Things to Enjoy
20th May 2016
Wallpaper, Northern Ireland, April 2016
Things to Enjoy
12th May 2016
An attempt at a New Years Resolution
or a manifesto for 2016, version 1
to be enquiring
to observe (in slow and fast time)
to look beyond the obvious
to unpick and investigate, expose and reveal.
to go to and beyond edges
to use freedom as a methodology
to unapologetically pursue beauty
to fail repeatedly and unashamedly and use failure as a goal
to approach traces, copies and signifiers with celebration
to leave a visible trace that may be unseen
to read (preferably without distraction)
to write and make, re-write, re-make, re-work, re-draft, re-evaluate for as long as deemed necessary and beyond
15th January 2016
An extract from Sawdust and Threads, drawing deconstruction and the object, published to accompany the exhibition Sawdust and Threads at Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery
Drawing the line has effected a transference of emotion.
The drawings are clinical, conforming to a system. The object sits on the paper, floating, uprooted from its context, suspended and held. I realise I’ve subjected my process of drawing to fit within a framework; it could be argued that this resembles museum protocol.
I have thought a lot about detail – the level of detail in the drawings. Should I attempt to capture it all and thereby leave little room for imagination, or should I record and document them religiously? Is my role one of an illustrator, setting out to transfer information from the actual object into a drawn representation? Are the drawings a personal response to the objects I see in front of me? And am I pondering these questions because the subjects of my drawings were once museum objects and this knowledge is burdensome? This is an unexpectedly daunting process. Large sheets of immaculate paper rest on my plan chest, expectant. I feel paralyzed, unable to find a way in that is comfortable, respectful, secure but with a pinch of irreverence thrown into the mix. Without pencil in hand, I had planned to make the drawings quite clinical and separated from the emotions and values attached to them. This has a certain degree of logic to it as a strategy. But personal stratagems are only truly enforceable by the person who devised them so I can fall foul through my own slipperiness. As I discussed with Tania Kovats, in truth, from the moment that the pencil marks the surface of the paper, the drawing is a failure, albeit a beautiful failure.
After the first drawing, the process of production becomes disciplined. Insistent scoring into the paper is the daily routine. Graphite impressions form a musical score, I am a conductor, re-explaining the object
There are some drawings that are free flowing, when I am so absorbed that I see only the minutiae of the subject. I am captivated by tiny woodworm holes and curves of fine wire.
An extract from Privilege, Precariousness and Responsibility:
A Reflection on My Home is My Museum
My Home is My Museum grew from a germ of an idea after a visit to Ipswich Museum several years ago. Beautiful, rare and unusual objects stared out from behind glass cabinet walls, each imbued with value and significance and part of a carefully considered story. Some of these objects had been donated, others collected particularly to illustrate specific areas of knowledge. Several had once held a role in ordinary domestic life. Returning home, I noticed afresh objects around my home, on the mantelpiece, in the kitchen, on shelves and tables. They too had a role, one of memory and as emotional triggers, of functionality and uselessness, my own history arranged around the rooms. There were other stories too, of rarity, value, fact and figure; masked considerations since for me, personal association always holds the upper hand. These ideas developed and grew and led to a collection of objects donated by the public and a performance piece that took place inside two Cambridge houses.
There is a tradition of artists working in homes, and in museums, and with objects. I considered the idea of approaching the house as a museum, exploring the contents as one would in a gallery, curious as to how and if we actually curate the objects in our homes. I wondered if a collection of donated objects from the public would open up the richness I felt sure was hidden behind front doors. I thought frequently of domestic collections up and down the land remaining private and only shared with the privileged few that are invited over the threshold into our homes.
Museums are full of protocols and systems, and the museum guide is part of this construct, enhancing the power of the institution and underpinning the knowledge structure. Our houses have a set of established systems, we adopt and observe unspoken behaviour patterns, live by mutually agreed rules. To an outsider, houses and their objects give us a sense of those who live there, we imagine the person to whom the glass penguin paperweight belongs, we picture the wearer of the Panama hat. Houses and their contents generate a character all of their own.
It is a truth that many of the things we keep and hold and treasure are memorials to people, places or experiences. By acting as guardians of objects, we can deliberately travel back in our minds to relive an emotion, we can commemorate something or someone of significance; we can celebrate a part of our lives. We are placed on a timeline. Positioned in a history of our own making, we surround ourselves with our chosen, private world.
We left with a better insight into two peoples lives and felt richer for the experience. We went away reflecting on the same items within our own home and their meaning and value to us. A thought process triggered by this performance and a recognition that we surround ourselves with things that have a strong personal value but maybe inconsequential monetary value. The matches currently remain unused, and maybe we will look with a fresh perspective as we visit people's homes in future.
My Home is my Museum, audience member
A PDF of the complete publication from which this extract is taken and including essays by Lotte Juul Petersen and Rachel Hurdley can be downloaded from the My Home is My Museum page on this site, catalogued under 'works'
Poetics and Aesthetics
There is an envy of those who can use the written word creatively that I have harboured for as long as I can remember. The craft of ordering letters into words, and words into sentences creating a meaningful and beautiful flow is a rare gift. The notion of writing as a poetic stream would seem close to making visually exciting artworks, and yet there is a distinct difference. Wordsmiths use the same raw material all the time, ordering and reordering, grouping and gathering. They shift and twist letters into tales and stories, express comment and view, devise pithy phrasing. Those of us in the visual trade are magpies, bringing together stolen ingredients from everywhere and made of everything before mixing them together to create something that satisfies aesthetically and conceptually. Art making has far less rules to work to or against, no linguistic system to structure by and no common recognition of material by the audience. A journal then, by its nature, is a personal departure. Because of this, I make no claims of skilled writing, instead, I aim to record my thinking, muse on current interests and comment on the arts and culture and the issues that surround them.
Over recent months, I have been thinking about constants in my practice. By this I mean things that connect, link, remain and which are a source of inspiration. In some cases they also possess a comforting role, since they are familiar and therefore I can relate to them with old knowledge. For other artists, constants might be materials used in fabrication – oil paints in specific colours for example, or they could be motifs repeatedly used in prints or drawings, but for me it is more about an underlying set of parameters that can be highlighted or operate contextually. A series of publications seems a fitting manner to celebrate and mark my own constants and the first of these arrived from the printers last week, wrapped up in brown paper parcel. Seas
is a small book of 16 pages containing a collection of photographs of seas that have been backdrops to my work during the past six years. The sea has infiltrated my life from childhood holidays to the family tradition of dipping a toe in the briny for good luck; it has taken my breath away by its coldness and allowed me to float on my back and contemplate the world. Stories and legends of the sea abound; I have my own collection, both personal and universal, but I have chosen a quote by Robert Browning to include in the book as to me it speaks not only of the immense power of the sea but also the sense of awe I feel at the water that surrounds our island nation.
The sea heaves up, hangs loaded o'er the land,
Breaks there, and buries its tumultuous strength.