Artist Statement

The main concept behind the works is the use of music and interpretation, along with the idea of reactions and sensations for the viewer. I have always been interested in making music, especially on piano and guitar. The works have centred on me as the main character, as this is a personal journey I have taken from Western music through to cultures that I had not previously explored.
Much of the work is presented through video, as this was the best way to communicate ideas and themes of performances. The guitar performance was based on my love of music, and the use of space and character, inspired by Vanessa Beecroft (Beecroft, 2017). This bought about the uncomfortable sensations for the audience, and the sense of unconventionality with the audience and me sitting in an art department, singing. This then led me into the works of John Smith (Smith, 1976), who captures the everyday movements people, and the making of Untitled [Singing film], whereupon people were filmed singing their favourite song in unconventional places.
Culture was then an influence upon the works as I looked into the makings of Chinese opera. Those such as Mulan Psalm (Mulan Psalm, 2008), Butterfly Fairy Tale (Butterfly Fairy Tale, 2015) and The Drunken Concubine (Drunken Beauty, 2013) heavily influenced me as I then produced my own opera in the spoken word. Masks in Chinese opera are specifically designed for each character, which colours and lines having a distinct meaning including white for treachery and yellow for ambitious (Ark, 2014). The design of my own masks reflects these meanings for each character, with my own characters having the characteristics of loyalty and ambition, painted in accordance of these rules. In the initial videos, Sylvie Fleury was a large influence as the speaker determined the character, much like in her work where the music determines this (Fleury, 2014).
Themes within Chinese music and opera include that of romanticism, manipulation and mistaken identity. The creation of the spoken word came from the appropriation of lyrics from songs including Zui Lang Man De Shi (The Most Romantic Thing) (Chao, 2012) and operas such as The Old Man in the Moonlight (“The Old Man in the Moonlight”, n.d.). Each of these contained the aforementioned themes and was individually performed to. Through these scenes, I wanted to create the sensation that the viewer was walking into something that felt personal, such like the earlier performance. This was inspired by scenes within The Cowherd and the Weaving Maid (“The Cowherd and the Weaving Maid”, n.d.) and The Old Man in the Moonlight (“The Old Man in the Moonlight”, n.d.), both Cantonese operas.
During the progression of these films it was found that there was little connection to the original theme of music, and the visual aspects of Chinese opera. With the inspiration of the operas Butterfly Fairy Tale (Butterfly Fairy Tale, 2015), English Monkey King (English Monkey King, 2015) and Lady White Snake (The Tale of the White Snake, 2014), traditional Chinese music and clips were introduced to my interpretation of Chinese opera, with the themes of personal romance and music. Moonlight Cord is displayed in a dark space for practicality and the sense of walking in to something personal.
 
Blog: www.charlotteabrahamart.wordpress.com
 
References
Ark, N. (2014). Beijing Opera Masks – Meaning of Colors Used in MasksNouahsark.com. Retrieved 2 November 2017, from http://www.nouahsark.com/en/infocenter/culture/art/opera_masks/meaning.php
Beecroft, V. (2017). VB84. Florence: Uffizi. Retrieved 14 October 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u49cjqsUP-o&t=4s
Butterfly Fairy Tale. (2015). China. Retrieved 20 November 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Plzcn2MbAfM
Chao, C. (2012). Zui Lang Man De Shi. Retrieved 12 November 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmeM46a3IDc
Drunken Beauty. (2013). Retrieved 02 November 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvE8cDVBi3I
English Monkey King. (2015). Retrieved 20 November 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=488&v=DFW5Ut-OIco
Fleury, S. (2014). Camino del Sol. Paris: Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. Retrieved 15 October 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bn0wrbVtAqQ
Mulan Psalm. (2008). Wiener State Opera. Retrieved 2 November 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWMB74odD5U&t=269s
Smith, J. (1976). The Girl Chewing Gum. Tate. Retrieved 30 October 2017, from http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/video/john-smith-girl-chewing-gum
The Cowherd and the Weaving MaidJordan: Popular Chinese Stories. Retrieved 13 November 2017, from http://pages.ucsd.edu/~dkjordan/cgi-bin/chopera.pl?taleid=Story211
The Old Man in the MoonlightJordan: Popular Chinese Stories. Retrieved 13 November 2017, from http://pages.ucsd.edu/~dkjordan/cgi-bin/chopera.pl?taleid=Story026
The Tale of the White Snake. (2014). Retrieved 20 November 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIB0N6ZkoGI
 

Moonlight Cord Experiments

I decided to re-record my performance part for Moonlight Cord, as I had found I was a little nervous performing this time round. This then meant that my movements were smaller and more controlled, rather than the large, loose movements that I wanted to feature in the final product. I eventually found that I preferred the original video much better than the other two that I recorded, and therefore uploaded the original as my final piece for this project.

