FMP Weeks 19-21: From cardboard models to the first exhibition

The past three weeks since completing the Falmouth University run week long course on using InDesign on 23rd January has been an emotional roller coaster with highs and lows and thankfully highs again. A review of all that has happened is needed to become grounded again.

Part 1: Tutorials 30th January and 12th February: 

  1. I presented the title I have chosen for the project Out-Sight-In with a vertically flipped back-to-front version underneath it tuO-thgiS-nI (the typing corrector flips it back to the right way up!). Approval was gained with a comment about playfulness which to some extent reflects my feelings when working on making and processing my images for the project.
  2. We discussed my continuing to scan and photograph and my limited progress with the selection of images to be included in the FMP and the exhibitions. There is always a solvable problem with too few (shoot more) but my issue was having too many potential candidates.
  3. Obtaining test strips on different papers was encouraged as was including some with a satin finish as I naturally prefer matt for the rubbish and recycling. I was not wanting to give the matter a higher status than it should have and was not sure how the images would be viewed if glossy with the available lighting conditions. Test strips and fabric samples will be discussed in a separate blog.
  4. I was also encouraged to make a 2 minute film talking about the work to be filmed at the exhibition then made available on a monitor at the location. Filming and creating something that could be played back on a loop was a big technical and time challenge and apart from not knowing what sort of monitor to use and the expense I was doubtful that this would be acceptable, at least in the location of the first exhibition. Should I complete other aspects of the exhibitions and FMP then this could be a late addition, although a better idea might be to use a tried and tested formula. I have recorded a Pecha Kucha at the start of this module and could make one available to be shown using the permanent projector used for powerpoint talks at the first exhibition.
  5. I shared my scaled cardboard model of the first exhibition layout with the lit areas or arcs created on the walls by inset ceiling lights. I felt this lighting was important to take into account when displaying the images to best effect and greatest visibility for viewers. I had presented this to my host for the exhibition, discussing my rationale for the layout and sharing some of the images I would be considering using.

    Sarah Newton 2019, Scaled cardboard model for Exhibition 1
  6. We were both critical of my first rough layout for the images set out as paper thumbnails on the model. Helpfully my tutor suggested I access the powerpoint gallery display page and mount images to scale for a better impression. This was easy to do and I could quickly see what images worked together achieving approval for a final layout proposal at the second session.
    Sarah Newton 2019, Model for Exhibition 1

    Sarah Newton 2019, Powerpoint mock-up for Exhibition 1
  7. We had an interesting discussion about the two related but different parts of my exhibition. The single images of recycling containers that could stand alone in contrast with the random beach rubbish and its representation of excessive consumerism. The first lending itself to be displayed as more orderly, the second in a chaotic and unpredictable way. Having played with random sizes and overlapping chaos surprisingly I settled on an ordered display for both parts of the project as visually the shapes and colours slipped into an appealing vision. This initial impact contrasts strongly with the rubbish that is found on closer inspection of the subject matter.
  8. Handouts and zine were also discussed. The former have been made while the latter is reliant on my awakening of knowledge and skills  acquired in the course on InDesign (I hope my notes are still understandable!).
  9. Following up discussed references to Penelope Umbrico’s Suns from Sunsets on Flickr and Alan Sekula’s Fish Story in a playful moment I made a composite image in the style of the former.
    Penelope Umbrico 2006, Suns from Sunsets from Flickr (partial)

    Sarah Newton 2019, Recycling Circles
  10. Reassurance was offered and accepted when I informed the tutor that my second exhibition had been cancelled due to a more lucrative long term customer for the container. I understood the business decision but was disappointed as I felt this was to be an exhibition where I could be more creative in the surfaces my images were printed on and how they were to be displayed. I had already sourced theatrical uplighting to use and tried this out in the location. I emailed the host to express disappointment and understanding and offered to shift my dates if this would be helpful. Two days later was told I had been prioritised but the dates were now from 27th March to 3rd April,  a week later than originally planned. I immediately accepted and agreed to the fee for the week’s hire.

Reflection: Having two tutorials close together was needed and timely at this stage for me. It has been an intense period knowing that all work needs to be ready for submission by the end of April this year. Clearing thoughts and activities that did not directly relate to finishing the taking, making and selection of images has been a priority that has paid off in terms of narrowing and clarifying what I will show at exhibitions, what looks promising for a zine and what should be in the final FMP portfolio. It feels as though I have been in a tunnel and can now see glimmers of light as I emerge.

Sarah Newton 2019, Out-Sight-In at MVV Environment Devonport Ltd. 18th February to 30th April

References

ROBERTS, Bill. Autumn 2012. Tate Papers no.18 Production in View: Allan Sekula’s Fish Story and the Thawing of Postmodernism. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/18/production-in-view-allan-sekulas-fish-story-and-the-thawing-of-postmodernism [accessed 01/02/19].

