Monday, 13 December 2010


I've been told to stop looking at work similar to my own, and look at something diffrent, but I can't help it. Janice Lowry's work is more abstract than mine, therefore it's different...kind of.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Reflection-The Biennial as a whole.

My overall experience of the Biennial was a positive one. I feel that I probably should have seen more when I had the chance, but enjoyed the majority of what I did see. The theme 'Touched' can be interpreted on many different levels. The Biennial website describes the Touched theme as follows-

“Touched presents affective art, and so becomes a sketch map of the affections - passion, rage, lust, pleasure, fear and joy. ..Artists depend on their art touching its audience to communicate shared meaning. The erotic frisson between art and its audience is the same as that between individuals who share interests.”

I think this theme is all encompassing. Art in general is used to create a reaction, 'touching' those who view it. This said, if one was to say ‘I was touched by that piece’, this would generally be seen as a positive reaction, and hints towards a heart-warming, emotional response, potentially narrowing down the scope of art that is relevant.

A piece that I was failed to be ‘touched’ by was Mandi XV’ 2007 by Kris Martin at the Black-E. This was probably due to my prior high expectations. The way this piece had been described to me led me to believe I would feel overwhelmed and in awe of this giant suspended sword, but, I wasn’t. The concept was interesting, and there was a definite sense of unease about the foreboding weapon above my head, but the blade appeared blunt, and matt in appearance.

The title, Mandi, stems from a colloquial Italian term for ‘goodbye’, an expression originating from the words mano (hand) and dio (god) and meaning ‘to leave in the hands of God’, and there is a sense that this sword should be at the hands of a greater being. This may sound superficial, but it’s the type of thing I’d show a friend/relative who didn’t have a great interest of knowledge of art, for sheer aesthetic pleasure. The kind of thing I’d show my Dad who’d simply react with, ‘that big swords pretty cool’.

I have however been 'touched' by other work during the Biennial. Some of the pieces I saw took the word 'touched' literally as in physical touch- a sensory experience. With a lot of art we are expected to keep a respectable distance, but with pieces such as NH Harsha's piece 'Star Gazers' we can physically walk over the art itself. Lie down, 'touch' it. I really enjoyed this experiece at Rapid, and felt as if I'd entered a small world of colourful escapism.

There are about 250 biennials and triennials for contemporary art the Liverpool Biennial has grown to be the largest and one of the most visited biennials in the world. Liverpool’s economy directly benefits from this art induced tourism, and so do its people. The Liverpool Biennial website states -

The art that Liverpool Biennial produces and the effect that it has on communities is profound and far reaching.  By providing art that is inspirational and aspirational in a city that is unique, resonant and recognised around the world, the Biennial is putting meaning and quality into personal perspectives.  Along with our partners, we understand that art inspires debate, communication, creativity and engagement and the Biennial undertakes activity based on these qualities to create personal, social and aesthetic growth.’

Tala Madani’s Sunny Side Up
I have walked past this large mural in Liverpool on numerous occasions, but it has never held my attention. It wasn't until I was shown it formally as part of a group that I even attempted to decipher what it was meant to illustrate. At a glance this piece looks like a simple line drawing,  an almost abstract pattern of contrasting black and yellow on a white building. On closer inspection it is apparent that the piece constitutes of two rows of men on their backs with their legs in the air painted in a bold cartoon style illustration, framing a yellow substance, potentially urine. I was quite surprised by this revelation, and although the piece isn't particularly offensive, I was increasingly aware that I was in the public realm, and began to question how this piece would appear through the eyes of a child.  The biennial website ( states -

' Men, in particular, are her recurrent subjects...parties, personal grooming sessions and other occasions for male bonding spiral down into bizarre scenarios in which men ritually abuse, humiliate and degrade one another.'

