Considering The Year Ahead, Life, Death And Photography

It would be impossible to think of the future without considering that there is the potential for me to die from heart disease. As you’re aware I have decided not to have surgery for my heart condition. I can see how dieing could be a scary experience, but I have been at peace since making this decision.

Knowing that I have a limited time left has most certainly helped me to focus on living well and considering whether my daily actions improve the quality of my life. This doesn’t mean running around like a mad march hare and doing, doing, doing. Sometimes I just want to sit still and do nothing, others I want to read or birdwatch, and occasionally I want to be around people.

I’m not used to being around people, and I can struggle even when I’m around those who I love and feel safe with. Getting the balance right for me isn’t easy, I’ve had a wonderful Christmas, but I’m ready to go home now.

When I return home my plan is to begin meditating daily. Meditation is most definitely linked to my creativity and photography. I have a few ideas for photographic project’s and I know meditation will help with developing these. I have vague ideas about making photos with others who identify as being non-binary or gender fluid, and making use of masks or props to explore and express gender identity.

I’ve particularly enjoyed my embroidered photography this year, for my project “Some Emotional States Of My Anorexia, And The Strengths Of My Recovery.” I completed the project just before Christmas, but I don’t feel ready to make these public at the moment. The wonderful thing is that I already have a gallery/arts project who would like to exhibit the series. I can see the potential for building upon this work to explore mental health further. Meditation will definitely aid my progress in these areas.

“Snippets” is a series I’m currently working on in which I write down snippets of overheard conversation and take a photo in the area of which the conversation was heard. I got the idea from a fellow OCA photography student Chloe Halstead. The idea is to have this as a long term project using my Huawei Mate 20 Pro, and to present the series as a photo book.

Hopefully I will also have some news about my application for a bursary to study an Open Foundation in Creative Writing, with the Open College of the Arts, I can feel some more photo essays coming along.

Colour is also going to feature in the clothes I wear, it’s time to bring more colour and variety into my attire, and today I’m top to bottom in yellow. I’ve also seen some green corduroys that I like. I’ll give them some thought.

I guess I’ll need to tone the colours down when birdwatching, something which I plan to do more of this year. I’m so grateful that I discovered RSPB Rainham Marshes. One thing that would aid my birdwatching would be finding a teleconverter that I can attach to the front of my Mzuiko 75-300mm lens. I can’t currently afford one. However, I have four photos appearing in The Loudest Whispers exhibition, run by The Arts Project London, during February, March and April. If they sell then I’ll be able to afford a teleconverter. Fingers crossed. 

I don’t have a bucket list, but I would like to be able to go on a birdwatching holiday during the summer.

Wishing you all a wonderful year ahead.

A Boost To My Artistic Confidence After A Difficult Week

This week has challenged my faith and confidence in my artistic and creative ability. Firstly there was the Nam June Paik exhibition, in which I felt confused and out of my depth, and then I visited the London Group Open exhibition.

I went to the London Group Open so that I could see an exhibit by Beverley Duckworth, who creates mesmerising pieces using dust, hair and human skin. She explores feminism, expectations upon wonen, beauty, disgust and the discarded. I’m in awe of her talent.

The rest of the exhibition was powerful, and I connected to some of the art more deeply than others. One of the pieces, Leave or Remain by Maya Ramsay was the charred remains of a shipwrecked boat used by migrants. A powerful question about what happened to those migrants, and commentary upon the current Western political state of affairs with the rise right wing nationalism.

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Tarantalla by Phillip Tunstill appealed to me as well. I liked the colours, geometry and space. It made me ponder upon my need for routine, and partitions in my mind that, when structured so, leaves me with a sense of order, space and safety. It’s like I need to structure so I can live freely in the space.

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There were many other examples of cleverly conceived and created art. However, following on from my Nam June Paik exhibition it added to my sense of inadequacy as an artist.

Today has been a turning point for me. I subscribe to Curator Space, which has many opportunities and open calls for artists, and I saw an exhibit that I felt that I could contribute to.