UMBRICO, Penelope. Suns from Sunsets from Flickr. Available at: http://penelopeumbrico.net/index.php/project/suns/ [accessed 30/01/19].

 

 

FMP Week 18: Printing dilemmas

My decisions about printing are being driven by a number of factors. These include cost which also links to whether I intend to sell images displayed at the exhibitions. Contexts in which I am exhibiting is also important. Both sites are of an industrial nature, the first is an active incinerator, the second was previously used to process china clay from Dartmoor. Expectations of hosts (one has yet to be clarified) may be for a different approach in contrast to the fine art papers and framed prints one could find in a London gallery. This would also be my preference. Fitting in with and complementing the immediate surrounds and normal functions and use of the exhibition space is another challenge. A contrast could work in some circumstances but may also clash in a way that results in a negative impact for my exhibition or the surrounding activities. A level of compatibility and thematic symbiosis could be good but may also backfire if the impact of my work or that of others is reduced.

Moral and ethical considerations also come into play. For example, my ideal, in line with my project intentions, would be to print on ‘sustainable’ surfaces that, in comparison with some others, would have less of a negative impact on the environment. Then there is the concept of ‘containment’. My debris collections have been free floating in the sea and on beaches but the recycling bins static and enveloping of waste. I chose to display on 5mm board without frames for my August exhibition as framing did not feel right for the subject matter which principally focussed on the debris I had collected. In addition to having a more contemporary feel, the boards offered a durability such that they can be displayed outside or indoors and I was at the time thinking of the possibility of exhibiting on a beach (and may still do).

Sarah Newton 2018, Event Horizons on glass
Sarah Newton 2018, Event Horizon 1 on foam board

So far, while developing this project, I have had images printed on glass, fabrics, paper, plant based paper, poster paper, canvas and 5mm board. Comparing samples from Contrado, PrintSpace, Falmouth University printing department at the Institute of Photography, Instantprint, Digital Colour Services, Sixprint, Photobox, Tesco and myself, I am even more aware of the cost x quality x sustainability x contextual setting x potential audience dilemma. My research is continuing despite a short time scale until the first printed images are required for displaying. For example, I have recently come across the Green Printer in the US and the St Austell Printing Company, both of whom claim to use the most sustainable production methods and recyclable materials currently available. I hope to be able to make decisions informed by this research and following information gathering visits to both exhibition locations in the near future.

Sarah Newton 2019, Event Horizons on plant based paper
Sarah Newton 2019, Event Horizons on bright white photographic paper
Sarah Newton 2019, Event Horizons on tracing paper

References

Green Printer. Available at: https://www.greenerprinter.com/reducing-waste [accessed 15/01/19].

St Austell Printing Company. Available at: https://www.sapc.co.uk/csr/sustainability/ [accessed 15/01/19].

FMP Week 17: Aspirational ideas versus realities

Thoughts of the two potential exhibitions have generated countless ideas about what could be displayed and how the images could be presented. The images I select could be the same for both locations and displayed in the same way. However, as mentioned in a previous post there are differences in size and type of display areas, types of fixings that would be permissible and importantly a significant difference in the audiences for both. For one the audience would be those attending a community creek clean and those interested in looking around a waste management (incinerator) site. The second would be members of the general public, resident artists and other creatives using the premises and personal invitees. In the former the audience would be there for another purpose whereas in the second location although some may be engaged in other activities while based or attending another event there, some would attend to intentionally to view the exhibition. Across both locations I think I will have reached some of the principal audiences I have envisaged my images being of interest to: those interested in conserving our environments and those who are interested in visual art (these groups may of course include people interested in both areas).

I have enquired by telephone today about wall fixings used in the visitors centre of the incinerator. They use self adhesive velcro pads for information posters. While this method could be used, depending on the surfaces I print on and the weight of the images, I have placed a limited order for an alternative system. I will be experimenting at home in the use of self adhesive magnets and how damaging these may be to plastered wall surfaces. I do not recall a helpful dado rail or other wall fixings that would be helpful to hanging the images in this location. Clearly they should be ideal for putting up images in the container of the second location.

Tomorrow I will visit the incinerator to discuss arrangements in detail, measure the space available and agree on the publicity I and MVV will produce. Mine will include an information sheet and a feedback sheet about the exhibition. At this point I am not sure whether the creek clean publicity to local community groups is to mention the exhibition being available for volunteers to view over lunch. I somehow do not think I will be advertising directly to the general public myself as the site is not open access.

