turn the page

June 22, 2016

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Come along to turn the page artists’ book fair this weekend

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Artists’ Book Market

June 17, 2016

 

GL.draw with itAt BALTIC this weekend

what will come

June 15, 2016

photo of James Turrell-sketch of plane

Last year looking round the renovated Central Library in Manchester I took myself up to the top floor where I used to go when I had time to kill in the city.  I’m sure it used to house the literature section and had a slight attic feel, with a raised walkway around the double height book shelves. Now it feels a bit like a spaceship, the shelves all sliding in and out, closing into modules when you don’t need them.  The closest I’ve ever been to the set of Chockablock apart from friend’s narrow boats I suppose. There I found a book about James Turrell and sat in the sunlight to read about his work.  The pictures above illustrate the story he tells of his childhood, how he was conceived in 1942 on the eve of a real or imagined attack on their home city of L.A. when his mum and dad celebrated the completion of a birdroom they had built around their flat roof for Mr Turrell to call in the birds. The windows filled the walls and opened wide for the birds to come into the room. James Turrell tells of his dad spending long evenings in the bird room singing with the birds. The birdroom became James’ bedroom but he always shared the space and his dad’s attention with the birds. The windows had dark green curtains lined with tar to blackout the light.  As he grew up Turrell explains that he took a pin to the blackout curtains to assert his self on the space.

photo of James Turrell-childhood bedroom

photo quote James Turrell story

This spring I visited the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and saw the singular work of Bill Viola for the first time. At the end of the exhibition in the study room a film, books and quotes from Viola were presented for contemplation over green tea. Another story of childhood written on the wall.

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My favourite of piece of Viola was The Veiling, 6 or so pieces of gauze suspended in a queue. A projector at each end playing separate films towards each other, as the image reaches further into the queue of gauze it enlarges and defocuses. Each film depicts movement through a dark space, light brushes trees, a figure. The movement sweeps the image across the surface of gauze and through the queue of gauze behind, a stagger, a shift in space and time.

Finally, just yesterday whilst following up links to another show at Touchstones Gallery I wish I’d not missed – Natural Makers, I found the wonderful work of Laura Ellen Bacon online with a piece she has written about her nesting instinct describing in loving detail the inspiring sensory memories of den building from an early age.

I’m guessing many of us will have taken paths in life influenced by instincts and memories from childhood..I wonder how many directly link their work to experience.  I now live in a place full of childhood memories. Strong physical, sensory memories.  Not my original home but a place similar to home, full of places that inhabited my dreams .  I’m remembering and wondering what will come of it.

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seeds in drain

So the bank holiday weekend is over, I spent each day sitting by my work or wandering the streets of Saltaire seeking the red flags of the open houses. As I secretly expected, I did not keep a diary as there was too much to see and do and if brain imaging technology was more advanced after each day my brain may have resembled the image above. The accumulated seeds of trees and plants (or creative endeavour) finding their way, settling and pattern making into something akin to fabric. A bit of a mess but also quite lovely and full of potential.

So all I can do now is nod to a few of the wonderful things I saw there and wonder how those things will settle and inform me over time.

Being Inbetween a series of portraits by Carolyn Mendelsohn that make grown women cry for the hope and dignity displayed by the 10-12 year old subjects and that likely, they recall of themselves and strive to recover.

Keith Shorrocks’ carved Boxes honouring the beauty of the burr . Finely tailored sleep shirts and delicious full colour lino prints.

I don’t know where they are coming from‘ – the confidence to follow your instincts. To allow a breadth of skills to inform current practice -a graphic designer and a painter showing wood and glass assemblages respectively. An architect applying draughting rules towards figurative abstraction.

A pathway walked with society, justice and draughtsmanship, through architecture, animation and printmaking.

Finding your place and making space for it – Tapestry working in situ.

Beautiful photographs that can never be fixed.

Delineating topography through mark making.

Colour in landscape.

Corrugated iron sheets + arch = pavilions for every country – photo montage

Imprints and a stitch: care taken to notice and care given to value us, and our relationships with clothes and each other in Lasting Impressions.