I selected four of my pieces of work, and wrote my bio and description and submitted them. The process was magical, I am pleased with the works which I chose, and they represent some of my skills, ability and talent as a conceptual artist and photographer. It was such a joy to think “Bloody hell, I have something to say as an artist.” A refreshing end to what had been a challenging week.

When You Take Away My VoiceStandard: When You Take Away My Voice by Richard Keys

Nam June Paik And Olafur Eliasson With The London Regional OCA Group

Got to be honest here and say that I really struggled with the Nam June Paik exhibition. My childhood was such that I went to sporting events and airshows, and have had no experience of exhibitions until recently. I think the lack of artistic culture in my formative years has left me with a lack of expertise when viewing art at exhibitions. I’m going to make a point of reading “How to read a painting” by the National Gallery.

On the whole I found the Paik exhibition to be confusing, bewildering and overwhelming. There was a cacophony of sound and light, and other exhibits that I felt little connection to. Whilst trying to connect with what the artist was trying to communicate I found my mind was left blank. I didn’t connect with his art at all. I feel almost tearful at my inadequacy when it comes to reading art, especially of this discordant and abstract nature.

However, there were two exhibits that I connected with. The first of these were a selection of artefacts from Paik’s studio.

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I may not understand what Paik is conveying, but I appreciate how ideas formulate and concepts develop, and I find the creative process to be fascinating. Ideas emerge in the space between the minutiae, little seeds germinate and creativity branches forth. Some of these will die along the way, but they still remain valuable to the branches which produce fruit.

The second exhibit that I connected with was a projected, blank, 16mm film.

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The accompanying text states that the film represents “emptiness, boredom and random interference… events such as the shadows cast by the spectators, became part of the work.”

Bev, Johnathan and I enjoyed became part of this transient piece of art. It highlighted to me that the meaning of art changes dependant upon the setting and the viewer.

Interactive art then became the theme for the rest of the day with the Olafur Eliasson, In Real Life, exhibition.

Wow. What an experience.

Welcome to a new world Richard.

In Real Life is not an exhibition to watch and read, it was a fully immersive experience in which one interacts mentally, emotionally, physically and, dare I say, spiritually.

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“Big Din blinde passage” was 39 meters of sensory deprivation. The passage is full of fog created by food additives. I could barely see in front of myself, so much so that at one point I almost tripped over a woman with a buggy. I couldn’t see either the floor or the walls, and my sense of hearing increased. What made the experience so joyful for me was the laughter of children walking along with their parents. Sensory deprivation made the laughter so pleasurable. The taste of the fog was rather pleasant as well. When I left the tunnel I couldn’t stop smiling. The experience left me awestruck and lifted my mood so much, which was needed after the drop in my self esteem from viewing the Paik exhibition.

Most of the rest of the exhibition was enthrallingly interactive, and I very much became a part of the exhibit. I particularly like the viewing windows, in which the glass had been cut and shaped into hexagons. Each had been cut at an angle which reflected and reflected the view back as if one was looking through a kaleidoscope. Regrettably I did not record the name of these installations.

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I also enjoyed the room with the mirrored ceiling. So many people were laying on the floor and looking up at the view.

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The whole exhibition felt like play time. I will endeavour to return before the exhibition closes. Never have I found art to be so fun and inspiring.

What the experts say

Nam June Paik 

“I always thought of Nam June Paik as a livewire avant-garde figure from long ago but for decades my experience of him has been as a permanent Art Biennale fixture whose work acted as an instant soporific.

Represented by piles of TVs showing mass-media random information with no particular meaning, the sight of his name on a wall label usually sends me straight into a coma.” (Collings; 2010)

“In 1963, artist Nam June Paik had his first solo exhibition. The show took place in a three-storey villa in Wuppertal, Germany and among the works was a room packed with 13 manipulated television sets. It was the first time an artist had used television as a medium for their art. 

For five decades, Paik built upon these TV experiments and continually bridged the gap between art and technology in a way no other artist had done before.” (Fulleylove; 2019)

Olafur Eliasson

“My works demand the visitors’ engagement; they are dependent on viewers to co-produce them,” he explains. “Many of my works are not only about the visitor’s encounter with the work, but the visitors’ encounters with one another. This is endlessly fascinating.