I personally thought there were allusions to homosexuality in this piece, what with the abundance of male genitalia hinted under the black underwear, lined up together in close proximity, combined with the merging of bodily fluids...if you catch my drift. Overall this piece didn't really do much for me. It wasn't until I was made to gather round it with fellow art students that I payed any real interest. Even then, I lost interested after a few seconds and wanted to move on to something more engaging.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

                                            New box (which isn't really a box at all)
As I was particularly pleased with my last wooden box, I have decided to continue physically contrusting my work, rather than using ready made boxes. I came across an old crate, and broke it into pieces. What caught my eye about this wood was how the nails had rusted and stained the wood, and how it contrasted with the stark blue paint. I now need to decide what to do with this structure. I am gradually moving away from the typical form of a box. 

 After my assesment I was pointed in many differnent directions.  After mentioning that I'd like to fill spaces such as a hole in a tree/brick wall (instead of filling boxes) I was advised to look at Kurt Schwitters, so I did... Below is an image of the Merz Barn (1947). I'd really like to have a go at doing something similar, stay tuned.
Other things to think about...
  • Changing scale -potentially using a room/shed to create small installation
  • What am I trying to say with my work?
  • Context alteration- against a backdrop that itself changes (clouds, road, night sky?) and utilised time-lapse photography?
  • Or, against a background that, at the right distance, contains something that would fit into that top-right corner space. Bringing the backdrop forward and making it the subject.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Ive been trying to link some work from the Biennial to my own work, which I find to be a challenge. I think my recent work has some level of narrative behind it, and I've been thinking back over work I've recently seen with underlying narratives... Ive realized through doing this that pretty much everything you look at has a some form of narrative. Look around. That empty cup of tea, there's probably some story behind it. Where it was from? Who bought it? It has a picture of a cat on it... Why are there so many cups with pictures of cats on them?

Anyway, I suppose with art, narratives are used to illustrate specific ideas, stories, concepts etc. A memorable piece which had a significant narrative was 

Tehching Hsieh 'One Year Performance (1980-1981)-(Time Clock Piece) at Fact.

This piece was pretty overwhelming. The concept was that  Hsieh punched a time clock, every hour on the hour, twenty-four hours a day, for an entire year resulting in more than 8,000 photographs . An observer verified each day's time card. The time process was further illustrated by the artist shaving his head before the piece began, then allowing it to grow naturally for the duration. Every time he punched the clock, a movie camera shot a single frame. The resulting film compresses each day into a second, and the whole year into about six minutes. This compression of time was particularly interesting, as was the physical representation of time through the photographs. To 'see' a year was a little un-nerving for me. I developed an awareness that as I was standing in this room, time was ticking away for me too.

If I'm honest, I was a bit suspicious of this piece and questioned whether the artist sometimes got all his photos for the day in one go, saving a lot of time. It would be very hard to tell, the clock could have been altered etc.  I just couldn't imagine someone having the patience or this level of dedication to their art. It made me question how far I would take something in the  name of art. Or, perhaps, he's somewhat insane. His facial expression throughout the photographs is one of seriousness, with a tinge of sadness, which induces a sense of empathy for this focussed, if not a little mental, human being.

Shaviro, Steven, who wrote 'Performing Life: The Work of Tehchinh Hsieh' has explained that his pieces 'are not feats of stamina nor motivated by a desire to suffer (though they have been described as ordeals), but rather are explorations of time and of struggle.' Hsieh himself states his work is about "wasting time and freethinking"

Out of curiosity I have read up on Hseih's other works, which follow a similar theme of endurance/wasting time, such as 'Cage Piece 1978-1979' in which he lived in a wooden cage for a year, and  was not allowed to talk, to read, to write, or to listen to radio and TV. There was also 'Outdoor Piece 1981-1982' in which he spent one year outside, not entering buildings or shelter of any sort. The piece I found most impressive/ridiculous was 'Rope Piece 1983-1984'. In this performance, Hsieh and Linda Montano spent one year tied to each other with an 8-foot-long rope. They had to stay in a same room and were not allowed to touch each other until the end of the one year period. I think there's a fine line between genius and insanity, and this is teetering along the edge. It reminds me of David Blaine and the controversy his art/magic can generate.

