Here We Are (End of Year PDP)

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It has come to this.

I have been a student at Cardiff School of Art & Design for two years and 8 months. That’s approximately 8.3 million seconds.

I wonder – how many of those seconds were filled with real commitment, dedication and hard work? I can certainly vouch for the last 30,000 or so. Yesterday was, by some way, the most urgent of my life. I generally take things at a fairly measured pace, staying calm and thoughtful and watching all the other people get stressed and run around. But not yesterday. I had gone into this last week with the strange feeling that I hadn’t earned the right to cross the finish line; I hadn’t had that screaming panic, that feeling of dread, that pure exhaustion that you associate with the final year of university. Well, I still haven’t succumbed to the dread, and the panic has been more subdued and internal, but yesterday the exhaustion hit me like a train. As I dragged myself up to the studio at quarter to three to hastily prepare my desk after finishing the memory room, I felt like I could collapse.

But I didn’t, and neither did anyone else, and now here we are. There are still the Viva exams to come next week, but the actual work is done. My art school experience is all but over, and I don’t think I’m sure yet how that feels. As we sat in the courtyard of the Halfway yesterday evening, drinking and laughing with all of the tutors and technicians who watched us stagger over the line, I wondered what it was like for them. How did our year compare to the one before it, and the one before that? They’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of our little faces over the years, watching our expressions change from panic to mute determination to relief as that deadline comes and goes. I wonder how we rank against the masses of history, in all the various and trivial ways that you can rank a group of students? Of course, it is daft to think about making these kinds of comparisons, but I do anyway.

One thing that isn’t daft, however, is the effect that this final year has had on me. Ever since my A-Levels, my teachers and tutors (and myself) have told me the same thing: I’m an intelligent person with great potential, but I lack the motivation. I lack that little bit of me that really wants to succeed at whatever it is I’m doing, and I settle for second best because I can never quite be bothered. I’d much rather be at home playing Call of Duty.

Going into this year, I had all of this in mind. I knew that this was really the last opportunity I had to shake off my laziness and find some motivation, and finally vindicate all of the claims that I made to my mum that “when it really matters, I’ll do it”. Well, I did it! I think there were two main factors that contributed to my dramatic increase in engagement and enthusiasm this year, and the first was my decision to take it upon myself to organise an external show. I’ve talked about Within/Without at length in a previous post, but maybe what I haven’t mentioned is how the whole process has fundamentally changed the way I’ve approached the idea of university. Before, I was only working for my own benefit. It was my work, it was my grade, and it was my choice. But here, as I was responsible for organising an exhibition that included fifteen other students, all of whom I consider good friends, There was suddenly an added layer of necessity. These people were trusting me to achieve something on their behalf, and I think it was that trust that inspired me and motivated me to really make the most of the opportunity. It ended up being a great success, and the wave of positivity and togetherness that it created has helped carry us all the way to this final deadline week.

The second factor has been discovering a creative process that not only gives me great enjoyment and satisfaction, but also allows me to create work that successfully communicates with people and forms meaningful emotional connections. My method of papercut projection layering has enabled me to  engage with a subject matter that comes directly from me and my own experience, and that has enriched my work in an aesthetic and philosophical way. The link between my academic research and my illustrative practice has become more and more clear as the year has progressed (a connection I touched upon during my appearance on Pitch/Illustration/Radio earlier this week – I will provide a link to the recording of this when it is uploaded). I have received feedback on my work from tutors as well as friends and complete strangers, telling me that my images remind them of moments in their own lives, even back to their childhood. The realisation that my work can actually connect with people is such an assurance that I’m doing something worthwhile, and it only makes me want to push it further. It’s taken a lot of stumbling and not quite getting it right to get to this point – and the stark contrast between my current work and the images I was creating at the start of the year is testament to that – but looking at it now I can see a clear progression, and also a clear underlying ideological link throughout. I’ve managed to coax out of myself what it is that truly matters to me with regards to the theme of memory, and I’ve settled on the two main considerations of layers and of human connection. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll paste here the artist statement I’ve written to accompany my work in the degree show. I think it just about sums it up:

Henri Bergson described memory as ‘the intersection of mind and matter’. It is the vital place in which our thoughts collide with the world around us, and our identities are born. Memory underpins every action we take and every judgement we make, and without it we would have nothing to anchor us to ourselves as we are bombarded from all sides by the endless influences of life.

