Monday, 20 November 2017

Cameraless Film-Making Workshop: Direct Animation and Collage with Hands on Film Lab

At the weekend I participated in one of the workshops ran by Hands on Film lab at The NewBridge Project. The workshop was to discover and explore the most immediate and satisfying of film-making techniques. Hand made footage, with no camera required! We used found footage, paints and various mark-making techniques to make a collaborative film on 16mm using the process of direct animation. We each made short film loops, and projected them. 

They will now be edited together to create a collective animation to be screened at Hands on Film's next evening screening: 

THE EXPERIMENTAL FRAME (December 14th, The Newbridge Project).


I experimented with various means of creating images; I made one film on clear film with leaves and petals. 

I was amazed how much detail of the veins can be seen in the animation.

Another length of clear film was drawn onto with various marks and colours, transparencies were cut and stuck on, and holes were made in the film. This was spliced with another film where I scratched into black film, and added coloured transparencies and inks. I used the hole punch to create circles in the film, and inserted coloured transparencies into some of the circles.

This little introduction has given me lots of ideas about ways that I can incorporate this method of working into my practice. Watch this space!

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Foundation Press at Pop Recs, Sunderland

Last week Foundation Press were setting up and displaying risograph posters by Foundation Press and collaborators made for the upcoming gigs at Pop Recs in Sunderland.

I had participated in a couple of the sessions with Foundation Press to create the typography and the background imagery for the posters, and look forward to seeing the full range of designs over the next few months.


Friday, 17 November 2017

Drawing Close – Voynich Series exhibition by Sabina Sallis at The Customs House, South Shields

Sabina Sallis has a multifaceted approach to arts provision- as a researching, collaborating and exhibiting artist and as a curator. Sabina uses drawing, video, performance, sculpture and narrative in a multimedia transdisciplinary approach that interweaves fact and fiction.

The Drawing Close – Voynich Series exhibition at The Customs House is an expansion and an iteration of new and previous works that use drawing and the Voynich Manuscript as a particular method for creating visionary alternatives.

The Voynich Manuscript is a medieval illustrated codex that has been written in an unknown language and is an object of continuous research and multiple hypotheses. In Sabina’s work The Voynich Manuscript and the process of drawing is used as an opening to the possibilities of alternative ways of thinking, and alternative states of being with the world.

As well as attempting to decipher and imaginatively interpret the Voynich Manuscript, Drawing Close – Voynich Series also attempts to bring forward knowledge and thoughts that are enmeshed with life processes and invites the audience to decipher their own meaning.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

KOTA and cardboard lightshades

I frequently visit Grainger Market, not only passing through on my way to the studio, but regularly stopping to stock up on fruit and vegetables from the range of greengrocers. In and amongst the various eateries, clothes stalls and bargain shops you will find KOTA, Newcastle's first Scandinavian design store selling Scandinavian design, homeware, fashion, stationery, fabric and gifts. It's a favourite of mine!

KOTA is owned by Helsinki-born Krista Puranen Wilson, an interior specialist with a background in styling and desire. Krista wants to offer products by brands that are not already sold in Newcastle.

“I want to be able to offer things that are unique and not just for British people but also some Scandinavians who live in the region. We stock eco-friendly products, hand chosen and in small editions, so there’s very little chance anyone else will have the same item."

I am attracted to the pattern designs and the colours used in many of the products. I enjoy the choice of materials and the simplicity of the designs.

On my latest visit to KOTA I found the ideal range of lights to be installed with my 'Portion Control' publications. They are made from folded cardboard and have a concertina design so would complement the cardboard concertina stools.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The Confidence Trick - Episode 2

In the second part of her three part series, Laura Barton explores the extent to which the schools we attend and our social backgrounds more generally play a part in determining our levels of confidence. 

She visits a state comprehensive school and an independent fee-paying school, both in the North West of England, to discover how much effort is made to ensure the confidence of pupils is actively developed, and the means by which that development might take place. She questions how far the network of influential contacts more readily made at private schools can help generate confidence in pupils as they set out into the world, but hears too how for many youngsters today a mask of confidence can often cover a sense of insecurity. 

At a visit to a comprehensive school, a member of staff tells her that in some ways it is easier to instill confidence in students at a comprehensive school rather than a private school because the students have the experience of talking to and interacting with students from a wide range of social backgrounds, cultures and classes. He believes the students are more tolerant and do not have a sense of entitlement that perhaps students from a private school may have.

He explains that the school tries to find something in every student that they can do well. For example, he has discovered that a boy who struggles with his academic school work has a real talent for fishing, and so he has encouraged the student to write about fishing for the school newspaper.

