How might our planet evolve in the future? How can we keep up with the speed at which the world is changing? Will science and technology help make the world a better place? These are some of the questions I’m asking in my new project, Once in a Universe.

In 2017 the invaluable support of a professional development bursary from a-n, and an informal partnership with the Printmaking department at the University of Brighton, meant I was able to learn some new printmaking skills and begin to develop new work which has formed the foundation for Once in a Universe.

I have now been awarded funding from Arts Council England for a period of R & D during 2018. I’ll be working with other artists, curators, the public and professionals from across disciplines to develop ideas for new work about life in the Anthropocene. The project will culminate in September 2018 when I will spend two weeks as Artist in Residence at Devonshire Collective‘s DC1 Café/Gallery in Eastbourne, testing out new work and planning a solo exhibition for 2018-19.


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It sounds like the name of a band, but Fotofonty has nothing to do with the music business and the blueprints are of the cyanotype variety.

Image above: Elizabeth Doak

Last month I worked with photographer Elizabeth Doak and graphic designer Maja Jones (aka Fotofonty) to plan and deliver two half day workshops. We worked together, revisiting the cyanotype process with expert help from Elizabeth, and testing out ideas about themes from the project to be developed in the workshop. I particularly enjoyed making these images of deconstructed tech objects, and later loved Maja’s ideas about introducing text to the work in the form of a “word mash-up” to invent “future words”.

The “Bring a Grandparent” workshops were aimed at children aged 7+ with a grandparent or older relative/companion. The aim was to encouraging cross-generational conversation about change, with a particular focus on changing technology and the merging of man-made and natural. These, along with the Experimental Clay Workshops in February, formed part of the process of r & d for the Once In A Universe project, encouraging conversation and debate and providing research which might later feed in to my own work. As well as this though, these collaborations with other artists who were commissioned to run the workshops have opened up possibilities for new ways of working and thinking.

There is no doubt that the children and grandparents really enjoyed the magical cyanotype process, but the Fotofonty artists brought extra layers of interest to the day with information about the history of cyanotype; a challenge to the children to invent “future words” to include in their cyanotype images, and an additional activity which enriched the experience, scanning the linked hands of children and grandparents which were then projected on to the wall and sent to participants for them to keep and print.

Photographs below courtesy of Elizabeth Doak

 

For me, the process of planning a brief talk to introduce the project to the children forced some serious thinking in order to simplify and condense my ideas into a form that I could present concisely and coherently – a useful process indeed! And apart from all that, thanks to Fotofonty, we made some fantastic cyanotypes and everyone went home feeling pleased and satisfied with their great work!

 

NOTE TO SELF:

Buy tiny screwdrivers

Deconstruct more tech objects (but not ones I might need again)

Coming next… when will I ever make something big again?!?

 

 

 


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In February it was great to work with artist Claire Shoosmith to run our first workshops for the Once In A Universe project (aka OIAU in shorthand!) at Eastbourne Studio Pottery, part of the Devonshire Collective in Eastbourne. I wanted to plan events which would create opportunities for people to join in practical art-making activities informed by the themes of the project, where I could work alongside them and chat while we work, creating a space for interesting conversations and things to happen that might influence the way my own work will develop.

We decided to theme the workshop around geological processes and think about geological time. John Cooper introduced these ideas for us in the opening talk in January, talking about the speed of geological processes over billions of years, compared to the current speed of change described by Hans Ulrich Obrist as “extreme present” – a time in which it feels impossible to maintain pace with the present, never mind to chart the future.*

Claire had devised a simple apparatus which would hold various receptacles (rubber gloves, squeezy bottles, piping bags…) filled with clay slip. We experimented with dripping the slip at various speeds to try to replicate the processes through which stalactites and stalagmites are formed. It turned out to be messier than expected but people soon got the idea that they needed to build little clay and cardboard structures to collect the drips and stop the slip from spreading too far.

In the next workshop we experimented with layering and folding black and white clay, using what Claire described as the puff pastry technique, to make stratified objects, then all the work went off for a first firing. Now the work has been glazed and we meet again next month for a final showing and handling of the work and to carry on the conversations which were beginning to flow.

Back in the studio I began to experiment in a small way with a mouldable silicone material I’m exploring at the moment.

I also enjoyed the process of sanding some of the layered objects to remove the surface staining left by the black clay and expose the true layers underneath, though the stars of the show for me were the remnants of worn out sandpaper.

 

NOTES TO SELF:

  • Set up a long term drip station to create drip sculptures over the summer
  • Try out some drip drawings
  • “Good tech-bad tech” – how we can tell what the future impact of  new technologies might be?
  • Make puff pastry

*https://www.artsy.net/article/hans-ulrich-obrist-the-future-of-art-according-to-hans-ulrich-obrist

COMING NEXT: Fotofonty and the Blueprints (sounds like a good name for a band!)

 


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Well here we are. More than two months into the new year and nearly six weeks since my project launched. It’s been busy and varied – always a good thing, and now I’ve reached a natural pause where I can slow down and take stock. I feel as if I’ve got much better at planning projects now and seem to have got the hang of working in short cycles, factoring in pauses to reflect and get in the studio. This last cycle has been one of planning, organising and promoting, and working with other artists and the public has been fantastic to open up new ways of working which I don’t normally use. This simple GIF (below) made by Maja Jones from Fotofonty inspired me to have a go myself (click on the image to view Maja’s animated GIF).

