The Eye That Looks – University of Reading Creative Arts Anthology 2019

I was chosen to be part of this year’s University of Reading Creative Arts Anthology, which has for the first time, included visual arts as well as poetry and prose. This years theme is The Eye That Looks, somewhat very appropriate for the piece, Fire Escape Clarence, that I submitted while on study abroad at the University of Ottawa. This piece has been a large inspiration for the current projects of making miniature stairs, and photographing them with black and white film. I was invited to speak about my piece on Monday 11th February within the University, along with others who contributed to this years anthology.

Charlotte Abraham is a current third year Art and Psychology student at the university. She uses a wide range of mediums to make people see everyday objects and scenarios in a way they have never been seen before. Her recent work centres around the practice of black and white photography, shooting and developing all film and photographs herself. While on study abroad in Ottawa, Charlotte was inspired by the cityscape around her and photographed stairs, fire escapes and barriers, placing them vertical and creating the need to see them in the correct orientation.

Name: Fire Escape Clarence

Artist: Charlotte Abraham

Medium: Ilford HP5 Plus 400 Black and White Film on Ilford MGIV RC De Luxe Pearl Paper

Size: 8 x 10″ (20.32 x 25.4 cm)

Week 4: Making Popsicle Stick Stairs

The Popsicle stairs ended up changing to including matchsticks in the same step formation that I used for the first matchstick stairs design. This is because I wanted to originally use larger Popsicle sticks, however when looking around all that were being sold were the thinner ones. I knew I would use the same technique on the Popsicle sticks as I would the matchsticks, so I stuck with what I had.

This design was difficult to hide the cardboard box, so the purple would have been visible from all directions if I had it facing inside too. The hollowness of the stairs was an element that I liked from the first matchstick stairs design, and again in this one. I did feel like it was a shame to have a barrier to seeing the back. Despite being very sturdy, I would not choose this design again.

Introduction to Fabric Workshop

The introduction to fabric workshop took us through the basic connection of shapes in woven material with curved and darts (which accommodate shapes in woven fabric). Clothing can be a form of art and was used in modernist and avant-garde fashion. The Subversive Stitch looked at the difference between arts and crafts, with crafts being dominated by women and being subversive through innocuous media. The book is a feminist piece to determine that women who do crafts can also be artists. Elaine Reichek and Carlone Achaintre demonstrate the different uses of fabric, with Freddie Robins creating large scale installations through knitting. Anni Albers created paintings through weaving.

Galia Kollectiv, who ran today’s workshop, moved from knitting into costumes and the use of fabric, finding the importance of clothing in performance pieces. Through clothing you can also redesign or make a new society and remake the world. There is a certain discrepancy between the pattern and the worn clothing, which Galia wanted to break – making the worn piece look like the angular design. The relation of clothes and the environment is a thought beyond the individual. Clothes are importnat in performance, video and installation. Jonathan Baldock works somewhere between clothing and sculpture to connect shapes.

Seye = arm hole
Yolk = top of the back pattern
Grain lines are always important
Grain goes parallel to the salvage (ends of a roll of fabric)

Artist Talk: Patricia L. Boyd

Patricia L. Boyd spent this weeks artist talk discussing the past three years body of work that she has produced around the world. This started in San Francisco where she studied the environment around her and ended up at a liquidation auction of a media tech company ‘Post Intelligence’ (who were bought outright by Uber). She also became interested in the service of grease recycling to solve the problem of blocked drains. The city would collect the grease for free and develop it into bio diesel.

Boyd responded to the auction and bought an office chair and turntable. She stripped the items down to their core components, making moulds from them. These were negative casts made from a mix of wax and grease that glisten and shine when they get warm. These were embedded into the wall of the gallery so that the surface of the cast was flush with the wall. Through this, Boyd looked at parts that had similar functions to do with posture. The exhibition moved from its original gallery and were now a series of casts of the same object to show the lack of stability in the materials used.

In LA, Boyd had a solo show in ‘Potts’ that consisted of casts and videos. The video was a block aid when trying to enter the website, showing a camera being pushed down the drain from a rooftop into the citys’ sewer and all the way back again. The gallery itself used to be a plumbing shop, and as many shops in LA, it was built so that you could see everything as you drove by. Those who used to own the business were also musicians who used the items that they sold. Behind the wall that Boyd exhibited on was their studio. This lead to Boyd being interested in how the front space, the gallery, was so hygienic and a complete contrast to the back space.

There would often be a tense relationship between Boyd and the galleries as the walls that she displayed in were their boundaries. However, through the installation of her works, she was able to stretch those boundaries for the galleries.

Videos that Boyd made include looking at good and bad examples of grammar. The example sentences that you find in grammar guides builds a world for you, informs you and determines a reality for you. Boyd also made a video last year that was commissioned as an advert on TV. She then recorded when her piece was on TV and included some of the surrounding programmes and adverts. The video itself happened somewhat by accident and Boyd became captivated with Carl, the stage hand who built an engine and then took it apart again. The creation of the engine itself was fast and performance lie to demonstrate his skills, but this was cut up further to fit in the space of an advert creating a piece even more frantic than the performance.