Laura speaks to figures such as Joe Queenan, Dreda Say Mitchell and Stuart Maconie about the ways the place you come from can influence confidence, whether that's the vast expanses of America, the East End of London or the industrial north of England. For Queenan, his own self-confidence comes from a combination of indifference to others' attitude towards him, and a childhood in relative poverty. Once you know you can deal with that, he says, such things as public speaking that terrify so many carry little fear.

Stuart Maconie acknowledges that private schools are meant to instill confidence in their students, but he thinks that this confidence is born of the absolute objective notion that you can't fail because underpinning that confidence is actual material and political power. He states that "if you are poor and you have no shoes, no amount of self-confidence will help you get on in life." It is understandable that those with a good education have a degree of confidence because they have a good reason. Certain opportunities will not be available to those of the lower classes or less well-educated. "No lower-class individual will have the opportunity to become the editor of a newspaper without any journalistic experience, in the way that someone such as George Osborne did because he had a particular network of contacts and a status."

Laura follows up her notion that an unexpected factor in determining is architecture and the built environment in which we're raised, asking expert John Grindrod how correct Winston Churchill was when he said that, "We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us."

Stuart Maconie comments on the difference in confidence between counties. He recognises that Mancunians are generally confident, whereas Brummies are often self deprecating. He also speaks about how the St George's Hall in Liverpool is positioned directly in front of the train station, so that it is the first thing you see once out of the station. This building gives the impression of its grand status.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

The Confidence Trick - episode 1

In this new three part series, Laura Barton sets out to examine the increasingly important part confidence appears to play in modern life, at the point when so many of us are beset by problems surrounding our own self-confidence. 

Over the course of the series Laura examines the key role of our background and education in determining our levels of confidence, teasing out the intricate interplay between aspects including class, gender, psychology and even architecture. 

She hears how our inclination to follow those who seem most confident can lead us into dark waters, and looks at the complicated connections between confidence and creativity. 

Laura also explores her own vexed relationship with this commodity that has so often proved elusive in her own life, seeking out an alternative to the brazen, pushy version of confidence that is currently so dominant. 

In the first episode, Laura speaks with the likes of Marina Hyde, Susan Cain, Katty Kay and high-wire walker Chris Bullzini to look at how we have come to be so in thrall to confidence and those most assured of their own opinions. She heads into the workplace to look at the ways the loudest and the cockiest most often rule the roost, and attempts being made to give more space and weight to the voices of those given to quiet reflection in order to maximise their potential contribution. 

Marina Hyde points out that it is surprising how quickly people are to form an opinion and have strong views about things that they know relatively little about. 

Writer and broadcaster Stuart Maconie is of the opinion that, "We've become obsessed with confidence and self-assertion.... it seems to be a new strain in our thinking. Isn't quiet modest competence a better thing?" He believes that confidence comes with knowing that you are doing the right thing. Maconie realises that being at ease in ones own skin is something that is hard acquired and comes with a long experience of doing what we do.

It is not just through the voice that we can give the impression of confidence. Wearing a uniform can instill confidence in people that you know what you are doing. For example, a pilot wearing a pilot's uniform can be deemed more confident than a pilot dressed in shorts and a t-shirt.

You get confidence by doing things that are challenging to you, but once you have done it once, you feel more confident to do it again.

There is research that suggests that you need three women to make a difference. Evidence of women underestimating their abilities is wide ranging. Men tend to overestimate their abilities by about 30%. Women apply for promotions when they have 100% of the skills set whereas men apply for promotions when they have only 60% of the skills set, thinking that they will learn those skills while on the job.

Susan Cain reported that in a typical meeting only 3 people tend to account for 70% of the talking. 

Social media and electronic means of sharing ideas can be a good way to encourage less confident people to participate. They do not need to compete with loud voices and are given credit for what they share - their contributions are in black and white and can be proven.

The first episode ends with a proposition from Susan Cain. She proposes that real confidence is when you know who you are. 

Do you know what kind of life you want to lead? 

Do you know who you are? 

Do you know what kind of decisions you want to make?

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Catherine Yass Artist talk

The visiting artist at Newcastle University this week was Catherine Yass, the London-based artist. Abandoned urban spaces and sites in a process of construction or deconstruction are of interest to Yass, and often feature in her work. People are usually absent from her work, but this is not the case in High Wire (2008), a multi-screen film and video installation.

High Wire (2008) was filmed at the Red Road housing estate in North Glasgow. When it was built in the early 1960s, Red Road was the highest social housing in Europe, a major achievement for the city planners who sought to rebuild the city. Yet in 2008 it was due to be demolished.

Akin to the utopian principles that were in place at the time that the Red Road housing estate was built, Yass wanted to make a work about "walking in the air, out of nothing." She advertised for a tightrope walker to walk between two of the high rise buildings at Red Road.