I have become fascinated by this crucial role that memory plays in our construction of our sense of self, and fearful at the prospect of losing that identity. Just as our memories are built upon each other in layers in our mind, every one impacted by the one placed above it, so are my images constructed. There is a fragility to all human connection; an unparalleled level of depth and complexity to which memory is so intrinsic, and with layered projections I seek to create tones and textures in my work that possess at least a modicum of that beautiful, indefinable profundity.

Through my illustrations I visually explore my own memories, grappling with the elusive intangibility of nostalgia in an attempt to create imagery that carries emotional and sensorial resonance. Whilst the viewer cannot intimately know the memory, they may nevertheless see something in the atmosphere of the image that stirs a feeling in themselves; taking them back to a moment in their own lives that has been landmarked by a similar weight of emotion and allowing them to reflect upon it.

This newfound sense of enthusiasm and desire to be involved has resulted not only in an improvement in my own work, but also in my engagement with other aspects of the course and the creative industries in general. I was fortunate enough to attend two What’s Next? meetings at the Arts Council for Wales earlier this year; which proved a really insightful experience in terms of forming an understanding of how people within the various realms of creativity and culture engage in debate about the state of the arts. Not only that, but I was able to be part of this debate, and offer a student perspective that was otherwise absent.

I have also taken on the responsibility of designing the catalogue for the Illustration Degree Show; an experience I have found thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding. Its been the most joyful thing to see all of this amazing work that people have created come together in one context that shows off the best of all of us. People seem really happy with what I’ve been creating for them, and the gratitude only motivates me further. Things like this, and the show in Bristol, make me realise that what I value most about the whole world of art and illustration and creativity in general is just being a part of it. Yes, I have found things that I want to say, ideas that I want to share and ways I want to share them, but the most important thing is just being involved and seeing things succeed, knowing I’ve contributed to them. It has made me want to find some kind of work after uni that allows me to remain a part of these kinds of environments, where I can use my skills as a team-oriented, pragmatic thinker and good communicator to either succeed myself or facilitate the success of others. As long as I’m a part of it, I’ll be happy.

So I think that’ll do it. I might write a few more uni-related posts on here reflecting on the catalogue or the outcome of the degree show, but essentially the road is at an end. As Tom Lehrer once said:

Soon we’ll be out amid the cold world’s strife,
Soon we’ll be sliding down the razorblade of life.

 

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GCSE maths finally pays off!

So we watched Apocalypse Now the other day.

I think we’re all starting to feel a bit like Captain Willard; sailing up the winding river into wild and unknown territory with no idea what we’re going to do when we get there, slowly descending into insanity. We’re armed with power drills and sandpaper rather than a 50.cal, but I think the analogy holds up. Our lead technician is even called Charlie.

Progress is being made, though. I’ve been pretty much left alone to design and construct my little memory room, so it’s quite nice to only have my own issues to face rather than having to function in a chaotic team environment where no one’s quite in control. There have been a lot of frayed nerves today, with miscommunications and frustrations and complications galore, and I think I’m quite lucky to have been given the freedom to concentrate on what I need to do.

As for what I do need to do exactly:

13162525_10206792774277956_235853864_nSo, as you can see on the diagram, I need to construct a wooden frame in which will sit a chipboard panel. The panel will be tilted at an angle, and there will be a slightly off-square hole in the panel through which will a computer screen will be visible.  The wooden frame gets narrower and shorter as it goes back, so the panel also needs to be slightly narrower at the top due to the tilt. There must be enough room for the computer to sit behind the panel, and enough room in front of it for a person to enter and sit on a stool.

Cool.

Charlie had previously drawn up a CAD design for the frame, but the measurements were incomplete and pretty rough estimates anyway. I felt like it would be unwise to just arbitrarily decide on the dimensions based on what I thought would work, so I had to figure out a way to simulate the memory room and make sure it would be the right size for someone to be able to enter and sit down at least reasonably comfortably.

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I ended up improvising slightly, having to source a few props to which I could attach lengths of string that would simulate the wooden beams. I don’t think it was the most laser-accurate mock up, but it was at least good enough for me to feel more assured about starting to chop up bits of wood. There’s an invigorating sense of resourcefulness that you get from frantically running around nicking random microphone stands and shelving units in order to sit on a stool surrounded by string and pretend you’re watching a video. Anyway, it all led to the expertly drawn diagram that can be seen above, and the next step was finding some wood.