Performance art has always been a realm I have been dubious to enter. It doesn't relate directly to my current work, but I'd never rule it out as a medium of working. It has a different impact than more two dimensional static work, and can be a powerful tool to illustrate themes and concepts through physical action, which Hseish has proven.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Biennial .

Alfredo Jaar

In "We wish to inform you that we didn't know", Jaar replays footage of Bill Clinton apologising to a Rwandan audience for not acting more quickly and decisively during the 1994 genocide and appearing to acknowledge that he had not fully understood the gravity of the situation. This is followed with testimony from three survivors of the genocide.

 I found this short film piece particularly powerful and emotive. It was shown across three screens, which continuously switched, sometimes repeating certain parts. I felt this acted as a tool to keep the audience continually engaged and stimulated and to highlight particularly poignant parts of the film,  "All over the world there were people like me sitting in offices, day after day after day, who did not fully appreciate the depth and the speed with which you were being engulfed by this unimaginable terror."  for example, is repeated three times. This film opened my eyes to a terrible occurrence that I was naive to. It brought me out of the self centred bubble I live in, surrounded with my own personal problems, and gave me a sense of perspective. It also made me question once more, mans capacity for evil. I left this film, wanting to research more, and I believe this to be the mark of good art, to induce curiosity, trigger an emotional reaction, and to ultimately make you think.

We wish to inform you that we didn't know.

Nicholas Hlobo at The Bluecoat

I don't normally go to exhibitions alone. I feel as though I loose all sense of how long I should look at something. I begin questioning myself, 'if I continue to look at this piece intently, will I appear knowledgeable to surrounding people?'. I shouldn't really care. Anyway, I did go to this exhibition alone, and I'm glad I did. As you go upstairs in the Bluecoat you are met by an array of colourful ribbons pouring down the stairs. As I reached the top I crept through a ribboned curtain into the unknown. I had no idea what direction I should be heading, and there was no sign of anyone else around but continued to weave my way through this dense surreal environment. The piece was incredibly tactile and almost magical in its simple beauty. I eventually came across two black rubber figures, engaged in a whispered conversation, clothed in fabric and more rubber. I felt as though I had found the centre of a maze which triggered a small sense of achievement. I began wondering what I'd do if they suddenly turned to look at me, no doubt I'd have minor stroke and end up tangled in a web of colourful ribbons on the floor. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this piece, and felt a little deflated when leaving the Bluecoat, and heading back to 'the real world'.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

 Experimental work, changing context of work by altering its environment...

Monday, 22 November 2010

More artist references...


'The precursors of the modern museum. Wunderkammer comes from the German for 'Cabinet of Curiosities'. Over the years people would find odd, strange & fantastic items & assemble these inside usually a glass fronted wooden cabinet. '

Amy Leonard creates these assemblages inside large glass apothecary jars and domes, which appear to harbour stories and little worlds of kitch.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Yet another box....

I wanted to try to construct a box from some different materials. I have been using simple cardboard boxes which I've layered with newspaper in a papier mache style, but this time I had a go at nailing some wood together to create this rough organic box shape. I tried to incorporate some natural materials and objects within this box so it had some sort of theme, but also hints of nostalgia via old photographs etc. I think I'm starting to develop abit of understanding of composition...well I'd like to think I am. I know for my assesment I should have an idea of how my work would be dispalayed in a gallery environment. Cornell diplays his art against a plain background, on a wall, generally at eye level, which I think is probably my best option. I have however been considering buying some old fashioned wallpaper to line the walls with, but it'd have to be pretty simple and not overly distracting. I have already started looking around for something suitable, but have found nothing of relevance yet. I also have an old fashioned table cloth that I will arrange my boxes and possibly just display my boxes on a table of some sort...not entirely sure yet.