Realising there are only 3.5 weeks to finalise details before putting up the exhibition in week 21 ready for a launch in week 22 (week beginning 18th February) time is of the essence. I do not have the facilities to print my images for the exhibitions and will be dependent on a printer to be able to respond in a relatively short space of time. Something I have not thought about but must remember to ask about is fire safety. In both locations I may be using printed fabrics. I am not cognisant with the regulations relating to these in comparison with images printed on other surfaces.

Week 16: Dreams can come true!

Well these will not be the same as everyone’s dreams over the holidays. Mine were to complete my search for an exhibition space and to begin to plan the production of selected images. Lo and behold a saviours in the form of J from MVV Environment (in response to my email to her before the holiday) and a new acquaintance D, met through my popping by to look at newly discovered premises and make tentative enquiries, resulted in two offers, both being made last Friday 4th January!

I have decided to pursue both and hope that both come to fruition. The first offers space (at no charge) in the visitors centre and the opportunity to join and record a creek clean at the side of the incinerator I have visited previously. This will be from mid February. The second is in a location a friend told me about when I expressed a wish to exhibit in a container in December. Not having had the chance to visit and investigate before last week I made time to complete the expedition to scope the location before making any formal enquiry. As luck would have it I was in the right place at the right time and able to speak to the right person who generously gave of their time with a tour and offered support with my venture. Oh and by the way, this second option offered both a gallery and a container with lighting and wifi!

Sarah Newton 2019, Exterior of container at The Clay Factory

When I enquired about hire price in the second location I was asked what budget I had. I had not prepared for such a question not having expected to get so far into this enquiry. On returning home I emailed back with a maximum of £500 based on one or both of the two spaces and to include the cost of assistant time in preparations for and setting up and taking down as well as the provision of refreshments for an opening and the costs of publicity production and distribution. Clearly I have underestimated as the reply correctly pointed out a need to review my estimate and suggested within that budget I should allow for the container and not the small white walled gallery. I agree.

Although this location will involve an exchange of finance I do not think it will be unreasonable given the support I already sense will come with their hosting me.

I now feel catapulted into making decisions about images to be included in both locations and to complete their taking and making which I had not to do just yet as I do not feel ready to say “Thats a wrap”. A couple of days before this news a course colleague helpfully suggested one way to know if your image series is complete is to imagine having to have it finished within the coming week. Then you can decide what else needs to be done to make this happen. Little did I know that something of this sort was about to come my way!

I have requested additional visits in the near future to both locations to discuss details and measure up the spaces in order to help with the selection of images, their sizing and the ways in which they might be placed in the spaces.

Already I am envisioning differences not only in the images I show but also their production methods and in situ presentation. For example, the visitors centre has flat walls in a large brightly lit room used for teaching sessions and meetings. While visitors will be interested in my beach finds I am guessing (until I have discussed it further with J) that images of the recycling containers will also hold interest. The size and surfaces used in printing will depend on the fixings I can use and the extent of the wall space being made available to me. As I recall from previous visits there is a physical display of the various recycling containers used by councils who feed their remaining waste (that previously went to landfill)  to the incinerator. Thus, there is already a compatibility link with my images.

On the other hand the container is a blank canvas inside with one central lightbulb and several circular metal hooks along the top of the walls. Outside is a different matter. The container is indoors in a very large room at the end of a row of containers which have been converted to offices/studios. Also in the room are a dozen or so garden sheds equally spaced and all fitted out as offices with desks, chairs, light and wifi. Multiple party style creations hang from the ceiling. At the end of the room is a kitchen and cafe. I think my images, with their sea debris theme, could be presented in a style that is compatible with the outside area (which almost suggests celebrations, beach huts and holidays). Mounting with magnets will not be a problem which leads me to think about relatively lightweight unframed images. I could also exhibit inside and outside the container.

Sarah Newton 2019, Interior of container at The Clay Factory
Sarah Newton 2019, Container offices and studios at The Clay Factory

 

 

Sarah Newton 2019, Offices at The Clay Factory

Both locations offer an opportunity for an ‘opening’, the first being with creek clean volunteers and the second an open invitation noted on the publicity I distribute. Both have some limitations on opening hours being weekdays and during office times unless, in the case of the second one, additional arrangements are made (presumably at a cost). Both venues are easily reached being on ground floors and there is ample parking for visitors. The first is city based and the second rural, close to a town and on the edge of Dartmoor.

Sarah Newton 2017, MVV Environment Incinerator Devonport
Sarah Newton 2019, The Clay Factory
Sarah Newton 2019, View from The Clay Factory

Having reflected for a few days and allowed the realities to encroach on my excitement I am well aware that there is a significant way to go to ensure these offers actualise as successful exhibitions. I wonder whether I should have a fall back option just in case…

The Clay Factory. Available at: http://theclayfactory.co.uk/  [accessed 17/12/18].