Actually managing to get hold of the lengths I need has been a bit of a hassle, as there are lots and lots of shorter spare batons of either 2×4 or 4x4cm timber, but far fewer longer pieces. As luck would have it, some of the other guys needed to dismantle some display boards in order to salvage the chipboard for making plinths, so I was allowed to take all the leftover wood after it had been unscrewed.

The next challenge was working out how to translate lengths of string into lengths of wood, and how they would all be joined together (and therefore what length adjustments needed to be made). Long story short, as long as all the horizontal batons that run across the structure are 8cm longer than the string measurements, and I manage not to screw some screws into some other screws, I should be fine. I could use a nail gun I suppose, but I’d have to find someone who has a nail gun, and get them to do it for me since I’m probably not allowed to use one without an induction. Speaking of which, I had to enlist help from some Maker friends so I could bandsaw the batons to the right length (which made it a LOT faster than if I had hand-sawed them all), and Nigel was kind enough to help me use the jig saw to cut the angled sides of my panel (since they weren’t parallel with the edges and therefore couldn’t be band-sawed). It was a fun process, and brought me back to A-Level Product Design with that smell of sawdust in the wood workshop an the noise of the bandsaw and the circular sander. As with the show catalogue, it’s really refreshing to go from the murky seas of subjective illustration to having a practical goal to achieve for a specific purpose, and it’s going to be a real kick to see the finished structure, if and when it actually fits together.

As of now it’s mainly just batons and a panel leaning against the wall, as all the battery packs for the drill were dead so I couldn’t screw anything together. But I’ll aim to have it completely finished and set up by tomorrow so that on Friday  I can be free to chase up anything I have left to do and get my desk completely in order for assessment.

The highlight of the day came when Tom was struggling to work out the dimensions of the lectern he’s building to display his graphic novel on. It’s essentially a plinth with a slanted upper face on which the book will sit, and he knew the angle of the slant and the depth of the plinth, but not the length of the slanted face or the difference between the higher and lower vertical faces. I also struggled with it for a while, but then something amazing happened, and everything I learned about trigonometry in GCSE maths lessons flooded back to me. Following the rule of SOH CAH TOA, if you find the tangent of the angle of a triangle (the angle of the slant) and the length of the opposite side (the depth of the plinth), then you can work out the length of the adjacent side (the difference between the vertical faces). Then, since it’s a right-angled triangle, you can use Pythagoras’ Theorem to find the hypotenuse (the slanted edge), and there you have it! It was the most accomplished I’ve felt all year, and a moment I shall treasure forever. Fair play, maths. You were useful.

So it’s been an eventful and enjoyable day, much like the rest of the past few weeks. I’m genuinely having the time of my life and whilst I am very much looking forward to being finished, I also never want it to end. The days are absolutely flying by, and the boat is picking up speed. I’ll be face to face with Colonel Kurtz before I know it.
The horror.

Rest Stop

rest stopHere I wanted to communicate some of the loneliness that can come with travelling alone. Much of the time it’s a wonderful experience, meeting and interacting with new people from all over the world, but it can also be quite isolating if for whatever reason you aren’t part of that community atmosphere. When I first got back on the Kiwi Bus tours in Wellington, NZ, I was on a coach full of travellers that I’d never met before, many of whom were travelling in groups or had become friends already. For a while I felt like a bit of an outsider, and while I do sometimes find a quiet peace in being a loner amongst a group of people, I like to be socially involved and I always feel like a certain part of myself is missing if I can’t be inside that social environment.

Time Slips Away

bikes newAt the time of writing this, our final deadline is in two weeks and three days. Our work is to be essentially completed by this friday, because the following fortnight is given over to putting up the degree show. Then all our work is handed in on the 6th May, and our viva exams take place the week after  that. The show opens on the 20th. Then we’re done.

