Tag Archives: experience

South London Gallery and a Final Word

It’s fitting that having just passed the two year anniversary of starting this blog and project, I bring it to an end. I do so with good news and a final look at the project.

First the good news. As you may have seen from my recent social media postings, South London Gallery has agreed to stock the book, This ‘Me’ of Mine: Self, Time & Context in the Digital Age. I’m very pleased because South London Gallery is one of those important spaces which is highly visible on the international art stage. Their acclaimed exhibition programme includes established international artists as well as early and mid-career UK artists. It is an important fixture in South London for the best and brightest in the arts.

Watch for This ‘Me’ of Mine: Self, Time & Context in the Digital Age in their bookshop in the coming weeks.


And a final look at This ‘Me’ of Mine as a response to evaluations on the project.

I asked a small focus group to consider several aspects of This ‘Me’ of Mine. Here are the highlights of their findings:

“Research into the subject of self and identity was very much present throughout the exhibition, though sometimes breadth of research seemed to get in the way of depth of research. I think it’s a terrific methodology to combine seemingly disparate sources and reference materials (from Deleuze to Shakespeare to Grimm Brothers to Twitter), but in order to make such surprising combinations accessible, focus and thrust of argument (whether critical, political or aesthetic) needs to be even more clear than when traditional disciplinary boundaries are in place.”

This is a very interesting point, and one well taken. We live in a time where combinations like those mentioned above are the norm. The disparate and distanced sit side by side on our computers screens every day demanding we consider them equally. We are learning to follow threads of information in ways meaningful to us rather than in ways presented and we have myriad forms in receiving information to consider when following a thread. I think ultimately, this will affect they way we view art as well. The structure of this project was to present threads of associations, threads which changed with each venue. The exhibitions were also closely linked to an active blogsite which created an even more complex method for information assimilation.

“As I entered the large octagonal space on a bright morning, the pieces seem peripheral.

The interactive piece is not working. The adjoining exhibition rooms, with flickering screens and varied pieces, feel like you’re entering the shaded space of the mind. Like indistinct, but viscerally present sensations.

The Art School Gallery space is the dominant factor, which in itself raises questions about  the exertion of the public over the private self.

Within these constraints the space was used well, and there are some very interesting pieces in the show, which call for a felt and thoughtful response.”

The challenge of curating one exhibition spread amongst 8 gallery rooms at the Art School Gallery was huge. I felt certain there would be no way to keep a continuous thought as visitors moved from room to room, especially with so much varied work. I elected to present a different theme in each gallery, but one related to the overall show premise. I think at each venue, visitors felt the presence of each particular space on the show; a very interesting response to witness as curator.

Jane has put an enormous amount of work and time into coordinating an ambitious exhibition programme, which is obvious to viewers. I think that this commitment combined with a few more degrees of editing and focus could lead to even stronger curatorial work in the future.

Undoubtedly, the experience gained from This ‘Me’ of Mine will impact on future projects and I look forward to it!

My sincere thanks to the focus group participants for their insightful and thoughtful responses to the project.

With that, This ‘Me’ of Mine is now finished.

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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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Ipswich Dates

CIMs Logo I’m so pleased to announce our dates for the final venue of the This ‘Me’ of Mine tour – Ipswich Art School Gallery at Colchester and Ipswich Museum Services. The guest artists have been invited, works have been selected, curatorial plans are sent and preparations are under-way! On behalf of all the artists and Colchester+Ipswich Museum, we hope you will join us for the expanded This ‘Me’ of Mine exhibition and a broadened exploration of identity in relation to the context of our digital age.

Experience, (c)2013 Shireen QureshiExhibition Dates:
21st September 2013 to 5th January 2014

Opening:
Saturday 21st September, 2 to 5pm

Artists in Conversation:
2 to 3pm the afternoon of the opening

Guest Artists:
Molly Behagg
Edward Chell
Kate Elliott
Suzanne de Emmony
Andrew Litten
Gary Mansfield
Helen Scalway
Lisa Snook
Jacqueline Utley
Kai-Oi Jay Yung

See GUEST ARTISTS
page for more info.