So long Saltaire, thanks for all the chats.

 

Another instalment from a trip made last year.

When I heard that there was a park that had been built over an old freeway running through Boston, I had visions of the Promenade Plantee in Paris – raised walkways surrounded by clambering growth (at least that’s what I remember). I was a little disappointed that the freeway had been dismantled, the cars re-routed under ground and the parks set at ground level with little of the luscious planting of my dreams.  The spaces were neat, flat with many hard surfaces (I include tidy lawn in this) but they did provide an easy walk through the centre of Boston and many sun filled places to stop and view the modern city’s large towers from.  They also functioned well as an outdoor gallery, the lines of the park and buildings complimenting the sculptures.

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A TRANSLATION OF ONE LANGUAGE INTO ANOTHER – Lawrence Weiner, 2015

Whilst looking at the newly installed Lawrence Weiner mural a girl who explained that she saw the wall regularly on her way to the dentist said she preferred the old mural.  I shared my impression of the dazzling dense colours and asked her to not give up on it yet and give it another look each time she passed. Looking at the range of comments made about past murals on the site it is clear that each mural has been deemed a success by some and a failure by others, at least they have been allowed the time to grow in peoples minds.

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Just around the corner was a set of maquettes from an architecture competition, I think, my favourites of which worked well with the bright light of the day.

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A similar construction material to the Serpentine Pavillion 2014 around which I saw a man with bread, veg and fish strapped to his head wander and pose.

 

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As If It Were Already Here – Janet Echelman, 2015

I’d seen some of Janet Echelman’s work in print before but was delighted to find her living and breathing work on the greenway. After being impressed by the graphic and spatial relationships between the city and the previous works mentioned, it was wonderful to see something so huge, delicate and constantly shifting within the city…almost like installing a contained weather system into a small urban space.

Gemma phone_20150926_041Gemma phone_20150926_046I’ll finish this post with a picture of a singing bridge found on a windy day and a Karel Martin print seen later on the same day at the Le Corbusier designed Carpenter Centre for the Visual Arts. The bridge incidentally sung by sounding different notes as vehicles of different weights  drive over at different speeds, making singular notes or harmonies depending on how busy the bridge got.  Unfortunately my mobile phone recording does not do it justice so I won’t include it here. Happily the prints mirror the grid pattern that created the notes and give a sense of the singular and harmony.

Saltaire Inspired

May 9, 2016

Gemma Lacey.Longing Cabinet.wood print

I’m very excited to be showing work on the Saltaire Arts Trail over this May bank holiday weekend. There are open houses showing the work of over 50 artists , a Makers fair, participatory installations and photography exhibitions, workshops and all in a World Heritage Village to boot! As I’m new to the event I imagine I’ll be scrambling around to see as much of Saltaire and the art on show as I can without having palpitations. I’m full of good intentions to keep a diary of the 3 days as they’ll be so much good stuff to absorb. We shall see. The whole event is free and here is a mini map and guide. However you can pick up a full trail guide for £1 which also gets you into the Makers Fair each day. For more information see here .

If you want to find me I should be invigilating each day and showing some of my prints and books alongside Chrissie Freeth, Dave Gowers, Janis Goodman, Salma Patel and Steve Rayner at The Art Rooms in Salts Mill, underneath the Visitor Information Centre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just over a week ago I spent 2 fascinating days in the company of Artists, Poets, GP’s, Academics, Archivists, Occupational Therapists, Art Psychotherapists, Mental Health Nurses and Patients at the symposium and workshop organised by the University of Kent and the exhibition PRESCRIPTIONS.

The programme of events was built around the collection of books made by Martha A Hall, that were donated by the artist to be used as a learning resource at the University of New England.