MVV Environment. https://www.mvv.de/en/mvv_energie_gruppe/mvv_umwelt/beteiligungen/mvv_environment_1/index.jsp [accessed 04/01/19].

FMP Week 14-16: Rut of Repetitive Sameness? Crop and focus point of an image

Thinking about the images that will make up the final project I am at this stage plumping for a square format to contain circles but I do have some of the beach debris in particular that suit rectangles much better, particularly if the subject matter has length greater than width.

Sarah Newton 2018, Dark Matter 3

I presented several images on the subject of circles to my local photography group on 17th December (week 13). Interestingly while I have been trying to avoid placing of the object or focus in a diagonal line in my images (as I thought I was getting too repetitive) one person suggested I moved the subject from a vertical thirds to a diagonal position and now like the image much better (as do I)!

Sarah Newton 2018, Event Horizons series
Sarah Newton 2018, Event Horizons series

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With regard to the long debris objects I will have to treat each one individually I think. Reflecting back on Paul Kenny’s work a collaged panoramic option, combining a rectangle and squares may also be effective in some exhibition locations and publications. 

Paul Kenny 2017, Catch a Wave – Luskentyre Beach

I am realising that thinking about the shape of the resultant image before I have taken the photograph or scanned the debris is reaching my compositional subconscious and is becoming an automatic first attempt at processing in Apple Photos, Lightroom and Photoshop. Is this a good thing or not I ask myself? It is good to recognise this is happening in order to use that awareness to constantly challenge and continue to develop thereby avoiding getting stuck in a rut of repetitive sameness. On the other hand some might say that consistency is a good thing!

Researching this subject a little more I found some very helpful references (eg.   Gibson 2017; Suler 2013) These reminded me of how early photographic equipment used square plates, then with the advancement of photographic equipment and the various sizes of digital sensors rectangles became the favoured option. With ‘toy cameras’ such as Holga and Diana, and later social media developments such as Instagram and the promotion by Squarespace, the website building and hosting software, square has come back into vogue.

Interestingly, circles are well placed in squares and even if not the subject of the image, can be used to highlight parts of a non-circluar subject with vignetting and the way in which radial filters can be used to ‘spotlight’ features in Lightroom and Photoshop. The combination of square format and circular subject can have the effect of directing a viewer’s gaze in directions that differ from looking at a rectangular image.

“Reigning in the eye

Because the square minimizes feelings of up-and-down and back-and-forth by eliminating longer vertical or horizontal lines, the viewer’s eye tends to move around the image in a circle, often towards the center of the photo. Vignetting and circular compositions, especially those with the subject near the center of the square, can magnify these sensations of circling, spiraling, and zooming in. Diagonal lines serve as an effective means to break up these movements, encouraging the eye to experience some back-and-forth and up-and-down energy.” Suler 2013.

Advantages of a square format include drawing a viewer’s attention right into the focus of the image, the part that matters, without being distracted by surrounding space. Adding to compositional knowledge is an experiential feature too (although some might say ditching what you know and are familiar with is a disadvantage). For example, as my images above illustrate,  The Rule of Thirds does not necessarily apply. Placing the subject matter close to one edge or in prime central position can be fine in a square format. If contextual setting does not matter very much it seems square is potentially the better way to go.

With the processing options now available it is easy to play with different crops to achieve best effects. Perhaps because I am somewhat risk averse and would not want to miss opportunities for a better quality image, cropping during processing rather than shooting in a square frame gives me more choice for the final image. With more experience of composing through later cropping for rectangles and squares I hope to start to automatically complete the initial capture in the optimum format for the subject matter I am interested in.

“Showing off shapes

Due to its talent at focusing the eye and gathering up objects, the square format is a good way to show off geometric shapes of all kinds. Those shapes seem to grow even stronger inside the formal boundaries of the square. I especially like a circle, or portions of a circle, embedded inside a square frame. The pure natures of the curving circle and the linear square balance each other in an archetypic dance of the two most basic, ideal forms. Symmetrical subjects also fit comfortably inside the square frame.” Suler 2013.

Agreeing with this viewpoint I am clear that many of my circular subjects are well placed in a square format. I remain flexible about others, particularly debris, and having done some, albeit limited research, I am now more aware of the effectiveness combining square and rectangular  images in dyptics, tryptics and other multiple displays.

Sarah Newton 2018, Event Horizons coasters

References

GIBSON, Andrew. 2017. Square: The digital photographer’s guide to the square format. Available at: https://www.creative-photographer.com/square-format-composition/ [accessed 08/01/19].

