Category Archives: Artist Interviews

When Context Takes the Game

Not wishing to be coy by attempting to interview myself, which seemed an impossibility to me, I asked my friend, colleague and art historian, Becky Huff Hunter, to interview me for This ‘Me’ of Mine. I have great respect for Becky’s insightful writing. She has made a career writing for art magazines like Art Papers, Sculpture and Artforum. She, in fact, is the person who encouraged me to write and so it comes back around.

Trans, (c)2011 Jane Boyer

Trans, (c)2011 Jane Boyer

BHH: What prompted you to explore questions of the self and context in your own work? Was it initially a practice-led or reading-led project, a response to personal circumstances, or something else?

JB: It was a mix of those things really.  Naturally, I am attracted to certain issues because of personal experience so the things I find interesting to read and which are meaningful for me are related to the things I’ve experienced and they are the things I feel compelled to explore.  When I first settled on the topic of self and context I had spent a significant amount of time studying late modernism but I was also grappling with post-modernist ideology and it just became evident to me there was a step missing between the two views of self – self which is interior and private and self which is exposed and public.  I thought the middle ground between those views would be a valuable thing to explore further, looking at the relationship between context and self and the dichotomy of our own inner and outer personas and how we manoeuver amongst those influences.

Also, my personal experience has been one of having to cope with or manoeuvre through circumstances and situations, often circumstances and situations that were imposed on me by others; my childhood was a constant coping with painful impositions.  As an adult, I have not always been able to pursue things as I would like because of limitations in my circumstances. I have had to find alternative ways to make things happen in order to achieve the things I wanted to achieve for myself.  I’ve also had to continually measure my own understanding of who I am as an individual with how others see me or against what was expected of me.  So the topic of self in relation to context is also a very personal one for me.

Enigma Texture 1, (c)2013 Jane Boyer

Enigma Texture 1, (c)2013 Jane Boyer

BHH: Could you give a little more detail on one or two of the artists or writers that exemplify these two poles of thought around the interior and exterior self?

JB: Well the first one that pops to mind is Gilles Deleuze and his book The Fold.  This work is the philosophical basis for the project.  In The Fold, Deleuze describes the world as filled with elements. He says individuals are a ‘concrescence’ of elements; something other than a connection or a conjunction, a ‘prehension’. He defines this ‘prehension’ as individual unity. He explains that everything carries what came before and what comes after, and so by degrees unites the world. The ‘vector’ (his word) of unification moves from the world to the perceiving subject (us) and so there is an oscillation between the public and the private; a constant unification of public and private which means we participate in our own becoming, to paraphrase Deleuze.[1]

Samuel Beckett’s Malloy, the protagonist, Jacques Moran, falls into madness through a change in context; the thin veil of socialization falls away when he leaves his normal surroundings and lives without structure, social contact, rules, social formalities. Moran is presented as an individual with specific idiosyncrasies, e.g. belligerent personality, bullying behaviour, a compulsive orderliness etc. These idiosyncrasies turn to madness with the loss of a social order and structure. He loses himself in time, he loses his sense of right and wrong, he loses personal restraint, and he feels the loss of his sense of self with the change of his context.  With this change of context, Moran loses his public self, the self which knows and adheres to the rules of proper conduct and falling into madness his inner self, a self of paranoia, surfaces. There is also the possibility that Moran is Malloy, his pre and post self as one unified whole which carries the residue of two or possibly many. This is related to Deluze’s concept of ‘prehension’ above.

We're no longer seeing, but reading, (c)2011 Jane Boyer

We’re no longer seeing, but reading, (c)2011 Jane Boyer

Frank Stella’s Die Fahne Hoch! (Flags on High!) – this painting inverts perception of what is ground and what is foreground. The unprimed canvas stripes which are actually the ground, appear to be in the foreground, as if they sit on top of a black ground. Likewise, the painted black stripes seem to be the ground when in fact they sit on top of the unprimed canvas. The title was also the official marching song of the Nazis which when considered in the context of This ‘Me’ of Mine, brings a sociological/psychological question of personal identity and group identity. Does the self define the group or the group define the self? I discovered recently there is a visual connection in one of the works in This ‘Me’ of Mine which is directly related to Nazis indoctrination and to this question, something I wasn’t aware of when I chose the work.

Avatar 3, (c)2013 Jane Boyer

Avatar 3, (c)2013 Jane Boyer

BHH: You’ve written that Aly Helyer’s work Strange Fruit was the starting point for conceptualizing This ‘Me’ of Mine. Did you see links between her practice and your own? How did your thoughts on the exhibition spread outwards from her piece?

JB: Initially, I was attracted aesthetically to her pieces.  I was smitten by the beauty of their abstraction, the simplicity of their form, the starkness of black and white, the complexity of the tension they presented – I wished I had made them. And as Aly continued with her presentation for the exhibition Extra-ordinary, where I originally saw these works, speaking about the personal difficulties she experienced when she made these works, there just was a profound yet vulnerable attachment to the images, which I saw as Aly’s presence in the work. This is something I personally relate to, yes. My work comes from my life experience, there’s no way for me to stop that, it’s not something I control, so I think I felt a connection to Aly’s work because of that. I think her pieces became a sort of anchor-point in that I wanted to bring in other work which shared that sense of vulnerability but in more tangible realistic terms. I wanted to balance the utter abstractness of her work with work which could be easily identifiable. I think without realizing it at the time, Aly’s work represented the unspeakable emotion, that deep seeded stuff none of us want to express, of the show premise and I instinctively felt I needed to counterbalance that. David Riley’s piece Bar EP Blues is another piece which I see as an expression of raw emotion but it is the kind of visible emotion we experience; if you like, it’s the emotion we can see pass over people’s faces. So while his piece is also abstract, it is easily readable as a more visible emotion. Right there is a contrast between emotion as an inner experience and as an outer presence.

Poof! (c)2010 Jane Boyer

Poof!, (c)2010 Jane Boyer

BHH: The title of your own work included in This Me of Mine is Poof! Its title and form allude to fleeting experience, a magician’s disappearing act. But the graphite clings defiantly to the gesso, as if it’s frozen in the act of disappearing. Its dark, scaly surface looks petrified or fossilized, but it also reminds me of the way a photograph indexically preserves long-gone experience. In your description of ‘Situated Self’, your online portfolio series which contains Poof!, you observe that “we each of us exist in time and perceive of our existence in the world.” Do you identify with my impression of Poof!? What, for you, is Poof’s relationship to time?

JB: Yes, I do identify with your impression, in so far as I realize it is the way most viewers see the work, and in many ways that is fine with me, I’m delighted people are amused by its humour.  However, there is a deeper meaning to Poof! which deals with existence, life and death, witness and the residue left in the aftermath.  The notions you mention of petrification and fossilization are applicable to things beyond natural science, this happens with emotions too.  This is at the heart of the meaning of Poof! The suggested dimensionality of space, the space evacuated by something once there, as in the magician’s act, also acts as a reference to dimensionality of meaning in two vantage points; there is the thing/person disappeared and the thing/person left behind to witness the disappearance.  The thing/person disappeared is gone in an instant, time and existence is extinguished. The thing/person which witnessed the disappearance is left with a residue of shock, a moment seared and scorched in memory and the rest of time is measured by this split second of disappearance; as you suggest an “indexical preservation of long-gone experience”. Time is the ultimate context. For me, the relationship to time in Poof! quite simply is the expression of the fragility of existence; it could end at any moment.  It is the moment when context takes the game.

[1] Deleuze, Gilles, The Fold, Athlone Press 1993, reprinted by Continuum Publishing 2001-10, p.88, “Everything prehends it antecedents and concomitants, and by degrees, prehends the world…[t]he vector of prehension moves from the world to the subject, from the prehended datum to the prehending one…thus the data of a prehension are public elements, while the subject [the prehending one] is the intimate or private element that expresses immediacy, individuality and novelty…[e]ach new prehension…is at once public and private, potential and real, participating in the becoming of another event and the subject of its own becoming.”

