Category Archives: 04.2 Exhibitions

States of Mind @ Wellcome Collection

“Tracing the edges of consciousness” is how the current exhibition at the Wellcome Collection is badged. It is the first time I have visited and was immediately incredibly impressed by the building, the great cafe, and all of the very informative displays open to the public. The States of Mind show looks at different aspects of consciousness and how we, as scientists, philosophers, artists and poets, have asked so many unanswerable questions over the centuries.

“Science still struggles to describe how the subjective experience of consciousness arises out of the objective tissue of a human brain…however, it is within this space that the range of individual experience exists”

The show itself was interesting and thought provoking, at times uncomfortable. A few key things jumped out in relevance to my work. The first was the discussion of science and the soul – the classical mind/body argument. As I have discussed before on this blog, the mind/body dualism essentially requires the separation of the physical world and the separate internal world of private experience. I realised that this is the barrier I am seeking to remove with my MA installation – a way to create a space which exists simultaneously in the physical world and the world of my own private experiences, allowing the outside observer a glimpsed encounter with my own concept of self.

The second exhibit which stood out for me was that on language and memory as tools for conscious selfhood. Language and memory are tools which facilitate the relationship between our internal and external worlds. “Language allows us to communicate with each other – and to share our subjective experiences. We can also talk to ourselves , and identify ourselves.”. The series of work Post-Partum Document by Mary Kelly examined the emergence of self and was in my view the most poignant in the show.

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London Art Fair 2016

Last week we dropped into the London Art fair in Islington, partly to take a look, and partly to examine finishing and hanging ideas with our final show in mind.  The fair was a fine art focussed fair, with paintings and prints the mainstay of what was on offer. I wasn’t impressed by most of it – all a bit, well, safe. Very decorative, ‘ordinary’ paintings and not that much which really stood out.

I also noticed how my work really doesn’t figure in very many places in this forum – a) conceptual art was far and few between, and b) fibre artworks could be counted on one hand. The type of galleries who display at a show like Collect will be much more relevant.

The few things which really did catch my attention

Chun Kwang Young

Stand out, very unique and very impressive. Also very relevant to my work, so unsurprising that it stood out!

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He folds Korean newspapers into small prisms, forming sculptures which act as a compilation of our verbal recording of history, opinion, and discovery. Figuratively, the sculptures emerge like topographical maps, describing a rocky terrain that is nearly unnavigable. “Metaphorically, this work is a culmination of the floating lexicon of our time; the ongoing conversation of man compiled in a three dimensional format, echoing the voices that pass each day through our print media. Each figure is a time capsule of pieced data and voice. Although the sculptures themselves are mute, each has a strong story to tell. As Young describes his work:

“Every piece of information is the end product of a struggle for hegemony, as well as an accumulation of human experience. One hypothesis ceaselessly conflicts with another, and finally becomes a new knowledge. While these kinds of processes are sometimes made in a peaceful way through debates and publications, they sometimes happen in the shape of physical conflicts like wars led by the governing class.”

His work is a symbolic expression of how words form into actions and become words again- a speech becomes a call to action, which becomes a war, which is then recounted through story. Everything seamless weaves into itself, a cyclical timeline we hardly noticed as we are so permanently bound to it”

Frances Bloomfield

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Influenced by dreamscapes and “the improbable scenarios that we construct”. I like her use of text and old books, and the idea of constructing 3D pictures of these constructed dreamscapes.

Oliver Marsden 

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Such elegant, beautiful work.

Kazuhito Takadoi

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The lone basketmaker in the show, sculptures on paper from natural materials. I don’t think there is much concept behind his work, just that of experimentation with the materials. I am however convinced that the pieces I saw on display were exactly the same as those I saw at Collect 2015 last spring…I wonder if they are hard to sell?

 

 

 

 

 

Cartography down Cork Street

We had a gallery day last week, where we popped into the final days of the Ai Weiwei Exhibition at the RA. I had been to see it already but it is good to have time to revisit with a fresh eye. I still have mixed feelings about my project progress – although I am trying to have some time off thinking about it – I cannot shake the worry that I have no idea what to do next.