With that sunny thought in mind, I’m having to think about what state my work is in at the moment, and what more I can be doing to prepare for hand-in. I’ve had a strange uneasy feeling over the past few weeks of unwarranted complacency; I’ve finished my final video now and I’m sort of waiting until the show build starts so I can continue with that side of the project. But when I look at the people around me who are absolutely rushed off their feet to get things printed, finish graphic novels, get pots fired, paintings completed etc, I feel like I should have a lot more to do! I suppose I’ve taken an easy route in a sense because my final piece has not been particularly labour-intensive (being essentially made out of work that I’d already completed), but I really feel like I should be using this time to make more images and bulk up this memory project as best as I can. I’ve been a bit lax over the past week, not using my time all too productively and slightly wasting this opportunity I have at the moment to better prepare myself for deadline day.

So I’ve started making work again, as you can see in the above picture. I’m looking back at my childhood and teenage years once more, thinking about moments and places that stick out to me as landmarks or icons of my youth. I think we all have things in our lives that act a bit like hubs for our memories; things upon which we place such a familiarity, such a sense of permanence, that part of ourself goes into that thing and it becomes part of our identity. It happens with people, like your parents and closest friends, but it also happens with places, experiences or even objects. In that sense, these images don’t represent specific memories as such, but instead try and encapsulate the idealised, Matrix-like state of immortality that these things hold in my mind.

Throughout much of my teenage and adult years I have barely touched a bicycle, and I haven’t been cycling with my dad in a long long time, but because it was something we did so regularly when I was a child and bike rides were something I attached so much of a sense of joy and freedom to, bicycles will now always have a part of my childhood within them and whenever I ride one I am brought back in small, subconscious ways to those summer cycling holidays we took down the east coast of England. In this way, through a physical object I can always hold on to what are now quite distant, faded memories with very little preserved in terms of specific moments and events.

As for the image itself, I wanted to capture not necessarily that joy or that freedom, but something a bit more grounded and less naïve. I think, in some ways, those holidays were also a real learning experience for me, and looking at it now I can see that my dad was constantly having to rein in my childish sense of invincibility and cockiness that inevitably comes when you find that you can hop on a bike and essentially whiz off to wherever you want without any pesky adults to stop you. So he was responsible for me, but he was also helping me learn how to be responsible for myself.

That’s what I wanted to find in this image, and I’ve tried to do with a bit of good old pathetic fallacy. Thinking about the light source, which in this case was always going to be the sun, I decided to do something I’d not done yet in any of these images; create clouds. And I have to say, I’m really pleased with the outcome! It was really a case of trial and error – I cut out what I thought looked like vague cloud shapes and then just hoped they’d look alright when projected and photographed. After some playing around with multiple layers and different amounts of focus and opacity, I think I’ve managed to get that atmospheric, darkening sky, with the sun trapped behind the clouds and a certain sense of urgency placed upon the figures in the image. top benchThis next memory is very different for a lot of reasons. I won’t say too much about it, but suffice to say we spent an awful lot of our teenage years sat on that bench, at the top of the hill in the park up the road from my house. It’s a slow memory, unhurried and lazy. We’re not going anywhere any time soon.

I think one thing that sets this image apart from many of my others is that I’ve tried to push the silhouettes back into the picture, rather than bring them forward. I wanted me and my friends to seem to be a part of the landscape, rather than separate from it. The light is hazy and faded, maybe an early summer evening, and I quite like the way that it appears to be coming in through the trees behind us.

It’s a bit of a shame that I’ve already finished my video (and I’m 100% not making any notable changes to it at this point), because I think these are two of my most successful images so far. I think I’m getting more confident in drawing and cutting figures in various poses and from various angles, and importantly (for me at least) getting them to look like the people they’re actually meant to be! I also think I’m getting more creative with how I use the layers, building more and more on top of each other to give the skies and landscapes more depth and subtlety. It’s exciting to imagine how I could apply this creative process to other projects with other concepts and narratives. Maybe I’ll need to get myself an old overhead projector after I leave uni!

 

3rd Year Illustration Exhibition (Paper Arts, Bristol)

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I wanted to wait until it was over before I talked about it, because now I can look back at everything and reflect on my experience as a whole. And here we are! Settle in, it’s going to be a long one.

It’s coming to a close this week, but for the past two weeks a group of sixteen of us from 3rd year Illustration have been exhibiting our work at Paper Arts in the centre of Bristol. We’ve had two open nights and both have been a success, with a great turnout and a real interest in the work.