HUXLEY-PARLOUR ARTISTS. Available at: https://huxleyparlour.com/artists/paul-kenny/ [accessed 23/08/2018].

KENNY, Paul. Available at: http://www.paul-kenny.co.uk/ [accessed 23/08/2018].

SEYMOUR, Tom. 2016. Paul Kenny’s Land and Sea. British Journal of Photography. 21 June 2016. Available at: http://www.bjp-online.com/2016/06/paul-kennys-land-and-sea/ [accessed 23/08/2018].

SULER, John. 2013. Square Format Photographs.  Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche. Available at: http://truecenterpublishing.com/photopsy/square_format.htm [accessed 08/01/2018].

 

FMP Week 13: Seeking Containment

For several weeks I have been thinking about exhibiting. Although I have visited various galleries hoping to envisage how my images might be shown I have not been fully comfortable with framing and encapsulating my photographs on white walls. Locally the galleries tend to host collections of arts and craft works which on the whole are not immediately obvious as complimentary exhibition material.

A little seedling of a thought has now taken hold. I am exhibiting rubbish and recycling locations so exhibiting in related settings would perhaps be interesting. There are advantages and disadvantages of course. Advantages include having contacts already who may be able to help having visited recycling centres and the incinerator in Plymouth in the early stages of this project. A major consideration is limiting the audience for the project. Not all the locations I have visited have open access to the public so I would have to make special arrangements for an opening and any subsequent viewings. Those who might visit the locations may not include people who would have an affinity with both rubbish and abstract art.

I acknowledge there may be costs involved and a recent visit to explore possibilities indicated £125 for a month’s rent on a shipping container measuring 8 feet by 20 feet. This would be without electricity or heating and costs would be higher for one that is more modern with attention paid to condensation minimisation. Business units at the same location would require a minimum contract of three months and be more costly. Although the manager was very helpful he did point out there were only three car parking spaces so virtually no parking for visitors to the exhibition and no nearby street parking. And as the site is industrial without fully maintained tarmac walkways get very waterlogged and muddy in poor weather. He generously referred me to two other locations, his competitors, who may be able to offer more conducive settings.

Sarah Newton 2018, visit to Blagdons 1
Sarah Newton 2018, visit to Blagdons 2
Sarah Newton 2018, visit to Blagdons 3

I have also written to my contact at the incinerator as they have a visitors centre with displays of rubbish collection systems (https://www.plymouth.gov.uk/sites/default/files/MVVFacilityLeaflet.pdf). This would be a warm, dry venue although lit with strip lighting and only open when visiting parties are booked in. Hopefully my contact may be able to come up with suggestions and contacts for me to pursue.

In terms of costs, hiring a shipping container seems a small price to pay out compared to paying a gallery in rent or commission, although if I have to bring in lighting and heating these costs will mount up.

An alternative might be to partner up with a supermarket where the recycling containers are often found. In doing so they would get publicity for supporting recycling and I would possibly be hosted in a warm and dry location that is easily accessible and open to the public. I recently came a cross an exhibition next to the cafe area of a local garden centre. Mounted on one wall the images had clear notices politely asking people not to touch the exhibits. The advantages here would again be a warm, dry and accessible facility. Presumably I would also not be required to be present for the duration of the exhibition and location opening hours. Disadvantages include a limited area with little scope for creative mounting and display of the images and poor lighting and the companies might charge rental or commission if any photographs are sold.

WRAP 2018, some of the organisations who are signed up to the UK Plastics Pact

Many businesses have now signed up to the UK Plastics Pact (wrap.org.uk) and are committed to fundamental changes in the production and disposal of plastics (http://www.wrap.org.uk/content/plastics-pact-members?page=1). Perhaps I should target WRAP to  pitch my ideas, thereby gaining a wider reach across these organisations in a travelling pop-up exhibition. Mmm… food for thought.

These initial enquiries are demonstrating how challenging finding a way to show your work to others can be. My work with a strong message about beach debris and the need to act suits like minded campaigners (e.g. Surfers Against Sewage, Marine Conservation Society) while the more recent abstracts maybe considered more akin to contemporary or fine art audiences and could, without a clear accompanying narrative in the ‘right’ context, lose the awareness raising intention. Mindful assimilation, reflection and story creation are high priorities for now. Continuing to be undecided and pinned down rubs against my natural tendency to need a planned and organised future, especially now there is not much time left to complete the project for this course. Unless of course I am assuming there is an end point when in fact this may be the start of a journey!