I always considered Ai Weiwei as a political artist, which of course he is, but within here is a lot of context about his place and the understanding of identity and place within modern China. He also has some works explicitly using topographic information – a comment on the change of identity of the Chinese people.

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After coming out of the RA we took a wander up what is left of Cork Street, the once gallery filled road now almost half demolished and in scaffolding.  We came across two rather interesting shows. Firstly Daniel Chadwick showing at Damiani Fine Art. Although probably better known for his mobile and kinetic works (reminiscent of Calder’s!), the Cork Street show was a collection of Chadwick’s art as an evocation of nature, using inspiration from the undulating countryside of his native Gloucestershire. His works, as with the Ai WeiWei works above, are very similar to topographical reliefs.

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A little further down the street we stopped by the Alan Cristea Gallery who were showing With Space in Mind, a collection of prints by a range of leading sculptors. These sculptors have a unique approach to printmaking, one which is physical and tactile – about process and material, object as well as image. This is exactly what I hope for my own work to be about in whatever form I decide upon.

“These prints explore the relationship between multiple dimensions, whether through directly referencing sculptures or the physical process in making the print. The artists clearly convey their outlook on the development of their art and their individual approach to printmaking. This does not contradict the sculptures for which they are renowned, rather complements them as it stresses the importance of process and material and emphasises that their artwork is not only physical, but that image also holds great importance. The process of printmaking is representative of their expansion of form and ideas that spur their sculptural works and thus pave a fundamental style throughout their pieces”

A couple of sculptors stood out for me: firstly Richard Serra

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Then, most significantly (but unsurprisingly), Richard Long. He uses carborundum paste directly applied to the plates by hand, replicating the process he uses in his mud drawings. The energy, rawness and viscerality of this print overtakes everything else in the whole gallery.

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All of these different works show just a glimpse of the range of angles which a discussion about place can take. Ranging from the human interacting with raw nature from Richard Long, to the political identities of place within Ai Weiwei. I think I need to re-position my own ideas within this context – perhaps revisiting my research essay as well. Hopefully this will give me some ideas on what is the key to me moving forward.

Alexander Calder @ Tate Modern

I had a great visit with LL to see the new Alexander Calder display at the Tate Modern. Calder was born in 1898 and trained as a mechanical engineer. He developed a sculptural style which fused mechanics, motion and modernity. Many of Calder’s early works were wire sculptures based around his interests in circus and balance. These developed into motorised sculptures explicitly including kinetics and movement and at the same time became increasingly abstract.

I admitted to LL at the time that I didn’t really connect with the pieces in the first half of the exhibition. The motorised sculptures, due to their age were shown static. What is a kinetic sculpture which has been stripped of its energy? I felt so much loss in the loss of movement, that the sculptures began to resemble just shadows of what they once were.  Calder himself “recognised that the ability to control movement was perhaps less fertile than the potential infinite possibilities that opened up with free movement” [Tate Modern exhib guide, 2015].

Calder’s later works began to rely upon natural kinetics rather than embedded motors, and this was for me the most spectacular part of his collection. The mobile pieces which most clearly embodied abstraction seem also to be those which are most inspired by natural forms. Delicate sinuous shapes which drift and twist in the breeze. Even your presence offered a subtle change in movement – the work and its shadow on the walls creating an intricate dance which never has the same form twice. My favourite piece, Red sticks (1942) I couldn’t source a video of online and I will not do it the injustice of showing a static, lifeless photograph of it. We sat in the gallery for ages (room 9 in case you are interested!) completely captivated by the motions of the works.

This work, Snow Flurry was one of my favourites. Although this video below doesn’t show how the sculpture and its shadow interact as one object, it gives a lovely overview of the beauty of the movement:

This next video is a press overview of the whole exhibition, this does show the works in their settings and how the space itself becomes part of the motion of the mobiles.

