remains of an old town

September 12, 2016

Photos from a day spent at the old Fortress of Stari Bar in Montenegro this summer. There is plenty of information around the web about this site, abandoned after an earthquake in 1979 took out it’s aqueduct. Now an open air museum, work is being done to restore and conserve, key buildings have had their roofs replaced, one building appears to house an artist studio and performances are made in the amphitheatre. On the day of visiting music wafted across the site, the hot sun drew out the scents of the wild herbs all around while the small windows and nooks that remain in the thick stone walls provided respite from the heat for us and Stari Bar’s many cats.

gemma-phone_20160627_176gemma-phone_20160627_110gemma-phone_20160627_130gemma-phone_20160627_251gemma-phone_20160627_168gemma-phone_20160627_149gemma-phone_20160627_160gemma-phone_20160627_250gemma-phone_20160627_100gemma-phone_20160627_148gemma-phone_20160627_052gemma-phone_20160627_201gemma-phone_20160627_177

 

 

 

reading buildings

August 10, 2016

 

In a lovely village in Norfolk.  Trying to understand how things stand up, how they have worn and how they’ve been fixed.

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.

BillViolachildhood

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.

Gemma phone_20160320_009Gemma phone_20160228_001IMG_9118

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

time spent

July 21, 2014

 

View from Cheetham and Crumpsall Allotments

 

A view into Manchester from Cheetham and Crumpsall Model Allotments. A morning a week was spent working in this lovely setting.

eastern electricity building

Seen whilst walking the river in Norwich. Apparently artist Rory Macbeth painted the entire text of Thomas Moore’s Utopia (44,000 words) on the old Eastern Electricity building. Searching will bring up internal photos too of rooms painted in red text.

Maurice Carlin at Bluecoat

A scroll piece of printing, physically scanned from the floor of the space, made over the duration of The Negligent Eye at the Bluecoat Arts Centre by Maurice Carlin.

Windows Phone_20140519_003

A view from part of the DLA Piper Series: Constellations at Tate Liverpool. The exhibition covers 2 floors and shows work grouped together by association. I enjoyed the opportunity to see the backs of frames and to view many works arranged together within space rather than crammed on a wall.

pond

Plans for a new project come together. Making escape paths out of patterns in a pond with Helen Mather.

images-4

Two small exhibitions of wide reaching projects exploring the Yangtze River in China. At Touchstones in Rochdale, Yan Preston’s work was intimate and communicated directly. Trying to reconnect with her homeland through simple creative processes Yan’s work is physical, performative, poetic and clearly documented. Though Yan’s exhibition at Touchstones is now over (sorry!) her website is well worth a look if you are interested in ‘landscapes, myths and values’. The image above was taken from Corridor 8 where you will find a review of Yan Preston’s show.

In ‘Normal Pool Level’ by Jorge Mañes Rubio at the Chinese Art Centre, Manchester  the artist explored the impact that the monumental Three Gorges Dam had on the Yangtze River and valley. Jorge presents objects collected, adapted and created over his 2 month residency that speak of the industrial processes, cultural shifts and economies he encounters. Presented with photos, drawings and lots of informative texts. This exhibition continues on until September 7th. I have just noticed that earlier in the month both Yan and Jorge shared a discussion at the Chinese Arts Centre, damn. I will get better at this!

Liverpool Central Library

Another weekend in another wonderful library redevelopment, this time Liverpool, where the domed Picton Reading Room and the arching hall of the Hornby Library housed the casts of books and keys made by Aiko Miyanaga and the Artist’s Book exhibition that saw people I know show work alongside that of Picasso and Goya, what a treat.  My favourite time was spent looking at ‘Averting Your Fate’ by Andrew Morrison of Two Wood Press, an excellent use of print block and text.

Holly

Hock

And finally, after 2 years of watching the leaves grow, the flowers come and they don’t seem able to stop. A metre and a half for each year waiting.

I found someone else who has written about my work in the loft. This post probably offers a clearer picture of the experience of viewing the work than I have, see it here.

Thanks to Karen for the extra thoughts and words.

 

An afternoon spent sharing the work so far. In the last week I’d installed the prints and furniture blocks up in the loft space at Islington mill. I’d always had this space in mind for it’s intimate scale and timelessness, the sense of wonder that climbing the stairs induces, layers of marks, dust, glimpses of construction and former use. It allies well with the implicit life and memory of the furniture, the projected dreams, the ghostly apparitions of the prints onto fabric. In this I felt that the space was half the work and without the space, the work would be less. I’ve been assured otherwise. It was useful to see and hear how others responded to the work, the space, the work in the space.