Artists:
Anthony Boswell
Jane Boyer
Sandra Crisp
Annabel Dover
Hayley Harrison
Aly Helyer
Sarah Hervey
Cathy Lomax
David Minton
Kate Murdoch
Darren Nixon
Edd Pearman
Shireen Qureshi
David Riley
Melanie Titmuss

PP_Untitled8_KateElliott

The Study of Peter Pan, Untitled 8, (c)2013 Kate Elliott

The Way He Liked Me to Look, (C)2011-2013 Cathy Lomax

The Way He Liked Me to Look, (C)2011-2013 Cathy Lomax

Oh that’s lovely news, I’d be delighted to exhibit in This ‘Me’ Of Mine.  I thought the show at APT was extremely poignant, Cathy Lomax’s piece still twinkles in my memory. The show is going from strength to strength, it’s brilliant!

Lisa Snook

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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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Andrew Litten inspired to share work on This ‘Me’ of Mine

The existential question ‘why am I here?’ is one a search into identity never strays far from. International artist Andrew Litten, who has lived in Cornwall since 2003, has made a career based around this question.

Future Adult? by Andrew Litten

Future Adult? by Andrew Litten

“For me, as a figurative painter – the manipulation of materials and the manipulation of identity are intrinsically linked. Perhaps subversive, tender, malevolent, compassionate – pure expression, which is not political or demographic or defined by taste, is at the heart of it all. Creativity is empowering and empathy is powerful – and the need to see raw human existence drives it all forwards.”

See the INSPIRATION page to find out more.

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Do We Miss the Mark by Expecting too Much from Art?

A few weeks ago, right after we opened at APT Gallery, I met art historian and curator Ben Street at the conclusion of Three Fields, a show he curated at No Format Gallery of works by Emma Cousin, Matthew Luck Galpin, & Charles Olgilvie. We had a lovely discussion about curation, abstraction, and whether there was any truth behind the idea of a ‘centre of art’ in the art world, which Ben discussed with art history PhD candidate Nicole – another American. Ben asked me how This ‘Me’ of Mine was going. I said I was very pleased with the turnout for the opening at APT and I was hopeful for some reviews of the show. Ben commented on how difficult it was to get reviews and as curator it’s really good to have that after doing all that work. I agreed and replied, “it’s not about the attention though, I kind of hope someone says ‘this is crap’ so I can respond and engage the debate. After all this work, I want to discuss it.” My response pleased Ben, which pleased me.

I’ve been granted my wish, not from an art critic, but from a member of ‘the audience’, Jeremy. I use that term because he referred to himself as ‘the audience’, I’ve always felt slightly uncomfortable with that phrase because it is very grand and seems it should be followed by an acknowledgment of the orchestra in the pit. Jeremy and I had a stimulating discussion about the role of the audience in art presentation and how often it is disregarded and dismissed. This topic is significant for me as a curator and new organisational director because it is the very issue I want to address in this work. As an artist, I’ve been concerned with this issue for a long time.

Jeremy wrote this statement in response to seeing This ‘Me’ of Mine in Folkestone:

“These thoughts are in no way a criticism of the artists, their works or the curator. All creativity is an inspired blessing and as such any thoughts here are purely ideas and observations and wandering impressions.

What initially struck me was the scale and scope of the curator’s objectives summarising this ‘Me of Mine’. A fascinating exploration, philosophical bordering on the metaphysical and indeed a subject demanding debate in the round? Indeed, the excitement and challenge generated prompted the immediate question – ‘How far was such a debate explored and extended by the exhibits?’ In short the answer was ‘Not very deeply and not very far’ but this was primarily the fault of the exhibits, but this is a fundamental challenge to art at any level. As an example take Iris’ Stocking. To what extent was perception and interpretation informed by having the delightful back story explained? The answer has to be ‘hugely so’ and this therefore begs the question of the impacts of the piece in its own rights – without the context of the back story. This question of context being a theme of the curator the juxtaposition of ideas here is beautifully complex! And yet the question of how well the works perform in their own right is troubling. I won’t waste time with banal considerations of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ here but a central function of any arts piece should be provocation. Indeed, at an intellectual or aesthetic level the audience should be challenged, enraged, amused, amazed, blown away or any other emotion you would care to mention or intellectualise and yet most pieces failed to achieve this. ‘Why?’ or ‘What’s the point?’are stunningly good questions if the audience  are provoked to explore such simple yet complex questions rather than use them as articles of fleeting criticism.