 

Overall the exhibition brought be back to consider the section of my research essay I looked at on place generated through movement. These works were more based upon space than place, but showed a fascinating process capturing movement so explicitly within an object and its surroundings. The mobiles keep your attention in a way that a stationary object doesn’t.

I wondered why this is…is this because humans only respond to deltas – to changes – rather than absolutes? We cannot feel the exact temperature outside, we can only tell if it is warmer or colder than we last felt. We cannot remember time if there are no changes within it to distinguish one moment from the next. What of this can be said to be true of our sense of self: do we feel a connection to our inner self only when there is something to explicitly connect it to?  Is this where the idea of a sense of place comes from?  If our lives are a series of interconnected spaces must we generate our own meanings (our own places) in order to be able to comprehend them in any way?

The annual outing to Ally Pally

The Knitting and Stitching show at Alexandra Palace is one of my indicators of Autumn having arrived in full swing. I didn’t go this time in mind to buy epic amounts of yarn and fabric as per usual, instead focussing on visiting a couple of specific exhibiting artists who were there. (I did come home with a stuffed moose, a few yards of fabric and a dress pattern mind you!)

I’ve been starting to get very worried about the impending assessment, which is now exactly 4 weeks away. I am not sure how to tell my story of the last year yet – there is so much which has happened, how on earth can you condense this into a 2″ x 3″ display space? Anyway, visiting the Knitting and Stitching Show was meant to be a distraction – it didn’t work. I did however see some interesting work from the artists I went to see.

First up, Helen Pailing, MADM alumnus, who creates objects out of found / waste materials, and has been doing some ‘stitching’ using glassblower’s waste. I liked her work and was fascinated to see how this has progressed from her earlier works and what she created as part of the MADM course itself.

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Next up was Stella Harding, who had a basketry display in one of the larger galleries. She had a lovely range of small works and some really large scale pieces. I really need to make something big – they are so impactful! Also note the use of the traditional spiral braid weaving – these ones made from painted/dyed rattan.

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While looking at Stella’s work, one thing I reflected about my own work, is however much I love the use of colour, I also like to keep the naturalness of a material – it’s purity and essence perhaps – in the work I make with it. The drawing made with only one ink, the basket made of only one material: showing only what is inherent in itself. Something from the roots of my philosophical nature I suppose?

London Design Festival @ the V&A

The V&A have had a number of special displays on during this year’s London Design Festival and I spent a sunny day there on Friday checking them out. There were a few which really caught my attention.

First, The Tower of Babel, by Barnaby Barford (the visiting tutor from last year, who I still think gave me the most important insight I’ve had on this entire course). The Tower is made from 3000 unique china shops, showing a real London shop which was photographed by the artist. I didn’t notice when looking, but apparently at the base the shops are derelict, while at its pinnacle are the crème-de-la-crème of London’s exclusive boutiques and galleries.

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Next, and by far and away the stand out piece for me from the Design Festival this year, was
The Ogham Wall. Made by Grafton Architects and concrete experts Graphic Relief, this installation was created under the theme: ‘Liminal – Irish design at the threshold.’

Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects said that “we wanted to create something with an architectural presence that doesn’t establish a boundary.” The blurb from LDF reads as follows:

Inspired by the Irish Ogham alphabet, which dates from around the 4th century, The Ogham Wall interprets letters from this ancient language as an architectural construct of three-metre-high cast concrete ‘fins’. A central linear element brings order to the installation, with an arrangement of smaller perpendicular and angled fins projecting off it to create an abstract rendering of each letter. “The Ogham script looks very architectural – like the plan for a colonnade – and we were interested in exploring that idea and translating this series of letters into architectural elements,” say Grafton Architects. Each Ogham letter traditionally references the name of a species of tree and Grafton Architects have worked with Graphic Relief to cast magnified and abstracted tree -bark patterns into the fins. The result is a tactile surface that references the richly textured tapestries in the room, and is described by Grafton as “man-made geology that is beautiful to touch and to look at”.