We have developed a fantastic library of Suggested Reading by the artists in This ‘Me’ of Mine. Follow the links here or visit the BOOKSHOP to see all the books suggested so far. We hope you will see something inspiring for your own interests. If a book is unavailable, try the link to Abe Books.

Jane’s suggested reading:

The Death and Return of the Author by Sean Burke

The Fold by Giles Deleuze

Art Since 1900 by Hal Foster,Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, & David Joselit

Perpetual Inventory by Rosalind Krauss

Painting edited by Terry Myers

The Art of Richard Diebenkorn by Jane Livingston

Cy Twombly Cycles & Seasons edited by Nicholas Serota

September: Gerhard Richter by Robert Storr

Culture in the Age of Three Worlds by Michael Denning

Tractatus Locico Philosophicus by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Difference and Repetition by Gilles Deleuze

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare by William Shakespeare

Three Novels by Samuel Beckett

The Wasteland, Prufrock & Other Poems by T.S. Eliot

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Joining A Conversation Well Underway

Untitled 2008, (c) Darren Nixon

Untitled 2008, (c)2008 Darren Nixon

Darren’s work fascinates me. The unresolved quality in the narrative of his work presents the powerful reality of not knowing. The individuals in Darren’s paintings often seem to not know where they are, which naturally makes us ask, ‘what’s going on?’ There is enough information for us to make sense of the scene, but not enough to give us an understanding of the narrative. We have recognition but not understanding and this in turn nullifies the recognition. I’ve rarely come across this kind of sensation when looking at art. Darren told me a tale about one of his paintings of two figures engulfed at midriff in a stream of flowing golden blob. When one viewer became insistent on knowing what the figures were doing, Darren’s reply was, “they’re not really there.” He told me it was a comment borne out of a bit of frustration at someone who just refused to accept the fact that the painting wouldn’t tell him everything he wanted to know about it.

Brilliant, and exactly the point.

Jane Boyer: In your artist statement you say, “I paint despite (or perhaps because of) my conviction that it doesn’t make sense to paint.’” That’s a compelling statement; can you explain what you mean?

Yellow Coat, (c)2013 Darren Nixon

Yellow Coat, (c)2013 Darren Nixon

Darren Nixon: Although painting is currently enjoying a small renaissance, you still feel, as painter the need to defend your decision to paint. When I think about why I paint, it strikes me that many of the reasons why don’t seem to make sense in the world of contemporary art; they are the very reasons why I love doing so. The weight of history which comes attached to painting – the fact that each painting has to come to terms with just being a painting following all the other paintings which have come before – just adds to its richness for me. As someone who is interested in the layers of meaning which come attached to any image, I love the fact that any time I start a painting it feels like joining a conversation which is already well under way.

JB: “The faces which have recently found their way into my work are generally background figures in newspaper images, people who seem somehow disconnected and remote from the events unfolding in the photograph as a whole. I love the idea that they are looking at or thinking about something wholly unconnected from the scene which has caused their appearance in today’s paper.” This statement from your recent artist statement suggests an even further disconnected engagement with the ‘conversation’; in that you’re interested in figures that are disengaged from their context. As voyeur/painter for these scenes, what is in that off-kilter placement of attention that intrigues you?

Untitled 1001, (c)2013 Darren Nixon

Untitled 1001, (c)2013 Darren Nixon

DN: There are several reasons, I think, that these faces interest me: Firstly I just like imagining what is going through that person’s head. When I was younger I remember it completely blowing my mind when I first realised that every person I walked past in the street every day was as much of a person as me, with at least as many thoughts in their heads as I had. I suppose this is just an extension of that kind of thinking – I love the thought that each person in every photo in every newspaper has just as much interesting stuff going on in their lives as the individual who is the focus of the story. The impossibility of knowing what is going on in that person’s head at that moment also reminds me of the difficulty of meaningfully conveying any complex idea using any kind of imagery.

JB: These notions of diverted attention also suggest we’re only outwardly engaged, but underneath it all we are being impelled by a sense of fascination. Do you think this leads to isolation or an enriched reality?

Young Prince, (c)2013 Darren Nixon

Young Prince, (c)2013 Darren Nixon

DN: One of the reasons I source mainly from newspaper, television and internet imagery is because the way we interact with these media shapes so many of our opinions about the world around us. Most of what I know about the world has been drawn in a fairly disjointed and fragmentary fashion from this huge, seemingly ever present sea of information. The sheer amount of available knowledge is so overwhelming that I end up feeling always frustrated that I know nothing about anything. Not knowing what I should be spending my time getting to know, I end up with a constant sense of only ever partially understanding even the most important current and historical events. I am impelled by a great fascination but end up mostly confused about which direction to allow my fascination to lead me in the time I have.

Although partial understanding can be frustrating and isolating, it does carry its own qualities. As events become jumbled and confused in our minds a kind of magical haze is thrown over everything. We start to create our own narratives, filling in the gaps between what we pick up from various sources with any number of unreliable memories and opinions. In a sense this is what I invite the viewer to do when they look at my paintings. The background figures I mentioned earlier, who seem disconnected from the scene of the photo in which they appear are a reminder of that ever present sense that there is always something just as interesting and ready to steal your attention just off camera from what you are focusing on. My work sometimes becomes a celebration of the joy of not knowing and the possibilities not knowing can offer you.

Untitled 30511, (c)2011 Darren Nixon

Untitled 30511, (c)2011 Darren Nixon

JB: Tell us about your painting, Untitled – 300511. The removal of the children from their class surroundings highlights their insecurities, nervousness and vulnerability. There seems to be no comfort by being part of the group.

DN: Untitled – 300511 originally came from my love of Marlene Dumas’ painting The Teacher (sub a) and my own curiosity to see if I could pull off a painting of a large group in the same manner. Like most of the paintings I am happiest with, much of what makes this piece work comes from trying to react to a combination of happy accidents and frustrating obstacles. The ghostly figures were originally intended to be the first layer in a much deeper more vibrant final composition, closer to the Dumas piece, but I found something I didn’t want to lose in the first layer by adding further layers.

Newspaper D, (c)2013 Darren Nixon

Newspaper D, (c)2013 Darren Nixon

JB: Do you think the fragmentary and disjointed nature of our information sources is having an effect on our identity and how we perceive ourselves in relation to it?

DN: I don’t really feel like I have any definitive answers to a lot of the questions I think about whilst painting. Whilst these are questions which obviously intrigue me, I am more interested in the idea that people who look at my paintings think about some of these questions in their own terms. In a way I am more interested in my work staying at the questions stage and looking at the possibilities which are opened when you start to ask questions. The idea of finding answers and reaching conclusions isn’t one which interests me so much.

We have developed a fantastic library of Suggested Reading by the artists in This ‘Me’ of Mine. Follow the links here or visit the BOOKSHOP to see all the books suggested so far. We hope you will see something inspiring for your own interests. If a book is unavailable, try the link to Abe Books.

Darren’s suggested reading:

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
The Castle by franz kafka
The Garden Party and Other Stories by Kathryn Mansfield
Labyrinths and the short story Blue Tigers by Jorge Luis Borges
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Cathedral by Raymond Carver
The Collected Stories by Ernest Hemingway
Photography a Critical Introduction edited by Liz Wells
Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Frank Sinatra Has a Cold: and Other Essays by Gay Talese

Jane’s suggestions:

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Ulysses by James Joyce

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Speak Me Many Times

The Pillow, (c)2012 Hayley Harrison

The Pillow, (c)2012 Hayley Harrison, oil on panel

Hayley’s work whispers. But it is not the moist whisper of seduction, more the parched whisper of trauma; a trauma long past and healed but with a residue perpetually imprinted on time. Her biographical description is right, it’s “the bits that are not said” which give impact to Hayley’s paintings. The beauty of this is the mingled turning away from and facing truth full on. The equal measure she affords these two qualities brings the unspeakable to life in her work.