The idea of having an external exhibition came about some time early in the first term. There was talk of having a show in London, as previous years had done/attempted to do, and it was clear that there was keen interest in taking our work outside CSAD. I’d recently volunteered to be course rep for Level 6, so I sort of took it upon myself to find out how many people might be interested in taking part in a show, and what might be feasible in terms of location, date, costs etc. It was immediately apparent that doing something in London would be way out of our price range, or far too much of an investment in terms of time and resources even if we did manage to raise the money. We could have found somewhere in Cardiff, but I definitely felt that part of the value of doing something like this is in a) taking us out of our comfort zones, and b) exposing our work to an audience that otherwise wouldn’t get to see it.

Therefore, the obvious choice barring London or Cardiff was Bristol. Not only is it fairly close to home, but it’s a real hub for illustrators and the artistic and creative cultural scene in general is really vibrant. Most importantly, there are loads of options for exhibition spaces! People seemed happy with the idea, so me and a few others went over there at some point in November (or October, it all feels like a very long time ago now) to check out a few possible venues. A friend had recommended I look at The Space in Stokes Croft, which is a community-run venue owned by PRSC, focused on cultural events of all kinds. The ethos of the place was great, the atmosphere and feel was nice – there was a kind of rough industrial quality to the room – and they were happy to have us exhibit, but the hire rate for the space alone was around £400 per week (and it was more complicated because the prices varied from daytime to evenings, and weekdays to weekends). It was a definite maybe. I really respect the work they do there and the crucial role they play in the community, but we had to consider what was best for us and our work.

We also looked at a more traditional white-walled gallery called Centrespace, which despite being in the city centre was slightly off the beaten track; round the corner from Broadmead and off a side street down an alleyway. There was signage, but we’d definitely have had to do a lot of promotion to get people aware of the exhibition. The main positive of this one was that it’s a really nice, clean white gallery space, and would have comfortably accommodated the work of however many of us wanted to take part. They said we’d get complete freedom of how we used the space, they basically give us the keys at the start of the week so we could come and go as we please. However, we would have had to pay for the electricity we used during that time, and we would have needed someone there to invigilate at all times (which would have been a real tall order, given how busy we’ve all been as the year has progressed). The price was far more reasonable at £265 per week, but adding in all the factors including the location, it just wasn’t quite the right fit for us.

Finally, we came across Paper Arts. Not only is it on Merchant Street, just off Broadmead and right in the centre of town, it’s also a cafe/print shop and it’s joined with Co-Lab, an art/design/craft shop that promotes new and local artists. Somehow they only charge £200 a week for gallery hire, and included in that price is invigilation of the work; promotion of the event via facebook, their website, and their brochure; 20% off printing for anyone exhibiting and they even design a poster for the show! 🙂

Jamie

We were completely sold, but the only catch was the size of the space. The amount of people interested in taking part was growing, and there was no way we could fit more than 8 or 9 people’s work in the venue. We quickly thought of a solution, however, and that was to book the space for two weeks, dividing the exhibition in two. So that’s what we did! Obviously that bumped the price up to £400, but split between a good number of us that’s not too bad, and for everything the venue offers we felt it was definitely worth it.

After some fluctuation in the number of participants (at one point it was as high as 20 people), the final count was 16 artists. 8 exhibiting in each week and two opening nights to celebrate each part of the show. I got everyone to send me £25 each, decided on an opening date of 31st March, filled out the contract and got the thing paid for, and the next step was to figure out what kind of work we’d be showing, what kind of identity we wanted to give to the show, and how we’d work out dividing the group in two. We had a couple of meetings, but it was fairly up in the air for a long time, because not everyone would turn up each time so ideas and information got lost along the way, and all in all it was fairly slow going. A large factor was simply that people were very much in the process of not only trying to finish their dissertations, but also figuring out what on earth they’d be making for the rest of the year. It’s difficult to see how a show might come together when you don’t even know what kind of work you’re doing, or even the nature of the ideas that are driving it.

Because of all of this, progress was pretty much halted until the end of January, when our dissertations were handed in and work began in earnest on our final projects. It became clear from that point that the focus of a lot of people’s work was on various aspects of human nature. Some were exploring the physical body itself, some were looking at the inner workings of the mind and the mental state in various contexts, and others were viewing humanity on a larger scale, commenting on social issues or the relationship between humans and the planet. There was a clear contrast throughout; between the personal inner world of the individual, and the wider external world of human social interaction. Sara came up with the idea of dividing the group into the themes of “inside and outside”, drawing on all the connotations of those words and defining each week in that way. Whilst we all thought that was a great theme, I pointed out that trying to cleanly split everyone’s work into one of those two categories would be impossible. The subject matter was too expansive and subjective, the contexts too varied. We settled with the contrasting themes of inside/outside, but allowed that title to envelop the whole show. I came up with the final name of “Within/Without”, heavily inspired by the Beatles song “Within You, Without You”. I think it adds another layer of meaning to the overarching theme, since “without” can either mean external from something, or imply a lack/loss of something. Some of our projects deal with loss in various ways, and this dual meaning hints at that depth within the work.