This piece was stunning to look at, particularly in the setting of the dimly lighted, rather grand Tapestry Gallery at the V&A. It is a lovely display of material memory of the trees being imprinted directly into the concrete casting. Aside from the fact I like language inspired work anyway (and I do actually know how to carve/write Ogham!) this spoke so nicely of the point of materiality I’ve been working with lately.

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Finally, the last mention goes to the Curiosity Cloud, which was a interactive installation which celebrates moments in nature and how people interact with the natural world. A few hundred glass globe things hanging from the ceiling, each containing a single hand-fabricated insect which co,e to life as the visitors come near them. It was actually quite playful and delightful, which is a refreshing change from all of the ‘serious’ work you see around.

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James Turrell Lightscapes

After an eight hour round trip across the country with LL just to see James Turrell’s Lightscapes exhibition, I was pleased that every second in the car was well spent. This collection of Turrell’s pieces is currently being shown in Houghton Hall, Norfolk in the grand house built in 1720 for Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first prime minister (oh, didn’t you know that either?).

James Turrell is preoccupied with the medium of light, and how we perceive (and apprehend) light and space. His works is grounded in mathematics and perceptual psychology, and having now experienced his work first hand – can be described as bordering somewhere between psychedelic and transcendental.

He once said, that the goal of the art process was not to turn an experience into art, but to “set up a situation to which I take you and let you see. It becomes your experience.” [1]. This is so unbelievably true with Turrell’s work, more so than any other artist or installation I have come across before.

The current owner of Houghton Hall is a bit of a Turrell fan, and (as you do) has two of Turrell’s pieces permanently on display in the rather beautiful spacious grounds around the house. The work in the photo above is Skyspace, an example of one of the enclosed viewing chambers which affect your perception of the sky. The open roof, is a deep, intense blue which looks like a solid sky painted on the ceiling – until you see a cloud or a bird fly by. You go back outside and suddenly the sky seems free again and immaterial – reality seems to be just a trick of the light.

It’s impossible to photograph Turrell’s work to do it any justice, and some of his pieces such as his ‘Tall Glass’ piece Shrim (2015), we just stared at captivated. While we were looking at Shrim, A couple of teenagers bounced into the room to look at the coloured plate on the wall then turned and went out again. LL and I continued to watch, and realised that the shapes and colours (so fuzzy and indistinct I thought I had taken my glasses off for a moment) were gradually cycling in and out, so slowly it was like staring to watch the moon climbing over the sky.

A few of my photos which (although not perfect) give you some idea:

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Enzu, Green (1968)

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Raethro, Red (1969)

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First Light (1989-90)

The last piece we saw was the second of the two permanent features in the estate: St. Elmo’s Breath, known as a Space Division Construction. This is housed in an old watertower and is a standout piece. You are guided into a completely darkened room (which I tell you is not fun for a claustrophobic who is scared of pitch black darkness). You experience what seems to be an endless, fuzzy darkness, until very gradually, a gentle muted colour field reveals itself from the walls of the room. After about 20 minutes the fuzz clears and your eyes finally allow you to see not only the panels on the walls in front of you, but the shapes of the other people around you. Quite something.

As a final cherry on the exhibition cake, we also spotted a Richard Long sculpture (one of a handful of permanent contemporary sculptures that are on the site). This piece, Full Moon Circle interacts with the surroundings in a fascinating way. Overall, a great day out.
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References:

  1. J. Turrell, Mapping Spaces, Peter Blum, New York, NY, 1987

Richard Long: Time and Space

My research paper is coming along nicely and I have at its core the work of walking artist Richard Long. I went on an expedition last Friday – a 6 hour return train trip and walk of 15.42km no less – to see the Time and Space exhibition currently showing at the Arnolfini in Bristol.

It was a fascinating collection of Long’s work in a gallery which first showed him in 1972, and which gathered together a range of works which link to Long’s childhood home in Bristol and showed the connection he has with the place. I have seem some of Long’s physical gallery installations before, but never seen any of text works shown alongside them. You cannot help but stop and think when you see the words imprinted in large font across the white wall, almost haiku like in its contemplativeness.