When recording this version, I was happier with the movements as they were more exaggerated. I wasn’t happy, however with the way in which this was recorded as I feel very much a second thought, being half way down the screen most of the time. This also meant that my face often did not match with those in the clips, unlike the original Moonlight Cord. It did, on the other hand, allow the audience to view the whole of the screen, as there was actions in all parts, as you were able to see the full extent of many of my movements. There was no slips of the camera either, unlike in the original version where you are able to see another person’s piece.

Within this version, I decided to record it in a different place, which unfortunately had less space. This meant that it was cramped between the camera and myself. The lack of space did mean that I was able to encompass the whole of the camera shot. On the other hand, it also meant that I came off camera shot a lot. This included my hands and a large part of my head at several points. I have also decided not to choose this version as my hair was loose, which is made very obvious at several points.
I had also accidentally left the beginning part of the film in, where it is supposed to be blacked out. I only realised this when I saw it played on my laptop through YouTube, which was a different screen to which I edited on. I decided to keep this as part of the piece as it showed the behind the scenes footage that you may not be able to see otherwise. I am also unsure as to whether this will actually show up when the video is displayed, but I have left that to chance.
Overall, I enjoyed the majority of this project and also where it has led me to. I did not think that I would do so many films, however through the process I have become very fast at proficient at editing each film. The fact that the films themselves got progressively shorter also helped this. I also enjoyed the whole aspect of Chinese opera as this is not completely conventional in Western culture, and I felt somewhat privileged that I was able to immerse myself in a small part of their culture.
Finally, I have decided to display the first of Moonlight Cord as I feel that this was the best interpretation to the themes I have produced through my work. I showed each version in varying orders to several people and they all commented that the original version was quicker, with better camera angles and editing. For more detail on this, visit my Artist Statement.

Ladybird Archiving

The Ladybird Archive is part of the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), University of Reading. The artworks and books are on loan to the university, so long as they are kept archived behind the scenes. MERL do not own these artworks, Ladybird Books Co. still own them – we are simply keeping them. There are over 700 boxes of artwork that have to be checked, counted and re-boxed. The re-boxing process also includes writing what is in each box, and joining boxes together if there is space, or if the boxes are broken. This was to be done with clean and dry hands, in a clean environment. If there were any artworks that were stuck, my supervisor at MERL took them apart, to ensure that no damage was done to the artworks. Each week, for anywhere between two and five hours, this is my role.
The first week I was very excited to be able to handle the artworks. I sorted the boxes that held the original artworks for The Enormous Turnip, through to Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Magic Porridge Pot and The Story of Marco Polo, along with many others.
The second week I was able to view the archive where the boxes are being held. This was a wonderful experience as I had never been in an archive before, especially not one that I was working on. In the three weeks that volunteers have been working on the archive, two shelves were cleared as boxes were condensed.
All artworks in the photographs are credited to Ladybird Books.

We even included the packing process on Twitter for the Explore Archives week:

 