Related to the question of provocation as function is the question of dexterity of form. If the piece operates on an intellectual level when the audience is provoked to what extent might they enjoy the piece on an emotional level either due to provocation of idea or the form of the piece in its own right. Such a question is difficult but the issue of dexterity must come to the fore. Perhaps the Glass Menagerie is a useful example. Ostensibly a collection of everyday animal trinkets arranged with a minimum of dexterity on an everyday table, how can the audience be expected [to engage] on an emotional level? Sadly this challenge also applied to several other pieces. Such opening up of the artistic process to those not naturally ‘gifted’ is to be thoroughly recommended at an individual level but when placed in front of an audience different criteria are at work. If it looks mundane, sounds, mundane and feels mundane then it probably is mundane!?

And yet I finish by being confounded by my own arguments. Having been prompted to spend an enjoyable hour thinking, reflecting, arguing with myself and ultimately to articulate vague, half formed ideas I have to thank the curator and all the artists involved for a wonderful experience.”

Jeremy Wilson

My first response to Jeremy’s criticism to provocation by the artworks and their failure to do so is – this expectation is a limitation, unrealistic and a function of the ‘society of the spectacle’ as discussed in Guy Debord’s book by the same name, the postmodern world in other words. That is not to suggest however, that artworks should not strive to achieve this, but the desire for artworks to ‘provoke’, I suggest, is the result of a consumerist society. What happens if this expectation is removed and the artworks are viewed on face value – ‘what you see is what you get’, which is related to J.G. Ballard’s quote, ‘you find what you’re looking for’. If this were the expectation rather than provocation Jeremy would feel justified to like or dislike a work and not feel troubled that somehow the work was lacking because it didn’t provoke or that his own intellect was lacking because he ‘didn’t get it’. If this expectation to provoke was removed, artists would also feel less pressure to be shocking or provocative. How much art is made to this aim? And how numb have we become to this measure? I can answer that and I’m sure you can too. Without the expectation to provoke perhaps art would be made to communicate instead, which I suggest is as provocative a stroke as any contrivance to provocation.

An area of art which I find sorely lacking is the reading of art, not only by viewers but by artists as well. The notion that the art work should ‘speak for itself’ is an out-dated modernist approach to viewing art. It was an aim of Abstract Expressionism for viewers to feel a response directly as a result of the artists’ interactions with paint and canvas, a desire to elicit emotion from the viewer. The reading of art must be in tune with the times just as the production of art is tuned into its time. We no longer live in a post-war world. We live in a world of information and hyper-connectivity with media overload as a constant in our lives. I suggest because of this and as a result of this a contextual communication with art is appropriate, necessary and beneficial. However, this is not without risk. There is a fine line between too much information and not enough. Nor is this meant to suggest it is no longer possible or appropriate to have an aesthetic experience with art. I’m suggesting an openness to both the aesthetic experience and the contextual information. Art made to provoke ideas is not going to be in your face, and expectations of grandeur may not be appropriate for all works of art. A flexible approach to viewing art requires a flexible approach to expectation, or in other words, match the expectation to the art. Some of the most stunning works I have ever seen have also been the most quiet and unassuming (Vija Celmins comes to mind). Jeremy’s claim that art works should challenge the audience, enrage them amuse, amaze or blow them away is a hefty demand. I don’t disagree with this, but it is important I think to realise the depth of this expectation. He later mentions a ‘provocation to ideas’ by an artwork. Now that is a more realistic expectation and one which I agree every artist should attain in their work.

He goes on to suggest dexterity in the production of an artwork must ‘come to the fore’, to use his phrase. While I agree fine craftsmanship is important in the production of art, I question the notion that this has to be exhibited through the display of exceptional manual skills, which seems to be what Jeremy is seeking. His criticism of the ordinariness of the table and minimally dexterous arrangement of the animals in Cathy Lomax’s Glass Menagerie, I suggest is part of the sensibility of the work and it’s in this sensibility where the ‘dexterity’ lies. In a post-conceptual world (if that is indeed where we are) sensibilities, observations, linkages, appropriations, constructions and symbolisms all carry weight in being exceptional, not just in the dexterity of manual skill, which could also be called mastery. A mastery of linking observations can be a subtle thing, but its subtlety does not mean it is not masterful. Careful observation of the mundane is likely to produce a work which appears mundane. A failure to recognize the subject of the piece as the mundane, for example, will almost certainly miss the mastery in the observation of the subject. Presumably, when Jeremy uses the word ‘mundane’ he also suggests ‘mediocre’? If this is the case, where in fact does the mediocrity lie? I ask that not in criticism of Jeremy’s intellect which I found to be well above average; his willingness to bother to engage as deeply as he did also indicates a stance well beyond the mean. But the fact remains that perception remains a barrier.  Is the work and/or the presentation a mediocrity if it is perceived as such? Is it a mediocrity and possibly a failure if the depth and layers of meaning have not been recognised? Can this barrier be breached without the risk of being dictatorial? How much information is too much and when is too little a detriment? We can never know because we can never know the mind of another. Do we give up then?

