Tag Archives: place

Statement of current practice

The last piece of written work needed to go in this week too – a critical evaluation of all of our reflection over the course of the MA. It really hits home that this is all nearly over now, and time to move onwards and upwards hopefully! We were asked to put forward a statement of our current practice – a design principle or artists’ statement for us as we move on. This was a rather pleasant task to write I thought. So here we are:

Artists’ statement:

My work explores our concepts of self, by looking for our encounters with ourselves as we travel through life, where we can glimpse some fragment of truth about who we are. By unravelling our sense of self as strands of multiple co-existing identities, we can see how these strands are built from places which become part of us through our lives. Shadows of real and imagined places embed themselves into the self, an interconnection of experience, memory and fiction. These shadows haunt us as we pass through the spaces of the world, generating belonging, displacement, familiarity or isolation. My practice is based upon exploring these shadows, searching for a sense of belonging which cannot be found. When so much of our individual experiences of people and places are filtered through our cultural psychology, what happens when you have no place you feel is home?

At its root, my work is a conversation between language and memory. These are the tools which facilitate the relationship between our internal and external worlds – the bridge between the physical world and our world of personal experience. Language allows us to communicate with each other, to talk to ourselves, and to identify ourselves. I engage with the language of poetry as a way to access the communication of our inner self, both as a raw, immediate art form in itself, as well as exploring the possibilities of the visual poem through the materiality of ink, paper and fibres.

Many of the processes I use in my work are based on the creation of structure through transformation, layering and repetition. My interests are now aligned to my methods: using a material which is conceptually elegant to make a constructed material which encapsulates both its own inherent narrative as well as my own. I have combined the use of this material language with a working process which allows the fibres space to demonstrate their properties. Installation as an immersive experience is a natural expression of a concept based around ideas of personal place.

Map weaving II

So the map weaving continues. I finished what I think will be my final tests, based on the original idea for the map weaving – i.e. one large textured surface. As opposed to imposing some preplanned form onto the structure, I let this one be naturally shaped by the tension and making of the piece – so that this becomes shaped by my memories and experiences of the places.

Firstly, I re-did the weave of the sea maps:


Then, I completed a new piece (which will be shown at the pop-up show) based on my mountain memories, the ups and downs of life, the building of character…


I was really happy with the mountain map, it has come out with a lovely mix of colours and textures based on the qualities of the original maps: 9,230 square miles of UK mountain range. The shape of the weaving was done strictly on the grid (to keep the link with its origin as a grid map) but the tension changes gives it its lovely organic form. This is what I will do now as a much larger piece for the final show.

Now I know what I’m doing process wise, I can start planning out my pieces in detail. There are a number of key questions to ask now:

  • Finishing: do I leave the fringes or try to remove them?
  • Do I want to frame the final pieces?
  • Finalising how to shape the piece – based on topology of my memories or the place?
  • Keeping the decisions intentional: dictating the colour and form of the final pieces
  • How important are the labels and titles?
  • Do I make an accompanying essay/book/drawing to go alongside the pieces?

I know that I want it to be clear that the work is weaving, but not to make it explicitly a textile/basket form – i.e. so it just looks like a tapestry. This will be best served by covering up the fringe edges – either by process or by framing. One more test required here!

As to the shape, I need to decide what each of the pieces will be first and then plan out their shaping method and colouring pattern.

Lots to do!

Narrative weaving

Catching up on new making and a couple of days of tutorial ups and downs…

After doing the colour experiments a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to try doing a bigger piece which would show me what a larger piece of the paper weave would look like. So, last week I made a piece which incorporated the narrative materially into the weave; I based it on the idea of ‘origins’, and used of-place materials which spoke of one aspect of my place identity. Although this sounded like I knew what would come from it, looking back now it was clearly an early-stage, slightly unplanned experiment. Looking at the finished piece, there is something in it…but it’s a long way from being anything resolved. And perhaps not a final show worthy idea after all.



After making this piece I tried to figure out what I didn’t like about it. More than anything else my choice of materials is perhaps the biggest question: paper, map, wheat and white willow. I know I wanted “English” materials, but this set doesn’t really fit together very well. Let’s not even discuss the fact that the paper is actually Japanese. My favourite pieces have all been ones which have had a single material propagated throughout, and this is a long way from that. Still, I thought there was something interesting in it….but I’m no longer sure quite what that was.

