In 2013 I began a project which aimed to explore what we understand as “life” in the 21st century, when advances in science and technology seem to be changing the meaning of life and death. The project developed into something which dominated my practice for three years, culminating in an exhibition, The New Immortals which I curated at Phoenix Brighton in 2016.
Now, after a period of reflection on what exactly my practice is and what’s important to me, I’ve started revisiting some of the ideas which had to be put to one side while The New Immortals took up all my energy and brain power. With the invaluable support of a professional development bursary from a-n, and an informal partnership with the Printmaking department at the University of Brighton, I’m learning some new printmaking skills and planning a solo exhibition of new and recent work which can bring some of these ideas together.
One of the fantastic things about receiving my professional development bursary from a-n is that I can now try making a Grant for the Arts application and use my bursary as the match funding I’ll need to support the application. So here we go… it’s always with a slightly sinking feeling that I start the application process as I know how much time and effort is needed to do this, however, it’s also a really useful process, making me pin down my thoughts and ideas and make firm plans.
For several years I have worked on interconnected research projects, culminating in The New Immortals exhibition, which I curated in 2016. This and other recent curatorial work has added a new dimension to my practice, but it has meant that I have spent less time on my studio work. I’m now refocussing attention on my artwork and hope to secure funds to work with a curator/mentor and professional gallery team to develop a solo exhibition as a showcase for the new body of work I’m making.
One of the fantastic things about being able to develop my printmaking skills at the University of Brighton is the brilliant facilities and technical support available to me. I did my Fine Art BA in this department fifteen years ago and feel very privileged now to be able to come back as a visitor to learn new skills and techniques.
Scarlett Tierney has been helping me with my printmaking. Scarlett is the Technical Demonstrator for lithography, supporting students and looking after the litho area. Today I was looking through her technical folder – a bulging oracle, filled with information which Scarlett carefully records and files away for future reference as she tests out new techniques and learns new processes ready to pass on her knowledge to students. The file is full of annotated prints and plates, instructions and comments about processes from lithography to cyanotype, drypoint to etched lino, all tried and tested in Scarlett’s own lively style. An inspiration! Just a tiny sample from Scarlett’s technical folder are shown below.
Revisiting ideas from a long period of research, I’m beginning at The Beginning, in fact at the very beginnings of life. In his book, The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins theorises about the origins of life, when, in the primeval soup which existed many millions of years ago on Earth, chemical processes randomly allowed atoms to come together to form simple molecules which resulted in the formation of organic substances and in particular the “exceedingly improbable” occurence of The Replicator – a molecule which had the ability to create copies of itself. As Dawkins says, “In the lifetime of man, things that are that improbable can be treated for practical purposes as impossible”; so I am prompted to think about some of the things our limited human minds might consider to be impossible, which may perhaps be merely improbable.
Indeed, as we’re all discovering, we are now capable of many things which not so long ago were thought to be impossible and every day a new scientific miracle appears in the news. Science is transforming our lives, our bodies and our world, for better or worse, as well as reaching out to other worlds which were once only accessible in our dreams.
I’m beginning to explore these ideas through printmaking, in particular a process which is new to me – photo-lithography. Previously I had been collaging together images from different areas of my research but have been looking for a way to unify these images in a way which I couldn’t achieve using collage. I’m excited to be learning this new skill (though I’ve a lot to learn!) and to be able to bring together photography, drawing, cutouts and scans and combine them through the unifying process of print to make images which might have new meanings, pose different questions, propose new ideas.