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A trip to Bristol


Yesterday, another OCA student Kate Aston and I went to Bristol to see the Grayson Perry exhibition, The Most Popular Exhibition Ever! I hadn’t really considered Bristol as a hub for art exhibition before, but will definitely be going back. It is much easier and cheaper to get to for me than London, and there is plenty of high quality work on show there, with the Arnolfini, Spike Island, M-Shed, The Lime Tree Gallery showing modern work, alongside the traditional museums, such as the Royal West of England, and of course, Martin Parr’s forthcoming event space.

The last time I went to the Arnolfini was for the Richard Long exhibition, which I reviewed here. Long and Perry have in common their penchant for large scale pieces and the huge rooms of the Arnolfini were an ideal location, giving the works plenty of space to breathe. The exhibition covered all three floors of the building, and it was very well attended, especially for a winter’s midweek morning – Perry is obviously a very popular artist, as per the exhibition title. Having said that, the title is really a play on words, as the exhibition looks at current popular culture of the last few years, and is very rooted in the 2010s, examining subjects like Brexit, the world of the internet and gender fluidity. I do wonder how some of the works will be seen when they become historical, rather than being contemporary. They will certainly say more about what was bothering people than many of the current, more ‘artsy’ stuff.

As we all know Grayson Perry spreads his creativity across a wide variety of media, but most of the work on display here was ceramic pots, tapestries. Most of the works were big, some were huge (see below). The ceramic pots were dotted about the building, with space to view them from all angles, which was essential as every side of the pots were covered in complex layers of colour, texture and a mind-boggling array of ideas. Minimalism is not a concept that appeals to Perry; his work tends more towards the maxim ‘If in doubt, bung it in’.  Perhaps partly for this reason, and also his overt transvestitism, the everyday subject matter and obvious political enthusiasm, he has had difficulty in being accepted by the arts establishment over the years, despite his obvious talent. Looking closely at some of his ceramics, it is hard not to be awed by his facility with colour and glazing techniques, and his riotous use of different ones within the same piece of work. I was particularly struck by the subtle gold transfers which were applied to many of the pots on top of the more obvious layers, for example.

Much has been written about Grayson Perry, and his ideas and methods, so I will not say any more about them. What really fascinated me about the exhibition was the exuberance of the work, his breadth of subject matter and materials, and his playfulness. I cam away feeling that a door had opened to me, away from the straight, unadorned photographic image. Perry lets us know that it is OK to experiment, and the more extreme and wacky, the better. This degree is a journey for me, and I should not feel constrained by current standards of what is considered the ‘right’ way of making images. If I want to embellish, alter or use multi-media alongside and within my images, that is fine. The journey is about exploration and playing with concepts, as much as producing standard images. Providing there is a clear(ish) methodology and contextualisation, anything goes.

It was a breath of fresh air!

PS, while Kate and I were thumbing through some of the books Perry has used as inspiration, we came across one called Lands End, by Ruth Claxton. Claxton’s work includes torn paper and embroidered photographs and is something I need to keep a note of for future work.


I am in love with an app

From I was introduced to the iPhone app Procam yesterday, and I think I am in love. The app itself purports to turn the iPhone into a fully functional RAW camera, and one can alter the f-stop, shutter speed and ISO to suit the conditions. However, the bit that I love is its filters section, and in particular the set of five different kaleidoscope effects. Regular readers will know that I am fascinated by the idea of using the pixels within an image to alter it while retaining the substance of the original, and this app is fantastic for doing that. The number of different patterns is almost infinite, as every slight adjustment one makes alters it completely (a bit like an old-fashioned kaleidoscope). Here are a couple of examples below.

From a tapestry wall hanging at the Bristol Grayson Perry exhibition

 From one of my test images for assignment 5

My plan is to print some of these entirely unique patterns and to use them as book covers for the associated pieces of work. I may also try printing them on fabric to see how they come out, with the possible aim of having fabric book covers as an alternative. My recent purchase of Charlotte Rivers’ (2014) Little Book of Book Making has simple instructions for this, using only household items.