Morgan Quaintance

Morgan Quaintance came in for this week’s artist talk completely unprepared, but this was on purpose. It was so then he doesn’t have an annoying set speech, which is what he found that other people would do when he was in university. The format in which he expresses himself best is normally writing and text, however he does enjoy talking to people. Through talking to people, however, Quainance sometimes finds that he has to make gross simplifications for complicated topics and ideas.
Quaintance grew up and is based in London. He describes himself as a curator, musician, writer and more recently an artist. In 2009, he left the band ‘Does It Offend You Yeah’ as they were banned from playing at Glastonbury. Quainance expressed that he did not like Glastonbury anyway but they were banned from coming back as their performance invited people on stage to smash things, and security got annoyed. He also left as he wanted to use his mind a bit more than he recently had been.
The Inspire scheme then became a part of Quaintance’s life, where he began with curation. Throughout this scheme, he had to work at an institution, IKON, however he felt stifled. No one would listen to him when he kept mentioning the use of the internet, and how they could go digital with several aspects. Quaintance then took it upon himself to create context from habit because simply no one else was doing it.
This led Quaintance into writing criticism, which he had previously done in the early 2000’s before the band. He found that he had a lot of hypocrisy and judgements in the course, and thus decided to go straight to the magazines instead of through the course. He started writing for the national platform Art Monthly, which allowed Quaintance to create his own context. He sometimes found that the piece wrote itself, especially when it was a good exhibition. The opposite was found when it was a bad exhibition and it would take a while to write the criticism, and it was a draining process.
After he left IKON, Quaintance did not want to work for another institution. Radio then led him on, and he featured in a weekly half-hour show. He didn’t feel like this half an hour was long enough and asked if he, himself, could make a radio show of a one-to-one intensive hour-long chat with another artist. Everything was voluntary through this and the research behind each show took around three to four days, which has now been reduced with practice with a collection of over 100 interviews. Through this work, Quaintance would often gain ideas for exhibitions.
Quaintance came back on the scene with an exhibition ‘Pre Owned: Looks Good Man’. This came about as he found that when you browse the internet, you can do so very quickly, just clicking on hyperlink after hyperlink and finding yourself on some random corner of the internet. From this, he would pull archives together in order to place them in a gallery. Quaintance just wanted to do something, even as a curator, and wanted to create the same sense of embodiment hat you get as you flick through the web.
As the next step for Quaintance, along with two others, they founded Dam Project as a curatorial project. Quaintance added as a side note that this gave it more of a professional sheen when applying to the arts council. The Dam Project is temporary events to help emerging artists rise of the scene. This included the project of Sunday School, arising from the Caribbean tradition of big parties on Sundays. The Dam Project held an exhibition on the last Sunday of every month, looking at 6 recent graduate artists and 6 different countries where the art scene may not be known. Each time an exhibition was ran, they would recorded a documentary about it, which makes the project easier in terms of developing the skills involved with film. When visiting these cities, they found that there were similar problems. Quaintance also found it annoying how they had a camera man everywhere they went, especially when they knew what they wanted to shoot. Quaintance is now his own cameraman, sound man and editing guy, and uses three cameras to capture things in different styles. This is also done for ease of filming on the go. He wanted to make it more speculative for himself.
I enjoyed learning about Quaintance’s practice and how he hasn’t particularly deviated from degree art, of switching between mediums. The transition between these, however is logical, and also keeps Quaintance’s art alive, rather than becoming repetitive, as he suggested. The work that he is currently making, films, are very interactive in the way he has made these and captures parts of countries that would not be captured in other films, which is an aspect that I enjoyed.


 

Rackstraw Downes

Rackstraw Downes was introduced to me through realistic landscape paintings of Texas, which he painted onsite, featuring distinctive pink mountains. All around here were tiny structures, representing the most precious things you could find in the desert – shade – and once the whole landscape is revealed, it is seen as a racetrack. From this, he completed five drawings, four of which he painted.
Much of Downes’ work looks at sparseness. Through this, he chooses landscapes because of how un-magnificent the mountains are, because he can compare them against the magnificent ones. Other works that have been found in deserts include that of construction and ruin sites, where buildings simultaneously look like this. His works have also allowed him to look at rolling sand mountains that are very high up, especially with astonishing drama of the light. When he paints, Downes paints his environment and his surroundings, and this does curve around you.
Downes keeps his emotions out except the emotion of respect for the landscape. A rapport between his image and what is there has been built, and these elements answer to one another. Downes also constantly learns from the sites that he picks and becomes almost obsessive over them. It was also his hand that told him that he needed to move locations in order to paint new landscapes and to almost redefine or reinvent himself.
The wandering eye is used throughout his work as you see images part by part, and the painting unfolds. Perspective is not specifically what he is interested in as everything changes through movement and time, however perspective still comes across in his paintings. Throughout the body of his work, Downes is interested in big spaces that are empty.
I enjoyed learning about the lack of perspective in the process, but the large amount of perspective that is seen in the final piece, and the obsessiveness that comes over Downes about a particular landscape when painting. The precision is also an element that has fascinated me as I initially believed that his work was a photograph.