“I do not mind if people are moved by my work without knowing, or even caring, about any of the theories behind it. I think the art world often treats people patronisingly: take guided audio tours in museums, for example. I enjoy watching people interact without any of this guidance, without the instructions.” (Eliasson; in Alderson; 2015)

References

Alderson, R; 2015; It’s OK to disagree, the divisive work of artist Olafur Eliasson; Online; AT https://www.itsnicethat.com/features/its-ok-to-disagree-the-divisive-work-of-artist-olafur-eliasson

Collings, M; 2019; Nam June Paik Review, Daft, inventive energy from a weird kind of artist; Online; AT https://www.standard.co.uk/go/london/arts/nam-june-paik-tate-modern-exhibition-review-a4261856.html%3famp

Fulleylove, R; 2019; Why Nam June Paik is more than the father of video art; Online; AT https://www.creativereview.co.uk/nam-june-paik-tate-modern-retrospective/

The National Gallery; 2019; How to ‘read’ a painting; Online; AT https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/learning/teachers-and-schools/teaching-english-and-drama/how-to-read-a-painting

 

Discussion:- Getting There, The Highs And Lows Of The Journey – Exhibition:- A Rumour Reached The Village

On Friday afternoon I took myself off to Lewisham Arthouse for an exhibition called Why Do It Together When You Can Do It Alone, followed by a talk Getting There, The Highs And Lows Of The Journey.

The talk was predominantly aimed at post grads, but I attended because I felt I would benefit from hearing what practicing artists had to share of their own experience. I’d like to make a career out of my photography and art, and the more exhibitions and talks I attend, the more I will learn and develop.

The discussion were by Effie Paleologou (artist and educator), Sunil Shah (artist, curator and writer), and Jack Lewdjaw & Karanjit Panesar (artists, co-directors of east bristol contemporary).

Points of note from the discussion

  • Maintain critique groups, continuous critique can be the difference between success and failure
  • Work with others, whether this be traditional collaboration, lighting, make-up or friends
  • Ideas can flow and develop with external ideas
  • Find your own voice
  • Think about how the quiet voice can find a space
  • If a resource is lacking in your community then make it happen yourself
  • Answer open calls
  • Money will be tight, is there a way to work alongside others
  • Collectives aren’t for everyone, but ask yourself is there a group relevant to your practice

Points of not from A Rumour Reached the Village

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A Rumour Reached Thhe Village was one of three collaborative pieces by different groups of artists. I chose to focus on this exhibit for three reasons. The artists had pulled together a cohesive piece of work which stood apart from the other two, because Sarah-Jane field, an artist and OCA degree student was one of the artists, and time constraints.

My initial impressions

  • Packing crate used as platform, circular nature represents, earth, nature, community, inclusion
  • Creates packing stamps signify humanities impact upon nature
  • Perspex sheets partially cover some of the work – what we present outwardly v what we keep hidden
  • Organic and man made items – village/rural/cottage industry
  • Use of technology reminded me of remote cultures where tech becomes a source of information and connection – links back to rumour
  • Rumours can bring hope, excitement, interest and suspicion

Opon first viewing the objects, photographs and text appeared disparate in nature, but stillness and consideration brought me a sense of cohesion. I began to imagine a small African village in which different roles and activities were played out for the overall good of the community. One home may be making pottery, another sourcing the plants used for medicine, the bottles could have a medical use. One of the homes may have a TV or computer in which everyone gathers around. A community forms in which each of the members have a role.

“A Rumour Reached the village is a collective enquiry that began with a role-playing game set in an imagined community riven with accusations of witchcraft. Over three months, six artists exchanged challenges and responses, out of which common themes emerged: loops and circles, colonies and growth, architecture and story telling. The culminating installation is a settlement of images, objects, moving image and living cultures, questioning the stories and materials on which communities are built. ” (Why do it together when you can do it alone? p2)

Collaborating with other artists is something that I would like to do more of. It was one of my goals for the year ahead, and I have achieved it in a small but significant way. Collaborative working forces me to step out of my creative comfort zone, I’m forced to think outside of my self-created box. I’d really like to collaborate with other artists more frequently.