Jane Boyer: Your artist biography says an interesting thing, “Hayley is a lover of objects and stories, not necessarily in the historical sense but the bits that are not said. She is drawn to the enchantment of ‘place’, and the often cold reality of that enchantment.” What lies behind the shroud of the unsaid and what is the cold reality of enchantment?

Bathroom, (c)2011 Hayley Harrison

Bathroom, (c)2011 Hayley Harrison, oil on panel

Hayley Harrison: I guess loss of some kind, be it things or people around us, or parts of ourselves. There’s probably a bit of taboo and the banal mixed in there as well. I think alongside, or instead of the unsaid there is the intolerable too, in the sense that the unspeakable belongs to the storyteller and the intolerable to the listener; the burden and the unburdening.

JB: Your artist statement also says, “She is interested in how we recognise ourselves in the quiet moments that surround objects and place.” Do you feel it is the quietness in ourselves which allows this recognition or do you feel it is entering the stillness of a place that causes a reflection in which we then recognize ourselves? In other words, do the quiet moments come from the internal or the external?

Chair, (c)2010 Hayley Harrison

Chair, (c)2010 Hayley Harrison, oil on panel

HH: I think we have to be in the ‘right’ place both internally and externally and that’s when a conversation occurs. For me self-recognition through the external is experienced in its ‘purest’ form when we are here, now, rather than through our pasts or futures.  We can be taken off guard by something, something perhaps poetic that throws us into the present. Whatever that something is, we just have to come into relationship with it. When we experience one of these rare conversations between the internal and external I believe we come back to ourselves, much like Jacques Lacan’s famous discourse with the sardine can. Ultimately within these moments we are looking into a mirror.

JB: Tell us about your painting, Her. Artist and writer, Paul O’Kane, commented on the breathless quality of the painting when the expectation is one of joy, exuberance and a carefree breeziness. What were you exploring in the subject?

Her (c)2011 Hayley Harrison

Her (c)2011 Hayley Harrison, oil on canvas

HH: Her is a representation of a younger self. I was giving voice to her experiences. A windmill’s movement is dependent on the environment around it. I am interested in sub-personalities or even parts of ourselves we have split off from. Our acknowledgement and our changing relationship to them, how they grow or are suffocated by other sub-personalities or other people.

JB: There is a general stillness in your paintings which feels sometimes like holding your breathe. Are you looking for and exploring this quality of tension in the spaces and objects you choose to paint or is it a result of something else going on in your work?

HH: I like your reference to the holding of breathe. Holding our breath is a way of escaping the present moment. I am drawn to the moments that allude to the appearance of calm and stillness, when in actual fact disaster or trauma may have just occurred and this stillness may be a surrendering of some kind. Within the stillness I hope to imply things are not as they should be or as they seem.

Familiar, (c)2012 Hayley Harrison

Familiar, (c)2012 Hayley Harrison, oil on panel

JB: It’s interesting you mention ‘the unspeakable’, I’ve been doing my own explorations into the unspeakable, something that Jacques Ranciere discusses in The Future of the Image as expressible in writing as a string of perceptions which connect the storyteller to reality moment by moment. He suggests this stripped bare and raw expression is a way to get at or around what is so horrific it can’t be spoken. Do your paintings function in a similar way, meaning a focus on what is perceived in the moments of a situation? Is this a way into a larger story for you?

HH: Perhaps all these moments are the same moment. In the sense that the moment I choose to illustrate is a cross-section of a general experience. There is also a continuous balancing act of the needs of the work, the viewer and me. The unspoken tends to have an insatiable hunger to it. For this reason I think there is a need for the unspoken to be spoken many times.

We have developed a fantastic library of Suggested Reading by the artists in This ‘Me’ of Mine. Follow the links here or visit the BOOKSHOP to see all the books suggested so far. We hope you will see something inspiring for your own interests. If a book is unavailable, try the link to Abe Books.

Hayley’s suggested reading:

What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl by Grayson Perry and Wendy Jones
Totem and Taboo (Animism, Magic and the Omnipotence of Thoughts) by Sigmund Freud
Life: A Users Manual by George Perec

Jane’s additions:

The Future of the Image by Jacques Ranciere
The Address Book by Sophie Calle

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A Perfect Wrapper

Transition Gallery LogoCathy Lomax runs Transition Gallery, a Hackney Gallery 10+ years in establishment, and she is the publisher of Garageland and Arty magazines in addition to being a full time artist. She is fully immersed in the contemporary art world in London. These many strands are as much a part of her practice as painting and indeed, much of her personal and artistic sensibility is visible in each of these endeavours. This shift to multiple practices is common in contemporary culture now, but the source and intensity of personal experience, observation and perception is no closer to exposure.

Sixteen Most Beautiful Men (8 left profiles), 2012 Cathy Lomax

Sixteen Most Beautiful Men (8 left profiles), (c)2012 Cathy Lomax

Jane Boyer: Your work often deals with pop idols (Sixteen Most Beautiful Men, Dead Filmstars) and iconic film imagery (Film Diary, The Count of Monte Cristo). Curiously though, it’s not pop culture which is your subject, but the fascination, escapism, hero-worship and fan-love we’ve all experienced. What fascinates you about our psychological propensity to fascination and ‘longing for something unobtainable’?

Elizabeth, (c)2011 Cathy Lomax

Elizabeth, (c)2011 Cathy Lomax

Cathy Lomax: I think that pop culture in general is just a wrapper for supplying the things that the market demands – i.e. what we want. These things do not change much; they are excitement, desire, escapism etc. So with this in mind I let my self lead the direction of my work by following what it is that I am drawn to. I do not like to think that I am in any kind of elevated position in my commentary on my subjects; I am in and amongst the subject matter. Looking deeper into what it is I am interested and fascinated by, it is apparent it is something that I do not actually want but rather that it is something I can think about and live out in my head – probably because this is the safest way to do it. This is what led me to the Film Diary as film for most people is the most intense way to experience other lives and worlds.

JB: Tell us more about your piece, Glass Menagerie. Tennessee William’s play, The Glass Menagerie, which is the inspiration for your piece, looks at many of these issues of longing, fragility and nostalgia, but also issues of control, desire and a fervent denial of reality. What were you exploring in your work?

Glass Menagerie, (c)2011 Cathy Lomax

Glass Menagerie, (c)2011 Cathy Lomax

CL: It is quite a hard piece to talk about as it has a very fragmentary meaning. I am a big fan of Tennessee Williams’ work generally and always take the chance to see his plays when they are being performed. Val Xavier in Tennessee William’s ‘Orpheus Descending’ says ‘No body ever gets to know no body! We’re all of us sentenced to solitary confinement inside our own skins for life!’ – which just seems to contain so much truth. My Glass Menagerie piece is full of personal references and connections which mean nothing to anyone else but hopefully make the work into something that has a certain poignancy. It is formed from a collection of glass animals which I sourced from eBay. These animals are doppelgängers of a set one of my relatives had and I remember admiring them as a child but not being able to touch them.

JB: In your interview with Ayla Lepine, curator for Past in Present at the Courtauld Institute last year, you and she discuss the problem with nostalgia as ‘an alienation from the present’. You say,“I prefer the idea of sensucht, a German term that is more associated with a unique feeling you might get about people, places or events that can be almost impossible to communicate to anyone else – like how a favourite song makes you feel.”  Is it the uniqueness of the feeling or the fact that it is incommunicable which appeals to you?

the Way He Liked Me to Look, (C)2011 Cathy Lomax

the Way He Liked Me to Look, (C)2011 Cathy Lomax

CL: It is the feeling of Sensucht itself that I am attracted to (as everyone probably is). It is about finding something or someone that you feel something special for – it could be described as a-butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling. Often if you communicate this the specialness disappears, this makes trying to produce art about it very difficult as it is such a personal, delicate concept. So I make work about things that I feel something for and don’t enforce my feelings about them or pin things down too precisely. I am hoping to leave an openness – I do not want to force my feelings or interpretation about the imagery. I aim to imbibe the work with a contemplative quality.