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So we had our title, we had our nice, vague all-encompassing theme, we had our opening date, we had our participating artists, now we needed the work! It was tricky for me at first, because I went through a real period of uncertainty and lack of confidence with the direction my project was taking following my end-of-term feedback in November. All my subject work got pretty much put on hold until the beginning of February and dissertation hand-in day, but even after that it took me at least 2-3 weeks to be able to get my head back in a zone where I could think creatively and come up with a way of working that could properly explore and fulfil the ideas I had surrounding memory. Finally I began creating my layered projection images, and the shape of my project began to emerge. My visual language became more decisive, and my aims became more clear. I felt comfortable in the knowledge that I could use these images in the exhibition, and as we started working on the promotional side of things I felt reassured that my own work was going in the right direction.

There were a few people by this point who had already created work that they were planning on using for the show, and I got them to provide some images which I gave to Emily at Paper Arts so that she could design a poster for us (and she did a brilliant job – see above). Jake worked on a leaflet that we would have available at the show, with brief information about the exhibition and details about each artist. On top of that, Georgia put together a wonderful video/showreel (see below), giving previews of all of our work and just generally advertising us and the exhibition as a whole. I contributed with some musings on the themes of the show and the philosophies we have as illustrators, trying to emphasise the progressive and innovative way in which we work. I think the thing that the video highlights above all else is how much we’ve grown this year as a collective, really feeding off each other’s creativity and positivity, and I think that shows in our work.

For the most part, as the weeks went by I was just keeping everything ticking over, communicating with Paper Arts, making sure people were on track and everyone was up to date with all the important info. It was difficult at times to get people to send me things when I needed them, like images or artist statements, but with a little prodding and encouragement everything got sorted, and considering the size of the group and how busy people have been, it was all a fairly stress-free affair. I’d like to think that’s partly down to me managing to stay on top of things and not let anything get forgotten or ignored, but mainly I think it’s down to people getting on with each other, respecting each other’s ideas and needs, and not putting themselves first. I don’t think we had a single argument from start to finish, and that’s something!

I was part of week 1, and the time for the first opening night came around scarily fast. I decided I was going to get my work printed at Paper Arts on photosatin paper, and mounted on foam board for display. Unfortunately due to having to spray-mount our work outside on the roof on a windy day, with a less-than-razor-sharp craft knife and not much clean flat space to work, the end product wasn’t perfect. Some of the edges were a bit rough, and unfortunately two of them got slightly scratched when bringing them back downstairs. I’ve mounted things on foam board before and had a few similar issues, and I’ve definitely learned my lesson this time that if I’m going to do it again I need to be so careful and precise, get everything printed and ready in plenty of time, and remember to bring my own scalpel that actually cuts properly! I don’t think the imperfections were too noticeable once the work was up, but I certainly saw them and I felt like they could have looked more polished and professional. In fact, one of my images had to be discarded altogether as somehow a piece of blu-tack got pressed into the paper while we were setting up, and trying to get it off only ruined the picture itself. In the end I think the three remaining images worked well together in terms of tones and composition, but I’ve definitely learned some lessons about preparation and attention to detail.

Despite these mishaps, everything got set up without much of a fuss and the opening night went really well! Lots of family and friends turned up, as well as a few people who just wandered in to have a look, which was great! There was a great buzz to the evening and lots of good conversation about our work, and we even made a bit of money from donations for our degree show. I felt so proud of the way we’d all managed to create something together that really celebrates our creativity and growing confidence in our practice. I also think that for many of us it’s been helpful in terms of getting into the mindset of presenting our work in an exhibition space, considering how it should be viewed and the various considerations that come with that. For me, it’s confirmed my beliefs that hanging prints on a wall is very much not the way my work needs to be seen. Yes, the images are successful in their own right and can be effective in terms of getting a response from the viewer, but because they are made digitally and with so much importance placed on the contrasts and subtly varied tones, they work far better when displayed on a backlit screen and in the context of a video, which can use audio and visual effects to really enable the communicative and evocative potential of the images (and display them in a far more personal, intimate space that allows for reflection and full immersion in the memories and their emotional atmosphere).