Hall’s books focusing on her experience living with breast cancer are uniquely powerful as patient narratives. The intimacy of the book form draws students into relationship with the artist’s narrative, suggesting that the body and the text are inseparable. Handling such books, which contain intimate pieces of a person’s life experience, creates deep impact for students and is especially valuable for those planning to enter the health professions, which is the case for the majority of students at the University of New England. Hall’s books not only emphasize her struggle for voice and self- determination in the medical encounter; they demand that the patient’s perspective be heard. But beyond that, they invite readers into a partnership and reframe the encounter with the patient’s body in ways that radically shift students’ understanding of the health professions and of their own embodied experience as human beings.

The above text is taken from the symposium programme where you can read about the speakers and the abstracts of their presentations.  The symposium was organised by Stella Bolaki who had studied Martha Hall’s books for some time. Here you can find an in-depth article by Stella Bolaki on the subject.  Each presentation approached the symposium title from different angles: from the medical humanities looking for a way of rebalancing failures in the current health education system; as academics and artists making and curating work to express and document ill health; as archivists using the collection of Martha Hall’s work to educate new health practitioners; from sociology understanding society and the individual through the action of making. See below for some of my free flow notes taken on the day.

If you have time do watch Martha Hall talking about making and using her books in the film below. Aside from the experience of handling the books in person, this film gives a sense of the real practical use that artists’ books can offer.

 

Artists’ books only exist in the hands. Artists’ books problematise the way we read books, they force us into new ways of reading. ..spine of the book…Palimpsest – re-writing  / re-authoring narratives – power in healthcare.  Making a book is a temporal experience as is the reading of it… Artists’ books are made for 1:1 interaction but can reach many people.  The form matches experience: balances, enclosure / exposure, inward and outward. .. We need to be producing and redistributing sensibility capital…the production of insensibility by medical culture.. Walter Benjamin ‘how we sense is cultural’…Penisula appointed a Professor of Visual Art alongside Professors of Music and Medicine…Pity (greek compassion) v’s empathy..  ‘Patients want a good conversation, they don’t want to be told certainty for it to be wrong’… ‘I just want my doctor’s knowledge not their empathy’ The arts produce ambiguity…  Turning the page…the viewer is complicit in the action….  ‘I ‘d reach for what’s closest and make what I needed.’…  Making art to make sense…  ‘Painting the mural gave me the excuse to stand on the street and talk about the grief surging in me’…  Painted blazers were a walking gallery… Artists’ Books tell the truth…equal heft to science textbooks… Some want empathy, some want knowledge, all want respect and time..Doctors need to check expectations and learn to read what people are looking for….  ‘We have answers, but we don’t get trained to deal with situations when we don’t have answers’…  Increase visual literacy and increase self-determination and expression…  Rita Charon encourages parallel charts…art practice can be cathartic but not helpful for the condition…how to make a practice informed by health needs as a preventative..to maintain equilibrium?

 

The exhibition at The Beaney was co-curated by Stella Bolaki and Egidija Ciricaite who wrote a lovely post about one of the main strands of the exhibition on the blog collective investigations.

The show features the work of 78 artists alongside 15 books by Martha Hall you can see the online catalogue below for more information on each artist and book.  The work looks great in the display cabinets and offers fleeting glimpses into each experience captured. A frustration expressed by many was that none of the books can be fully read in this state. Due to issues of insurance and liability at The Beaney, the core message, that the handling of artist’s books can increase the ability to ‘read’ others sensitively, is trapped behind the glass.  Happily, the last I heard, the co-ordinating of handling sessions were being discussed. Many  of the artists have donated their books to the Artists’ Books and the Medical Humanities collection to be housed at the University of Kent for future handling, education and research.  I’ve donated the last of my home edition which can be seen being handled here.

 

The workshop gave the opportunity for a day of active reflection on the issues raised by the symposium speakers and books in the exhibition. With initial activities, led by Jennifer Tuttle and Cathleen Miller, linking the structural and material elements of Martha’s books to content, the large group very quickly engaged with the subject matter and once Andrew Malone had given the lead into the practical activity, linking technique and materials available with now familiar examples there was a visible surge in energy and focus in the room as people sought and found their visual language very quickly.  It was a very positive experience to witness a group of people, largely new to artists’ books take to the medium so quickly and with such potency. Scouring imagery and piles of materials is always fun but there felt a hunger in which we all sought them.