JB: In your Arty 21 article, Dark, there is a quote by C.S. Lewis from his essay, The Weight of Glory, “I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you – the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence… the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something which has never actually appeared in our experience”. Do you think this Sensucht feeling is under siege by the phenomenon of social media communications with the public sharing aspect of it? It seems to me the secret feeling of Senucht is related to another time and to discrete ways of communication – a time when we still whispered. Might it become extinct with new ways of communicating?

Muslin, (c)2008 Cathy Lomax

Muslin, (c)2008 Cathy Lomax

CL: I think it is the case that social media challenges the specialness of Sensucht if only by speeding up the time it takes to find out every bit of info and every little nuance about a person, song, film , event etc. However it does also enhance the specialness in some ways by creating communities of like-minded people who run blogs or write fan fiction. I realise that this changes the Sensucht connection a little as the special connection becomes a shared secret but it can still be a secret from the outside world.

We have developed a fantastic library of Suggested Reading by the artists in This ‘Me’ of Mine. Follow the links here or visit the Bookshop to see all the books suggested so far. We hope you will see something inspiring for your own interests. If a book is unavailable, try the link to Abe Books.

Cathy’s suggested reading:

England is Mine by Michael Bracewell
Stars by Richard Dyer
Blonde by Carol Joyce Oates
Mystery Train by Greil Marcus
From the Beast to the Blonde by Marina Warner
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Austerlitz by WG Sebald
Cries Unheard by Gitta Sereny
Last Train to Memphis by Peter Guralinick
The Women we Wanted to Look Like by Brigid Keenan
The Drawings of Holbein in the Collection of His Majesty the King at Windsor Castle by KT Parker, Phaidon Press, 1945
The Andy Warhol Diaries edited by Pat Hackett
Visual and Other Pleasures by Laura Mulvey

Cathy also has a suggested film list:

Letter From an Unknown Woman (Max Ophuls, 1948)
The Pirate (Vincente Minnelli, 1948)
The Misfits (John Huston, 1961)
Twilight (Catherine Hardwicke, 2008)
The Fugitive Kind (Sidney Lumet, 1960)
King Creole (Michael Curtiz, 1958)
Witchfinder General (Michael Reeves, 1968)
American Gigolo (Paul Schrader, 1980)
Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (Todd Haynes, 1988)
A Royal Affair (Nikolaj Arcel, 2012)
Fishtank (Andrea Arnold, 2009)
Gone to Earth (Powell & Pressburger, 1950)
L’Atalante (Jean Vigo, 1934)
Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011)
Stromboli (Roberto Rossellini, 1950)

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False Together

APT PV 14 Mar 2013, photo by Rosie Hervey

Left: Poof! (c)2010 Jane Boyer Right: Whilst I Breathe, I Hope (c)2011 Edd Pearman. View of exhibition opening, 14 March 2013

When I first saw Edd’s piece, Whilst I Breathe, I Hope, a shiver went down my spine. I knew this child and I knew the kind of world he/she inhabited – it was not a nice place. It was a place of mania, fantasy, denial and unreality. It was a place where everything was rosy and no one could see beyond the rims of their rose-tinted glasses, and if forced to, a belligerent, stubborn and an aggressive broiling silence set in. It was the place where I grew up. Admittedly, that is my own reading of Edd’s work, but I was interested to hear Edd’s description of Whilst I Breathe, I Hope as “a Disneyesque, hyper real child-like happiness of senseless hope…” I know what he means; I come from the land of Disney.

Jane Boyer: Your piece Whilst I Breathe, I Hope, on face value communicates hope and a positive outlook.  However, looking deeper, it suggests a positiveness which borders on mania and presents a conformity which denies the acceptance of reality; a blinkered view which would become violent if challenged. What message is in the work for you?

Edd Pearman: A Disneyesque, hyper real child-like happiness of senseless hope, wonderment and joy, beautifully naive and hopelessly unaware of the impending reality of the journey to adulthood that awaits.

Jesus, We Are All Alone, (c)2011 Edd Pearman

Jesus, We Are All Alone, (c)2011 Edd Pearman

JB: Can you describe the process in creating your pieces?  Your work uses digital technology but they are very painterly.  What is behind that relationship of paint and the digital and how do you choose your imagery?

EP: My process has always begun with collage.  I am interested in taking elements from found images or my original photographs and re-contextualising them. The imagery that I use is often figurative because a key interest of mine is the human emotional state.  Lately I’ve been using Photoshop to repaint my collages, to homogenise the sometimes eclectic imagery.   I feel that a painted surface offers its own context; it is a suggestive format, one that allows people to read the artwork in a certain way.  I am recreating the medium of paint as a motif in itself.  I am not a painter, however, these are paintings.  I have become an adept computer user partly because in the real world I am not a dextrous artist.

Omnia Mors Aequat (Death equals all things), Edd Pearman

Omnia Mors Aequat (Death equals all things), Edd Pearman

JB: What have been some of the main influences on your work?

EP: Duality has a strong influence throughout my work, each work maintains a two-fold characteristic in its content i.e. Humour and horror, life and death, hope and despair.  All initially appear to embody one intention, yet possess in equal measure, opposite qualities.

JB: Your “works utilize uniforms from national organizations as reference; for example, St. John’s Ambulance, Boys Scouts, Salvation Army etc. Through [the] depiction of them as mostly solitary figures outside of their individual institutional contexts one sees the disbanded loners as suddenly melancholy, human and vulnerable.  In other pieces, [you]  subvert the often-celebrated cool precision that uniforms tend to imply in order to suggest the other facets associated with them, chaotic, brutal or lethal.”  This quote from your artist statement suggests that you are ‘subverting’, to use your word, the power, strength and status represented by uniforms as well as the glamour and sex appeal associated with uniforms and those who wear them.  What does a uniform represent for you?

Death To Me, Death To Everyone, (c)2008 Edd Pearman

Death To Me, Death To Everyone, (c)2008 Edd Pearman

EP: Uniforms are dehumanising.  All efforts to look individual are squashed, psychologically removing one’s identity in favour of a unified group, at once protecting the individual amongst a sea of sameness but also providing one’s enemies with one huge target.   Like a flock of birds or a school of fish, there is safety in numbers, but one is not safe.  My purpose is to bring the focus back onto the individual within the group, and what a lonely situation it is to be in.

JB: Isolation is a major theme in your work, are we more isolated now or less so? Do you feel we experience a different kind of isolation?

EP: Our networks have been able to grow to unprecedented levels.  We can send a message which will reach more people than we ever imagined.  Society has gone viral. This all leads to a false sense of togetherness.  We know so many yet can rely on so few.

I’ve asked the artists to share a list of books they find informative for their practice. Follow the links here or visit the Bookshop to see all the books suggested so far. We hope you will see something inspiring for your own interests. Your book purchase made through This ‘Me’ of Mine will help raise funds for the project.

Edd’s suggested reading:
Chuck Palahnuik, short story ‘Exodus’ from Haunted
Deep Water (2006) Documentry film by Lousie Osmond & Jerry Rothwell

Jane’s additions:
Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord
Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph edited by Doon Arbus & Marvin Israel

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Family Romances

British & Foreign Beetles ©2004 Annabel Dover

British & Foreign Beetles, ©2004 Annabel Dover, watercolour

‘Scientific observation and tender girlish enthusiasm’ is a curious mix of what seems to be diametrically opposed concepts and practices, but this description by Annabel of her own work is absolutely spot on. Not only does this describe her work but it also suggests there may be another way of approaching observation which includes fascination, delicacy and empathy; a gentle approach to observing the world which allows tenderness to remain, and to remain on equal footing with hard fact. Her works are as delicate as antique Venetian blown glass, and as fragile. Once in her gaze, the objects she works with are given to a relentless and crushing scrutiny; any individual subjected to this kind of probing would soon buckle under the intensity. Innately understanding this, Annabel satisfies herself with observing their objects; a kinder, gentler proposition but one no less penetrating into the soul by Annabel’s eye.

