31 Dec: Updates and The New Year

Is it just me or do others find New Year’s eve a real conflict of emotions? Do we always ponder over what has happened during the last year – its ups and downs and then try to at least think positively about the coming year?

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This has taken over more than I ever anticipated, but being part-time I mistakenly thought that if I pulled out all the stops I could perhaps finish early and save a few pennies in the process!   Although I have the time to do it I need to find a better work / life balance so as to keep up the momentum but have some fun at the same time.  I had my first Review in November which seemed to go well, but since then I have had a major rethink about the structure of the thesis and am hoping that when I see my supervisor in a couple of weeks time she will agree that this would be a big improvement.

During the year I made great progress by firstly interviewing John Jolliffe in Mells Somerset.  He was instrumental in Florence’s diary being published and was able to fill in many pieces of the jigsaw.


 

 

 

 

 

 

Whilst I have not been very active using social media it was through using Facebook that I was able to make contact with Florence’s great-nephew Mark and in turn her nephew (now 95) and his wife (93)!.  This led to my meeting them for lunch near Guildford and talking about Florence.  I came away feeling that I had made new close friends who were so interested in what I was doing.  So this was a very good way to finish the year.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just before Christmas I went to London to see the Dali / Duchamp exhibition at the Royal Academy.  At last I was able to see a painting that has been on my ‘must see’ list.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had been told many years ago was told that this very powerful painting by Dali was usually hung at the end of a long room in the art gallery in Glasgow, so it was the first thing the visitor saw when they entered the room. So to see it locally was one visit not to miss.  However its position in the Royal Academy was not so impressive as it was on a wall with other paintings, so rather lost.

Turner Contemporary Research Group 

I have found that towards the end of the year my role documenting the meetings has seemed to be less needed.  If it was a meeting to merely discuss progress and did not present many photographic opportunities, then I have not offered my services unless asked.  I also found that on some occasions there was another photographer there so this meant that taking images was problematic as we were competing for floor space.  I also would spend time editing etc. after the event and sending off to interested parties only to often find that I sometimes did not even receive an acknowledgment that they had been received.

As the intended exhibition is due to take place early 2018 I am not sorry to be losing this demand on my time, as at the end of the day my PhD is more important.  It has also shown that whilst it has been an interesting experience and I have enjoyed meeting some great people in the process working with a large gallery can be challenging at times!

The New Year

Apart from working to ensure that the first draft of chapters 1 and 2 of my PhD are finished by the summer then the pressure will hopefully diminish considerably.

The TSE Research Group exhibition will be held soon so it will be good all the efforts of the group over the last two years come to fruition.  Luckily I am still working with the Walking Group and there are a couple of anticipated walks due to take place both locally and in London during the year, so another photographic opportunity.

Now that Uni has given me a small expensed fund I will be able to travel and do more research in original archives.  The first proposed trip will be up to Edinburgh in the spring (when it is warmer) to visit the National Library of Scotland to look at the work of Mairi Chisholm, so something to look forward to.

Apart from taking images for the Turner Research Group I have rather neglected my own photography so have very much missed taking myself off and just taking pictures.  I bought an old Rolleiflex TLR camera earlier in the year and have yet to give it a try out.  So that is a must together with resurrecting my darkroom and doing more analogue work.

There may be a few flying pigs around here but perhaps my writing would improve from not spending so much time chained to the PC! I hope the year will continue to bring good health and to be able to see more of friends and family.  A very happy new year to whoever may take the time to read this 🙂

 

 

 

 

6-7 Oct: Bradford

My contact Pippa Oldfield, the curator at Impressions Gallery, Bradford had notified me previously that they were holding a national touring exhibition entitled, ‘No Man’s Land: Women’s Photography and the First World War’ with the private view and launch on 6 October and the artists in conversation on 7 October.  The exhibition funded by amongst others  the National Lottery and Arts Council England will got later go to Bristol  Cathedral April – July 2018, The Turnpike, Leigh November – January 209 and Bishop Auckland Town Hall February – April 2019. the content It has been put together by a group of local young people called, The new Focus Group.