(Cornells style of presentation)

I've also been trying to create a narrative to accompany my boxes. I've been writing notes for many of the objects in my boxes, explaining where they came from, what they mean to me, and why I have kept hold of them. After making these notes I came to the conclusion that there is something interesting about letting the viewer make connections between the objects in the boxes themselves. As if giving them the tools and characters to create their own stories, or to simply piece together a memory.

Friday, 19 November 2010

I have discoverd a junk shop in Liverpool, which sells bits and bobs that are perfect for my box asemlages. The objects I bought had an air of nostalagia, and I felt as though I was buying other peoples memories. I bought a series of slides, radomly picking them from a box relying on luck to provide me with interesting photos.
I decided to incorporate them with my personal photos of my grandma which you can see here <-.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

...I continued experimenting making boxes.

I wanted to make something that would induce curiosity, and encourage the viewer to peer inside. This box simply has a round window cut into it. I further disguised what was in the box by using wool which I threaded across the space inside the box.

On a side note, I am becoming increasingly aware that I should be writing more about the Biennial. Alot of the stuff I've seen is completely irrelevant to my work, but interesting none the less. A piece that I'm pretty sure I'll always remember is a piece by Sachiko Abe at A Foundation, entitled 'Cut Papers'. This piece does exactly what it says on the tin. The artist sits high above in a white dress, in an expansive room snipping at paper which cascades down to the floor. A tall cone of paper towers down in the centre of the room, and is the result of some seven years of paper cutting. The scissors she uses are slightly amplified but the space is otherwise silent so people instinctively fall quiet.

Whilst I was in this space, a large group of school children entered and caused quite alot of noise. Sachiko put one finger to her lips, and stopped cutting paper until a quietness fell once more. I felt small, and inferior to this woman whom I had never met, nor knew anything about. Maybe it was due to her being physically so high above us spectators, or the fact she seemed so composed and sure of herself and her actions that I felt perhaps just me being there, I was polluting this pure crisp environment

Also in this space is a small room with a series of intricate drawings which I can't begin to imagine the work that has gone into creating them. These drawings, and the action of cutting paper are supposedly a form of therapy for the artist, to keep her mind occupied and distract her from reality. I can understand how creating such work would induce a meditative state, and although this work could be seen as self indulgent, the results are aesthetically beautiful. There is also a ‘white room’ in which strands of paper hang from above. This room has a magical quality in its simplicity.

Text from the A Foundation website…

'In Cut Papers Abe invites the audience to experience an intimate space in which the constant snipping of scissor blades is the only measure of time passing. At A Foundation Liverpool Abe will perform for the duration of the Biennial but be warned Abe says. “My work is neither beautiful nor meditational.” Rather it is an aesthetic paradox that locates the artist at the center of a field of reciprocal subjectivity, she is an object of the gaze that returns the subject to themselves by activating a feedback loop. Cut Papers is a series of works that create a surplus of meaning within an apparently simple aesthetic economy. It is this scenic space of perception and production that is the focus of the work.'

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Things Organized Neatly . I stumbled upon this blog which I felt related to the kind of stuff I've been looking at recently.

I also came across a chinese contemporary artist, Hong Hao and his work entitled 'My Things'. He collects all the ephemera and trinkets from his life and documents them via photography.This voyeuristic work makes you question, if you were to disappear today what would be the material left in your wake...

I had a go at using my stuff, arranged on a blank background, and then edited the photos to increase contrast etc.
I'm not particularly happy with these photos, they dont really say alot, or have any particular impact. Maybe if id used hundreds of objects on a larger scale, it might have looked more impressive but, you live and learn...

Monday, 15 November 2010

We sat together the mountain and I, till only the mountain remained...

