… and more!

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This post continues and concludes the last one ‘Electronic Superhighway and more!’ with brief notes on two more exhibitions visited whilst in London last week.

Big Bang Data has been on at Somerset House since last month and has been extended. It deals with the ‘datafication of our world’ and the way that data affects everyone; and it does so through the work of artists, designers, journalists and ‘visionaries’. The subject matter and the approach made it an interesting comparator and contrast with ‘Electronic Superhighway’ at the Whitechapel. It is very definitely a different type of exhibition – multi-dimensional; not purely art/culture based; incorporating elements of science, socio-psychological issues, politics; but with a strong creative element to both presentation and content. And with a ‘full artist list’ featured on its website, there are clearly strong intentions towards that creative aspect – successfully so, I think. In some ways, this show ‘hangs together’ more successfully than the one at the Whitechapel. Is it because it has a theme – ‘data’? Is it because this show seeks to use creativity to make an experience that informs/provokes/entertains/stimulates, whereas Superhighway is a show about art? It is well-organised into sub-themes such as ‘Data and Cities’, ‘Data and Democracy’, ‘Data and Design’, ‘Data and Privacy’, Data and ‘You’. But, then, ‘data’ is more easily organised than a representation of the torrent that is post-internet art/culture. Very different exhibitions, as I said, dealing with some common ground but in different ways, with different intentions, and for different audiences. Big Bang Data is very definitely for the general public/family audience – but it delivers in a creative and sophisticated manner that I enjoyed (despite the inevitable exhibition fatigue that was setting in towards the end).

That didn’t stop me dashing across London, on foot, to visit the Josh Lilley Gallery for a brief look at New Builds.

New Builds - Josh Lilley Gallery

Installation image, courtesy of Josh Lilley Gallery, London

This small exhibition features just twelve images by four artists – Daniel Gordon, John Houck, Anthony Lepore and Matt Lipps – all of whom are representative of the group of mainly US artists that I find so inspiring and all of whom appear in Charlotte Cotton’s book Photography Is Magic that seems to bring the leading exponents together into something resembling a ‘movement’. There do not, as yet, seem to have been too many opportunities to see representative works ‘in the flesh’ in the UK and this was the first opportunity, for me. The gallery context seems to be the ultimate, intended outcome for much of this work and it was that ‘exhibition-standard’ context that was of particular interest to me – especially at this point in my development of work/practice. With the exception of two very small C-prints from Daniel Gordon, all the works were archival pigment prints; and all have been produced in very small ‘editions’ ranging from 3-5.  All, except for the two small DG prints, were produced in 2015, so very recent works.

That leaves me wondering, if I were to proceed down the exhibition route with my own work, whether I need to explore the high quality archival print approach. It’s hard to know what the outcome might be without giving it a go; but as yet, I haven’t found any local print facility that offers this service & where I might feel I could go and talk, perhaps even experiment, without spending a small fortune. Something to work on – I’m certainly glad I found the time to call in at this small show & ‘thanks’ to the Josh Lilley Gallery for putting it on.


Electronic Superhighway … and more!

Frieder Nake - Walk Through Raster Vancouver Version 1972 - V&A

Frieder Nake, 1972, Walk Through Raster Vancouver Version (Image courtesy of V&A Museum)

Three London exhibitions in a day; blasted and bamboozled by flashing screens & huge colourful images; exposed to a sensational array of post-internet art; gorged on ‘big data’; and I find myself particularly taken by this little screen print from 1972! It’s by German artist (and mathematician!), Frieder Nake, and is based on a pen plotter drawing made using a computer program/algorithm that he wrote. He set certain parameters for the framework of the drawing & then random variables enabled the computer to make certain choices – so Nake would have no idea what the drawing would look like until the plotter produced it.  It’s a three colour screen print, so I assume there must have been three drawings. It’s colourful, seductive and plays tricks with the eye (mind!) as the blue grid seems to come forward off the surface and create a sense of depth that is patently obviously not there – and it is, essentially, a print of an image which has its origin in data. It has much in common with the sort of images I am trying to produce myself. In last week’s chat with my tutor, she made a passing comment that I seem to think in layers, like a printer. I didn’t really grasp what she meant at the time, but maybe there’s something in it; something on which to reflect.

