Week 2: National Marine Aquarium & Atlantic Project Plymouth

Booked into a two film Atlantic Project free event at the National Marine Aquarium on 5th October 2018 I was mistakenly directed to a behind the scenes tour. This was itself very interesting and all the more so as most participants in the tour party happened to belong to a Mensa group visiting from elsewhere in the country. Their additional knowledge of marine life added depth and breadth to that given by the tour guides who were very knowledgeable marine biologists who worked at the venue.

Although there was only a small display about beach debris and, prompted by myself, discussion of the harm caused by and potential solutions for this man-made problem, there are monthly lectures, beach clean activities and an extensive in-house and outreach educational programme (http://www.national-aquarium.co.uk/education/) which unavoidably and inevitably refer to the issues.

Sarah Newton 2018, Plastic Fantastic at the National Marine Aquarium







Sarah Newton 2018, Plastic Fantastic at the National Marine Aquarium

One of my reasons for visiting was to check out the location as a possible venue for my exhibition. Having the opportunity to see how Bryony Gillard and Ursula Biemann presented in this context would have been useful. I have since looked at their work online. Bryony explores jelly fish thinking through video, human performance and sounds in ‘A cap like water, fluid yet with definite body’ which is also linked with ‘Tentacular Thinking’. Body prints on latex hang from the ceiling of the exhibition space and people improvise movements in response to the screening of a film of jelly fish. I can visualise some of my images in projection on screens and on fabrics (eg towelling or a lighter silk that could move more easily) hanging and trailing in the exhibition space whether inside or outside. Ursula’s work ‘Acoustic Ocean’ was commissioned by the “Atlantic Project After the Future – in the wake of utopian imaginaries in Plymouth (UK) curated by Tom Trevor.” (The Atlantic Project 2018). The Atlantic Project was a pilot for a new international festival of contemporary art in Plymouth. Ursula’s film explores the sonic ecology of marine life in the cold North Atlantic (Lofoten Islands in Northern Norway). Her writings and videos tackling and portraying human and environmental concerns have received accolades world-wide. Such a shame I missed them.

I did, however, use the opportunity to take some images of relevance to my project. These images of jellyfish gave me the opportunity to experiment with processing and the differential impacts of various colours.


BIEMANN, Ursula. 2018. ‘Geobodies-Acoustic Ocean’. Available at: https://www.geobodies.org/art-and-videos/acoustic-ocean [accessed 01/11/18].

GILLARD, Bryony. 2018. ’A cap like water, fluid yet with definite body’. Available at: http://bryonygillard.co.uk/ [accessed 01/11/18].

NATIONAL Marine Aquarium Plymouth. http://www.national-aquarium.co.uk/ [accessed 01/11/2018].

THE ATLANTIC PROJECT. 2018. ‘After the Future’, 28th September-21st October 2018. Available at: https://www.theatlantic.org/pages/about [accessed 01/11/18].

FMP Weeks 3-4: Naming and Storytelling

It is not enough to have an image which captures more than a nanosecond of your attention. It needs to have the potential for interrogation and accompanying explanation which deepens and broadens the initial impact. This is what I am learning.

I began to think more seriously about this when preparing my Final Major Project Proposal. Previously I have created collective names for mini-projects up to this point (i.e. re-present, dis-integration, re-integration, re-view, re-present etc.) and explained and justified my choices in relation to Beauty and the Beach… in past posts. What is needed now is a more substantial way of not only providing the front door but an opening into the room or rooms within.

A breakthrough came as I was about to submit the proposal (but too late for inclusion). I happened to be visiting the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. With a longstanding interest in astrophysics and reflecting on feedback on my scanned and recycling mages to date, the naming and explanatory discourse emerged.

The images I am making include a plan A as in the project proposal and a plan B which is not necessarily appropriate and acceptable as a replacement for A should that not work out. But it is one I am pursuing in parallel and dare I say, having fun with. So already two rooms to view behind my conceptual door. But how to describe each in a way that links them?

The Guardian 2018, What happens in black holes? Hawking’s final paper released Stephen Hawking 2016, Black Holes: The Reith Lectures



I have been reading Stephen Hawking ‘Black Holes’ and Brian Cox and Andrew Cohen’s ‘Human Universe: Forces of Nature’. Two days before my visit to Greenwich The Guardian headlined with an exclusive account by Ian Sample (2018) of “What happens in black holes? Hawking’s final paper released”. It seems all coincidental signs were pointing me in a direction I could not resist.


Sarah Newton 2018, Dark Matter 1
Sarah Newton 2018, example from the series Event Horizons









So I have provisionally named plan A images as a numbered run under the title ‘Black Matter’ and plan B ‘Event Horizons’. Black Matter images are scanned beach debris and Event Horizons images relate to recycling and holes. At the moment they reside in separate but linked rooms (as one depicts where debris should have been placed) and I am working on an overall title. Something that resonates with me are thoughts about Gaia and everything that is on and around earth is currently set to stay that way including all the junk we now have in space. Some of my images are starting to look as if the objects are floating surrounded by stars (aka sand).

Others look like alien landscapes and beings and here’s another coincidental timing, Dr Who has just started a new series starring a female lead with toxic waste dumping screened in episode 4 (of 10) on 28-10-2018 and yet to come The Remnants a high density polyfibre monster alluding to our waste management problem!

BBC One 2018, Dr Who Series 11


BBC ONE. 2018. Dr Who Series 11. [TV Broadcast]. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006q2x0 [accessed 29/10/18].

COX, Brian and Cohen, Andrew. 2014. Human Universe: Forces of Nature. London: William Collins.

HAWKING, Stephen. 2016. Black Holes: The BBC Reith Lectures. Introduction and notes by BBC News Science Editor David Shukman. London: Bantam Books.