Nevertheless, I am reasonably happy with how my work looked and I got some really positive feedback; some people were actually connecting the images with memories of their own and being reminded of the way they felt at the time, and that’s the best possible thing I could have hoped for! It’s so lovely to find out that my work is actually managing to connect with people, and it really encourages me to keep working and try and make my final video the best it can possibly be for the degree show.

The second week has also gone nice and smoothly, and it was so exciting to see finished work from people whose projects I wasn’t as up to date with, or who I didn’t speak to as much about how they were going to display their work. There was definitely a different feel to the set up of each week, and the huge range of processes, media and subject matter present in the illustrations gave the whole show a wonderful richness and heterogeneity.

paper

Overall, the experience of organising and setting up an exhibition has been a real honour and a pleasure, and I’ve found that as this year has gone on, the friendships I have with the people on my course have grown and grown. As corny as it sounds, these people have made this final year better than I ever imagined it would be, and I would like nothing more than to keep working alongside them after we graduate. I’m still hugely unsure about where I’m going to go or what I’m going to do, but I do know that right now – largely as a result of this show and the sense of community it’s helped to build on our course – I feel completely at home here. So I’ll embrace the soppy sentimentality and end this ridiculously long post as I did in the showreel; with the song that I believe embodies the ideology we’ve tried to uphold in our work and in ourselves throughout the creation of this exhibition and the year as a whole.

When you look beyond yourself then you may find
Peace of mind is waiting there
And the time will come when you see we’re all one
And life flows on within you, and without you

 

Putting them all together

I’ve settled on the idea now that my degree show piece will be a short film that compiles all of my memory images into one piece. I’m using Premiere Pro to add distortion effects and create transitions between the images, and hopefully it will come together to form a kind of strange, jumbled narrative.

This is a short sequence I made the other day with no sound, just trying out different effects and transitions. I think the fact that it’s constantly not quite still or not quite in focus gives the images a bit of a dreamy quality, which is what i’m going for. However it’s not perfect, and Amelia suggested that I alter the playing on the beach image so that the larger version of the kid running isn’t there. His body shape is a bit off and it’s these little details that Amelia’s been stressing I need to really pay attention to!

So here’s a much longer version, with sound. Thinking about music to put with the imagery has been quite tricky, as it’s hard to know what sounds right until you hear it. This piece is “The Unanswered Question” by Charles Ives, and I think it’s quite haunting and eerie but also slightly nostalgic, which is perfect for the mood of the images. A lot of these memories are happy, but I want to suggest that they’re always just out of reach and there’s a sadness that comes with knowing they’re in the past.

I think this is definitely the piece i’m going to use, it’s a good length and there’s some nice changes of pace that will allow for slowing down and speeding up of the effects and transitions. Again, I don’t think what I’ve done here is necessarily how it should be, and there’ll be a lot of tinkering to come. I want to end it how it starts, with the image of me and my parents, but there’s going to be a chaotic jumble of all the other memories before it slows down to a finish. I’m quite enjoying the process of making it, but the main issue is the toll that all the effects on all the layers is taking on Premiere Pro. Trying to watch it before it’s rendered is like watching a slideshow, and it takes around 2 hours to render 2 minutes of footage. It’s a leave-overnight job, but I should have a version 1.0 finished by Monday to show to Amelia and Tom and see what needs changing.

Lonely Memories

So far, my images have all had a certain degree of warmth to them. This is mainly due to the yellowy orange hue that comes from the light emitted by the projector, but I suppose it’s also due to the fact that all of the memories I’ve chosen have been happy ones. Even in the mistier, murkier version of the tent image there’s a suggestion of cosiness and warmth within the tent.