I would defend Cathy’s work by suggesting she displays a mastery of form through the repetitive visual motifs in the film aspect of Glass Menagerie which she overlays onto similar shapes and forms in her table of glass animals. Also the appropriation of the themes in Tennessee Williams play have bearing on the meaning of the piece, adding a conceptual layering which mirrors the layering of light and shadow in her piece. Jeremy and I had an interesting discussion comparing Cathy’s work with Kate Murdoch’s, It’s The Little Things as both pieces use the placement of objects. Jeremy responded positively to Kate’s work appreciating and acknowledging the ‘dexterity’ involved in Kate’s careful arrangement of objects. However, the randomness of Cathy’s objects was a barrier for him. Once I pointed out the repetition of forms i.e. the swan in the film (which he had not recognized as a swan) and the swan figurines, and explained some of the concepts in Williams’ play, which Jeremy wasn’t familiar with; he felt he should consider the piece further – a gain for communication.

I was in Asda and overheard this brief exchange between Jason and his mum:

Mum: “Jason will you stop following me around everywhere.”

Jason: “I have to.”

This remarkable response from a child who implicitly understood the dynamic of his position in relationship to his mum I think holds the key to communication through art as something like this:

In a multiplicity of subjectivity (much like being in Asda or any other mega superstore chain):

From those who don’t question: “Will you stop explaining and demanding.”

Response from those who question: “I have to.”

Jeremy is not wrong to find a lack and he is not lacking because he perceived a lack. The artwork is not mundane because Jeremy found it so, nor is it exalted because its meaning was not perceived; it is what it is and Jeremy is who he is. Hopefully a willingness to question will help us to come together to breach the barriers. I think Jeremy presents the answer to his own questions by writing: “Having been prompted to spend an enjoyable hour thinking, reflecting, arguing with myself and ultimately to articulate vague half formed ideas I have to thank the curator and all the artists involved for a wonderful experience.” That’s all we wanted we wanted to provoke, so I think we succeeded.

Thank you Jeremy, for presenting the views of ‘the audience’, and a round of applause for the orchestra in the pit.

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An Important Thing Happened Last Night or the Left-handed Bricklayer

This 'Me' of Mine at Strange Cargo Photo JBoyer

This ‘Me’ of Mine at Strange cargo Photo: J. Boyer

One of the worst things that can happen during an exhibition opening is for someone drunk to walk through the door and start being disorderly. We had our version of that last night. However, while we were all slightly on edge not knowing what might happen, it turned out to be a very important exchange and I’m glad the left-handed bricklayer walked in.

Our opening – and I use that Americanism on purpose, because these viewing events are not private, the public is invited along with special friends, they are ‘open’ – was very successful with about twenty people there for the Artists in Conversation discussion and about 60 over all. Our guests were interested and engaged with the works and the exhibition as a whole. One lady said, ‘I wish all the artists were here to talk about their work!’ Interestingly, a suggestion for an exhibition which included the artists positioned next to their works, came the next day from a visitor named Jeremy; we had a fascinating discussion on the importance of including the audience in the discourse and presentation of art, but back to the left-handed bricklayer…

When he entered the gallery, he came in with a fluster of apologies for making a racket, interrupting the end of our Artists in Conversation. He then proceeded to interject as he walk noisily around the gallery, at one point actually standing behind Henri who was video-taping and saying ‘Cheese. Cheese. Cheese. Cheese.’ Brigitte Orasinski very politely said we were taping an artists’ conversation and we would be done very soon. We were all on edge.

Our left-handed bricklayer stayed for quite awhile looking at the works and talking to people. He showed me some photographs he’d taken with his mobile phone telling me he was an artist too. He used to do artwork but hadn’t done any in a long time because he’d had troubles but he would like to do some work again because he liked art. I could feel all of us wishing he would go.