Jane Boyer: On your website you describe yourself as constantly being “drawn to objects and the invisible stories that surround them; [t]hrough their subtle representation…exploring their power as intercessionary agents that allow socially acceptable emotional expression. The work presents itself as a complex mixture of scientific observation and tender girlish enthusiasm which often belies their history.”  That is a wonderful compendium of mystery, fact and fascination.  Do they share equal weight in your explorations?

Christening Gown Ayrshire ©2002 Annabel Dover

Christening Gown Ayrshire, ©2002 Annabel Dover, oil on board

Annabel Dover: I really enjoyed the show ‘Life or Theatre’ by Charlotte Salomans. It showed a very personal, fabulous fantasy representation of her life.

My upbringing was constructed from lies and my parents indulged in their own personal dramas. The truth was impossible to decipher and the objects that surrounded my sisters and I were often the only witnesses to ludicrous acts of fantasy and violence – the Freemason’s case with a bag of un-hewn rocks, a sign of dishonour; the naval coat with the buttons ripped off, indicators of an affair that my father had with a Naval officer; the college gown of my sisters’ father, an alcoholic professor; the love letters of his father, Canon for the BBC, to his fiancé; the jewellery that represented both my mother’s and my grandmother’s love affairs. These and many other objects highlighted the traumas and the breaks in human relationships that made up the atmosphere of my upbringing. The stories told to me by my family unravelled with the discovery of these indiscreet objects.

The personal stories people tell are fascinating to me, they announce who they would like to be and often contrast with how others might perceive them to actually be.

Water Garden ©2012 Annabel Dover

Water Garden, ©2012 Annabel Dover, water, plants, moss, glass dome

JB: A few years ago Anna White photographed your studio over the course of a year, she asked you to take your own photographs of your daily life and write down thoughts about your images. She included one of these texts and your accompanying photograph on her website. What strikes me is the association you make between the history of the rose bed outside your studio window and your own life history through the rose in the image. Association is a powerful tool for memory, can you explain some of the ways you use association in your work?

AD: I really love it when people communicate with me and I really felt this after the MA follow on show at Central St Martins. Lots of people came up to me and shared their stories. I had made a self-lit cubicle of roughly vitruvian proportions with a theatre blackout curtain and 365 small paintings inside. The images were of family photographs and things I had collected when I worked for an Antique dealer doing house clearances. I was touched by how many people felt a connection with images of other people’s belongings.

Iris' Stocking ©2011 Annabel Dover

Iris’ Stocking, ©2011 Annabel Dover, cyanotype

JB: Your piece, Iris’ Stocking, is a life-size cyanotype of a woman’s seamed stocking from the 40’s. This is about all that can be gleaned from looking at the work, but the addition of the story behind this stocking gives an electrifying significance to the piece. Can you tell us more about the work, the stockings and the significance it all has for you?

AD: My grandmother kept a pair or gossamer thin silk stockings in a drawer along with a lipstick and a handkerchief ready for her husband’s return from the war. He never did return and was pronounced missing presumed dead. She kept these hidden and locked in her bureau and was found along with a photo of her husband in her wallet, after she died. She had remarried a horrible bully, my grandfather.

JB: Carol Mavor has written a beautiful fairy tale of your life, called Like Weeds.  Much of your work deals with the stories attached to objects, or more specifically, the stories people tell of their objects. Do you think of these stories people tell as fairy tales of a sort? Can you describe or define the boundary between real life experience and when the experience becomes a story?

St. Anthony & Putti ©2010 Annabel Dover

St. Anthony & Putti, ©2010 Annabel Dover, silverpoint

AD: I think they are. I think they change each time we tell them. My stepfather has dementia and no longer knows who I am. He was a POW in WWII and now when he talks about his time there it’s based on the plot of The Great Escape. I think we have always been characters in our own fairy tale. The essay Family Romances, [by Freud], talks about this:

“The child’s imagination becomes engaged in the task of getting free from the parents of whom he now has a low opinion and of replacing them by others, who, as a rule, are of higher social standing. He will make use in this connection of any opportune coincidences from his actual experience, such as his becoming acquainted with the Lord of the Manor or some landed proprietor if he lives in the country or with some member of the aristocracy if he lives in town. Chance occurrences of this kind arouse the child’s envy, which finds expression in a phantasy in which both his parents are replaced by others of better birth.”[1]

[1] Freud, S. (1909). Family Romances. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume IX (1906-1908): Jensen’s ‘Gradiva’ and Other Works, 235

I’ve asked the artists to share a list of books they find informative for their practice. Follow the links here or visit the Bookshop to see all the books suggested so far. We hope you will see something inspiring for your own interests. Your book purchase made through This ‘Me’ of Mine will help raise funds for the project.

Annabel’s suggested reading:

Archaeology of Knowledge by Michel Foucoult

Art and Artifact by James Putnam

Biographical Objects by Janet Hoskins

Burning with Desire by Geoffrey Batchen

Charles Darwin and Victorian Visual Culture by Jonathan Smith

Reading Boyishly by Carol Mavor

The Archive edited by Charles Merewether

The Emancipated Spectator by Jacques Rancière

The Familial Gaze by Marianne Hirsch

The Politics of Focus by Lindsay Smith

Jane’s additions:

Grimm’s Fairy Tales

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

If you enjoyed this interview, please follow This ‘Me’ of Mine by clicking the ‘follow’ button below.  You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook, those links are also below.  Pop in and see the great work our partners are doing too! Click on the logos below to go to their sites.

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Memory Surfaces

[Imprint] Soft_Terrain (inverted), 2012 Sandra Crisp

[Imprint] Soft_Terrain (inverted), © 2012 Sandra Crisp, Ink Jet Print

Sandra’s art is some of the most visually complex work I have ever seen; every time I see her work I am amazed all over again. She works with both static and moving images, curiously the boundary between what is static and what is moving seems to fade away; bits of data are set in motion and bits of life are captured – one easily becomes the other in her hands. In this interview we talk about the barrage of media, memory, continuity and the archive. Is stream of consciousness a natural state equal in magnitude to outside media overload? I think so after talking with Sandra.

(NB: click on any of Sandra’s images to zoom into more detail).

Jane Boyer: You’ve mentioned that your process is slow and you engage this purposefully to counter the invasive speed of media information.  Is this engagement with slowness a kind of self-imposed isolation or is it an immersion?  Do either help counter the barrage of media?

Sandra Crisp: I think that my approach does form a kind of immersion really, it is key to my working process which evolves gradually over time. People have often commented that the work is very complex. It requests an action of slowing down from within to take in the density of detail. I am not sure that I can claim that this slows down the barrage out there, but the intention is definitely to provide a sense of contemplation or slowing down – a counter action.

Pancake Ice (cluster), 2012 Sandra Crisp

Pancake Ice (cluster), © 2012 Sandra Crisp, Ink Jet Print

When I began working digitally just over ten years ago, there seemed to be a general idea in the area of fine art that working within this medium was somehow faster or easier, that the results are impersonal or detached. In fact, most off-the-shelf software is marketed to perform industry image or film editing tasks ever faster and therefore more economically. Each new software update offers an almost obsessive increased speed factor as a main selling point; I still really enjoy the challenge of using out-of-date software versions to address this issue of built in obsolescence. The work is not really about using the latest technology more about using what is around me and readily available, continuing the idea of digital bricolage in my practice.

JB: It strikes me in looking at your Work-in-Progress posts, the notes you make are very intimate much like notes in a studio notebook intended for the artist’s eyes only, yet you choose to make them public.  What is behind the removal of this boundary between private and public and why have you chosen to do it with such a complex mode as stream of consciousness thinking about your working process?

