The Start Project: The Forgotten War [Little Yemen]

The Forgotten War sculptural piece was simple, however the story behind it meant much more to me. I found this story more interesting than the piece, and wanted to show the destructiveness that the war has bought to the country, leaving a complete mess, rather than a serene moment. Through this, I decided to drip and pour paint over the piece, by using the colours that have been used on the Arabic text, and on the stained glass window designs.
The use of dripping and pouring paint over the architectural model shows how the beauty cannot always protect the city, inevitably letting war in. The layering of the images shows that it is not just one influence that has impacted on this country and their war, but rather multiple sources. The audio clip, The Forgotten War [Little Yemen Audio], has been cut down in order to give a better representation on how fast this can all impact an area.

The Start Project: The Forgotten War

The final piece that I have produced has been influenced by architectural models, and Layal Abdullah, of whose artwork I have been asked to reinterpret and respond. The final piece of The Start Project I have created is The Forgotten War. This is a small architectural model of the city Sana’a that has been destroyed during the Yemeni civil war. On each of the buildings is a symbol of beauty such as the classical stained glass windows, flowers that Abdullah has depicted throughout her artwork, and sacred Arabic text. This has been coupled with an audio clip, displayed on headphones, speaking of the beauty, and the destruction, that is currently in Yemen and the people.
I decided to copy the street layout of a part of Sana’a, trying to keep the buildings and road sizes to a certain ratio in order to gain the authenticity of Yemen. [Screenshots from Google Maps].
Google Earth YemenYemen FullYemen Zoomed

My own copy of the above city plan from Google Maps, Sana’a, Yemen.

The three aspects from Abdullah’s work that I wanted to bring into this project was the Arabic text, traditional Yemeni architecture and Yemen stained glass windows. To gain the vision of beautiful chaos, I decided to keep the individual designs large by using the whole piece of A3 paper.
The Arabic text was that of religious text, found on a ‘learn Arabic’ site. These have been placed together consecutively in order to fill the area. The text has been designed with black, blue, green and red, which are traditional for Arabic text.
The three designs of the stained glass windows have been copied from windows in Yemen, including the colour and design.
These pieces were then transformed into buildings and rubble, in the aim to attempt the beautiful chaos that is the Yemen culture and the war that is tearing it apart.

This architectural piece was accompanied by the sounds of Yemen in a three minute audio clip, presented with headphones, to make a more immersive experience for the viewer.. This audio clip was an accumulation of Yemen interviews with Mohammed, Yemen expert Natasha Ezrow and Saleh, news clips by the BBC, and music from Yemen.

The Start Project: Yemen

As of Tuesday 19th December, Yemen had experienced 1,000 days of civil war between forces loyal to the government of President Adbrabbuh Mansour Hadi and those allied to the Houthi rebel movement. During this period, more than 1000 people have been killed and 49000 injured, while more than 3 million have been displaced. 20 million people, including 11 million children, are also in need of humanitarian assistance and created the world’s largest food security emergency to date.

“Mr Hadi struggled to deal with a variety of problems, including attacks by al-Qaeda, a separatist movement in the south, the continuing loyalty of many military officers to Mr Saleh, as well as corruption, unemployment and food insecurity.” – BBC

Dynamics of the war changed when Ali Abdullah Saleh was killedOnly in December did cracks begin to appear in Mr Hadi’s forces, potentially sparking a fresh effort at end of war negotiations. At current, there have been no leads to whom will win this war, and where the steps taken after would lead the country.
Architecture has always been a large part of Yemen’s history and culture. Most of Yemen’s architecture boasts a non-repetitive design, which logically should look ugly, but in fact looks beautiful. There are similarities of colour, window patters, shape, alignment, positioning and size, but also a ‘rugged beauty’ that when mixed all together, these buildings hold. Many of the settlements, towns and cities are on hilltops and near a fertile bed, or a river. The buildings themselves are crafted out of mud brick, with some buildings reaching an impressive 100ft. The walls would be built thick, with small windows to keep the heat of the day out. Windows are also set low within the room with decorative niches above them, often where personal possessions are stored. As you gradually went up the building, these walls would become thinner. “These gently canted walls give the building a dignity and monumentality as a result of structural and materials concerns. The wall is not trying to look beautiful” (

Stained glass windows are predominately found in the ancient city of Sana’a. These stained glass windows are known as ‘Qamariya’, or ‘windows of the moon’ and are virtually always used as a small decorative window above a main window. There are hundred of these throughout the city, but no two are the same. Qamariya windows we common much earlier than the ancient Greek and Byzantine cultures, with the main motifs of the crescent moon and star, which can still be seen in the windows today.

