I am investigating ways of representing and highlighting such techniques and taking the time to consider their visual impact."
We’ve had the last studio meeting ever. Hooray ! No break with tradition – it started over half an hour late. Its also becoming increasingly clear that although I was hoping for a bit of a break once our work was installed and was being assessed – there is going to be a vast amount of waiting around in case we are needed by external examiners etc. This will be rather challenging for me since I have very little patience and can’t bear wasting time. I had to do jury service last summer and it drove me mad. I had to be there from 9.30 and had to sit around till about 3 every day for 8 days – to be called on my second last day for a trial that collapsed after a few hours. I sat in a hot room grimly knitting and felt like one of the tricoteurs at the base of the guillotine. I'm also rather dismayed to find out that our results will be available part way through the show – that's going to be a fun day for us all. I've managed for most of the time not really to think about this and I know that its not terribly relevant to anything. Its just that a bad mark is a bit confidence-destroying. Still, the books are nearly done – I had a good discussion with my tutor about bindings and she’s steered me away from naffness. I have finally resolved Catriona’s book – I’ve moved away from the fabric interiors. Its very simple now – my overwhelming realisation about her being that her character has been so edited that there’s not that much left. So the book has the structure of pages but they are all cut away and the text just appears right in the centre of it. Filleted. I’ve made Robert’s book too – the text of which fades gradually out as the character fades out of the film. I need to spend the next couple of days getting my journal up to scratch – we have to hand them in on Monday morning for feedback. Oh and I managed to get some plinths made – at minimal expense and unbelievably very little effort ! Which is astonishing when I compare it with the effort its taken in the past to get access to any other facilities at the University. I now have three plinths for the princely sum of £3 each. I am going to take a break tonight though and go to a friend’s exhibition – Gill Moore is showing photographs from her recent work ‘The Chorlton Bench Project’ recording and reflecting the importance of green, communal spaces to the local area (www.gillmoorephotography.co.uk).
I wanted to write about Lesley Alexander’s work ([email protected]; www.web.mac.com/lesleyalex2) which is in some ways perhaps what one might expect from a textiles based course in that a large part of it involves stitch – but I think it very much sits in a fine art context as abstract art. Her pieces are preoccupied with colour and texture – indeed saturated with a depth of colour that draws the viewer in. Perhaps unfashionably, they are also executed with great skill.
Her project this year began with her interest in marginal spaces, in disregarded areas of neglected urban wasteland. Lesley explodes the conventional notion of the picturesque by meticulously observing these places, according them the same kind of status and value as the traditional picturesque landscape that is frequently found on tourist postcards. She produced a series of minutely observed pencil drawings of these urban wastelands, finding aesthetic qualities in peeling, rusting, decayed surfaces, examining and recording the process of decay in an industrial, man-made setting. As part of this observational approach she also worked with stitch, using this as a medium for the same investigation of decay. Again, as with many of my contemporaries, Lesley is another artist who sees drawing as a process that goes beyond pencil on paper and into stitch, taking the view that that making marks and creating surfaces with a needle is an extension of drawing.
Lesley has also been interested for a long time in quilts – but with a keen sense of challenging that conventional form with its associations of domesticity and comfort. Bringing into this her textile work with its urban, industrial imagery challenges the viewer to question the purpose and function of a quilt as well as its usual association with typical ‘feminine’ imagery. Her focus has shifted lately into colour – she has been moving away from detailed representational work and increasingly towards the observation of surface and colour, abstracting and extracting that colour and texture. Her pieces now are huge and layered, with pared back colour and intensely worked surfaces. From her observation of a tiny area of texture she creates an often huge piece, referencing its origin not only in colour but in scale – despite its size its surface is made up of thousands of tiny elements of stitch. These pieces record and reflect aspects of the wastelands that are their origin, but in their rich and textured surfaces demonstrate that there is beauty even in decay and neglect.
Well – another week has zipped past. We’ve now been told that our degree show is not being extended and we will close on Sunday 22nd June. Bit of a sigh of relief really. Its been quite hard to focus lately with the weather being so great – I can’t wait till I can just go out and lie on the grass and read the pile of books I’ve got stacked up ready for some free time. But I’m not complaining at all about working hard – I’m still enjoying it hugely. I feel like I’ve got through the block I had – I’ve just moved on and am doing other books with a view to coming back to the one I’ve found so difficult. I’ve made one whose inspiration was the staginess of the character in the film – I’ve always found him a real old ham of an actor. I also had in my head the Pollock’s toy theatre I had as a kid – I loved cutting out all the scenery flats and layering them up in different compositions. So another one nearly finished. We were provisionally allocated our degree show spaces today as well – I am quite happy with mine, although I don’t think (famous last words) that its going to be so difficult to show my work. Plinths plinths plinths I should imagine. Everything is very tightly controlled – we’ve been told in very definite terms that this is a curated show and we have to conform. So no props, no colour – the walls have to be white. Even our portfolios have to look the same. We’ve also had a thorough briefing on presentation and mounting of work. So many rules……I realise that actually the only way actually to shock a tutor is to window mount a piece of textiles and put it behind glass. Oh how tempting. Even when we have installed our work – it appears that this won’t be the end of things and we might be required to go back in after its assessed and move it for the degree show itself. Well, I’m trying not to think about all that now and just get on with the next book. And my journal…and portfolio…oh, and update my website (www.sarahmorpeth.com) …and worry about what I’m going to do next…..