Leggate Theatre Artist

Andy Houlden- 'Three Short Walks in Time'

This piece really stood out for me as it was unlike anything I have experienced before. It is set in a small theatre environment, in which the audience are seated in a horse-shoe formation, looking down towards the artist and an accompanying orchestra. The music that this small orchestra played was soothing, and quite beautiful, and was, to begin with, accompanied by a series of photographs.

Next the artist did a performance piece which involved a toy which marbles would be dropped into repetitively, which created a clunking sound. I got the impression that the artist wanted the marbles to drop in time with the music, but I didn't think it was quite to the beat. This really frustrated me and I found myself willing the marbles to drop on time, focusing on the rhythm intently, becoming increasing agitated. After watching this performance, I discussed my frustration with my friends, who didn't seem to have noticed that it wasn't quite in time. Maybe I was being overly picky but this slight clash of rhythm made the beautiful music irritating...

This same thing happened whilst the artist repeated the statement 'we sat together, the mountain and I, till only the mountain remained'. I focused on the artist concentrating on the conductor, waiting for his queue, on occasion he would miss the queue, and I felt uncomfortable watching him try to find the rhythm again. The statement itself was really quite profound. During the rendition, when not consumed by keeping a rhythm in my head, I could imagine a snowy mountain, with a man sitting huddled at the top, waiting to die. The phrase 'till only the mountain remained' suggests that the mountain will last eternally, but mortality will take hold of all of us human beings and links to themes of existentialism and time.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Joseph Cornell, the reason I didn't completely give up on art. After a disappointing assessment I began to question whether I really understood fine art. I'd spent so long faffing about trying numerous things that never quite worked until I had a go at making my own Joseph Cornell style piece. I used objects and images that I'd collected throughout my life and created assemblages within boxes. Some of the pieces I made contained objects which related to each other, or told some form of story, and others were simply a collection of intriguing things. I thought there was something interesting about leaving the viewer to work out the connections between the items in the boxes and creating their own narrative. I found the process of displaying my personal belongings in these boxes quite nostalgic and satisfying, as if keeping hold of this crap (for lack of a better word) finally paid off. The following photos are Cornells pieces, and below them you can see my attempts....

<--A few photos of my stuff, its a lot more cluttered than Cornells work. I was advised to try and break out from the constraints of the box, and perhaps see the box as a window or a frame. This was easier said than done. I did however find some little photo slide things (not sure what they're called) which allowed light to shine through which worked pretty well.

This box had an anti-romance theme to it. It stemmed from my hatred of 'love- hearts' sweets. I just find them revolting on many levels. The taste, the sickly sweet messages, the texture...I'm not bitter or anything. The up-turned Eiffel tower, clocks, keys, chains etc all relate to this theme of love and romance on some level.

Coffin shaped gift boxes- does changing the shape of a box change its connotations? I think its safe to say is does.

I made this series of boxes in a period of desperation. I felt the need to make something physical in the hope that it would spark something interesting. Aesthetically I quite liked how when I placed them in a pile against the window in my studio space, how the light shone through and revealed layers of imagery. Especially on this old lady's face : ).

Experimental work with thread...I was simply trying to occupy space within boxes though various medium. I played around with light and shadow, and was pretty pleased with the photos I ended up with. I looked at an artist who draws with thread, Tabitha Kyoko Moses, which was really interesting. Her delicate thread drawings were simple yet beautiful like spiders webs.

I also looked at.. Lee Mingwei, The Mending Project, situated at the old Rapid hardware building.
In the Mending Project, Taiwanese artist Lee Mingwei invites audiences to bring articles of clothing that require mending. However, unlike a tailor whose goal is to hide the tear and restore the article to its original state, Mingwei’s gesture celebrates the rip by leaving a visible mark of brightly colored thread, chosen by the participant.
The core of the project is the conversation between the participant and the mender as he/she repairs the garment. The gallery installation consists of a custom-designed wooden table, 2 chairs (one for the mender and one for the audience member) and a wall dotted with cones of embroidery thread, each attached to the items of clothing it has been used to mend, which are then folded on the desk