Standout pieces: Muddy Water Falls 2015, the latest in a series which Long applies mud directly to the gallery walls. This piece has been made with mud from the banks of the river Avon. The work is a record of a physical action of the dynamic gestures which are dictated by the nature of the materials being used – the splashing, fluid quality of the mud. This ‘mud wall’ is surrounded by a series of quiet textual records of landscape, many of them also referencing an experience Long had along the banks of the River Avon.

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I also very much associated with another text work in this room, the “Red Walk” from 1986.

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The rest of the exhibition had more of Long’s photographic works and two installations including  Bristol 1967/2015, a series of concentric circles (“a cross between a tape measure and a perimeter fence”) which were taken to different places and photographed. The exhibition guide sums this up as “a reference to that simple but profound experience a person travelling through a landscape may have in realising that the centre of the world is wherever they happen to be at the time.”

From 1967:RIchard Long

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Interestingly, my own photo of this exhibit was terrible, so I found a new one – this one sourced from an Independent review here. I was surprised how scathing this review was of the show, nearly all of which I disagree with. I have been musing on this, and know that Long has a bit of a marmite effect – people either get and love his work, or they really, really don’t. I wonder if it simply appeals to a certain mind-set of person. The quieter, introverts among us that have no shame in enjoying something so esoteric and untouchable. For example, the reviewers reaction to the text works was somewhat different to mine:

Long’s text works…are short descriptive narratives, often quite baldly factual, telling us when and where he went and how long it took him…Very often these texts works strike the onlooker as mind-numbingly banal. Of course, we are very pleased that he went, but how exactly should we be responding to such bald records on a wall? Mildly unenthusiastically.

I found completely the opposite – as you look at the text, you know it is real. You know it describes an actual walk, a physical movement in the world that you cannot help but imagine as you follow the journey in words. I see them more as a poetic record which offers a different way to look at the world, seeking for something deeper than just the footsteps on the land.

After the gallery, I wandered off on foot to find the outdoor piece commissioned by the Arnolfini for the show up on the Downs just north of the city. On the way I walked the long way round to take in the magnificent views of the Avon Gorge from the Brunel-built Clifton Suspension Bridge. Wow. You could see instantly how a young artistically minded Long could not have helped but be inspired by this place. The tidal range of the Avon is massive and I was lucky to hit it at low tide, when you could see vast edges of mud exposed alongside the river channel. Looking at this, you can see exactly what Long is embedding into his muddy wall work – physically and emotionally.

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After that revelation (which will be going into the essay!) the Boyhood line, was unfortunately almost a let down. The Line is a collection of stones in a line across the Downs where Long played as a young boy. The line itself was nice enough to see in person, but better was seeing how the land beneath has stared to react to the stones.  The stones were laid along a desire line, “one of the many tracks which criss-cross the Downs, created by commuters, dog-walkers, runners, traders, farmers, and ancient Britons; those that remain visible, and those that have faded away”. And that  sums up so nicely what it is I like most about Long’s work.

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Barbara Hepworth @ Tate Britain

It is refreshing to visit an exhibition when you don’t know much about the artist, and however famous Barbara Hepworth was – I had to admit general ignorance on any specifics of her work. What I found however was a fascinating insight into sculpture and the artist’s path to abstraction.

Mother and Child 1934

Hepworth was celebrated for her ability to synthesise organic form, light and colour from the landscape to produce compositions of extraordinary elegance and clarity. Her early works were more figurative, explicitly exploring the human form, and some of her works (particularly later in her career) relate to ancient stones and shapes within the landscape. This exploration of our relationship to the natural world, drove her to examine ways to open up sculptural form in order to involve the viewer. She wanted her work not only to be looked at by to be experienced.