I had a catch-up with Maiko yesterday and unsurprisingly, she didn’t like it, and seemed unnervingly happy that I wasn’t pleased with it also. In fact, Maiko didn’t really think there was anything in any of the paper weaving samples I’ve done. Perhaps I see alone see something lovely in the coloured weft weave in particular, but that isn’t related to my current project. Something to file in the new ideas book I think?

So what next? Well, before I went in for my tutorial I imagined a mini-Maiko on my shoulder asking “Why? Why?” and went back to my project objectives:

I am investigating the concept of self by examining the subjective reality we construct as we experience the world. By unravelling our sense of self as strands of multiple co-exisiting identities, I am looking at how these strands are built from places which become part of us through our lives. Shadows of real and imagined places embed themselves into the self, an interconnection of experience, memory and fiction. These shadows haunt us as we pass through the spaces of the world, generates belonging, displacement, familiarity or isolation. My project is based upon the process of weaving, as it echoes my ideas of universality and locality: a single cloth constructed from countless individual strands. Within the fibres, I am seeking an expression of the complexity of our existence. Fragments of past, present and future co-existing for a fleeting moment, never to reform.

And this brought me back to the idea of using map weave and the ideas around the heterotopia – in Richard Long’s words where the sculpture and the place are one and the same. I was quite enjoying the deconstruction and reconstruction of the map back over the holidays (and the echo in constructing and deconstructing the sense of self). Time to revisit the map mini-project!

This was my new test piece done using plain 2-ply paper in place of the more time-consuming handmade map yarn:


I really liked the vibrancy of structure in this piece and could envisage a really large, topological (topographical?) low relief sculpture made completely of maps. Something echoing the ups and downs of the evolution of one’s own sense of self across a lifetime?

When I showed Maiko these she went straight for the thread made of north sea blue, and seemed fascinated by this as an object in its own right. Unlike the restricted loom weaving, there is a lot of potential in this idea and we had a lively chat about some things to consider. Maiko suggested I had come full circle, arriving back where I started the course process-wise but with a different idea of making and the development of my ideas. [I certainly hope I have moved on after all this time and effort!??] I definitely had no clue about materiality and the agency of object (and process itself) when I started. I think this idea, although not yet fully resolved, can contain all the lessons I have learnt about making over my time at Camberwell.

Today, I followed up this chat with a tutorial with Susan J from the Book Arts course. We last met last June before the interim show – so much has come on since then! Really great chat and lots more ideas to think about. Nicely different yet complementary to the comments from Maiko. Importantly she reiterated that there is still time to experiment. I can a have a “plan for the show” right now without needing to know exactly to the mm what the final object will look like.  She said not to pin everything down too early, there is still time!

So a summary of my reflection from both discussions:

  • Colour will be a key factor to manipulate in the final object…
  • …as will tension – does the tension in the weaving echo tension in the landscape / geological or identity crisis?
  • Investigate the relationship of the grid as the basis of weaving and the grid as the basis of mapping
  • The form of the final object need not adhere to the grid, subversive weaving? Be wary of not making it look like a ‘basket’ though
  • It also doesn’t need to be a really big piece which contains every concept in one – I can focus it down, specific ideas to specific pieces, and show a series of works
  • Since I’m obsessed with words and this is conceptual art, use the labels to add extra layers of meaning to the work. I can make the display of the final pieces work to my advantage here – labels, libraries, context etc.
  • The weaving is a condensation of all of the information of the map into a new object, and this is quite a powerful image I can play with (e.g. this one piece of textile is made from 10 individual 1:25000 O/S maps etc). This is not only true spatially but temporally as well.
  • The map is normally a folded object so what am I saying by showing it in a non-folded form?
  • Do I want my pieces to be touchable, will you be able turn them over? OR do I want people to see the underneath but not be able to feel it?
  • on this point, a map it a two-sided object. The back either has a new map, a blank space or an index/legend of some kind. How will I make use of this or acknowledge this in the work?
  • Remember eggs and baskets!


Turning towards the show

Time is running short and I need to start formulating a plan for the final show. There is still a little time to test – and the faster we have a plan, the faster we can begin testing each element.