Here I wanted to choose a memory that’s more conflicted. During my travels in New Zealand, there were several moments where I felt particularly lonely or aimless. There were multiple occasions where I completely ran out of money, and I spent 2 months staying at a hostel in Wellington just trying to find a job. It struck me that the worst possible place to be when you’re alone is in the city. Everyone around you moves with a purpose and a place to go, everyone has friends and family around them. I enjoyed much of my time in Wellington and I did meet some great people (and eventually I managed to move on and keep travelling), but there was a good deal of struggling to get by and scrambling for a few temp jobs, and I realised how lonely travelling can be if you’re not surrounded by other people in the same situation. I stayed at a friend’s flat for a week, but it was clear that I was a bit out of place as they were all busy studying and having a good time, whilst I was just there because it was a free sofa to sleep on. signpost
So here’s me, wandering the streets of Wellington trying to find a job. I created several layers of shapes of buildings, trying to use perspective to create depth and isolate the figure, but it’s hard to build up too many layers before the image becomes far too dark and submerged in its own shadows. I settled finally on this composition, although I might do some cutouts of other people going about their business, and overlay them with a haziness and translucency to make my stasis and their movement that much more obvious. I stripped the image of most of the warm yellows and reds, in an effort to make it colder and less nostalgic. This is a very strong memory in my mind, and in a way I treasure it because it was a valuable experience and a period of learning in my life, but it’s not full of happiness and I don’t want it to evoke positive emotions in the viewer.

Cold outside, cosy inside.

Today’s memory is one of a camping trip in north Wales with my parents and my friend Will. It was a small campsite by a river, and on the other side of the river was a very large, very steep hill. After a few days, Will and I decided we would get up very early one morning and climb the hill, mainly because my parents didn’t believe that we would. But true to our word, we got up at dawn, crossed the river and started climbing. We made it up in fairly good time and the view was great, but the moment that really stuck in the memory was encountering a dead sheep half way up. There were plenty of live sheep, but this one had clearly been dead for quite a while and had flies all over it. Anyway, that was the day of the dead sheep, and this is a picture of us playing cards the night before.
tent finalIt took a long time before I was happy with the composition of this one – there were various layers of shadows that I experimented with and ended up discarding, and lots of different colour balances and levels that I went through before settling on this one. However I wanted to see if I could do it a bit differently, so I made another version.
tent mistyObviously when you see silhouettes of people inside a tent you can’t really make out their distinct features – they’re like hazy shadows. I wanted to nail that haziness, and combine it with the hazy darkness outside to create a more eerie image. Now i’ve made them both I’m not sure which I prefer, because they both do different things. I think the top one is more comforting, because the crispness and brightness of the tent and the figures make it feel like you’re in there with them, safe and warm. In the second version you’re excluded from their cosy card game, and you can’t even really make out what they’re doing. Obviously my memory is of being inside the tent, but it’s interesting to change the perspective and create a different emotional atmosphere in the image. It would be interesting to put these images on Premiere Pro and try transitioning between the two.

Fuzzy Memories

Just as memories shift and change in your mind, and can gain a certain tone or texture as a result of associations with places, people or experiences, they can also change in focus. When I try and remember moments from my early childhood I can only “feel” them, I can’t really see them. I remember walking down the street in the little Turkish village of Akyaka, holding onto my parents’ hands and swinging between them, but I can’t actually see any of it in my mind. I have a very vivid, distinct picture of the beach in Cornwall and I could probably draw most of it from memory, but this is much more of just a vague shape of something that happened. It’s a space in time that I once inhabited, and I can just about make out the me-shaped hole that’s left there.

The fun thing about projections is you can actually replicate this change in focus, this fuzziness. I’ve tried to capture the nature of that memory in this image, and while it’s a very different aesthetic to my previous images, I think it shares a similar quality of warmth and familiarity.

parents

I then tried to create an image with quite a different mood and tone, but using the same out-of-focus fuzziness. It’s an image of a night out, with the haze of drunkenness slowly turning my memory of the moment into mush. I often find that you remember how you felt on a night out, and the general tone of your conversations or the places you were in, but details are almost impossible to recall. This is very similar to these oldest memories of childhood, and I think there are parallels that can be drawn there.
the moooon

I don’t think the image itself is anywhere near as successful – it was made in a bit of a rush, and I was lazy with the figures. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was trying to create as I was going; only when I started playing around with the photographs did it start to really form in my mind. But I think this playing around with focus and using the magnifying lens to add an enlarged or distorted kind of imprint onto the image is effective in maintaining the slightly unreal, dreamlike feel of the memories. I’ll continue to experiment as I work my way through more images of my life!