“I cannot write anything about landscape without writing about the human figure and the human spirit inhabiting the landscape, for me, the whole art sculpture is a fusion of these two element – the balance of sensation and the evocation of man in his universe.”
Studio International 171’ – June 1966, p. 280.

Tides I 1946 by Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975

Hepworth was interested in expressing the physical experience of being in the landscape – for example, the push and pull of the wind, the changing shapes and contours as you walk or the varieties of textures and patterning on rocks and vegetation. She preferred her work to be shown outdoors and said that sculptures need natural light and air “‘to breathe and grow”. Hepworth said there is an inside and an outside to every form. Many of her sculptures explore this tension, carving through the material or hollowing out the forms to explore the inside and outside of the form.

Piercing through forms became dominant. Could I climb through and in what direction? Could I rest, lie or stand within the forms? Could I, at one and the same time, be the outside as well as the form within…?”
Barbara Hepworth, A Pictorial autobiography, New York, Praeger Publishers, 1970, p. 283.

Pelagos 1946 by Dame Barbara Hepworth 1903-1975

And a longer fascinating extract from Barbara Hepworth: Carvings and Drawings, London, 1952

“This thought has recurred again and again ever since – and has developed my greatest interests; the reason why people both move differently and stand differently in direct response to changed surroundings; the unconscious grouping of people when they are working together, producing a spatial movement which approximates to the structure of spirals in shells or rhythms in crystal structure; the meaning of the spaces between forms, or the shape of the displacement of forms in space, which in themselves have a most precise significance. All these responses spring from a factual and tactile approach to the object – whether it be the feeling of landscape which one feels beneath one’s feet or the sensitivity of the hand in carving, or in surgery, or music, and they have an organic and perceptual purpose.”

CSM 2015 Degree Show one

The long run of graduate summer shows begin….this was the smaller of the two CSM shows, but still interesting to visit. I gathered a few points of thought for our own show and some interesting artists whose work impressed me.

My main takeaway was on hanging methods – not to be dictated by tradition or the limitations of the frame. Even some of the more traditionally hung art work had canvases which were draped over the stretchers or nailed to the outside of the frame. The second thought was on notecards/business cards – where someone I liked had left one, I took one away and looked them up afterwards – so much easier than having to hope google can come up with something. Curious how many of the cards I took home didn’t have active websites or anything uploaded. Moral? Be Prepared! Be ready once the show comes around!

Stand-out work for me was that of Tess Williams, who was exploring painting. The first photo below was her main piece in the show, the rest are from her website.

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836d6e_fe3aa61c1e9840beb88ca6d52ce23a8e.jpg_srb_p_923_644_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srb 836d6e_cc8ea918de234f95aa2b2f2e074e6d06.jpg_srb_p_955_644_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srb 836d6e_214c5d25f3d54d1fb68c88efc6c3cb7a.jpg_srb_p_916_644_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srb  I found some extracts from an interview she gave which described the process behind her work.

At the moment my work exists within the boundaries of traditional / deconstructed painting, installation and large-scale collage; exploring where one discipline ends and the next begins.

I am first and foremost concerned with the sensual immediacy of paint and its interaction with the porous materials that I chose to apply it to. My work explores the unprimed materiality of these textiles and how they can be enhanced, altered or adapted by paint. I never prime my materials in order to leave as much amount of absorption as possible. Meaning that the material and the paint become one, rather than the paint just lying on top of a surface, as with many primed paintings. The materiality of the work as a whole is important to me, allowing its evocative power to resonate.

I am also engaging with how folds, creases and movement within the materials can act as a form of mark making, creating shadows, lines and shapes, whilst adding new tones to the colours of the paint. I also explore the way folds introduce both inside and outside, in front and behind, what this evokes, compared with the emphasis on surface alone of traditional painting.

This spoke to me of the sort of feeling I want to capture in my own fabric drawings, not specifically about the use of paint – but the integration of materials, colour and process into one textural surface. I also like to use unprimed canvas to paint on, but never really thought deeply of why. I need to understand fully the material narrative my work offers as part of the overall message it is portraying.