Let’s begin with a re-statement of my final project proposal:

I am investigating the concept of self by examining the subjective reality we construct as we experience the world. By unravelling our sense of self as strands of multiple co-exisiting identities, I am looking at how these strands are built from places which become part of us through our lives. Shadows of real and imagined places embed themselves into the self, an interconnection of experience, memory and fiction. These shadows haunt us as we pass through the spaces of the world, generates belonging, displacement, familiarity or isolation.

My project is based upon the process of weaving, as it echoes my ideas of universality and locality: a single cloth constructed from countless individual strands. Within the fibres, I am seeking an expression of the complexity of our existence. Fragments of past, present and future co-existing for a fleeting moment, never to reform.  I am interested in bringing in my poetry and asemic calligraphy work into my fibre work – combining the the abstract and conceptual influences with the physical, viscerality of making. As of yet, I don’t know how I’m doing this…but let’s see if I can update this paragraph in a few months time!

To experimentation then….

Well, I started by going back to weaving paper yarns, and looking to see if I could incorporate marks onto the woven cloth. This piece was tested by painting the warp with my calligraphy ink.


Then I followed this will another experiment using raw silk yarn and playing a little with the tension of the loom, seeing what changes in texture this would make by itself, without needing to paint over any marks in ink:


So far the paper is winning!

Artists working with experiences of place

The map experiments I have been doing brought me to look back at one of my favourite / most inspirational quilt artists, who also works with ideas around place – in particular cityscapes. I took the opportunity to look into any other people working in this sort of area.

Eszter Bornemisza

Eszter is a Hungarian fibre and textile artist, who like me had a former life as a scientific PhD researcher. Her artist’s statement picks up a number the features of place that I am working with:

My starting points are ideas that reflect our relations to traces and settlements of past cultures: the layers of existence. City plans appear as motives, signs, traces, ruins, the silt of the past. As the urban structure develops, widens, thickens, clots and creates subsystems in history, the cities that live within us undergo an endless and continuous evolution. The exploration that appears in most of my works also determines my working process: on the one hand research of civilisation history and on the other hand experiment to find the right techniques for my expressions.



I have loved Eszter’s work since the first time I saw her display at a quilt show. I could look to incorporate more of the actual materials of place and people (newspapers or things related to identity perhaps – family photographs? old letters?)


Yu-Wen Wu

Yu-Wen Wu describes herself as an interdisciplinary artist and has a range of fascinating work through drawing, installation to video. I like the way she uses abstraction, but still has the traces of the data it is built upon. A couple of her most relevant works are below.

In the broader context her work explores systems–its universal connectedness, interdependency and the persistence of change. She distills the transitory and migratory nature of our natural and built environments. Her investigations incorporate the visual language of data transforming them into abstract narratives


“Random Walks is both process and metaphor for the larger “random” paths of life. Here is structure and serendipity reflecting journeys and transitions. Throughout the years walks have been mapped in the language of informational notations with albums, video footage and drawing installations. They are manifestations of outward and inward journeys, rhythm and embodied topography.”

yww2“Mapping the Stars is part of a larger project based on constellations, constellation maps, and musical notations. Since ancient times constellations narrated the deeds of heroes and villains. They became a part of religious beliefs and at times influenced the decisions of nations.
The series Mapping the Stars is based on the charts of ancient Chinese star maps. The musical elements are from the score of Chopin’s Nocturne.”

Gail Biederman

Of the artists I found, Gail’s work most formally links identity and place. Her work is an exploration through mapping, which looks at identity and relationships as well as the physical terrain. I also noticed the way she describes mapping as both the material and process – exactly as I hope for my project to do.

Mapping is both a form my work inhabits and a strategy through which it evolves. As I work, the messiness of real life mixes with abstract information. The autobiographical and the geographical fuse, and the border between interior and exterior dissolves. Reconstructing places, personal experiences, and memories, my pieces become visual diaries, encoded narratives, even a type of portraiture. More than just a record of physical trips and places, these works symbolize passage and transition and plot the uniquely personal directions that our lives have taken. They translate an impersonal diagram of routes into an examination of identity and the ways one can define oneself in comparison to another.

Gail’s material choice is often more playful and occasionally uses soft textiles such as felt. She suggests that this offers a striking counterpoint to the conceptual aspects of the work. Some of her other works function clearly as psychogeographic maps or journals, some layering images of various places, networks, diagrams, and architectural plans to evoke the complexity of travel.



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.


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


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.

Speed in the Sound of Lonliness_2014~hi

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.