In one of the previous exhibitions, Boyd asked for a piece of the wall along with her artwork, which is now displayed as an entirely new piece that is hung on the wall. Boyd also moved onto photograms from windows in shops in San Francisco. The graffiti has scarred the window due to acid, giving a different opaqueness to the window. There was a similar exhibition in Melbourne, Australia held in a trade unions building where it was purposefully not a gallery space and life went on. Here, Boyd displayed a photogram of a bus shelter where the glass encasing displayed an area that was not truly public nor private. (Boyd has since learned that a company owns all the bus shelters and makes a profit from them through advertising). The other part of this exhibition was in the back of a graphic designers office.

Much of Boyd’s work responds to the environment and the space around her, while also stretching the boundaries of standard display and installation.

Week 3: Making Matchstick Stairs Design 1

Initially, working with matchsticks was a very fiddly process whereupon I managed to get glue everywhere. Since working with them, however, I have gained several techniques to ensure a clean joint between matchsticks and glue. I followed my designs closely which helped to take the questioning off of the structural integrity of the pieces. The platforms are made out of three layers of matchsticks – the first with 8 to build a half-hollow platform, the second with three (one on each end and one in the middle) to hold these in place, and the third layer also with three to add structure to the square. These were individually left to dry. The steps were made out of three matchsticks stuck together side by side.

The sides of the steps were made out of two layers of cardboard with a layer of matchsticks between. With an added notch of matchstick at the bottom of each step, the steps now fit snug into the gap in the cardboard created by the matchsticks. This was then glued to ensure it all stayed together.

The platforms were then added at both ends of the stairs – this was initially a mistake and one set had to be taken off. This was because the top end of the stairs intended to have a double platform. This was rectified. Cardboard was added in certain areas to match up the gap that was created by the sides of the stairs. I thought that this would make the stairs very wobbly, however I found there was no structural integrity by doing this. The stairs were then fully stuck together. I am very happy with how the design came out, and I intend to add handrails as well as poles to hold each layer up. I did find, however, that I will have to spray paint this certain set of steps as the cereal box packaging is visible on both sides. This is way I intend to make another set of stairs that doesn’t hold this problem.

The hollow design is also what I was looking for in a set of stairs that looked more like a fire escape. I am therefore planning to use the same techniques to recreate these stairs, and two other designs of external fire escapes.

Week 3: Making Paper Stairs

The initial design of a simple staircase was followed, producing a fairly sturdy design. This, as first thought, was a more ‘domesticated’ set of stairs that did not provide the hollowness that I intended. I was surprised at how structurally sound the piece was, holding its shape very well. Although it was a good material to work with, easy to manipulate and quick to work with, I do not think I will work with paper on another set of stairs as it is not the design I am looking to shoot.

Week 3: Learning To Use My Camera

I have a hand-me-down 35mm camera that I intended to use for the project, however I had never used it before. Finding the manual was relatively easy, however the camera itself was a bit more difficult. I was using a Canon AE-1 Program, which used a single battery and had both manual and automatic (or program) settings. I attempted to use both to determine which would turn out with better images, although I wished to use the manual settings for the project.

I learnt that I needed to follow these steps to try and get the right aperture and shutter speed each time;

  • Use the lens of “stopped down” mode
  • As you press the shutter with your right hand (activating the meter) rotate the aperture with your left
  • When you have the correct exposure (according to the internal meter) the needle should be on the numeral in the viewfinder that equates to the maximum aperture of your lens i.e. if you’re using a 50mm f/1.8 then the needle should be on 1.8. Go too far and the red “under exposed” light flashes

I decided to go around the university and take photographs of stairs in both automatic and manual modes. These were on two different rolls of film, to determine whether there is a large difference. The development will be done another week as I still have to sort out timings and chemicals with the department

Francis Bacon (1910-1992) Interview with David Sylvester

“It does, but now I hope it will arrive more positively. Now I feel that I want to do very, very specific objects, though made out of something which is completely irrational from the point of view of being an illustration. I want to do very specific things like portraits, and they will be portraits of the people, but, when you come to analyse them, you just won’t know – or it would be very hard to see – how the image is made up at all. And this is why in a way it is very wearing; because it is really a complete accident…

…the situation has become much more involved and much more difficult, for very many reasons. And one of them, of course, which has never actually been worked out, is why photography has altered completely this whole thing of figurative painting, and totally altered it…

…You see, all art has now become completely a game by which man distracts himself; and you may say it has always been like that, but now it’s entirely a game. And I think that that is the way things have changed, and what is fascinating now is that it’s going to become much more difficult for the artist, because he must really deepen the game to be any good at all.”

Harrison, Charles, and Paul Wood. Art In Theory, 1900-1990. Blackwell, 2001, pp. 626-9.

Jean Baudrillard (b. 1929) ‘The Hyper-realism of Simulation’

“…Reality itself founders in hyperrealism, the meticulous reduplication of the real, preferably through another, reproductive medium, such as photography. From medium to medium, the real is volatilized, becoming an allegory of death. But it is also, in a sense, reinforced through its own destruction. It becomes reality for its own sake, the fetishism of the lost object: no longer the object of representation, but the ecstasy of denial and of its own ritual extermination: the hyperreal.”

Harrison, Charles, and Paul Wood. Art In Theory, 1900-1990. Blackwell, 2001, pp. 1048.