Having two blogs isn’t working this time…

It’s working much better over on my website where it’s all in one place. Just because I’ve previously had a “project blog” in addition to the main blog (Threads) doesn’t mean I always have to…

So what will happen is I’m going to retire NOTES and paste the last two posts from there over to here on Threads and take it from there… the whole point is that the disparate elements of my practice merge, so it makes no sense to try to separate it again. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, but sometimes you have to see it happen before you realise, sometimes you’re too close to it…

So goodbye NOTES and hello to a fully integrated practice, in a fully integrated blog!


It’s a weird thing really, the landing of an Arts Council Grant. It’s not as if I haven’t been working in the studio for the last year, and if I hadn’t got it, I would of course have carried on working.
The work has been physically running along one (visual) track, while the imaginary funded (music) work runs along far behind in my head. I would have got round to it eventually, with saving up for music studio and producer time, but it would have been piecemeal. Therefore it would always be lagging behind, and would not be having a real effect on the visual work, as I hoped and wanted. I believed (and still do) that what would be important in developing the work would be working on the sound work AT THE SAME TIME as the visual work.
Since hearing the good news, I have contacted everyone involved and arranged to “start”… and it really does feel like a start.
I’ve organised myself, my work space, my files… I’ve made lists and notes. I’ve sent huge music files through WeTransfer to Michael Clarke for review. A starting point. We have had a zoom meeting to discuss what that starting point is.
I learned through my previous funded project that it is a really good idea to have someone to document the project as it goes along. So I also have a carefully planned socially distanced meeting arranged with Laura Rhodes the project photographer. A starting point then… where am I now with the visual in one place and the sound in another? Have it captured as it is now, so that at the end of the project, about a year from now, I have something to assess progress against. We are quick to forget how things were…
A chance conversation about sound artist Bill Laybourne has led me to a conversation with him, and some collaboration on his project. We have very different skills and sensibilities, but have found touch-points in our work that are really interesting and inspiring. He has lent me a small contact microphone so that I can listen to my drawings, on paper and in wire, while I work on them, and while they hang. A week in, and already I’m seeing how working on both aspects simultaneously can make a difference to how I go about things. I can see me getting new equipment and mic’ing up everything I work on…


So now the money has landed in my account I can start in earnest.
It is worth noting that in the same week the money arrives, Birmingham goes into local lockdown measures, and 3/5 of the band, the recording studio and my producer are in Birmingham. I am just over the border, with one remaining band member a couple of miles away.
So my first task is to figure out how the plan can change in the short term (hopefully) to accommodate this. So my diary is filling, but with zoom meetings rather than real ones. We are creative people, I am sure we can figure it out. But the annoying thing is online meetings are not real time. Collaborative music making just doesn’t work. So it will consist of talk, and the transferring of files, but not true interaction.
However… I am careful not to be downhearted. I am grateful. I still have access to these wonderful people. And the real difference is in my own head. Previously I have held my sound ideas in a bubble… unable to do anything with them until after the fact of making, while saving up. So what happens is a bolting-on of sound after. What I am already feeling is that shift of thinking. The fact that I can record things, manipulate them, send them to Michael* for him to work with, and discuss with him the possibilities, and feed them back into the work I’m drawing/making almost immediately is fantastic.
My photographer Laura** is also in Birmingham. Originally we planned to do a starting point studio visit to document things that would get picked up and followed. Maybe we can do this while the weather is nice, in the local park, or my garden… but not just yet… I shall take not such great photos, and we can record a sort of Q&A together, and also with my fellow artist and project co-curator Sarah Goudie… but I think a little creative and clear thinking will be required to make this read coherently at the end.
It is interesting that any documentation of projects all over the place at the moment, are also documents of pandemic response, not just the work. I think we have to not just come to terms with this, but embrace what the restrictions make us do instead, that perhaps we would never have thought of. And to make us appreciate the luxury of sitting in a small room with another person, a microphone and a musical instrument.
*(Michael Clarke: musician, songwriter, producer, engineer, all round multi-talented good person)
**(Laura Rhodes: Photographs and videos, artist, interviewer, all round multi-talented good person)


My Arts Council funded project Drawing Songs will be documented through my other a-n blog, (with slightly amended title)



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Drawing and Dimensions – Part 2

In part one I wrote about the lines of ink on paper, wire in three dimensions and the shadows cast back onto the paper. I have a handle on where I am with them. The ink and paint travel right to the edge of the paper, implying its journey goes beyond. The shapes I bind with wire have defined edges, the lines form the mesh that can feel like a surface. Whether it is or not depends on who you talk to. But it could keep going…

I have the good fortune to have a clever son who has an impressive background in physics… and incidental philosophy… our conversations make my head hurt. I do have to sometimes remind myself after the conversations that the scientific truth is not necessarily to be held onto in my art work, or in philosophical terms, but an exploration of terms and meanings in those  disciplines is really useful. Thanks Dan! Our references range from Aristotle, to Kierkegaard via Homer (Simpson) and Terry Pratchett, in an attempt to aid (my) understanding of dimensionality. The conversation we had attempted to place sound within my work. I’m trying to establish a few rules for myself to explore the issue.

If I see the drawing on paper as two-dimensional drawing, and the wire sculpting as three-dimensional drawing, then the song, of determinate length, becomes a temporal fourth-dimensional drawing. The extent of this is defined, and explicit, and a lived experience over that time. And it is still a drawing. My questions and rules now then, as I create these sound-temporal-dimensional drawings (I’ll probably find a better term as I work) are as follows (for now):

Will they be separate pieces, made to sit alongside specific drawings? 

Will a stop~start of the sound be a sort of annotation of the drawings? A point from which travel occurs, for the duration of the song/sound?

Will it be a continuous looped piece, to reiterate/echo that carrying on past the edge?

Will this create a possibility of different starting points along the continuum through paper/ink/wire/sound that can travel in any direction?

What quality of sound do I want to convey to the viewer/listener?

Is there a direction to this dimensionality? Does it all come from the paper, outwards, or does the cause and effect travel in both directions?

I ask these questions, aware of overlap between them in the phrasing of things, and also that I may never answer them.

The experience of the viewer/listener, in the gallery at the end may effect how I construct things… but it feels too soon to be considering that, and yet it is in there… If you see a sound piece in a gallery that runs for 45 mins, do you stay for 30 seconds and walk out? If it says 3 minutes do you stay to listen to it all. If it is a continuous loop do you treat it differently and just stay as long as the installation holds you? So how much of this produced sound will be actual proper songs?

Should I be bothered? Yes… because another ‘dimension’ here is the mutability of the sound drawing for the viewer/listener. There is the possibility, if they stay in the gallery long enough, that the thread of it stays with them, when they leave, and they find themselves recalling it later…


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