The Collaboration Project

Before the summer we were tasked with joining forces with one of the other MADM students to work on a short ‘collaboration project’. The aim is to show us the advantages and methods for working in a creative collaboration. I paired up with Poy, an architect turned designer who is looking into a concept very closely aligned to mine – that of memory and nostalgia in relation to places we have been.

We were asked to put together the objectives of the project:

  1. Knowledge: seeking to gain an understanding of a specific sub-question aligned to my project, looking at the nature of the map; what different methods of cartography can express locality?
  2. Skill: seeking to gain an ability to work directly with someone else to critique ideas and challenge my concepts; looking to gain additional working methodologies or ideas on creative problem solving
  3. Attitude: seeking to gain a better conception of what it is like to work in a creative collaboration and be more willing to share and work on art ideas in a group setting;

So now to work! We have an initial concept we have been thinking about individually over the summer break. I want to look at what is a map and Poy wants to understand how we react to a new place the first time we experience it. This gives us a great synergy in actually doing some live action creative cartography – looking to ‘map’ both a new and a familiar place.

Poy showed me a link to these amazing tactile maps made in Inuit communities.

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A great extract here from a paper by Peter Whitridge on the significance of place-making in relation to the Inuit maps.

Human spatialities are every-where complex and heterogeneous, at each historical moment articulating embodied actors with a simultaneously symbolic, social, and biophysical world. Place is regarded here as the effect of a general movement of thought and practice that imbricates the real and the representational at complexly layeredsites, and along heterogeneous seams. The investment of particular locations with meaning (place-making) is a ubiquitous social and cognitive process. Lookingmore closely at the archaeologically and ethnographically well-described Inuit case, networks of places and paths can be discerned at a host of spatial scales, from the vast expanses of the arctic landscape and sea ice to the intricate topologies of houses, bodies, and tools. Homologies, however fragmentary, between these toposemantic arenas point to a eld of circulation of representations that can be labelled the imaginary”, and its regional networks “imaginaries”. A place can be thought of as a spatialized imaginary, a nexus of imaginary signications at the site of its intersection with the real. 

Landscapes, Houses, Bodies, Things: “Place”and the Archaeology of Inuit Imaginaries
Peter Whitridge

Anyway, this is at the root of our idea to create a tactile map which documents our experiences of new and familiar places, showing how we respond to the subtleties in the place. We are going to do some tests on deciding the form of our final map-object (although we have decided it will be 3D) and then off to conduct our psychogeographic expeditions.

What is place and space?

Place and space, two terms used so commonly and casually by most people, are remarkably challenging concepts to define. Space tends to be thought of in the abstract, an infinite, continuous expanse – from the vastness of the cosmos to the depths of the mental space in which we think. Place on the other hand, is bounded and local. It is defined by a human narrative and experience; it is a material demonstration of some social practice, or a memory of such, which marks it out from other spaces. It is a place to which we feel we belong.

Anthropologist Pierre Bourdieu was one of the first scholars to discuss the understanding of space through meaning and action, rather than strictly in structural terms. He argued that space has no meaning apart from practice – actions which interact to define and reinforce cultural knowledge and social behaviours. This system of generating dispositions, habitus, “constitutes and is constituted by actors’ movements though space” (Bourdieu 1984). This in turn means that the interpretation of space can not be fixed, as it is the social practices of the actors within the space who provide the spatial meaning.

Also on this line of thinking, Henri Lefebvre in the Production of Space (1991), proposed that space is socially produced, rather than being a pre-existing volume or environment. He described a tripartite division between material space (that which is experienced through our primary sense perceptions via human practices), the representation of space (spaces as we conceive them through language, maps, diagrams, concepts or codes), and spaces of representation (space as lived – physically, affectively, emotionally through imagination, dreams, fears).

David Harvey, whose social critique builds on the same Marxist theory as Lefebvre, offers a more comprehensive framework to define space, using Lefebvre’s tripartite division as one dimension, and offers a second dimension of another three co-existing definitions of space and time (Harvey 2005). First, absolute space and time, a mathematical reference location which identifies the individuality and uniqueness of every person, thing and process that has ever, or will ever exist. This is the space of Newtonian Mechanics and Euclidean spaces – with all events measurable and predictable. The second definition is of relative space, where space and time cannot be understood separately – the space-time of relativistic physics, and non-Euclidean geometries. These are the spaces of process and motion (a journey, an exchange of information), where what is observed varies according to what is relativised and by whom. All forms of measurement (including observation itself) depend upon the frame of reference of the observer. The third and final definition is relational space, where meaning is attached to space through interaction and memory. Space and time are internalised within matter and process, in other words, the process itself produces its own space and time.