Edited to add.

Further to this idea, I am also investigating ways of making handmade boxes for my assignments, particularly no. 5, which will be delicate and would benefit from some protection in transit to Barnsley. I only mention this here, as I printed out one of my patterns onto washi paper and covered some card with which to make the cover of the box. The end result is too flimsy, but the idea is sound. (I subsequently tried it with packing cardboard, which was too lumpy, and finally settled on using mount board, which has the required strength, as well as being made in several layers, which can be folded if cut correctly.) Anyway, here’s how the paper looked on the first box – not bad, at all, I think.



Rivers, Charlotte (2014) Little Book of Book Making. New York, Random House.

A quick update on photobooks and assignment 5

I’ve been busy over the last few days playing around with book formats. Here are a few images of a photobook I have made using the pocket frame technique. I suspect it is something that is taught in school for framing school photos, but I upped the ante a little by using a variety of bee themed papers and including transparent plastic covers for each of the images. It seems to be a useful addition to my book styles, as it opens totally flat and folds flat easily. The only problem is that I am not sure what images to put into it.

Since then, I have received some very beautiful Japanese papers from Shepherds in London, and selected the combination of paper, book type and methodology for presenting assignment 5. A taster images is shown below. I intend to replace the white thread with a green one and to make a presentation box for it.




Implied spaces, part 2

The third area of experimentation relates to a more esoteric idea, and uses some of my original understanding of the term, and what the blog I refer to at the beginning is looking at. I would characterise it as implied places – where one might layer an image in a collage effect to say more about the places and their meaning to a person or group.

My Photoshop skills are still fairly slow, so it has taken me all afternoon to produce this collage below. It includes some title deeds for the house, an image I took a couple of years back and also a photo of some of the historical inhabitants, and uses a Photoshop Mask template.


I am hoping that with more practise, I can achieve a similar effect to that of patchwork, but using images rather than fabric squares. So, this work continues…..

The notion of ‘implied spaces’, part 1

I came across this term as a result of following the blog of the same name: here. It was the photographs that originally attracted me, with their multiple layers and mixed subject matter, but I subsequently became intrigued by the idea of an implied space. When I reviewed the work I did for assignment 4, and before I looked into the meaning of the term, I had concluded that the images in the work had an element of implied space, as in they and their contents hinted at what had gone before without making it obvious. We look at the chaos and imagine what the rooms looked like when they were in use.

However, after a bit of digging around, I found that the term is actually one that is used in art and architecture, and it has a different meaning. In simple terms, Art1011 defines it as the illusion of created depth in a 2 dimensional work, but here are a couple of more complex explanation, using literature and theatre as well as art for examples.

So, in essence, in an image, an implied space is one where the position of figures and implied leading lines suggests a depth of perspective rather than a flat, two-dimensional space. Let’s take a couple of examples from my own work. Both of these images were taken earlier this year in Nice. The first gives no clue of three dimensionality at all (quite deliberately) while the second has implied lines of perspective, making it seem more three dimensional.

I’d like to now explore this concept in three different ways. Firstly, there is the idea of creating that three dimensionality by other ways than perspective, one of which I have been playing with and which fellow student Catherine is also looking at: producing a 3D images using Photoshop layers. My first attempt was blogged in a previous post, and it was surprisingly successful, but I am interested in trying to produce the same effect in a part of an image rather than the whole thing. Lo and behold, it also works!


I suspect that 3D photography might lead me down a bit of a blind alley, but there is no doubt it is fun. (Must look up to see whether any art photographers use this technique in their work. Thomas Ruff does, but is there anyone else?)

The second idea is to produce the idea of perspective in a way that refers to the concept of foreground, middle ground and background through actual layers, rather than implied layers. I am thinking of the way that Thomas Ruff’s interest in examining various qualities and elements of the image rather than the overall effect here.  Here are two examples from my work this year. The first uses actual layers within the frame while the second is a created piece, using Photoshop layers.