ROYAL MUSEUMS GREENWICH. Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition 2018. Available at: https://www.rmg.co.uk/whats-on/astronomy-photographer-year/exhibition [accessed 29/10/18].

ROYAL OBSERVATORY GREENWICH. Available at: https://www.rmg.co.uk/royal-observatory [accessed 29/10/18].

SAMPLE, Ian. 2018. ‘What happens in black holes? Hawking’s final paper released’. The Guardian, 11 October.

FMP Week 2: Hestercombe and Helen Sear

A day out with Falmouth and Plymouth MA students and tutors hosted by Tim Martin, Art Director and Curator at Hestercombe House and Gardens near Taunton was delightful. The occasion was an exhibition by Helen Sear ‘Prospect Refuge Hazard 2’, and an afternoon seminar ‘Disrupted Views’ with presentations by Helen Sear, Laurent Chatel, Professor of British Art, Culture and Visual Studies at Lille University who specialises in 18th century English landscape gardens and Gareth Evans, writer, editor, film and event producer . Additional bonuses included catching up with course colleagues the day before the event and having an optional portfolio review in the morning chaired by Jesse Alexander.


Sarah Newton 2018, Symmetry in Places 1
Sarah Newton 2018, Symmetry in Places 2
Sarah Newton 2018, Symmetry in Places 3

Who could not fail to be impressed by Helen Sear’s work. Such a variety of subject matter, focussed on the natural world and in particular her work with the forestry commission presented on film, with moving projection, as murals and in framed images. Learning how she made the mural adorning the beautiful staircase walls leading up to the first floor gallery made their viewing all the more interesting.

Helen Sear 2018, Staircase at Hestercombe House
Helen Sear 2018, Moving floor projection at Hestercombe House











Hestercombe House and Gardens. Available at: https://www.hestercombe.com/gallery/. [accessed 05-10-18].

CHATEL, Laurent. Available at: https://pro.univ-lille.fr/laurent-chatel/. [accessed 05-10-18].

EVANS, Gareth. Available at: https://spotlight.picturehouses.com/author/gareth-evans/. [accessed 05-10-18].

Hestercombe House and Gardens. Available at: https://www.hestercombe.com/gallery/. [accessed 05-10-18].

SEAR, Helen. Available at: http://www.helensear.com/works. [accessed 05-10-18].

FMP Week 1: Salient Points of Feedback from the Surfaces and Strategies module

  • ‘Killing my darlings’, a phrase used in relation to the Surfaces and Strategies WIP Portfolio and relative strengths of the images. I can only guess which were preferred by assessors and therefore seen as stronger. I assume they include scans where the subject matter needs interrogation to understand the narrative, thereby excluding my seascape and documentation of immediately recognisable debris images. Interestingly, the latter may be more saleable to a wider market at affordable prices, as activity during and post my exhibition has shown, while the former may have greater appeal to arts aficionados and communities who are prepared to pay more for more ‘obscure’ pieces.
  • ‘Imprinted artefacts’, again used in relation to my WIP portfolio, which I have been referring to as products that can be bought suggests another way of thinking about how my images can be presented. For example, rather than planning to work on items of use around the home such as mugs, bags and coasters, use surfaces and materials that do not necessarily have functional daily purposes. These could perhaps be seen as more closely akin to sculptures which can be looked at on a pedestal, floor, hung from a rope etc, but not ‘used’. At Unseen in Amsterdam in 2017 I saw wooden ‘rocks’ covered in prints rendering them 3D. I have been researching different surfaces as well as scanners including 3D options excited by the thought that I could print in 3D and what would the items turn out like. However, such technology is well beyond my means in the context of completing my assignments…unless there is an organisation with the facilities and willing to take the risk to let a student experiment…
  • ‘Physical outcomes as installation views’. Having created what I called an installation with items made using my images and incorporating some of the debris I had collected as well as a few props I had at home I would like to do this again. I enjoyed the process of coming up with ideas, mapping out a plan, running a rehearsal at home and then installing the piece in situ in the gallery. Already I have ideas bubbling and emerging, but am anxious about costs. I can envisage several that could go on tour. For example, surfboards, windbreaks and towels on beaches each beside a bin for a specific type of debris depicted in my images (eg. one for tin, one for glass, one for paper, one for material, a large one for plastics, a large one for fishing lines and nets etc.). I would be happy for my images to be displayed in this way and to be invited by a sponsor to coordinate a series of travelling events if someone or a corporation would like to step forward… 
  • ‘Images are ‘skins’’. What I did not show in my WIP portfolio were the images and other physical outcomes being made. That is, the manufacture of the photo products. The processes were easy for me as I engaged various companies to ‘make’ them for me. I see  that I will have to focus on ‘making’ things myself and possibly going to see how these companies apply my images to various surfaces. If I am to go down the road of creating ‘artefacts’ I will need to be doing and photographing the ‘making’ as there may not be a company in such a specific line of business (ie working with the surfaces I have chosen) to call upon. 
  • ‘Be more ruthless’. Differentiate the work I do from that of others. Put aside modesty and publicly proclaim the added value my work has. Features of my personality and natural tendencies to put others first and see others as more competent in some areas seems to be being challenged. These directions link in with a particularly interesting suggestion to write a short piece incorporating how my past profession has influenced my current approaches to taking and making with my photography to help with my focussing for the FMP. A kind of looking back to the past to reflect on the present and project into the future. Mmmmm food for thought…

In summary; have a narrower focus on what I take, continue to explore what I create with the images, examine how my images differ from those of others in more detail and depth highlighting the ways in which mine excel and have confidence in what it is about me and my past that is influencing the direction and impact of the imagery I am producing.

Sarah Newton 26th September 2018, Three ways of seeing Stoke Beach