SC: My practice largely revolves around process, so I have approached the blog as I would any other new process; testing it out, trying to explore its form from a fresh angle. From a practice point of view, I am really interested in whether doing these regular informal updates will take the work itself in new directions, becoming entwined with the creative process itself or remain as a diary or record. For me, a stream of consciousness is not a complex approach at all as this is exactly how I work, by holding on to different ideas and developing them through thought process and memory, aided by digital technology and the archive, until connections evolve between previously unrelated elements. The blog format does not have to follow a traditional written literary or academic structure with sentences, punctuation, line and paragraphs, and have any a definite start and end point; it can be open ended, more like an open dialogue and that suits my way of working really well.

Diagram (artificial tree), 2010 Sandra Crisp

Diagram (artificial tree), © 2010 Sandra Crisp, Ink Jet Print

JB: Your own technique of collecting pieces of information presents a ‘compossible’ world, which you relate to personal memory, your own continuity. What is behind your work ‘The Bigger Picture’?

SC: ‘The Bigger Picture’ uses multiple thumbnail visuals found online and scanned media visuals  arranged within a grid formation and contact-sheet format; visuals are continually erased and reworked until the work hovers upon the boundary of disintegration and erasure: Information reduced to a near-abstract mosaic.  Similar to other works in the same series, the image addresses meaning, or loss of this; traces of figures and objects are just discernible but their exact origins or source has become blurred. A narrative seems to be present, but is totally fragmented. The title of the work – ‘The Bigger Picture’ is asking the viewer to stand back and look at the overall context- to see the bigger picture and question the continual everyday bombardment of information; that was the idea anyway.

The Bigger Picture, 2010 sandra Crisp

The Bigger Picture, © 2010 Sandra Crisp, Ink Jet Print

JB: “Images with their origins in the mass media become ingrained in memory – attached to other bits of personal information, ideas and concepts:  A cyclical process of internalising information from ‘out there’, through my own thinking space and then releasing it outwards again…. Collecting, collating, making sense and discovering what is meaningful.” This is an interesting statement on influence from your portfolio website.  Do you think the influence of mass media is changing the way we perceive?  Do we perceive beyond our own senses; perception as amalgamation rather than perception as sensory?

SC: I think that this is undoubtedly true; we do not witness this entire media as passive bystanders by looking in from the outside. Popular culture, the media, and more recently the proliferation of communication media surround us, influencing how we navigate our world. Perception may be altered through both amalgamation over time and also via direct sensory input or experience, we know that we are operating within electronic networks but I don’t think anybody actually sits down and thinks about that directly!

Soft Terrain, © 2011 Sandra Crisp

Soft Terrain, © 2011 Sandra Crisp, Ink Jet Print

JB: Do you feel this transience of information means we are beginning to construct our memories, in the sense of filling in the blanks, and does the archive present a structure to do this? Do you agree with many emerging artists that memory cannot be trusted?

SC: Maybe this is why Facebook as a form of vast public archive/database is so popular – by uploading personal photographs and information we are constructing memory, using it as a way of editing and ascertaining what is important; filling in the blanks. So yes, I think that the archive does offer a structure for this. I often think of my work, both still and moving images as memory surfaces particularly when I am working with pixels on screen. There, transient and borrowed information is anchored and reconfigured until new meanings are formed; a process of filtering the digital until it fuses with my own memory and associations.  Recollection and memory is affected by so many different inputs and stimuli, therefore, in this data driven age where the information we absorbs is transient and in continual flux it would seems that memory can be trusted ever less.

I’ve asked the artists to share a list of books they find informative for their practice. Follow the links here or visit the Bookshop to see all the books suggested so far. We hope you will see something inspiring for your own interests. Your book purchase made through This ‘Me’ of Mine will help raise funds for the project.

Sandra’s suggested reading:

Ai Weiwei Speaks with Hans Ulrich Obrist by Hans Ulrich Obrist & Ai WeiWei
The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit by Sherry Turkle
Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle
The Hidden Connections: A Science for Sustainable living by Fritjof Capra
O.M. Ungers: Morphologies, City Metaphors by O.M. Ungers
Chance (Documents of Contemporary Art) Whitechapel Art Gallery edited by Margaret Iverson
Digital Art (World of Art) by Christiane Paul
Robert Smithson: Spiral Jetty edited by Lynne Cooke
Atlas of Cyberspace by Martin Dodge & Rob Kitchin

Jane’s Additions:

Terror and the Sublime in Art and Critical Theory: from Auschwitz to Hiroshima to September 11 and Beyond by Gene Ray
New Media in Late 20th Century Art by Michael Rush

If you enjoyed this interview, please follow This ‘Me’ of Mine by clicking the ‘follow’ button below.  You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook, those links are also below.  Pop in and see the great work our partners are doing too! Click on the logos below to go to their sites.

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What Are You Prepared to Give in Exchange?

I Don't Suppose I'll Ever Go There, by Kate Murdoch

I Don’t Suppose I’ll Ever Go There, ©2011 Kate Murdoch

Kate’s work is a delicate balance of position, association, meaning and value – not necessarily in that order or with the usual expectations.  That is the beauty of Kate’s work; she presents slights which are out-of-joint and off-kilter familiarity which causes profound questioning of assumptions.  What you think you know is not what you knew and as a result memory slides sideways.

Jane Boyer: Tell us about the significance of memory for you and what role it plays in your artwork.

Kate Murdoch: At the heart of my work is an unravelling of memories; the desire to make sense of and preserve certain aspects of the past are a driving force behind it. I work mostly with found objects and the raw material for my artwork comes primarily from the vast collection I’ve accumulated over the years; both from my own life and from those of others. I use this vast mass of memorabilia to tease out and present my memories of childhood and family relationships, conscious of the distorted effect that time can have on real, authentic memory. I’m fascinated by what the objects we surround ourselves with say about us; steeped in social and political history they are a part of our identity, providing us with a sense of self and revealing our connections to the wider world.

JB: In your artist statement you say your practice is ‘a process of selection

Birdcage by Kate Murdoch

Birdcage, ©2009 Kate Murdoch

where you place familiar objects in an unfamiliar environment in order to challenge the viewer’s response’.  What about your own response, what is challenged for you when you reinterpret an object and change the context and significance?  Do you surprise yourself?

KM:  I think my piece Birdcage demonstrates how the placing of familiar objects in an unfamiliar environment can challenge both my own and an audience’s response to it. Though the initial placing of the brass bells within a cage was something I remember doing quite subconsciously, I was surprised retrospectively by the impact of doing so. The ‘ladies’ in the home of my Scottish aunt appealed to me very much as a child. They exuded an air of decency and femininity.  Their crinoline dresses and neat, sash-tied bonnets called to mind rather beautiful, Scarlett O’Hara kind of heroines – pretty and privileged. But there was a darker side as we know and placing these female figurines in a cage, albeit unconsciously, speaks volumes I think about the hidden aspects of these women’s lives – the repression, domination and dependency.

JB: In your blog Keeping it Going on a-n Artists Talking, you speak about value, both the perceived value of an object which you have made available for your audience to take (Going for Gold) or the associated value to exchange with something of similar value (10 x 10). It could be said the value we associate with an object is in relation to the depth of emotion we experience in any given situation.  Do you feel this to be true and what have you observed about this relationship through the interactive aspect of your work?

10 x 10 by Kate Murdoch

10 x 10, ©2008 – 2012 Kate Murdoch

KM: I’m not sure there’s a definitive answer to this question but in terms of my observations of how the majority of people have interacted with 10×10 so far, then yes, I would say it is true. The emotional attachment we make to any given object can determine its worth in emotional terms as opposed to its monetary value. The very act of bartering adds an emotional reality to the process of exchange that currency somehow lacks. ‘What is an object worth to you?’ is one of the main questions posed by 10×10. ‘How much do you want it and what are you prepared to give in exchange?’