A Rumour Reached the Village was created by Sarah-Jane Field, Michael a Lahat, Rowan Lear, Eva Louis Jonas, Joshua Phillips and Christel Piikaer Thompson

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Recent Photos

I noticed these whilst walking through Kentish Town. They were stuck to a wall on a building.

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Embroidery On Photography, A Sample

My approach to assignment 5 was that I wanted to learn a new skill to carry forward to the degree in Photography. I was prepared to fail, which can be an important part of learning. However, things are going better than imagined. Here are two snap shots of the embroidery. It’s such a wonderful and enjoyable process.

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The top photo is part of a peacock, embroidered on to a self portrait (I’m not posting the completed photo until I post the completed assignment). The second photo is a work in progress of a butterfly.

 

Open Art Collective At Lightbox Woking

Life has got away with me and I find myself writing up my review two weeks late.

It was a pleasure to walk into an exhibition and be able to identify 3 of the photographers by their photography. However, I am going to focus on two pieces that stimulated me, one mentally and one emotionally.

What I find most interesting is that I took the exhibition in over three stages. A brief initial viewing, a more in-depth reflective episode, and a third viewing so I could sit with my grief.

Keith Greenough’s exhibit was of a series of pairs of portraits. There were two photos of each model, There was a time difference of 45 seconds between the first and second portrait. I kinda ignored this series on my first viewing, but my god it drew me in second time around. The photos were almost identical, but then I began to see very slight changes of expression. A slight glint in an eye, a minor movement in the lips. It’s incredible how tiny movements of a muscle can alter expression, emotion and mood. I became fascinated by the models, what they may have been thinking or feeling, and considered how we are in a continuous state of flux. All of these minor waves of energy change the nature of who we are in any given moment. I don’t notice most of these subtle shifts. I define myself as being……. But in reality I cannot know all of the intricacies and inflections of my being. The passage of our lives are defined by the passing of seconds and minutes.

Teresa Lanham’s photography was an expression and journey through her experiences of grief, using macro photography of flowers. She says “The work became a way of re approaching my own life in standing still more often and just see what is there now rather than focusing on an unknown future.”

After my second viewing I went for lunch, and unexpectantly started to cry. Teresa’s photography triggered memories of a period of grief. When I grieve I have a need for space, I become overwhelmed by people, and I vanish fir days. I go to a certain place to reconnect with nature. It becomes a space that can contain my pain. Thank so much Teresa, I healed a little more.

To find out more about the Open Art Collective please visit their website here.

 

Kate Aston – Review

OCA student Kate Aston, very kindly sent me two of her photos, from a previous assignment, in which she embroidered over photography. Both of which are of a climbing wall.

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  • Long stitches
  • Creates a shape which I can anthropomorpise
  • Creates an anchor and relay
  • Alters perspective
  • Reduces appearance of size

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  • Small stitches
  • Single colour
  • Provide definition and detail

Although I’m limiting my focus to the stitching, as this is research for my assignment, I do wish to pass comment upon this second photo.

The depth of field is incredible, and this draws me right into the photo. The DoF is so narrow that I imagine that an extension tube was used on a 200mm- 300mm lens to create a macro lens. I’m also going to assume that the shot is made on the ground, shooting high up into a join between wall and ceiling, and that the plans have been shifted by rotating and cropping during the development process. I’m probably wrong. But this photo is so intriguing. It’s also very easing aesthetically.

Having seen this work I have decided to use the embroidery from Kate’s first photo to provide the relay between my face and the subject in Laura Letinsky’s photo. I hadn’t considered creating an installation prior to viewing Kate’s assignment. This is the advantage of connecting with fellow artists and photographers.

To see Kate Aston’s Context and Narrative studies click here, to view her on Instagram it’s kate513940