Here are some pictures of the book I made. I used the workshop as a chance to digest what I had heard and seen the day before and approached the book making as a reflection exercise, thinking about my relationship with health and healthcare and my role in the health of others through personal relationships and my job within healthcare.  Andrew gave us each a length of concertina folded paper which is a great place to start from and a lovely way of comparing and sharing experiences later. I used my own concertina as a dividing line between myself and healthcare, myself on one side, healthcare on the other, and used openings and translucent layers to suggest the links between the two. I don’t often use collage but found it a really helpful way to think things through, as visual metaphors continually jumped out at me from the piles of imagery and tactile surfaces! Lots of engineering diagrams, traces of past civilisations, Victorian style explorer illustrations and offcuts from Andrews’ own work – absent subjects hinted at by the contours of a backdrop. No epiphanies yet but it’s a start.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Image: Martha Hall, Maine Women Writers Collection, University of New England

This week I’m off to Kent for a symposium and workshop on Artist’s Books and the Medical Humanities.The symposium is linked to an exhibition of Martha A Hall’s work curated by Dr Stella Bolaki and Egidija Ciricaite at The Beaney,  see below for more details.

Prescriptions: artist’s books on wellbeing and medicine

with featured artist Martha A Hall in The Drawing Room at The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge CT1 2RA from April 22 – August 14. Preview April 21.

The exhibition focuses on the book art of Martha Hall, on loan from the University of New England, and linked to a University of Kent symposium. Hall’s books document her experiences with breast cancer and interactions with the medical community, and are accompanied by a curated show of artists books responding to themes of art, empathy and wellbeing. Supported by the Wellcome Trust.

 

I’m also really pleased to have some work in the supporting show.  home was made to give me time to reflect upon and share my understanding of my nan’s dementia, and how it affected both her and my relationship with ‘home’. Sharing the work at book fairs and exhibitions has opened up conversations with others in similar situations, has allowed reflection and disclosure of thoughts and feelings often censored in situations.  Along with some other exhibitors I’m donating my final copy of this edition to the University of Kent’s collection for future research by medical humanities students.  I’m really looking forward to hearing more about the project later in the week.

 

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home, screen printed  flash cards 2009

Pictures on walls

April 6, 2016

But not in this blog post I’m afraid, which is essentially notes on 3 shows I saw, at the last minute, a fortnight ago, which means 2 of them have now finished, but still, there are links to more words and pictures if you’re interested.

Group Thirteen are the last of the first intake of the Complete Printmaker course at Hot Bed Press, an open access print workshop in Salford that I’m a member of. The last as in the majority insisted on 2 more years of the 1 year Complete Printmaker course and hence they have completed 3 years of routine, study, daydreaming and break times all in the name of printmaking. As far as I can tell thirteen got through 3 years together and seem set to be a well oiled exhibiting machine into the future.  Group Thirteen, the show, brought the 13 printmakers together, each project installed within it’s own space in the old Cow Lane studios.

My main link to the group is Karen Joyce.  Having driven through the countryside with Karen towards many a book fair over the last few years, oohing at sunsets and ahhing at walls, fields and bridges together,  I think I can see how her work has come about.  Karen showed beautiful trees on a deep purple background…though she called it blue…perhaps forget me not?  See her blog for a more extensive write up of the show and some pictures! Below are links to a few of my favourites.

Gwil Hughes  A wonderful woodcutter conjuring the shift and blurring of tales in old photographs out of found wood.  Large dark images on blood red walls

Lithography works so well for Katy Hollinshead, but I’ve seen her make her delicate drawings of mainly dead animals with woodcut tools too, she just has the right touch.  It’s like Hollinshead’s stroking the creature with the drawing and not in a cute or gross way either.