The little Nake print was in the current exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery – Electronic Superhighway. It traces the impact of computer and internet technologies on art from ‘2016-1966’ – and that isn’t a ‘typo’. The exhibition is presented in reverse chronological order across three or four large individual galleries, the first dealing with Post-internet Art & the last with early experimental uses of electronic technology in art from the 1960s. I wrote some brief notes on the day, immediately after viewing, in which I concluded that the first gallery is almost like a representative piece of art in itself – representative of the overwhelming, inconsistent, yet seductive and fascinating sensation that one feels when trying to engage with the multifarious spectacle that is 2016 art/culture. Screens everywhere, huge brightly coloured prints and paintings, a smashed old computer on the floor that keeps screaming at you, a gigantic talking backside that greets you as you walk through the door – and that is only a sample of the first room! Presented with such a loud visual and aural experience, I wrote, reflection is, on the whole, both difficult and, perhaps, inappropriate. Not for the first time, I find myself struggling with the mode of gallery presentation that involves a TV-size monitor and a set of headphones for, say, a fifteen minute piece of video art. The danger, with a multi-artist show that does not have a strong common theme, is of superficiality; and this is certainly a complete mash of media and content that is impossible to ‘consume’ at much beyond the superficial level.

That is not to say, I stress, that it was a negative experience. The great value of the multi-artist show is the very variety to which one is exposed and the opportunities to follow through on something that interests. One of my highlights from that first room would be Camille Henrot’s film, Grosse Fatigue, a kind of mad, frantic 13 minute history of creation, a composite of various versions of that ‘story’ presented like an unfolding, multi-window Google search to the accompaniment of a specially composed poem. The artist talks about it here. Interestingly, in light of my comments in the previous paragraph, she says that she does not want the film to be viewed in anything other than a controlled space that she has built; and that she does not think it is suited to viewing online. It had its own space at the Whitechapel, a constructed room in the middle of the large first gallery of the exhibition, where it could be viewed as a large-scale projection by an audience seated on benches. Other works I particularly noted – Cory Arcangel’s Snowbunny/Lakes (2015), a giant flat-screen TV turned into a massive i-phone screen with image of Paris Hilton skiing; and Oliver Laric’s painting series Versions (Missile Variations) (2010), a simple and witty response the manipulation of reality in 21st century post-internet media.

In the later galleries, there were no fewer screens or flashing images, but the historical context made them almost more interesting. I have already mentioned the Nake print, but I also really enjoyed a short film from 1971 – UFOs by Lillian Schwartz, viewable here. Schwartz was part of Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) an artistic movement begun in 1966 that explored and experimented with the relationship between technology and art. This little film is a fantastic example of what was being done with, by todays standards, some primitive technology. And finally, a mention for a short film that was on show away from the main exhibition but is also viewable online here – Rachel MacLean’s Germs. I’ve become a bit of a fan of her work, especially after seeing her most recent, longer film Feed Me at the British Art Show in Leeds last year. She is interviewed and presents excerpts from Feed Me here. She creates a fantastical, colourful world that is neither as sinister nor as innocent as it might seem, and through which she touches on a very wide range of socio-cultural issues in a very novel but highly effective manner.

And, although it says ‘… and more!’ in the heading, I think that is enough for now & ‘Big Bang Data’ and ‘New Builds’ will have to wait for later.

Make More Work!

Spectral Density - Significance of Shadows

Spectral Sensitivity


I had a useful interim chat with my tutor last week. The message, in summary, is to focus on developing more work. There was an e-mail from OCA a couple of weeks ago that suggested some shifting of the sands of emphasis for Sustaining Your Practice, towards ‘what it says on the tin’ – doing whatever is appropriate for the development and sustainment of our professional practice. The tutor feedback and advice was in line with that. Pleasingly, both are also in line with the feedback from those ‘in the industry’ that responded to my approach, about which I wrote – here. What my Textbook project most needs is the creation of more of those complex, layered, multi-faceted images that have been of most interest to those who have seen the work. And my tutor is suggesting that the ‘proposal’, which is the essence of the second assignment in the module, might be something that emerges as the basis of, say, an approach to a gallery when I have something of substance that might form the basis for an exhibition. That doesn’t preclude a book, of course, and doesn’t eliminate the need to go on networking, but perhaps the latter will become more of a natural development than a ‘forced’ issue.