Weeks 11-12 FMP: I think I am getting GAS (gear acquisition syndrome)

Continuing with Event Horizons, the recycling centres part of my Final Major Project, I have now acquired a transmitter and receiver and a new lens. Experimentation is still the main word of the day while I try to finalise my methodology and achieve greater consistency in terms of quality. I must now keep in mind an overview of how each composition may fit into the jig-saw that is to be the ‘set’ of project images. However, the overview is only just starting to emerge and I realise that there will be many adjustments/tweaks to the conceptual arrangement before finalising a publication and an exhibition.

Using the speed light flash unit with a receiver has advantages and disadvantages. It does what it says on the tin and can successfully light up a dark place. It is enabling me to see places that have hitherto been only partially lit by the camera’s internal flash and torch light. With little processing colours emerge that have not featured strongly in my previous images. One or two appear to be gaining attention (likes and comments) on instagram.

What I have not yet mastered are the correct settings with three modes and several levels of intensity. I am tending to favour the lower (i.e. less powerful) end of the illumination. Directing the flash beam is another area to pin down in relation to the desired end result.  Pointing the speed light  through the same aperture as the camera is restrictive. Unfortunately using the flash is getting rid of the interesting effects of natural and street and car lights coming in through the apertures and bouncing onto the inner walls of the containers. 

Some technical details are eluding me with this equipment. It does take a time to be ready with the receiver attached and does not always want to flash into the areas I am interested in. Having checked and double checked the connections on the speed light and the camera and that the batteries are all working, I am a little mystified and will have to research further and then rehearse using the equipment at home before venturing out on a wasted journey.

Health and safety wise I am very aware of the need to be vigilant and not use my camera or flash when the containers are being used by members of the public. I can envisage shocking and traumatising someone who is depositing waste. They will not be expecting a sudden flash and light damage (temporary and possibly more permanent) to their eyes.

I will be engaging the support of an assistant to point the beam of the flashlight from an aperture on an alternative side to that of the camera, ensuring it is not pointed directly at me and that no one else is using the facility at that time. That way I may be able to reconstruct some of the effects I achieved with natural light before. With the duller days of winter now here, strong beams of sunlight are few and far between. 

Despite not being very pleased at losing the effect of natural light entering the container I am liking the tunnel effects through light exiting and the colours I am able to achieve with minimal post-processing.

Sarah Newton 2018, Event Horizons series with flash
Sarah Newton 2018, Event Horizons series with flash

 

Weeks 9-10 FMP: Challenged by small dark recycling spaces

With some apprehension about my project achievements since a tutorial at the end of October I attended another on 20th November. Having been away for 8 days in the intervening period I was not confident that I had done enough experimenting, tried enough cameras and improved the quality of the recycling images. But what is enough? How do you know when a project is reaching an envisaged conclusion at each stage from creation to production and presentation?

Minolta 7000 1
Minolta 7000 2

Concentrating on the recycling images (Event Horizons) for a moment, I had, before going away, managed to use the camera on my iPhone (which had been the preferred method for this series to date, mainly because of size and accessibility in the areas I wanted to reach), an analogue Minolta 7000 and a Nikon D750. In terms of the number of failed shots as well as the number of best quality (clarity and texture) for those that were successful, the D750 won. Whereas the phone camera automatically adjusts for lighting conditions, at times I was having to set a very slow shutter speed on the D750, particularly if the natural light dimmed due to passing clouds. Usually a tripod would be advised in such circumstances. However I was working in a very public space and had to keep the specific shooting location accessible and available. I have since reflected that a small collapsable step ladder or sturdy box would be helpful to increase my access when the subject matter is above my eye level. Back to settings on the D750. As lighting conditions continually change due to the weather and also the use of the facilities whereby members of the public let in light at any given moment, I cannot envisage having a settings formula that could be repeated throughout a series.

iPhone 7 Plus 1
iPhone 7 Plus 2

Using flash light in addition to natural light external sources and using the smallest (ie widest lens) were discussed as possibilities to improve results with the D750. Experimentation with the in built flash had begun and to this I added torches, both handheld and one being an ‘inspection’ torch. I also tried a newly acquired Neewer Speedlight. However this was useless when attached to the camera as the size made the apparatus far too wide for the aperture of the container I was shooting into. The torches combined with the inbuilt camera flash offered some acceptable results.

Event Horizons 9 DSLR
Event Horizons 19 DSLR

More research is required as holding and directing a torch in one hand and camera set with a slow shutter speed in the other while sometimes straining to reach the height of the aforementioned aperture is a tricky exercise with unexpected results. There is also a high risk of dropping the equipment through losing ones balance, and if dropped in a certain direction, it may never be seen in one piece again. So the next step is to acquire a transceiver and receiver so that the flash can be triggered remotely to coincide with the shutter. I suspect I will also need to acquire a patient assistant to direct the flash according to my instructions thereby taking much of the random results element out of my holding and directing two things at once.
With regard to lenses I will be seeking another one having tried a 24mm-120mm and a 105mm 1:2.8 macro just to see if I can improve the results. Ideally a reasonably priced second hand one would be preferable as it may only be tried as a possibility for this project and then not used again.