Ciarrai Samson’s beautifully wrecked plates that have never been printed

Sonja Wellings battered gestural marks shown in an appropriately tattered room reminds me of 2 books of overlayed drypoint drawings called Line and a Line  (you can find them on my book page here) that I made whilst a tenant drawing ceiling cracks at Cow Lane.

Also 2 shows interesting to view in the same day, just down the road from each other.

An exhibition at Salford Art Gallery by Heart and Sold an organisation who represent international artists with down syndrome. Favourites included Peter EscottRachel HellerFiona Stevenson and Richard Cloake on until June 5th.

Inside Out a Castlefield Gallery exhibition exploring the notion of outsider art. Including, Darren Brian Adcock’s excellent pen, sound and light drawings, Mit Senoj’s flora figures and co-curator David Maclagen’s oil bar drawings  The show has now finished but you can read the Creative Tourist review.

Next time I’ll take pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

a brief visit to Detroit

March 29, 2016

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Last year my partner David Armes of Red Plate Press was awarded a Winston Churchill Travel Fellowship with which he toured and printed in some of the many letterpress studios in the United States. You can see the blog of his trip (and in effect details of parts of mine) here.

Amazingly, I got the chance to visit him, landing in Detroit during his final week working at open access print shop Signal Return and received the same kind and generous hospitality from the team and their founder that they had extended to David.  On my visit to the printshop I had the pleasure of hearing readings from Anatomy of a Museum a book  written by A.Kendra Greene recently published in collaboration with Lee Marchalonis the Printer in Residence at Signal Return.  The book is an account of getting-to-know the Icelandic Phallological Museum, with letterpress printed cover and mono printed endpapers, the book is well worth the read and purchase of.  Kendra and Lee also read from  their most recently completed collaboration and talked of the nature of such wonderful things happening through residencies and time apportioned.

On a kindly lent bike I got to have a scoot around the city.  I guess partly because the city, built for the car, has a much smaller population than it once did, the roads, wide and empty, are pretty safe to cycle on (though there’s quite a lot of bumps). In other U.S cities  I hear people don’t even dare.  Attempts seem to be made to encourage it in Detroit and I did see other cyclists, especially on the Dequindre Cut, a recently installed cycle route running from the Eastern Market through downtown to the river front.  Detroit also have racks on the front of buses where you can stash your bike and hop on.  Even with oil and gas as cheap as they are in the US cycling has still got to be the most economical option for a cash strapped city.

From the river front you can see Canada, in fact Detroit is the only place in the U.S where you look south to Canada. If you carry on along the front you can cycle the wide bridge to Belle Isle Park.  A leisure island home to, among other things, a nature zoo, aquarium, many picnic shelters, a beach, water slide and the Belle Isle Conservatory, built in 1904, run by the state of Detroit and quite lovely.

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I think this was part of the Nature Zoo

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Having just left a small friendly town in the U.K. I found myself getting the same kind of reception and community vibe from the Detroiters, perhaps again, this is because the population has dwindled and folks feel more inclined. Perhaps Detroit folk have always been warm and keen to acknowledge each other. Perhaps I was just looking for it.

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I certainly passed some places where sadness dwells; empty lots next to grand locked up houses, the vast abandoned Packard factories, Michigan Central Station.  I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to watch, not only a big powerful city but a city called home, fall like Detroit did.  At least now, it seemed like in many of these places sadness was being met with creative optimism. On the evening we visited The Heidelberg Project  a young troupe of gymnasts were posing and cartwheeling around for a photographer.  I got an excellent walking/eating tour of Detroit Market Garden who offer apprenticeships and run a twice weekly food bank with crops grown across the city.  There are lots more projects like this.  At least in these places it felt like folk were looking to move on and put something back into the city community whilst doing so, I hope it helps.

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I took these photos as the sun went down in Hamtramck a city nearby Detroit, the most ethnically diverse and feeling-like-home city that I saw in the US.  We gawped at the backyard wonders of  Dmytro Szylak along with a little girl and her mum and read in the comments book notes from international visitors.  Perhaps a little noisy and bright for some of his neighbours, but what a joyful gift to leave the world with.