The following images were taken at the private view:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It comprises work by Olive Edis, Mairi Chisholm and Florence Famborough together with contemporary work produced by Alison Baskerville, Dawn Cole and Chloe Dewe Mathews.  It was exciting to be part of the launch and to see larger versions of 15 of Farmborough’s images although they are prints and not original copies.   The exhibition as a whole is most interesting and thought provoking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr Pippa Oldfield with Alison Baskerville, Dawn Cole and Chloe Dewe Mathews.

18 July: TSE Research Group – Turner Contemporary Gallery update

Since the last post I entered for 25 March I have not been able to attend and document all the sessions as my PhD is taking top priority!  I also felt that some sessions were going over previously discussed topics so did not need to be documented.

However I did attend the meeting on 25 April which included a presentation from a Margate project artist working in connection with ‘The Waste Land’ and interested in making a contribution to the exhibition.  I have some of the images taken:


 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

The most recent meeting held on 18 July also incorporated an invited ‘sample’ audience to see what their impressions were on the proposed format of the exhibition so far.  It was a very lively meeting and the following images were taken:


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thing worth mentioning is the journey and friendships that have emerged since the group started and the fun we have had:

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8 Oct: John Akomfrah at Turner Contemporary

Following the walk to the Garden Gate Project, to coincide with the opening of the new exhibition at the gallery; a session was held with John Akomfrah in conversation with BBC historian David Olusoga.  The film by John is being shown as part of the exhibition.

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John had made the film installation (initially commissioned for the Venice Biennale 2014) entitled ‘Vertigo Sea’ which I had previously seen at the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol.  It is an extremely powerful and emotive film which addresses issues that are still relevant to issues today.  I was anxious to meet him in person and engage in a brief conversation which I was able to do!

18-31 July: Sun Pier House Gallery, Chatham – Residency

Following the walk with Elspeth Penfold, she asked me if I would like to do a joint residency with her using images I had taken from the walk.  This shows us setting up:

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The following are the images I exhibited:

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It was the first time I had done a residency so felt it was valuable experience and a chance for my work to be seen away from the local area.

April to July: TS Eliot Research Group update

Since the Turner Contemporary TS Eliot Research Group came into being in August 2015, I have been documenting all the meetings and activities.  I have also been part of the Evaluation Team, which has looked at all processes and activities to gather feedback, to enable the group to move forward and progress effectively.

To date although the number of members attending has diminished from the earlier meetings, there is now a strong group who attends and contributes regularly.  The group have collaboratively put forward suggestions for pieces to be included into the final exhibition and is now at the stage of putting these forward to the curators to see whether or not these will be available to exhibit in 2018.  These are some of the suggestions that I put forward for inclusion.

Subway Drawing – Henry Moore 1941

art-museum-moore3 --levagedepoussiere Dust Breeding – Man Ray 1931

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Night Hawks – Edward Hopper 1942

The group is now on its summer break until September 2016.

26 March: Looking further at the work of Zarina Bhimji

I have found by going back and looking again at both her work and that of Zineb Sedira that there were aspects that became more prevalent, and more similarities between them I was first aware of.  I first saw the work of Zarina Bhimji at the Whitechapel Gallery, London in December 2012.  This exhibitions covered 25 years of her work and at that time I was particularly motivated by her use of photography and film together in an exhibition.   Like Sedira she was born in 1963, and her family moved to the UK in 1974 following the expulsion of the Ugandan Asians under the Idi Amin regime.

She works with photographs, large-scale film installations and  mixed media artefacts, and her work seems to be a constant exploration of cultural identity and history with reference to India and East Africa.

Her first film that received critical acclaim was Out of Blue (2002) which is a visual journey across Uganda with accompanying sounds of fire, birds and human voices.  One thing that is particularly noticeable in her work is the absence of the human presence, although in Out of Blue there are fleeting almost ghost-like figures that briefly appear, but the viewer realises that she is more interested in the surroundings and creating an atmosphere.  She explores the buildings and what has been left behind; a row of machine guns and rifles lined up against a wall, suggesting the aftermath of violence and war, yet abandoned as they stand.