Harvey goes on to ask, “how do can we understand things, events and processes in terms of the relational spacetime they produce?”. Harvey offers that any event, thing or process cannot be solely understood by what exist at a single point in space and time. An object may be understood to crystallise out of a field of flows into “an event”. The object is formed of everything within that field of flows from all past, present and future events. Identify becomes multiple and indeterminate and direct measurement impossible. Influences flow from everywhere to everywhere else.

This conjecture is based upon the writings of British mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. Whitehead rejected the idea that an object has a single, simple spatial or temporal location. Instead, he concluded that all objects should be understood as fields which have both a spatial and temporal extension. He surmised that the ‘absolute’ point in space-time that we can conceive is in fact a simplified abstraction, arrived at as a limit of a series of volumes (like an infinite series of nested Russian dolls). “In a certain sense, everything is everywhere at all times. For every location involves an aspect of itself in every other location. Thus every spatio-temporal standpoint mirrors the world” (Whitehead 1925, p114). Whitehead elaborates this line of thinking by concluding that it is process, rather than substance, that is the most fundamental metaphysical constituent of the world.

At the core of Whitehead’s metaphysics are many ideas which are contrary to the traditional view of material substance. In Western scientific cosmology, matter is a senseless, purposeless material which follows a fixed set of reactions when acted upon by external relations, which do not emerge from the nature of its being. According to Whitehead, the recognition that the world is organic rather than materialistic is essential for anyone wanting to develop a comprehensive account of nature. “Mathematical physics presumes in the first place an electromagnetic field of activity pervading space and time. The laws which condition this field are nothing else than the conditions observed by the general activity of the flux of the world, as it individualises itself in the events. The result is that nature is no longer thought to be simply atoms in the void, but instead a structure of evolving processes. The reality is the process”. (As quoted in Irvine 2015).

If we question what is the space of an immaterial object (such as an experience, a thought or memory), then it is seemingly impossible to offer a concrete, material answer. There is no absolute point in space and time to reference, nor any way to quantify and measure the space relative to something else. The ideas of relational space offer a way to describe the immaterial. We must consider all of the things, events, processes and social practices that have produced this specific place in spacetime.


Bourdieu, Pierre, 1984. Distinction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press

Harvey, David. 2005. “Spacetime and the World”, in Cosmopolitanism & Geographies of Freedom. New York: Columbia University Press, pp 135-165

Irvine, Andrew David, “Alfred North Whitehead”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2015/entries/whitehead/>.

Lefebvre, Henri, 1991. The Production of Space, trans Donald Nicholson-Smith. Oxford: Blackwell.

Whitehead, Alfred North. 1925. Science and the Modern World, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Alice Fox workshop day 4

How fast the end of the week has arrived! Last day in the sunny Surrey studio, and our attention turned to bringing together the prints and drawings we had made over the last few weeks into some sort of order. Before we started however, our daily walk! I was trying to focus on different things today – looking at the human edges of the place we had been in. A couple of my best photos of the week:

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After the walk, Alice showed us a few simple book-binding methods that she uses for us to try out on our samples. I pulled out all of the bit which I thought had actually worked ok – about half I would say, which isn’t bad for experimenting. I themed them into books based on the different ‘places’ which we had visited over the week: the buttercup meadow, the railway, the village, the hedgerows.

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Overall it has been a really marvellous week, and I am really glad I got the chance to meet Alice and see her methodology first hand. Courses like this are also made by the people you are with – we had a lovely bunch of ladies working away, and our studio chief Jude looked after us so well (very good food and cake everyday!).

I will take a few days to reflect on what we have done and what learning I can take back into my MA project. I would like to understand how such direct responsiveness to a specific place can become something more than just a record of personal experience. Later though, for now I am thinking about nothing other than the sofa!

What is place?

Place is….

a specific place, a location
Genius Loci (the spirit of place)
local history
movement, a journey
edges, liminal places
wilderness, wildness
geo-politics, globalisation
a non-place
decayed, lost, forgotten
an imaginary place
utopia / dystopia / heterotopia
mapping, cartography
anachorism (out-of-place)