I can give you many good examples of the varying degrees of value and worth; they are contained in the stories people leave behind when they give their objects up for exchange. The woman who gave up a genuine diamond bracelet at the launch of 10×10 for instance demonstrates a really good example of value and worth. On the face of it, the value of a real diamond was high; from her story however, it was clear that the bracelet, in spite of its monetary worth, had become of little personal value to her.

An exchange made by an international student at Lewisham College has an equally poignant ring to it. He exchanged a small candle stub for a larger, unused candle. Living on a very tight budget in order to afford college fees, this student told me that he was doing his best to avoid having to pay for electricity. It was a practical exchange, then on one level – a used-up candle for one with many burning hours – but in terms of value in this case, the new candle represented a kind of life-saver for him.

“The very act of bartering adds an emotional reality to the process of exchange that currency somehow lacks.”

Kate Murdoch

It's The Little Things by Kate Murdoch

It’s The Little Things, ©2010 Kate Murdoch, detail view

JB: Tell us about your piece It’s The Little Things.  You raise an interesting point in what you ‘think is worth preserving’, tell us about some of the things you’ve chosen to preserve in this piece and why.

KM: The things I chose for this particular piece were largely an emotional response to the clearance of my Nana’s home in which she had lived for some 70 years. The items I salvaged were reminders of the many times I’d spent with my Nana as a child and the close relationship we had. I was trying to hold onto her history as well as my own through preserving them. The pastry cutters, the icing nozzles, the embroidery cottons, thimbles, darning mushroom and tape measure are all reminders of the many domestic skills my Nana taught me. The fun side of my relationship with her is reflected in the lipstick, powder and perfume which she sometimes let me play with at her dressing table. The ancient pocket Bible and the red poppy speak of the history of a woman who lived through two world wars and would engage me with her stories about the war as she taught me the rules of a waste-not-want-not life.

JB: We’ve spoken about the personal exchange and value inherent in your work; there is a sense of nostalgia for personal communication and connections underlying your work.  What are your thoughts on digital communications and the ‘faceless’ interactions which are commonplace for us now?  In a way, written communication has been reinvigorated through digital communications, but have we lost the personal connection or have we strengthened those connections?

Gentlemen by Kate Murdoch

Gentlemen, ©2009 Kate Murdoch

KM: That’s a very big question. But does it necessarily have to be face to face? Does ‘faceless’ communication lose any true sense of feeling connected with other people? I’ve certainly had a lot of face to face conversations where I’ve felt very unconnected with the person I’m speaking with – you just don’t connect with everybody – it’s a fact of life! I’ve had e-mail and twitter conversations, on the other hand where communication has been surprisingly personal and intimate when discussing certain matters.

I find forums like twitter and facebook working well for me because of my partial deafness; I find writing a more direct and clear way of communicating as it leaves less room for misinterpretation. I’m in close contact via email and twitter with a few people – mainly artists – who I’ve never actually met face to face. A lot of formality is broken down in the way people communicate via digital communications such as twitter and facebook which to my mind cuts to the chase and gets down very quickly to the core of good, open and honest communication. I know it has its critics, but I actually think you can learn a great deal about a person by the way they communicate on social media and I gravitate towards those who I believe share my own fundamental life values.

I’ve asked the artists to share a list of books they find informative for their practice. Follow the links here or visit the Bookshop to see all the books suggested so far. We hope you will see something inspiring for your own interests. Your book purchase made through This ‘Me’ of Mine will help raise funds for the project.

Kate’s suggested reading:

Evocative Objects: Things We Think with edited by Sherry Turkle
Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris by Leanne Shapton
Interpreting Objects and Collections  edited by Susan M. Pearce
Contemporary Art and Memory by Joan Gibbons
The Memory Box by Margaret Forster
Noah’s Compass by Anne Tyler
The Whale’s Song by Dyan Sheldon
The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat by Oliver Sacks
The Hare With Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal

Jane’s Additions:

Color Photographs by Marie Cosindas
Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry

If you enjoyed this interview, please follow This ‘Me’ of Mine by clicking the ‘follow’ button below.  You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook, those links are also below.  Pop in and see the great work our partners are doing too! Click on the logos below to go to their sites.

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Without Any Voice

Sarah has had a great deal of experience working with children, her background in teaching art to special needs children along with degrees in psychology and dance scenography has given her a unique view of how we communicate, especially through body language.  She has a particular interest in vulnerability and this body-language communication.  For Sarah, what is vulnerable is not weak, but she sees a strength and dignity when people allow vulnerability to remain visible.  She sees faces and hands as the most expressive parts of the body with our faces becoming a roadmap to our lives as we age.  Gender plays an important role in this ‘roadmap’ for Sarah because she recognizes the difference males and females have in response to experiences. She also believes skin has a unique ability to communicate the power of touch and is important in defining self-image.

Jane Boyer: Your work has revolved around skin.  What is it you are exploring through skin and what does skin represent for you?

Sketchbook journal collage by Sarah Hervey

Sketchbook journal collage by Sarah Hervey

Sarah Hervey: Skin represents to me, the boundary between the necessary social world and the internal struggles that people have.  I’m exploring boundaries really and surfaces, I’m exploring the ideas around what we see on the surface which protects what’s underneath, but also exposes something about a person.  It started with my interest in ageing skin and how it can be like a map of a person’s emotions because the creases and all the experiences start to stay there as evidence of what somebody has felt underneath their skin.

JB: Body language is also important in your work.  Do you believe body language expresses the psychology of a person in ways not communicated verbally?

SH: Yes, it does.  I became interested in this because I worked with children who had language difficulties and children in difficult situations, like when a child is ill in hospital and they’re surrounded by very scary procedures and people they don’t know.  Their body language is very important; the body language of those people dealing with them is also quite critical.  I went on to teach children with emotional difficulties who had experienced confusing body language.  So that was of general interest for me and it was enhanced when I did my MA in design for dance because dancers utilize the body to express language in physical theatre, which I love.  It exists without any voice, it’s pure body language.  It’s absolutely extraordinary how much you can understand without anybody ever speaking.

Purple Nude (c)2011 Sarah Hervey

Purple Nude (c) 2011 Sarah Hervey

JB: Your painting Purple Nude conveys a sense of this non-verbal communication in the relationship of the figure’s feet and a very distinct line on the floor.  This relationship, in essence, is the painting.  How do you view this relationship and does it feel like a visual expression of non-verbal communication to you?

SH: Yes, I think it completely does.  When I did that painting I felt very vulnerable and I was pretty consumed with my own vulnerability for quite a long time into doing the picture itself, then I began to notice how vulnerable the model was.  I think it was just by chance he chose to put his feet behind that line, but because he has his feet behind the line he’s keeping to some boundary.

I wasn’t expecting that particular model that night and it was a bit of a surprise because I think he must have been the oldest person I’ve ever drawn or painted.  I had been thinking a lot about vulnerability and ageing anyway, I felt this was a huge opportunity to paint something I was interested in, but because I wasn’t expecting it and this was a real person and not something I’d organised, I had to really pull myself together and get on with it.  I think that’s probably why there is so much that came out in the painting.  I had to do it quickly as well, it was just one evening.

Images of assumptions, sketchbook journal collage by Sarah Hervey

‘Images of assumptions’, sketchbook journal collage by Sarah Hervey

JB: Much of the vulnerability you are interested in and you explore is based in gender issues and ageing.  Can you tell us what it is particularly about vulnerability, experienced through gender and age, which interests you?

SH: I think there has been a lot of research into why women live longer on the whole and have a resilience somehow, yet the way we are supposed to attract men is to be vulnerable, the weaker sex, so there’s all that dynamic which is interesting.  Because I have this idea about skin and how your history shows on your face, so if you’ve had a life where you’ve felt vulnerable it will begin to show.  As your body gets older you just appear more vulnerable because your skin gets thinner, your bones aren’t as strong, you find it more difficult to hold your head up straight and keep your back straight and so your body starts to cow.  The different way men and women deal with that interests me; how we feel about that is the internal part of skin, then the way society looks at you is the external part. I mean, the essence of being female or male is different and I feel it is important to struggle to understand more precisely the positions of men and women within these boundaries.  My point of view is as a woman.  I can’t understand my own vulnerability and the vulnerability of women without understanding the vulnerability of men.