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This image formed part of the exploratory work which she undertook and later became the film Out of Blue.  It shows the inside of one of the buildings at  Entebbe Airport, a place of departure for the Asians leaving for the UK.

In 2012 her film Yellow Patch (2011) was nominated for the Turner Prize and this will be explored in more detail in my Mixed Media Essay.  Bhimji was interviewed by the publisher Phaidon about the film, where she states that she is not interested in people (http://uk.phaidon.com/aganda/art/picture-galleries/2012/january/18/zarina-bhimjis-world-without-people/) but she is interested to “… conjure stories about those who were once present and urge us to question why they are no longer there.”

The film looks at the landscape and architecture, with smooth slow panning of the scenes, an accompanying soundtrack of thunder, birdsong, radio broadcasts and the sounds of the government buildings as they must have been when they were busy and bustling with people.  They are now abandoned and in varying stages of decay, almost as if the people left in a hurry, with files still in evidence on the shelves.

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One thing that is very apparent throughout her work is the amount of research she must have undertook and also the fact that the artifacts were made available to her to document and film.  Her work She Loved to Breathe – Pure Silence (1987) was an installation of eight photographic tinted images sandwiched together between plexiglass sheets and suspended by indivisible wire from the gallery ceiling.  One frame includes a pair of latex gloves with a government stamp on the back.

ilr15 schermafbeelding-2012-01-16-om-11-19-25The exhibition book, entited, ‘Zarina Bhimji’, 2012, The Whitechapel Gallery, London: Ridinghouse, refers to the exhibits as evidence of a Home Office procedure whereby Asian women arriving at Heathrow Airport in the 1970s, were forced to undergo virginity tests, to determine if they should be allowed to enter the UK for marriage.  This procedure was subsequently proved to be illegal but seems truely shocking to find out that this had taken place.

The work by Bhimji appears to be very politically motivated however the way it is presented leaves it very much up to the viewer to draw his or her own conclusions.  She is not preaching but merely stating the fact that this was how it was.

21 March: Looking further at the work of Zineb Sedira

The final part of my Mixed Media assignment now involves writing a 1,000 word essay that relates to the project and research I have conducted so far.  Apart from the challenge of restricting the essay to a small number of words, I have decided to look and concentrate in more detail at the work of the two photographers who have also worked in other mediums such as film namely, Zineb Sedira and Zarina Bhimji.  This will help to hone in on the important aspects of their work and to highlight any similarities or differences in their approach to their work. The search for a sense of national identity is apparent  in the work of both Sedira and Bhimji as both their respective parents left their homelands in periods of political conflict, and both return to aspects that are important to them in their work.

ZINEB SEDIRA (b.1963)

She was born in Paris to Algerian parents but now lives in London. Her work covers aspects as diverse as photography, film, installations and  object making.  Her website, http://www.zinebsedira.com states that she has gradually changed her focus of interest to “more universal ideas of mobility, memory and transmission … (and) also addresses environmental and geographical issues, negotiating between both past and future.”

An image from her early work (2002) Mother Tongue, which was a three screen installation is shown below.

4844201571_3a86759b22The film shows three generations of women, each speaking her own mother tongue.  Luxonline  (http://www.luxonline.org.uk/artists/zineb_sedira/essay(1).html) states that “their roots are audibly distinct, yet visually interconnected … (and demonstrates) how fractured and fractious communication can become when the mother tongue isn’t passed on.”   Her earlier film Don’t Do To Her What You Did To Me (1998-2001) reflects the loss that can be experienced when generations of families are no longer able to communicate, thus instigating isolation and discomfort.  Sedira however merely acts as a spectator and an interpreter, and provides no intervention in the events.  She is leaving the spectator to reach his or her own conclusions.