To be continued……

Project 1 – reflection point

For this piece of work, we are asked to consider the sentence below, with reference to the work of William Eggleston and Richard Wentworth:

The real location, found objects and characters, combined with technology and the photographer’s eye, come together to create a new world, one balanced loosely between recognition and art.

We are asked to answer the following questions:

  • Where does that leave the photographer? As story teller or history writer?
  • Do you tend towards fact or fiction?
  • How could you blend your approach?
  • Where is your departure from wanting/needing to depict reality?

The coursework suggests that, by removing the figure from an image, the viewer is encouraged/forced to make up his/her own story to explain what they are looking at. Hints and clues may be there, but it is the viewer who decides what they mean, not the photographer. The information also looks at William Eggleston’s series Memphis and explains that the lack of figures does not necessarily mean there is no information on the people who inhabit the spaces he photographs. Eggleston uses objects to hint at the people who use them, such as the tricycle shown in the coursework text.

Wentworth’s images of pieces of rubbish wedged into cracks in walls and domestic objects shown in a street context also hint at stories which the viewer must interpret. However, the question I would ask with both photographers is how much input they had into the scene they photograph. Clearly, some of Wentworth’s images are posed, although not all – see below. They utilise very mundane objects and make slightly jokey points about the incongruity of some of the things we see while going about our daily lives.

I am not so sure with Eggleston, although there is a very constructed feel about them. See below.

Both photographers appear to be using observation to collect together a series of images that say something about the place they are photographing and the characters of the people who live there. However, the individual stories are left up to us.

So, returning to the questions we are asked to consider, I would argue that these photographers are a little bit of both story teller and historian, but that these labels don’t really get to the heart of the subject matter. What the images really are is an invitation to think about how the objects got there, who did they belong to, and why, thus making us think outside the frame of the individual image to the place in which it was made. The story teller is really the viewer, not the photographer.

The second question asks whether I by nature tend towards fact or fiction in my photography. I would say probably 70% fact and 30% fiction, thinking about the work I have be making for my various courses. A conceptual element is creeping in nowadays, which probably means a move away from the simply factual. Others might disagree with this assessment though. I do feel that my work is moving away from simple reportage towards trying to visualise ideas, and this is something I intend to continue as the course goes on.

Conversely though, I have a strong aversion to making changes to the environment in which an image was made, in order to “improve” the composition. I prefer to leave things as I found them, and to work with what I see. An example of this is shown below, where nothing was added or taken away (apart from the photographer in the images, of course). The armchair and the panda bear really were exactly as we found them, in the derelict room.


Back to the explorations of colour

Now that my assignment has been sent off, I can get back to my explorations into colour and place. The mandalas are fun but don’t have a deeper meaning than what you see, at least not so far as I have divined so far. Today, I cam across a photographer who looks at the same concepts, but from a different angle.

Niall Benvie is a nature photographer with a wide range of interest, and his work caught my attention on Niall has devised a process he calls Colour Transects, where he samples the colours of an image according to a set grid pattern. This produces a palette of colours which represent the image, but which also function as a device to encourage the viewer to move back and forth between the colour swatches and the images to find out where each colour swatch originated. He also titles the images with a latitude marker, as he’s interested in how the natural colour palette changes from south to north away from the Equator. His website is at

I’ve been trying out his technique and here’s a screenshot of my first effort.

My colour transect 1

I think there is some potential here, not simply as a way of creating colour maps. Benvie’s concept of colours changing as one moves north or south is what has been niggling at the back of my mind. The colour palette of Australia is totally different from that of, for example, England or Iceland. Certain colours are strongly associated with the natural environment in each – ochres and very pale greens in outback Australia, bright greens and browns in England and blacks, whites and red in Iceland. My thinking on this is that it must be possible to capture a colour palette for each place which is definitive.