A brief tour of the loft installation below. Photos of the individual pieces will go up on my website in a week or two.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Some comments, all anonymous, left in exchange for an -in between- book (more of an exchange than a bribe):

tastes like burnt toast, bittersweet, peat, wood, sulphur, tea

smells like a story, a forest, linseed and memory, woodsmoke, water,

sounds like yesteryear, ambient, ‘whispers, laughing, eavesdropping, the stories you would tell the furniture’, the low drone of a road and moving air,  sanctuary from the world, normal life

feels like ‘somebody’s sadness, loneliness, just beyond the veils – but utterly peaceful’, haunting, damp wool, wondering and wandering, another world, mirrors

I would like to see it in a forest, more, in a national trust property, with spiders and butterflies, no one else,

 

in the loft

I had a wonderful time cutting the wood, making the prints, sweeping the floor, rescuing butterflies, following the flow of the soundtracks coming from the floor below, installing myself and my work in the loft and sharing it with those who came to see. My thanks to Islington Mill  and all who helped, saw and shared.

I hope to move the work on to another space where it can grow and be shared some more.

 

 

Just over a year ago we flew into Heathrow, the birds chirping loud and clear as we rolled into London on the tube, I realised I had not consciously heard bird song for a month. Were there no singing birds in Russia, Mongolia, China or even spring time Japan, or had I just not noticed over the ‘noise’ of everything else.

train from Osaka

After a 2 day ferry took us across the sea to Japan. We passed through Osaka on our way to Kyoto where the Sakura parties were in full swing. Wandering through the night streets full of people in high spirits, visiting temple gardens. Filing past dramatically lit landscaping and bamboo. Kneeling in our socks alongside business men and women at the edge of a raked gravel garden ‘ooh and aaahing’ at a full bloom weeping cherry tree, lit like fireworks, centre stage. Blossom trees spotlit in a park full of darkness and smoke. Wading into the darkness, towards the chanting, to find groups of people huddled together under the trees, drinking, eating, singing, intoxicated by but seeming to forget, the blossom all around them.

weeping cherry tree

bamboo woods

Sakura Spotlightjonny no. 5 cables

We took one train then another, up through the centre of Honshu to Yudanaka, a small town at the start of the Japanese Alps. This whole area seemed used for agriculture, fruit and nut trees as far as I could see, their wiry branches stretched out along supports, too cold for blossom yet. In peoples gardens the ground was worked right up to the back door, not much space for flouncy planting and landscaping, all the land is made use of, it seems like a simple thing, but I’ve never seem it before.

Shrine at Temple in Obuse

Twenty minutes down the trainline Obuse is well known for its chestnut growing with which it makes puree and sweets and tiles it’s pavements with chestnut wood. Here also lives a temple ceiling painted by Hokusai and an old school house museum full of things that we visited in a storm that flapped the windows and pelted the roof.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Chestnut paving, Obuse

From sleepy gentle countryside to Tokyo, which blew my mind. Whether it was the enormity of city itself or the cumulative effect of 3 other countries and cultures in 3 weeks, once we entered Tokyo I was very grateful to be lead around and looked after. The train and underground systems are excellent, I managed to walk around in a daze for most of the visit without getting too lost.

Tokyo transport map

Tokyo UndergroundTokyo night

The city is layer upon layer in a constant state of rebuild. To be a twenty year old building is a rare thing apparently.

Tokyo day 

And old Tokyo buildings are resettled in a park museum on the outskirts of town.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Places and Perspectives

September 12, 2012

From tomorrow evening I will be showing prints and books in an exhibition at The Gallery at  St.Georges House, Bolton. Click on the link below for more details.

Places and Perspectives Exhibition

she shew me

April 30, 2012

..only when I moved to Manchester was I told of my incorrect grammar. But back in Norfolk I could say without note that my sister shew me, along the river Wensum, things I’d not seen before. My sister, having now lived there longer than me, walked me through the city along the river with its huge weeping willows and shew me the old pump house near Barn Road, some good public art – it looks like it belongs there – on the Quay side and a parasitic birds house in a tree beside Cow Tower.  She shew me the Jarrolds Printing museum, only open on Wednesdays ( it was a thursday) and a new bridge – rusty metal and wood..mmmm near Pulls Ferry. We walked over to see parts of the old city walls, out past the football grounds and Carrow Bridge House, tucked away up the side of a hill. She says they reckon parts of the wall were taken as raw materials, built in and around. People are living with the wall in their homes today and might not even know they have a lookout post in the attic, flint arrowheads in the cellar.

We also walked into Surrey House the Norwich Union building that took up all the marble Westminster Abbey couldn’t afford, lining almost every surface with it. We saw an  early air conditioning system and a gold and green skeleton clock made for the Great Exhibition. The clock played 12 tunes, 1 for every hour, the workers disabled it as they couldn’t get enough work done, unable to resist the urge to waltz the  marble floors whenever the  chime called them.