Event Horizons 38 DSLR
Event Horizons 16 DSLR

An encouraging discussion and proposal to continue experimentation in the tutorial on 20th November was followed by supportive comments and suggestions in a group tutorial a week later. So now I do not feel I am needing to go back to the drawing board but rather am determined to forge ahead, getting deeper and deeper into problem solving the methodology for making a focussed series, currently named Event Horizons, as part of my final major project.

FMP Week 8: Discovering Hilma af Klint

All I can say is “Wow” on two counts: the stunning architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and finding Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Sarah Newton 2018, Solomon R Guggenheim Museum New York

Multilevelled but easily accessed with a gentle descending surface in circular motion I was blown away by the construction. Not only that but the display areas were well proportioned and lit to show both the smallest and largest art works to great effect. It felt like a freeing and opening up of space in contrast to the boxed-in sensation of a rectangular room.

Sarah Newton 2018, Interior of Guggenheim Museum New York
Sarah Newton 2018, Glazed roof of Guggenheim Museum New York

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a chance visit, a toss up between the Guggenheim and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Paved outside with circles, I went in blind to see what it had to offer and was immediately stunned to see circles on the walls. From that moment I wanted to know more and set out on a voyage of discovery that has been resonating with me ever since (e.g. Ernoult 2015).

Sarah Newton 2018, Hilma af Klint Exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum New York

Why should it have such an impact? A few months ago I started out photographing circles, white and black and sometimes with colour with the intention of encouraging the recycling of our waste. I have had many doubts as to the appeal of these images but have been surprised that some have had a positive response from viewers including tutors and peers. They clearly appeal to some (e.g. Helen Sears who I wrote about in a previous post) but have a limited life span for others (as in a portfolio review where coming to the end and closing down this diversification from my project was suggested). To see Hilma af Klint’s circles coming into their own in such a significant time and place showed me that there is still some way to go before I reach the point of exhausting this diversion.

Sarah Newton 2018, Hilma af Klint Exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum New York

It was not just about the circles. As I descended the levels of the museum I learned about Hilma af Klint’s life and work. She had specified that none of her work was to be shown until 20 years after her death saying the world was not ready to see it. In addition she wanted her work displayed in a circular building. The Guggenheim is a perfect match. She is now credited with being the earliest contemporary artist in Europe, predating Kandinsky.

Hilma af Klint by Tracy Bashkoff, Director of Collections and Senior Curator with David Horowitz, Curatorial Assistant  for the Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation Exhibition 2018

Hilma af Klint’s work from early beginnings in botanical illustration evolved with her interest and some might venture to remark, increasing obsession, with the afterlife. Her notebooks recording and interpreting the meanings of seances she was involved with were on display. Circles continued to appear in later works even as small embellishments to larger non circular shapes.

Sarah Newton 2018, Hilma af Klint Exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum New York

Her use of colour whether soft pastel tones or sharply distinguished shades invites you in. I learned that she adopted the idea that yellow represented males and blue females with shades of green representing their relationships. Despite this repeating colour work in her pieces she often brought in an array of other colours, some of which dominate and challenge while others are subtly complementary and compatible. Some of her paintings initially appeared to me as a little naive and simplistic in their execution. However, there is no doubt in my mind as to the complexity in their creation and of their intended meaning. Without researching her notebooks understanding some of the paintings and the symbolic meanings of the figures and text is impossible. The accompanying descriptive boards were very helpful. The following three Altarpieces were made for her planned circular temple which would house her life’s work and be a place of spiritual significance.

Hilma af Klint 1915, No. 1 Altarpiece Photograph by Sarah Newton 2018
Hilma af Klint 1915, No. 2 Altarpiece Photograph by Sarah Newton 2018
Hilma af Klint 1915, No. 3 Altarpiece Photograph by Sarah Newton 2018

Finding Hilma af Klint has encouraged me to think beyond the circle simply being a shape and to look at the symbolic and spiritual meanings and representations it has had across time and cultures.

GUGGENHEIM Museum. ‘Hilma af Klint’. Available at: https://www.guggenheim.org/exhibition/hilma-af-klint [accessed 16/11/18].

ERNOULT, Natalie. 2015. Hilma af Klint: La Mere de l’Abstraction. Review, Aware, 30.11.2015. Available at: https://awarewomenartists.com/en/magazine/hilma-af-klint-mere-de-labstraction/ [accessed 03/12/18].

