Sunday, 26 April 2015

An Installation: Anselm Kiefer Artists Rooms Project

Embossed patterns on metallic paper

One of the big projects I am working on at the moment is a project with James Rennie School and Beaumont College in Carlisle, both of whom support children and young people with disabilities. The project was commissioned by Tullie House in connection with their Anselm Kiefer exhibition which is supported by Artists Rooms and the project is being run by Prism Arts. The work we are making is in response to both the work of Kiefer and also the site of the old Roman Wall, which runs through the Tullie House gardens.

My samples using conductive thread and paint

My samples using conductive thread and paint

My samples using conductive thread and paint

I am working with another artist, Mark Newport, on the project who works with sound and technology. With our participants we are creating an interactive installation which examines themes such as war and occupation, landscape and mythology. One of the things we want to explore is how places and structures can change over time. For example, the wall can be seen as a symbol of occupation and all the suffering that can bring but now it is also seen as a cultural heritage site, people come to visit the site from all over and to walk it's path.

Drawings from our visit to the Kiefer exhibition at Tullie House

Drawings from our visit to the Kiefer exhibition at Tullie House

Drawings from our visit to the Kiefer exhibition at Tullie House

I am really excited to be working with Mark on this project as it is giving us an opportunity to explore some ideas we've been talking about for a few years now but never had the right project to work on them. We are almost halfway through the project now and starting to get a good idea of what the final installation will look and sound like. We are creating a series of fabric pieces which will hang in the trees above the line of the wall. These pieces will incorporate lights and sounds, created by the participants, which are activated by sensors in the fabric pieces. The sensors themselves will be pieces of copper foil, embossed by patterns created by the participants in response to Kiefer's work and Roman artefacts.

Collage work

Frottage experiments

Working into a collaged surface

One of the ways both Mark and I are working with the participants is to build up layers, just as the wall is buried under layers of history, we will be making layers of sound and fabric. I began by working with collage with the participants, encouraging them to layer up different textures and colours. We experimented with frottage (rubbings) and using tea to stain our papers and make them more interesting. We then moved on to looking at patterns, using the collages we'd already made as a base to work on. For inspiration for our patterns we looked at Roman artefacts and coins and different sound wave shapes. I'd been given some metallic paper so we started playing around working on the back to create embossed patterns on the front.

Using tea to prepare our papers

Using tea to prepare our papers

Using tea to prepare our papers

This led to the idea of working on copper foil, using this material would allow us to create the capacitive sensors we need to activate the lights and sounds and would also allow us to incorporate our patterns into the work through embossing. I'm just waiting for the copper foil to arrive so we can try it out!

Patterns on metallic paper

Pattern making using carbon paper

'Embossing' the metallic paper

This week we worked on string print blocks using the patterns we created last week. We will use these blocks to print up different pieces of fabric that we can then begin to layer together to create our final piece. It's exciting seeing the work start to come together, it's been quite a difficult project as the themes are quite heavy and the young people have sometimes struggled to work with these issues. However, the more 'making' we do the more they are able to express their ideas and thoughts.

Working on string print blocks

Working on string print blocks

Working on string print blocks

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Life Drawing: 14th April 2015

Pen, continuous line

Another month has whizzed by and brought me to another of my Life Drawing sessions. Having got back from holiday after a lot of travelling at the weekend and having had a busy start to the week in all honesty I really didn't feel like picking up my pens and taking some lines for a walk.

Pen, continuous line

Pen, adding some background detail

Pen, continuous line


However, as the organiser it's fairly important that I do turn up so I did and ended up having a really good session. We had a new model who gave us some really interesting poses. Just as the drawings all the participants make are different and individual so are the poses that each different model brings to the sessions. There was also a new face amongst the participants which is always good and a good turnout helped to create a positive, quietly energetic atmosphere.

Pen, continuous line

Pen, continuous line

Pen, continuous line

Despite my initial lethargy I quickly got into my drawing this session and really enjoyed what I was doing. Different models make me want to draw in different ways and as this sessions model was quite petite I wanted my drawings to be a bit more delicate than they perhaps usually are. I worked on a slightly smaller scale, almost fitting a whole body onto one sheet of paper (almost, not quite,)

Pen, continuous line

Pen, continuous line

I really like the way several of this evenings drawings have a stitched/thread like look to them, I can see them translating really well into stitch and cloth which is something I've been thinking about for a while but never really got around to experimenting with.

Pen, continuous line

Pen, continuous line

Pen, continuous line

I'm still trying to improve my face drawings so carried on challenging myself with this and I'm really pleased with some of the results. There were still quite a few that didn't turn out so well but I think I am improving. I also added a bit of background detail to a couple of the drawings and I like the way this makes the body stand out a bit more. This could be something to experiment with in future sessions.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Seven Stories: St. Bede's School

Making a character collagraph print plate

A couple of years ago Prism Arts ran a project in Carlisle Library connected to the Outside In exhibition at Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery. It was a really successful project and great fun to work on. Such was the response that Prism Arts sought funding to do another even bigger project with the library. Late last year we heard we got the funding so starting in January we have been getting the project under way.

Collaging landscapes from stories

Collaging landscapes from stories

Collaging landscapes from stories

The project is called Seven Stories, based on the idea that there are only seven stories in the world; all stories being a variation on one of these seven base stories. We are, sticking with a theme, working with seven different groups which include schools, day centres and other community groups. I'm working with several of the groups, including one of the schools. I am working with Year 4 (8-9 year olds) which is one of my favourite age groups as they have lots of ideas and are very imaginative and are generally happy to express these as they aren't yet too self conscious.

Collaging landscapes from stories

Collaging landscapes from stories

Collaging landscapes from stories

To start with the students visited the library to gain inspiration and to get their ideas flowing. The school I'm working with were really inspired by a 700 year old manuscript held in the library. They have been working with a writer to create some fantastic stories and poems and I've now started working with them to develop the work visually.

Collaging landscapes from stories

Collaging landscapes from stories

Collaging landscapes from stories

Collaging landscapes from stories

For the first session we worked on collages of some of the places in their stories, which included a jungle, the Arctic, rivers and some mountains. The whole class worked really well, carefully choosing materials and creating some fantastic landscapes. I was very impressed with how focused the class was and the level of concentration and commitment to the task I had set them.

Working on character designs

Working on character designs

Following on from the collage work we looked at developing some of the characters from the stories in the next session. As their original starting point had been the 700 year old manuscript I thought it would be interesting to have a look at some illuminated manuscripts and some of the marvellous animals featured in them. This led me to think that making collagraph plates using mainly string would be a good way of getting some of the intricate details found in illuminated manuscripts into the work without having to learn how to do complicated and involved drawing techniques.

My sample print plate

Turning drawn designs into collagraph plates

Selecting materials to collagraph

So, this is what we did! As before the students had some fantastic ideas and showed a willingness to experiment which is very refreshing. Often people are so afraid of getting it 'wrong' that they can be quite restricted with the things they'll try. They also showed great levels of concentration, focusing on the activity all day and producing some fantastic printing plates.

Adding texture with yarn

Beads and string

A completed print plate

I am really pleased and impressed with the work they have produced. If you haven't done any printing before making a print plate is really hard because it's difficult to envisage what the print will look like. With collagraphs you have to remember that it's the sticky up bits that will show in the print and that can be hard to get your head round. However, I think the plates they've made will work really well and I'm excited about testing them out next week.

A completed print plate

A completed print plate

A completed print plate