Yass worked with French high-wire artist Didier Pasquette. In the talk Yass spoke about her unease when Pasquette told her that he did not want to wear a safety harness. Her terror increased as Pasquette began the tightrope walk and it became clear that the weather conditions were much worse than had been forecast, and Pasquette would need to turn round. He edged his way back to the starting platform.

Yass spoke about how she considered not exhibiting the work as the intention of Pasquette walking from one building to the other had not been fulfilled. However, she began to see this as a strength of the work. I believe that it echoes the situation at the Red Road housing estate; grand ideas of what would exist turned out to be unachievable, and this adds another layer to the work.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Artists as curators on Front Row

Monday's edition of Front Row featured a discussion about artists curating exhibitions.

This coincides with the opening of two exhibitions curated by artists, namely Shonky : The Aesthetics of Awkwardness at The Mac, Belfast and Paul Nash & the Uncanny Landscape at York Art Gallery.

John Stezaker has curated Paul Nash & the Uncanny Landscape at York Art Gallery, an exhibition which in which Paul Nash’s groundbreaking inter-war landscapes which transformed the genre of British landscape painting are exhibited along with works by Stezaker.

In Shonky : The Aesthetics of Awkwardness, the artist John Walter has brought together international artists and architects to explore the nature of visual awkwardness.

John Walter and Jill Constantine, curator and Head of the Art Council Collection reflected on what artists can bring to the curation of an exhibition.

When asked how the process of curating for an artist is different to that of a curator, Jill Constantine remarked that artists tend to adopt an intuitive, immediate, emotional and personal approach whereas curators tend to look for thematic and interpretative material and do a lot of research in order to contextualise.

John Walter recognised that as an artist, he can use his practice as the starting point to make the exhibition, perhaps choosing to to show out of fashion or less popular work. He explained that in the current exhibition at The Mac, Belfast he used the fourteen artists in the show to make a bigger picture. It was encouraging to hear Jill Constantine speak so positively about artists curating exhibitions. She was quick to dismiss the idea that artists that curate make random choices, and did not think that they undermined the position of curators.

To listen to the programme visit:

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Colour blending with Foundation Press

Following on from the weekend typeface workshop at Pop Recs, I went to the home of Foundation Press in the National Glass Centre, Sunderland to join them for some riso printing.

Foundation Press are collaboratively designing printed posters for upcoming gigs and events at Pop Recs, the independent record shop / cafe / arts space / venue in Sunderland. They will print a new set of posters exploring the colour blending possibilities of risograph printers and hand-made experimental typefaces. 

Today we began making printing templates for the poster backgrounds using geometric shapes, patterns and colour blends. 

The risograph printer resembles a photocopier, and works in a similar way. A colour drum is inserted into the riso. The riso prints one colour at a time. A greyscale image is placed face down onto the photocopy bed, and the riso copier is programmed to make a master template. The image is transferred onto the roller, and then multiple copies can be made. Every time the colour is changed, the master template needs to be transferred onto the newly inserted roller. 

Riso works really well for layering different colours on top of each other, and it is possible to create interesting colour blends.

Here are some of my tests using 3 colours: teal, fluorescent pink and yellow.

We also tried some other designs.

Then began to incorporate the text that we had done at the weekend.

Some were more successful combinations than others.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Foundation Press Workshop at Pop Records, Sunderland

The weekend got off to a great creative start as I participated in a workshop run by Foundation Press. Foundation Press is an experimental printing press, operating as a space for testing collaborative approaches to printing and publishing. It is currently run by Debbie Bower, Adam Phillips and Joe Woodhouse with students from the Foundation Diploma Art & Design course at University of Sunderland.

This was the first of two workshops to collaboratively design printed posters for upcoming gigs and events at Pop Recs in Sunderland, an independent record shop, cafe, arts space and venue.

Inspired by simple but iconic text posters like those made by Colby Poster Printing Co in L.A – Foundation Press will print a new set of posters exploring the colour blending possibilities of risograph printers and hand-made experimental typefaces.

Our initial challenge was to come up with our own band name. There were a number of photocopied bits of text that we could cut up and mix with other words to form interesting band name suggestions.

We were then to create hand-made letter sets, using a cut and paste method with photocopies, glue and scissors. We each picked a set of images that had been photocopied, and with these we were tasked with creating an alphabet.

The selection of images included various food items such as vegetables, meats and candy-canes, hair, bears, clouds, bubbles and more geometric shapes like the set I chose.

This is how my alphabet turned out:

Here are some of the other alphabets created in the workshop:

 Using candy-cane and hair imagery

 Using images of vegetables

 Using an image of a bear

At the next session we will be printing from these typefaces and will experiment with colour blending techniques. I'm looking forward to some riso-action!

On Saturday 18th November the finished posters will be displayed along with cut-offs and experiments in an exhibition at Pop Recs.