Week 7 FMP: MoMA part 3: Meeting 4 Americans

Continuing to move through enormous gallery rooms I discovered more and more pieces with resonance for my project work. A huge 1950 Jackson Pollock painting called One: Number 31 dominated a wall in one space, this being one of three wall sized paintings he completed. Not having been close to such a piece before I did not know how to respond and feel. Being worshipped by some and questioned by others I was caught somewhere in between. Despite it looking like random flicks and tangles of paint an aesthetic balance was achieved in the image and the work involved to achieve it, evident. However, it is not a style I would choose to live with and pay large sums for. It made me think of the tangles of beach debris I have been working with, particularly the fishing nets, ropes and lines. Achieving an image with a ‘containing and balanced’ feel to it with (often) non-maleable materials too large for the scanning surfaces I am using is frustrating and requires more patience and time than is available some days.

Jackson Pollock 1950, One: Number 31

I loved meeting Frank Stella’s 1984 work in person for the first time. Bringing together geometric forms and bright colours and protruding from its wall hanging into the room space, Giufa la luna, y ladri et le guardie was an exciting discovery. As with Pollock, the apparent simplicity in the use of colours and lines, almost verging on ‘scribble’ in parts belies the compositional expertise and effort. The piece is stark, ‘in-your-face’ and yet fun and alive without overwhelming and oppressing. My response was instinctive and surface level as the accompanying text explains inspiration came from Italo Calvino’s Italian Folktales 1956 and was made at a significant time when Stella (then 33years old) moved from painting to sculptural work.

Frank Stella 1984, Giufa la luna, y ladri et le guardie

I am now studying Stella’s work in more detail with an increasing number of reflections in relation to my own, albeit on a very small scale in comparison. For example, His metalwork such as Fishkill 1995 looks like an enormous tangled mess (although deliberately welded that way) and reminds me of my metal vase created from metals washed up on the shore. His giant wall image The layers in the Michael Kolhaus Curtain 2008 reminds me of the mixed debris image I made and had printed on a beach towel.

Frank Stella 1995, Fishkill
Sarah Newton 2018, Metal Vase
Frank Stella 2008, Michael Kolhaus Curtain

Continuing with sculptural forms I also encountered David Hammons Untitled (Night Train) 1989 and Untitled 2010. His interest in the utilitarian and disposable connects directly with my intentions to contribute to awareness raising about our throw away culture that spews our own debris back at us on the sea shore while retaining that which has been digested by and has trapped sea creatures. The circular shape and use of bottles in Untitled (Night Train) reinforced my path with Events Horizons. The black plastic taking prominence over underlying art in Untitled 2010 stood out and in my mind was questioning our global responsibilities and priorities (i.e. we must prioritise the plastic and other environmental concerns ‘over’ lesser priorities so that they (e.g. art) can have a world in which to continue to thrive).

David Hammons 1989,  Untitled (Night Train)
David Hammons 2010, Untitled

Lee Bontecou Untitled 1980-98 was the fourth American artist I discovered on this brief visit. With a beautiful mobile structure moving gracefully above my head I was transfixed. As the accompanying caption read the beholder could easily imagine it to be organic and/or manmade and attribute qualities only they perceived in imagination. I spent time thinking about my planetary concept for the current project and in my mind constructing a mobile of my images. If only I had more time to construct a mobile and if only I had the vision and expertise to turn beach debris into a rotating mysterious thing of beauty.

Lee Bontacue, Untitled 1980-98
Lee Bontacue, Untitled 1980-98

If I had to choose which of these pieces I would like to ‘live with’ in my home Lee Bontacue’s mobile would be the one. I could also imagine making blinds and curtains out of fabrics printed with Frank Stella’s colourful designs, given the right room to hang them. For a moment there I was clearly thinking too much inside my domestic  ‘box’, this being one perspective that needs to be put aside (but not ignored) in my project work which is intended to be made public in due course. I am rather belatedly realising that the mindset in making art to have ‘at home’ in contrast to displaying in public spaces can have a significant and possibly restrictive influence on creative drivers and endeavours.

My task now is to distill the thoughts arising form the impact of each of these artists and use the acquired knowledge in my project. One thing that is emerging is my leaning beyond the gallery wall and onto floors and ceilings as well. In an ideal world, expenses for a student project no problem, I would love to have each type of surface used with displays of debris and recycling in many forms.

CAMPBELL, Andrianna, NESIN, Kate, BLALOCK, Lucas & RICHARDSON, Terry.   2018. Frank Stella. Phaidon Contemporary Artists Series. London: Phaidon.

MoMA. 2018. ‘Museum of Modern Art’. Available at: https://www.moma.org/ [accessed 21/11/18].