Perhaps the most valuable part of the process has been the essential need to simplify my thoughts and ideas in order to communicate them to others. This started slowly and quite badly but finally, a workshop for children and grandparents last weekend forced me to pin down some essential thoughts and begin to communicate them more effectively.

Image below: Still from the launch event at Towner, by Brian Booker.

The launch event in January featured an interesting talk by John Cooper, Emeritus Keeper of Natural Sciences at The Booth Museum, Brighton. John’s talk focused on the huge expanses of geological time since the beginnings of the formation of the Earth. It put a new perspective on the concept of time and made me think about the very slow speed of change in nature and natural processes, in contrast to the incredibly rapid speed of change since the Industrial Revolution.

A while ago I decided I must explore the idea that everything I do is (or can be) art. So I decided that for my short introduction for the launch event, I should approach my PowerPoint slideshow as an artwork. Wow! Who knew that you can do such things in PowerPoint? I’m still developing this work even now, making long and short versions, GIFs (like this one), sound, narration, no sound… and turning the whole thing in to a short video. (Click on the image below to view the short GIF)

Here’s another recent resolution – not to move on too fast. Look and look again. Think and think some more. Don’t rush from one idea to another, instead build, slowly. Make links. Add layers.

Coming next: An Alternative Geology – Experimental Clay Workshops


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That’s it. I’m ready. I’ve had my Christmas break and I’m ready to get started. Let’s go!

I’m excited to say that Once in a Universe will launch on Thursday 25th January, at Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne with a talk by special guest, John Cooper, Emeritus Keeper of Natural Sciences at The Booth Museum, Brighton. John’s talk, It’s just a matter of time… will take a look at the processes of evolution by natural selection and climate change, set against the backdrop of geological time. Artist Susan Diab will chair the evening and lead a discussion following the talk, exploring how our knowledge might make us better equipped to understand the changing present and work towards a better future. I’ve worked with Susan before, when she chaired an event for my last project, The New Immortals, and look forward to the post-talk discussions which she’s so good at teasing out.

Above: Susan Diab chaired a valuable discussion event for The New Immortals in 2014.

This is the first event in a series of activities which all form part of my research for this new project and I can’t wait to see where they take me. This part of the project is all about getting people talking about some of the themes I’m interested in and finding out about how people feel about the future: their hopes, expectations and concerns.

In February and March I’ll be working with some exciting artists to run workshops for people of all ages at The Devonshire Collective’s DC2 and DC3 workshop spaces in Eastbourne. I have been working with DC Programme Manager, Amy Zamarippa Solis, and commissioning DC artists to plan events which will create opportunities for people to join in practical art-making activities as well as providing an environment where conversations can take place. I’ll be attending all the workshops as a participant so I’ll be able to work alongside members of the public and chat while we work, creating a space for all sorts of exciting things to happen that can influence the way my own work will develop. The practical events kick off with a two-part Experimental Clay Workshop for people over 65 led by artist Claire Shoosmith. I can’t wait!

Above: a clay workshop at Eastbourne Studio Pottery (image courtesy of Claire Shoosmith)

In March I’ll be working with Eastbourne’s Fotofonty (aka Elizabeth Doak and Maja Jones) who will be running “bring a grandparent” Cyanotype workshops for kids and an older relative, and in April, Brighton based digital artist Alex May will be running an all day video mapping workshop using his bespoke software, “Painting With Light”.

Above: work in progress in the studio, experimenting with new materials to form clumps, concretions and clusters.

Once the workshops are all done, my main focus will be back to developing new work in the studio and continuing to research galleries and partners for a solo show for 2018-19. So much to look forward to for 2018 – and no knowing how things will develop. Exciting times.

 


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So all of this has been happening…

and this…

and then I had a tidy up and a re-assessment of the situation and decided just to carry on.

Meanwhile, good news arrived! First, my Pink Spread (a case of mistaken identity) got shortlisted for The Annex Collection Award and now appears on their website alongside some art I’m proud to be next to (www.tacuk.org/),

and then news came that I have, after much persevering, been successful with applications for funding for my new project, Only Once in a Universe! Woohoo! So enormous thanks are due to Arts Council England, East Sussex Arts Partnership and Devonshire West Big Local. I’m really excited to be able to embark on this project which has been in the pipeline for so long now and it means that I will be able to move on with some exciting plans to work with artists, curators and experts from other fields of knowledge, as well as the public, to open up new ways of thinking about growth, change and evolution in Extreme Present – “a time in which it feels impossible to maintain pace with the present, never mind to chart the future.”

The project will include a range of events and workshops in collaboration with artists Susan Diab, Alex May, Elizabeth Doak and Maia Jones (aka Fotofonty), Claire Shoosmith (Eastbourne Studio Pottery) and Amy Zamarippa Solis. The project will culminate in a two week public test space/residency at DC1 Cafe Gallery in Eastbourne in August/September 2018 and the funding will also enable me to work with curators Lucy Day and Sanna Moore to develop plans for an exhibition for 2019. How amazing!


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