Saturday, 25 October 2014

Some new sketches

It's taken me a few weeks to get settled in London, This week is the first time I've really dug my sketchbook out and done some drawings. I've discovered that Londoners can't walk. At first, on the street you want to blame tourists for forcing you to slalom all over the pavement but then you go in a supermarket and find that it's full of people with no spacial awareness at all. It's like trying to walk between custard. And it's fascinating. I've not pulled my sketchbook out in Waitrose just yet, instead I'm enjoying doodling on busy tubes- i don't want to get trampled by pink trousers. 

But the contrast to the movement and intensity at rush hour is the eery stillness and suppressed expectation you feel at night. 

This week the rest of the "drawer/printer" artist-teachers and I ran a workshop for the remainder of our PGCE cohort, designed to introduce them to some techniques and ideas from our specialism. I won't go into all the details of the exercises, but the idea was to explore various mark-making and sensory drawing in order to create a self portrait. We did some memory drawing, drawing the inside of the mouth- feeling it's shape with your tongue, some blind drawing, group drawing and translating some of the mark making into rubber stamps.

It was a fun day running the workshop, but it's also made me think that when i'm out and about doing observations i need to me more playful in how i get what i see and feel down onto the page.  

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Challenging myself to work bigger

I don't really like posting pictures of a 'work in progress', however here it is. Normally everything I make is about 60x40cm, about A2 size. Not through any conscious choice; when i'm looking for wood blocks to print you can usually find something that size in scrap stores. But after I went to the Peter Doig show in Edinburgh last year I've been itching for space and the opportunity to expand and go big. Now i'm in London I have the space (i don't really have the opportunity, this post is 90% procrastination) and I'm excited about trying something different.

This is going to be a collage reworking a composition i've explored before called 'Drifting too far from the shore'. It's at it's very early stages so far, what you can see in the photo is the rough horizon line and the beginnings of the sky. Until now my papercutting has been very fine and focused and delicate, and i intend to build this piece up and include more scalpel work, but right now I'm trying to have large chunks of colour, and lay it out expressively across the surface. If you think about 'The Sun is burning' by Simon & Garfunkel, it's a very tuneful, sweet song with overtly threatening, dark lyrics. Without repeating previous posts, this image is about the Waste Land and hopelessness and being lost, so I want the marks on the horizon to have foreboding undertones.

Drifting too far from the Shore. Linocut, 20x10cm

This image won't compare in size with for example; some of Doig's work. It's still relatively small. However stepping back and observing it over the weekend i've found that the scale still allows me to fall into the image and get lost in the shapes and forms, and the fledgeling landscape. When I'm working on this i feel i have to be bolder and more dramatic and stand up and walk around while i'm working. The contrast between this and certainly some of my smallest work is quite stark. I'm certainly enjoying that sensation.

Something I keep coming up against at school is trying to persuade pupils to work bigger, or out of their sketchbook, or on a different background. And the reason they don't want to is because they're scared it won't work. If you make a mistake in your sketchbook you can hide it and rip it out when no ones looking- if teacher doesn't spot it. And that's why i've plonked this unfinished thing on here, because I don't know if it's going to work. But it means that whoever stumbles across this post will have spotted it, and that'll motivate me keep on with it.

Just a small postscript: An English teacher was explaining grammar to me the other day. I should get it, but it's very haphazard. I will probably just keep on pressing keys at random\][;'

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Rivington Place, Inviva, Camden Arts Centre

I thought i'd share a couple of exhibitions I've been to this week.

Black Chronicles II is the ongoing exhibition from Autograph ABP at Rivington Place. Through portraiture, the show explores the Black presence in Britain in the last two centuries. It aims to document and archive this history in order to maintain an active memory of the lives of Black immigrants in Britain. It offers the viewer a chance to reflect on the important and often forgotten contribution black people made to the British Empire and nationally in the post-colonial era.  The show is dedicated to the late Stuart Hall and features text and audio from a key notes speech in 2008. I particularly enjoyed listening to his engaging reflections whilst studying the batter old photo albums displayed.

On the same site, at Iniva is an artist residency by Alida Rodrigues. By coincidence her postcard manipulations complement Black Chronicles. I found myself musing on the subjectivity of memory, and the way details- like her obscured faces- can be forgotten and changed. The photocopied plant illustrations she manipulates from horticultural manuals challenge the way these things are archived and presented. The space was an ongoing environment and it will be interesting to see how Rodrigues develops these ideas over her residency.

Camden Arts Centre is currently hosting Call & Response by Glenn Ligon. A well curated multi-media exhibition through three rooms. Ligon is exploring the Harlem Six. The black youths who were wrongly arrested and beaten for murder in 1964, leading to the Harlem Race riots of that year. The viewer will benefit from reading up on the subject before viewing the show which wouldn't have the same impact if you saw it uninformed. Unusually for me i enjoyed the video installation, inwhich you are immerse into a study on movement and expression in an all encompassing environment. The video is silent, and this silence contrasts nicely with the focus on quotes and transcripts in the other rooms. Ligon marries the police records of the events with a very visceral expression of the energy and malice in the event.

At school this week I observed a year10 history class studying Powell's Rivers of Blood Speech as part of their module on immigration. It made me wonder how you could perhaps bring these shows and different elements together, with the archives, written records and create a visual response based on memory and identity.