“At night, when they shine out of on the tall buildings and narrow stone alleyways of the old city, the Qamariya windows transform this old mountain fortress and its Afro-Arab people into a lively market town with an artistic and esthetic overlay. It is a calming experience just to walk the streets and take in the multicolor glows.” – Further To Fly

Arabic is the main language in Yemen, with many of its people following Islam. Yemeni Arabic in particular is a mix of different varieties of Arabic, commonly spoken in the geographical area. Each dialect can be found due to their own distinctive set of vocabulary and phonology. Arabic texts often talk about Allah, whom is their God.

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.


Ark, N. (2014). Beijing Opera Masks – Meaning of Colors Used in Retrieved 2 November 2017, from
Beecroft, V. (2017). VB84. Florence: Uffizi. Retrieved 14 October 2017, from
Butterfly Fairy Tale. (2015). China. Retrieved 20 November 2017, from
Chao, C. (2012). Zui Lang Man De Shi. Retrieved 12 November 2017, from
Drunken Beauty. (2013). Retrieved 02 November 2017,
English Monkey King. (2015). Retrieved 20 November 2017, from
Fleury, S. (2014). Camino del Sol. Paris: Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. Retrieved 15 October 2017, from
Mulan Psalm. (2008). Wiener State Opera. Retrieved 2 November 2017, from
Smith, J. (1976). The Girl Chewing Gum. Tate. Retrieved 30 October 2017, from
The Cowherd and the Weaving MaidJordan: Popular Chinese Stories. Retrieved 13 November 2017, from
The Old Man in the MoonlightJordan: Popular Chinese Stories. Retrieved 13 November 2017, from
The Tale of the White Snake. (2014). Retrieved 20 November 2017, from

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.

Moonlight Dawn

The final edit of the film was made with music from Traditional Chinese Music, taken off of YouTube, mixed with my own Script, adapted from several traditional Chinese operas and music including; The Old Man in the Moonlight and Zui Lang Man De Shi – The Most Romantic Thing. The mask was used from the last film, Red Angel Chinese Opera, as I felt that these characters were very similar in their experiences of romance.
I found that I was happier with this final edit compared to the final edit of Red Angel, as this version was more Chinese orientated. This was due to the change in the hair style and the added extra of the Chinese music at intervals. I am, however, still slightly unsure of the video due to personal confidence of acting and work, and also the direction of which this could take until comments are made upon the work.

Comments on this piece included that it was still too long. People knew the classic love story, and were quickly finding it boring, and thus I decided on a three minute limit to my next piece. This keeps the story short and sweet, while also being able to add the necessary elements of the opera, without it being an overdose. I also wanted to add in more Chinese music in order to see the cultural effect that it has. Layering on top of this, I would also want to add in black and white clips of Chinese operas, in order to create a clearer link between my own piece and the opera scene. Lastly, I would like to try out the green screen in order to see if I am able to add this into my work, or whether this makes it more difficult to work with.

Red Angel Chinese Opera

I initially planned for my piece to be showing in one of the white rooms of the studios. My mind was quickly changed when I found that the image came up very clear in one of the dark rooms. The projector and speakers were then set up in here for people to view. I originally wanted to display the masks along with the video, however I felt that I could not find an appropriate space for this, and the audience can capture the meaning and beauty in the film.
Editing the video was very quick as the interpretive actions were done in time to the speech. This allowed me to understand the use of getting it right first time during filming, rather than pieces many parts together.
I decided on the name Red Angel as these are some of the most common words in the opera. It is also because red defines bravery, loyalty, positivity and prosperity in a character. The angel part is because they are divine creatures, much like the female character within the story.
Overall, I was happy to research Chinese opera, and I have found it very interesting, and that I would consider other ‘non-Western’ routes for my artwork. However, I also felt as though I did not enjoy this as much as I did with the other films I have done, and also found it very awkward at all points of editing and producing.
Below is the final edit of Red Angel, which can also be found on YouTube.

When showing this to the studio group, many of them enjoyed the speech, especially as this was only myself doing both parts. There were also many comments about how it was clear which character was speaking, even though it was only one voice. Someone did find this too long, and I would agree with this and I feel as though 6 minutes would be long enough. To improve upon this, I have been given the idea of making, or finding more traditional costumes, finding other people to perform (as I didn’t like the project primarily because of this factor), and making it shorter. Another way to present it would be to have it on a larger screen, like in the cinema, while having it on the loop with seats all around, allowing people to come in and out. A last way to present this is having a live performance – having two or three people do live acting while I speak into a microphone.I found these ideas really constructive and hope to get others involved in this project, which would be very fun.

Untitled [Singing Film]

My final edit of the film Untitled [Singing Film] was uploaded on YouTube, in order for not only easy access, but also as this is a useful platform to use for the artwork, and for the message of mine to come across. The piece was displayed by projector in a bit of a mess of wires – this was not the intended effect, as I would wish to have the projector and wires behind the wall, out of sight to the viewers of the piece. I also did not have the chance to warn people that they must take part in the film by singing along to at least one song, also making a different atmosphere to the piece altogether. I did, however, enjoy the uncomfortable atmosphere that was created when the piece was shown to the studio group, as this was unexpected. It is an aspect that I wish to continue through my work as this is an aspect I did not know that I could control with my art practice.