In the Pub after we closed for the evening, the first thing we talked about was, ‘did you see that guy!’ I started to release my tension at his being there, but then I checked myself. I realised his being there was important, even if we did feel uncomfortable. He needed the companionship from us and the stimulation from the works. He needed some of the pleasure we all need from art. Hayley found herself liking him but wanting to get away from him in case he would say something to contradict his stories of his own life causing her not to like him any more. I really appreciated Hayley’s honest and human response.

He wrote this in our guest book:
I think the things this town is doing is superb. The friendliness and hospitality of the events and stories of all concern is wonderful I have come through a difficult time and hopefully have come through it and find these art exhibitions humble and very proud to be English in these difficult times of poverty and other situations I hope to succeed at some of the art areas as I have always love Art and always wanted to win at most things I have done hopefully one day people will appreciate my talents and I will go down in folklore in Sunny Folkestone. Yours faithfully and sincerly (name with held by me) Left-handed Bricklayer Born 5/11/61 —

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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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More Than We Seem

Borrowing Hayley Harrison’s new blog title for this post, I’d like to share some of the blogs of the This ‘Me’ of Mine artists. Many of these blogs are active exhibition spaces or working ‘sketchbooks’, some in the real sense like Hayley’s blog and some in the sense of a virtual space to work on ideas. Some of these blogs are journals recording life as an artist – all of them are fascinating documentation of the creative process.


Hayley Harrison

Sketchbook entry No. 55 by Hayley Harrison

sketchbook entry No. 55 by Hayley Harrison

‘More than we seem’ is a sketchbook diary of journeys and encounters.

Something’s Happening a log journal of self realisation as an artist.


David Riley

322, annetta © revad david riley at coded images concepts

322, annetta © revad david riley at coded images concepts

coded images: annetta a virtual exhibition in 26 parts of work built from cartridge paper, masking tape and electrical insulating tape.

coded images: a 1 pixel cursive alphabet an alternate installation of David’s 1 pixel cursive alphabet.

coded images: C I R C U A R E themes an exploration of phonetic symbology in the form of circles and squares.

F O R M A T  a blog dedicated to exploring the facilities and limits of an a-n Artists Talking blog.


Sandra Crisp

Filmstrip- Global sunshades (c)Sandra Crisp

Filmstrip- Global sunshades (c)Sandra Crisp

Work in Progress a virtual work space/studio log.

EXTRA! a visual journal of things that take Sandra’s attention.


Edd Pearman

Palace (c)2011 Edd Pearman

Palace (c)2011 Edd Pearman

Edd Pearman a news journal of Edd’s career activity.


Kate Murdoch

No No No (c)2011 Kate Murdoch

No No No (c)2011 Kate Murdoch

Keeping It Going a personal journal of life as an artist.


Cathy Lomax

Basil Rathbone & Tyrone Power in 'The Mark of Zorro' film still, source: Through a Glass Darkly

Basil Rathbone & Tyrone Power in ‘The Mark of Zorro’ film still, source: Through a Glass Darkly

Cathy Lomax: Art Review and Comment is a long standing blog about Cathy’s interest in movies, pop culture, Karen Klimnick and so much more.  It is a look at what fascinates.

Through a Glass Darkly “A stream of image consciousness from artist Cathy Lomax”


David Minton

Tracey's Thrush (c)2012 David Minton

Tracey’s Thrush (c)2012 David Minton

‘It’ a Hiding to Nothing a third person narrative of self, a first person discussion with an alter ego named ‘It’.


Annabel Dover

Brick vault, part of Annabel's new living situation at Burrell Road

Brick vault, part of Annabel’s new living situation at Burrell Road

Market Project Annabel is member, co-founder and contributor to the Market Project blog.  Market Project is an artist led initiative formed to research and share information on career and economic development for artists, with a focus on ways forward in an ever increasing atmosphere of artistic arrested development.


Anthony Boswell

'Construction' (c)2012 Anthony Boswell

‘Construction’ (c)2012 Anthony Boswell

‘Et in Arcadia Ego’ – Beyond Painting a self-reflective blog on life as an artist.

Reside Blog: Anthony Boswell  is part of The Reside Residency.  Anthony is documenting work in progress while being artist in residence in his own home; hallmark of the residency programme.


Jane Boyer

Rebecca Projects banner

..and of course my blogs

Rebecca Projects an informational blog on art writing and artist career development.

Blending Primaries a personal blog looking at the challenges and rewards of being an artist, writer and curator, and often how each of those practices informs the others.

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