In an effort to raise funds for This ‘Me’ of Mine, I’ve asked the artists to share a list of books they find informative for their practice. Follow the links here or visit the BOOKSHOP to see all the books suggested so far. We hope you will see something inspiring for your own interests.

Now is a great time to purchase through the This ‘Me’ of Mine bookshop because The Book Depository is offering great discounts on purchases, for example most of Sarah’s reading list is on sale!

If you enjoyed this interview, be sure to participate in our This ‘Me’ of Mine Companion Book head-count, see the footer section at the bottom of the page for the sign-up form and more information.

Sarah’s Reading List:

The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard

The Book of Skin by Steven Connor

One Place After Another: Site Specific Art and Locational Identity  by Miwon Kwon

The Thinking Hand by Juhani Pallasmaa

The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses  by Juhani Pallasmaa

On Kindness by Adam Phillips & Barbara Taylor

Touch Me: The Mystery of the Surface by Gregor Eichinger

Art and Feminism by Peggy Phelan

Jane’s Additions:

Alice Neel by Ann Temkin (follow the link to Abe Books)

Lucian Freud Paintings by Robert Hughes

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Straight from the Nerves

Untitled nude (c)2011 Shireen Qureshi

Untitled Nude, (c)2011 Shireen Qureshi, oil and charcoal on canvas

Shireen Qureshi was a studio member of Cor Blimey Arts in 2011 and it was on one of my working trips to Core Gallery when I first met Shireen.  I remember the moment so vividly, I was passing her studio and the door happened to be open; as I glanced in I was stopped in my tracks.  Sitting alone and unnoticed, as if set aside purposefully, was her untitled and unfinished nude painting.  It pulled me in emotionally and literally as I stepped into her studio, that is when I met Shireen.  We talked briefly about her work then I went on about my day, but I couldn’t get Shireen’s painting out of my mind.  Feeling a little unsure in that moment of how it would fit in overall with the exhibition, I trusted my gut instinct and invited Shireen to show the work with This ‘Me’ of Mine, asking her if she would leave the painting exactly as it was and not finish it.  She was a little nervous about my request but gave it some serious consideration and finally agreed – I’m delighted she did.

Jane Boyer: Your Untitled Nude has a very definite feeling of movement and struggle, the figure is almost writhing, but the hand is quite firmly placed and supports or propels the body’s turning.  Can you tell us more about this painting and why the hand is black?  It’s the thing that attracted me to this work.

Blue Lamp (c)2011 Shireen Qureshi

Blue Lamp, (c)2011 Shireen Qureshi, oil on canvas

Shireen Qureshi:This painting was painted very instinctively – straight from the nerves, and for me, was left at quite an early and exciting stage of its development. Within my mind this painting developed specifically from the simple action of a body turning over in bed, or getting out of bed. I wanted the body to be engulfed in a dark space. The heavy sense of contrast in this work is the result of this struggle, to create a kind of dark in which the body remains illuminated, but I like the way the attempt to achieve this has resulted in a body which has almost been doused in a liquid darkness which encircles it. I am also happy with the way certain borders and parts of the body are lost. The hand is black because I was trying to force it downwards into the darkness, and also pin the body to the canvas so that it was no longer floating in space but supported within a suggested reality. I like the way Francis Bacon used things like syringes or arrows in his work to pin his bodies down – I often try to use similar devices as I like to secure my more free flowing bodies to something. It’s like a full stop, locking the body-prisoner in place.

Fall (c)2010 Shireen Qureshi

Fall, (c)2010 Shireen Qureshi, oil on canvas

JB: You share other things with Bacon, the domestic settings, the violence, the bodily functions and the ‘body-prisoner’ as you put it; the self subjected to context in other words.  It could be argued the self in Bacon’s work exists between annihilation and the struggle in the moments just before annihilation, an idea suggested by his work with crucifixions, his screams and his interest in paintings of abattoirs, butchers and meat.[1]   How do you view this struggle and the annihilation of the self?

SQ: Bacon has been a huge influence on me and I think that this struggle is an interesting moment to paint because it captures a person perhaps at a moment when they are most present in the form of an instinctive, uncontrollable self. This moment of high drama gives passage to an altered state of being, and as Bacon stated ‘I’m just trying to make images as accurately off my nervous system as I can.’[2]  What could be more real than the presence of a body in the face of its destruction, it is in these moments that a person becomes aware, in a visceral sense, of what they are made up of – organs, blood, skin and bone.

Hand in Hair (c)2010 Shireen Qureshi

Hand in Hair, (c)2010 Shireen Qureshi, oil on canvas

JB: Deleuze suggests we are an event; meaning that out of a chaos in which conditions have come together to form a ‘one’ or have passed through ‘a screen’ which allows something rather than nothing to happen.[3]  There is a sense of ‘event’ in your tableaus and the figures are that ‘event’, as if we are witnessing the coalescing of a self, how do you see this?  Do you feel the passage of time is relevant to the self?

SQ: It is interesting that you suggest that we are witnessing the coalescing of a self in my work because in my mind I am more interested in breaking down the body, of rupturing boundaries. I often initiate a painting by making it look real and then trying to break it down, by overlapping bodies or breaking apart skin and bone, I suppose in that sense the aim for me is towards chaos rather than from it. But I think that this is a very interesting idea, especially the sense of an ‘event’ you describe in my work, forcing my viewers into the role of witness.

Lying Body (c)2010 Shireen Qureshi

Lying Body, (c)2010 Shireen Qureshi, oil on canvas

I think that if the paintings have created any sense of inescapable drama pinning both my figures and viewers in place, then this is an achievement in itself.

From my point of view, the passage of time is interesting because it is within a space of time that metamorphosis and transformation can occur. I would like to create a sense of movement, an undulation within each of my paintings as if they were bubbles of captured space and time. I think that time is inescapably relevant to the self because it is within time that a self is built or deconstructed, subjected to the violence of existence, and within which the self moves, inevitably, towards death.


Read Struggle in the Moment of Difference on Art Pie.

[1] ‘Francis Bacon (1910-1992) Interview with David Sylvester’, Art in Theory 1900-2000, ed. Charles Harrison & Paul Wood, p. 635-9.

“I’ve always been very moved by pictures about slaughterhouses and meat, and to me they belong very much to the whole thing of the Crucifixion.  There’ve been extraordinary photographs which have been done of animals just being taken up before they were slaughtered; and the smell of death.  We don’t know, of course, but it appears by these photographs that they’re so aware of what is going to happen to them, they do everything to attempt to escape.”

[2] Interviews with Francis Bacon, David Sylvester, London, Thames & Hudson p.82

[3] The Fold, Giles Delueze, 1st ed Athlone Press, 1993, reprinted Continuum Publishing, 2006, p.86

In an effort to raise funds for This ‘Me’ of Mine, I’ve asked the artists to share a list of books they find informative for their practice. Follow the links here or visit the BOOKSHOP to see all the books suggested so far. We hope you will see something inspiring for your own interests.

If you enjoyed this interview, be sure to participate in our This ‘Me’ of Mine Companion Book head-count, see the footer section at the bottom of the page for the sign-up form and more information.

Shireen’s Reading List:

Interviews with Francis Bacon by David Sylvester

The Eyes Mind: Bridget Riley: Collected Writings 1965-1999 by Bridget Riley and Robert Kudielka

Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes

Blue of Noon by Georges Bataille

In Praise of Shadows by Junichiro Tanizaki

Francesca Woodman by Chris Townsend

The Logic of Sensation by Gilles Deleuze  (note: this can be found under Aly Helyer’s suggested reading in the Bookshop)

Jane’s Additions:

The Stranger by Albert Camus

Strangers to Ourselves by Julia Kristeva

Deleuze: The Clamour of Being by Alain Badiou

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