Sarah Sze

High line was an old railway that was petitioned by the local people to become a park, instead of being knocked down. This then allowed natural wildlife to thrive in a metropolis. The piece that was created for this project was inspired by making a location for people to view the birds. It was said that ten minutes of viewing birds was a large amount of time, however this would provide so much for that one person. Slowing down and observing is something that she therefore wanted to bring into this piece and into the visual art she generally produces.
The high line was a very in the moment sculpture with the idea of play and flexibility in the making. There is also the use of the negative space in the shape of a ball in the centre of the sculpture, giving the sense of being surrounded. Sze’s pieces would also often look from the exterior to the interior. A string system was used from a single point in the piece which was initially to line up the different bird boxes, food and water in the piece. This string method was then captured within the sculpture to add another element to the piece.
Throughout this, it was found that the size and space is crucial to the piece. This is also due to Sze’s background in architecture, that which she grew up with. What can you do in a sculpture that you cannot do in a drawing? It has been mentioned that Sze enjoys working with pieces that are flexible, malleable and where things can fall apart. This thought process is also influenced by how Sze wants people to view her work – she wants people to view work like a novel where there is a narrative movement of the viewer in the space.
The materials used in her work depends often on the accessibility of them. There is often a lack of cultural and monetary value to these items. The space, however, are not only those that can introduce a narrative between viewer and artwork, but also to fuse the spaces that are otherwise unoccupied e.g. the ventilation space by the windows in a museum. The experience of viewing should be one of discovering.
Sze does not often photographs her pieces, in order to try and capture what is special about the piece. Through the use of photography, there is also the sense of the piece becoming flattened out, almost becoming a painting with speed and movement.
People often add to the works, creating experiments that were not initially possible.
I found the interaction between Sze and the use of architecture and the landscape to be very interesting. The boundary between the artwork and the architecture is blurred within the discovery of the pieces for the viewer. The background of architecture within her life cleared the air on his subject, however it is still very evident that it has been used with much of her work, and this is the process that I find fascinating.

Butterfly Fairy Tale

The Butterfly Fairy Tale is one such like Mulan Pslam. A young girl wishes to go to an imperial school, however girls are not permitted there. Such like in Mulan Psalm, this girl disguises herself as a boy and passes the entry exams. A fellow student falls in love with her during her time there and she is also attracted to him. This leads to the events of her telling him that she is really a girl, and ending tragically. This opera has been likened to the western version of Romeo and Juliet.

English Monkey King

English Monkey King is an opera that has been adapted to include the character of the Monkey King, and special editions have been performed in English. Sun Wukong, also known as the Monkey King is a mythical feature who features in stories and legends. These have been traced as far back as the Song Dynasty. He is nicknamed the Money King as in later stories and even later adaptations, he is a monkey born from a stone who acquires powers through Taoist practices. This is the story displayed in the English Monkey King [who always wears one specific mask as he is such an important part of legends.]

Lady White Snake

The old tales of China tell us that all things may grow and change. A stone may become a plant. A plant may become an animal. An animal may become a human. A human may become a god.
Just so, a snake may become a woman. And we are told of one who did.
Who can say for sure how it began? Yet after centuries of ceaseless effort-meditating, disciplining herself, mastering the energies of the universe – this white snake took human form. Immortal now and with great powers. she longed for one thing more.
Human love
-From Lady White Snake, retold by Aaron Shepard


Lady White Snake is an opera that has spanned Peking, Cantonese and other Chinese operas, and is one of the four most performed operas in China. It is the story of a snake whom eats immortality pills and feels forever grateful to their creator. During the times of trouble, the white snake turns into a woman, and saves a green snake from a beggar. This creates a sisterhood between the two characters. They settle down and open up a shop, marrying off to respective men, until one day they are tricked into showing their true form.

Moonlight Cord

After much consideration, and some playing around with Moonlight Dawn, creating a wide range of Moonlight Dawn Experiments, I decided to put all of these elements into one video. I adapted the script from Moonlight Dawn, cutting out parts that I wasn’t sure about when I initially wrote it, allowing myself to quickly create a final Script. This version was only three minutes long, compared to my initial Red Angel Chinese Opera, which was over seven minutes. I also kept the elements of the hair and the mask the same, as these were still portraying the character that I wanted.
I kept with the same music and video clips also as I found it very difficult to not only find other appropriate clips, but also to add them into the video. These clips were suitable to the story and the video itself.

I felt more nervous to perform than usual, and I feel that this may have effected the final piece. Arm movements were not as exaggerated as usual, which did portray some kind of shyness to the camera. I do, however, like the final video as the story and clips fit in well with each other. The sources for which I have used also fit in well with my own story line.