Don’t Look At Me Exhibition

At ten o’clock this morning, we were gathered as a studio group and instructed to set up an exhibition by 12:30 with all of the portraits that we previously hung around the department.
The space that we used initially had to be cleared as it was full of tables, chairs and work from other studio groups. The floor was swept and we were informed of our brief: set up an exhibition of our portraits using exhibition inspiration from artists such as Wolfgang Tillmans. We were not to put all the self-portraits along the wall in the same manner and at the same height. A press release also needed to be made.
We lined up all of the portraits and found that common theme was the use of backgrounds. There was four categories of background: black, white, blue and ‘other’ colours. This made the planning of the exhibition easier: the black portraits were quickly hung on the windows and the white portraits on the pillars in the room, as though these opposing colours were looking at each other.

A suggestion of hanging some of the portraits from the ceiling was soon raised by myself. The hangings from the ceiling would make the exhibition more interactive as you would have to walk between them and look up in order to fully appreciate the piece. Everyone helped to put the four portraits with the blue background up at varying heights using sting.

The last three pieces, with the coloured backgrounds (excluding blue) were then placed at equal intervals on the floor. Once again, visitors to the exhibition would have to walk around, and look around, in order to view these portraits.

Lights were added in this process along the floor. It was thought that we should black out the windows, however many in the group were confused at this prospect – not only would we of had to have used bin bags to black out the windows which would have looked tacky, the room was also chosen for its natural light. As a group, we therefore decided to stick with natural light in the room. As it got darker, however, the two small spotlights on the floor began to seep into the space, illuminating the floor. When it was brighter outside, however, the spotlights were not as effective and almost pointless. I did find that they did reflect on the shiny surface of the floor and this created a river of work when stood at the right angle.
A suggestion was also made of using the TV screen that was next door in order to play the videos that we made of us talking about our videos. I piped up and said that I didn’t really want to see my own face replicated three times in one room, and for everyone else to see me four times! I proposed that we used the voices instead of a video. A voice recording was then made of each person talking about their self-portraits from the Facebook videos. This was then placed under one of the pieces on the floor, making it discrete, loud and central to the room. Other places, the phone would have been seen, or it would have been in the corner of a room.
A press release was also crucial to the exhibition. As this was the first press release that I have written, I enlisted some help from the Athen B GalleryWild Art on Virgin WallsTom Ford and The Practical Art World. These were all used collectively in order to write a complete and concise press release containing the details of the gallery, the artists, exhibition dates, and information about the exhibition. The final Press Release is available online. We came to a group decision on the name of the exhibition as ‘Don’t Look at Me’.

I enjoyed curating the exhibition with the other students, especially being able to bounce ideas off of one another about different elements, and the quick pace of getting ready. I found the final outcome of the interactiveness of the exhibition very powerful too, as it invited you to travel down the portraits and look up and down, in order to view all of them. I did, however, find that my portrait was a little swamped with light from the window behind, and thus could not take an effective photograph of it displayed. It did work effectively hung, looking down at people, as sometimes I catch myself doing this – another secret revealed.

Plaster Workshop

The Plaster workshop taught me how to cast a mould of my hands.
Initially, we had to ensure the bowls and/or buckets that we were using were clean so then there was no contamination with lumps and unwanted materials. The powder that we used for the casting had to be mixed 1 part powder to 3 parts water. With a 900 gram bag, we needed to use 2.7 litres of water. To make this process easier, we worked in groups, meaning a group of 3 needed 8.1 litres of water. Once the water was ready, we also needed to be ready with the bowls we were going to cast in as it would start settling quickly. When we are all ready, all the powder was added to the water and mixed thoroughly for 30 seconds, and poured onto our hands (and some, their feet).
It was then a waiting game as we needed to ensure that the mould had set before we moved. Due to the position I had put my hands in, I found it very difficult to then lift my hands out, therefore taking a few minutes. I was very impressed with the level of detail the mould showed – everything down to the grains of the skin.
To make the plaster, we filled a bowl of water between a 1/3 and 1/2 mark. Sifting the plaster powder (which felt like heavy flour, or cornflour) through our fingers allowed large lumps to be broken up before it sunk into the water. We continued this process with handfuls of flour until small islands in the water were not disappearing. The plaster was then mixed my hand to ensure there was no lumps and a smooth consistency was achieved.
When pouring the plaster into the mould, we did it bit by bit. This was so then we could swirl the plaster around the mould, trying to cover all nooks and crannies that could be hidden in the cast. This process was repeated until either we had filled the mould level with the top, or added a base. This was then left to dry for 24-48 hours.

Above: Photographs of part of the process to make the mould.

Above: Photographs taken during the process of taking the mould off, revealing the hands. I was very impressed of how detailed each finger was, down the the creases of the skin. I do need to go back and take out all the little bits of mould and dust it off.

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