As illustrated at the top of the post, I have already been working on some new images. The one above is derived from a pattern that appeared in the book submitted for Body of Work but which had not been taken on into a more complex form such as this. As with all this series, the starting point was a diagram in the old book – Fig 39. Spectral sensitivity curves of two types of panchromatic emulsion – and I had already merged the pattern with the original in one of the previous images in the series, as below.


The new version takes the pattern into digitally created 3-D form and then brings it back, through printing and cutting and physical layering, into a new ‘photograph’ that has then had one final digital manipulation to create (I hope) an interesting sense of perspective and depth that the eye (imagination? unconscious?) wants to read as ‘real’ even though it patently obviously can’t be.

In my previous post, I included another playful 3-D version of a new pattern. I have also taken that forward into a new layered construct, as below.

The Cause of Lens Flare

The cause of lens flare

In this case, I’ve combined a print onto fabric (linen, which has been cut and frayed) with paper prints (also cut in some cases) to play with the ‘surface’ of the image as well as the sense of depth and perspective. The image is, in essence, a single ‘photograph’ with the 3-D version of the pattern placed into it digitally.

And finally, I have another new pattern that I propose to work with in the next few weeks.

Two Grades of Bromide Paper Pattern 3

Two grades of bromide paper

I’ve reintroduced the use of the original diagram’s purpose as the title of the new images. I always quite enjoyed the ambiguity of that approach (until I removed all titling in the book form) and I could see it eventually working as titling in an exhibition context. So, lots happening and I’m quite enjoying the return to creativity.

Feedback Feedback

The Cause of Lens Flare Pattern 3

The Cause of Lens Flare (just a playful bit of digital manipulation based on a new pattern I recently developed from the old textbook)


(Firstly, things have been decidedly quiet on here – partly because I’ve been at the stage of gathering feedback but mostly because I’ve been down with a virus over the last few weeks.)

Part two of Assignment One was to seek feedback on my work from within the industry.  In early January, I prepared an interactive pdf that included an introductory statement, a link to the video of my re-formed ‘Textbook’, and links to a selection of images in a larger, high-res format.  It can be viewed here. I sent that out to six contacts – mainly contemporary artists, five of whom had already agreed to give feedback and one that was ‘cold’, and I’ve had replies from four, with a fifth promised when time allows. Each had a covering e-mail that included these questions:

1) What thoughts/advice might you have about ways of further developing/strengthening the project?

2) What thoughts/advice can you offer on how to distribute/get exposure for it? (Which might beg the follow-up – Is there anyone I should be talking to?)

I’ve also had a couple of gallery meetings in January – one at Bank Street, Sheffield, primarily to discuss doing some work with them on an evening event, but also to very briefly show the ‘Textbook’ project; and the other at a new gallery in Holmfirth – Foxtail Gallery – where I spent a very useful 1-1.5 hours discussing the project.

Obviously, quite a lot of words have emerged from all of that, which I’m not going to repeat here in any detail. At a high-level summary, the response is wholly supportive of the work but with fewer strong directives as to precisely how to take it forward (understandably). The following summarises the feedback:


Responses to the work itself

  • Visually strong, especially the more complex images;
  • Thoughtful and well-considered; good depth & layers of potential interpretation;
  • Plenty of potential for further development work;
  • Good basis in theory.

How to further develop the project

  • Some editing of the full-length version in the video;
  • Bring out the metaphoric; possibly make more of the metamorphosis of the signifier;
  • Play up the chemistry connection – science of change;
  • Do more of, and make more of, the complex transformations – potential for them to stand on their own as an outcome of the project;

How to gain exposure to an audience

  • Generally rather less said about this question – acknowledged as the ‘perennial issue’;
  • The suggestions on who specifically I might target with the work – people like Charlotte Cotton & Bruno Ceschel, both of whom are going to be mighty difficult to get to, but you never know;
  • Most frequently, this issue is turned back to me – How do I want to develop the work? – which is perfectly sound advice, of course.
  • And one really, really good piece of advice for all of us – make friends; give back; art is a social game.

Pleasingly, and importantly, the work seems to have caught some attention and come across as having sufficient sophistication to be of interest. That gives me the confidence to go on investing time in taking it forward.  I seem to be being encouraged to make more work and to build on the more complex digital manipulations – so some more creative activity looks on the cards – but meanwhile I need to go on finding ways of building the links and try to refine some ideas of the eventual outcome, from which plans can be made.