Sedira first visited Algeria 15 years after the end of the Civil War (1991-2002) and her parents later returned to live there.  So she in turn has explored the culture and themes of provenance, separation and return through her work.

Her film And the Road Goes On (2005) was recorded at speed from a moving car moving along a coast road in Algeria,  where objects almost appear as a blur.  The colours of the landscape provide a strong visual effect almost like a painting, and it is only when a person or another vehicle is passed that the film slows, almost concentrating on the human presence for a brief period.

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Her more recent work show her strong interest in the sea as a metaphor for estrangement and isolation, her parents having to leave their homeland and in turn her investigations into her own national and cultural identity through her work.

Her film Middle Sea (2008) depicts a solitary male figure who wanders the decks of the ship almost aimlessly.  She has used audio to suggest rather than state, with noises of the engine, a radio trying to tune into a frequency and sounds of a group of people who are not seen.  This emphasises the solitary nature of the figure and the almost precariousness of his situation.  This links with the anxiety which must have been felt by her parents when they first left Algeria.

sedira_middlesea_2008_1Her more recent work has also included references to the sea, such as her film Floating Coffins (2009) which was filmed in Mauritania where the world’s shipping is beached and broken up, representing a hazard to shipping and a threat to the ecology of the area.  It also links with the area’s port of Nouashibou where African migrants left for Europe.  The work was shown on an installation of 14 screens and Sedira states that “Floating Coffins is a space where life, death, loss, escape, abandoned and shipwrecked journeys meet.  It’s both a toxic graveyard and a source for survival and hope.”  (http://www.iniva.org/2009/zineb_sedira)

ZS still 2009 Floating Coffins

Her work Lighthouse in the Sea of Time (2011) comprises a series of videos and photographic evidence of her visits to two Algerian lighthouses, depicts her interest in oral history, and the importance of memory and story telling.  She describes the lighthouses as witnesses to past history and the fact of their existence as preserving their stories.   It is depicted as a four-channel video presentation with photographs showing the lighthouse keepers’ logbook and museum views of artefacts.

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It is proposed to consider further her recent work Guiding Light (2013) which uses a mixture of video, literary references and artifacts, for the written essay .

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7 Feb: Research – Tacita Dean

The most recent film by Tacita Dean (b.1963) entitled Film was shown at the Tate Gallery between 11.10.2011 – 11.03.2012.  It is a 10 minute 35mm film projected on a tall white monolith, at the end of the darkened Turbine Hall.  It is part of The Unilever Series and it  celebrates the techniques of analogue as opposed to digital film making. Although it is a silent film, the YouTube video also depicts the ambient sounds within the gallery and the silhouettes of visitors watching the film, which can be rather distracting at times.

She is a British artist who is now based in Berlin and has worked as a draughtsman, photographer and filmmaker.  The Tate website (http://www.tate.org) describes her films  as acting “… as portraits or depictions rather than conventional cinematic storytelling, capturing fleeting natural light or subtle shifts in movement.”  Her work involves static camera positions and long takes. She states ( Tate Shots) that she is interested in old film techniques that create illusion.

The following image entitled Beautiful Sheffield (2001) shows her use of her photographs in the development of her ideas.

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I found her work interesting as a crossover between photography and film and like Zarina Bhimji, has worked in both 16mm and 35mm film, and the human presence is incidental to what she is endeavouring to capture.  Her short film The Green Ray is interesting as there is merely a single shot with a commentary from Dean herself.

Prior to Film she exhibited a 16mm film at the Frith Gallery between May and June 2010 entitled Craneway Event (2009).  This shows the choreographer Merce Cunningham (1919 – 2009) and his dance company rehearsing in the former Ford Assembly Plant in San Francisco.  Whilst the human presence is vital to the film she is interested in the ever-changing light and uses this to fall in with the rhythm of the dancers movements.

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I now plan to look at the work of several other film makers who have produced short films to see how they have worked to produce their results, particularly if minimal human presence and narration has been used.