Tag Archives: experience

A Barely Responsive Exterior

I first saw Melanie’s work last year in the 2011 Marmite Prize exhibition at the Nunnery in Bow.  I was struck by the delicacy, fragility and the overwhelming presence in her painting Woman with Cardigan.  It was this sense of presence which confirmed for me it should be in This ‘Me’ of Mine.   How could such an overwhelming presence be perceived from a view of someone’s back rather than the face, where it would be expected, and what did this suggest for these issues of self and identity?  Were the curious mixture of pattern and texture in her clothing personal choices or were these visible clues to circumstances imposed upon this woman’s life?  These were compelling questions and the basis for my choice of Mel’s work.

Not Dead Yet (c)2012 Melanie Titmuss

Not Dead Yet (c)2010 Melanie Titmuss oil on canvas

Jane Boyer: Your subjects are often elderly, you are a young adult; what are you exploring in the topic of ageing and the elderly?

MT: People are often drawn to images that depict the appealing side of old age. I have been looking at these romantic versions as well as the social and moral [issues], particularly the care of the elderly, the sacrifice involved. Sitting in an old people’s home as a young adolescent really stuck with me. I found the banality of it really shocking. The quality of life is so diminished and yet the confirmation of life lived, so explicit, and in some cases, so contained, unreachable. What was most striking was the isolation of each person in the room. They are agonizingly remote from each other, from their visitors. There is great pathos in the discrepancy between the outward and inner life.

In response to the issues of abuse, invisibility and poverty surrounding ageing, I painted Not Dead Yet, a vivid and joyful scene of an elderly couple dancing. There is an element of fading away, a nostalgic nod to a bygone age, living with memories – the old man is featureless and she shimmers somehow, almost stepping off the corner of the painting but the overall effect is life affirming. There is warmth and laughter and tenderness.

JB: There is a delicacy and a fragility to your painting technique, is this at all related to your subject of ageing? Did you have a sense of the boundary between your projections and perceptions of her [Woman with Cardigan] and the reality in the experience of her presence?

Woman with Cardigan (c)2010 Melanie Titmuss

Woman with Cardigan (c)2010 Melanie Titmuss oil on canvas

MT: Woman with Cardigan was painted from a sketch from life so it has this quality more so. Having to ‘fill in the gaps’, I found that I projected qualities onto her. A friend described her as ‘kind of not here, elsewhere’ but her actual presence was overwhelming. When I’d completed the sketch in her presence, I realised I’d captured something else: a frail, ethereal version of a tall, robust woman who was animated and resolved to stand for her entire conversation with somebody seated. Picking up on certain visual signs, I immediately endowed her with old age; exaggerating her ‘old lady’ characteristics to create the archetypal one, stooped and weighed down by this enormous cardigan. A mind’s picture will conjure a visceral impression, based on the physical sensation of a person nearby – the potential for interaction. To engage with another person is a process of searching and illuminating and this was the case without knowing her face, or her knowing mine.

JB: Your paintings are quite psychologically intense, not in their struggle but in their quietude.  They capture a sense of living a life and the effects of that living, the compromises, the pain, the joy.  When you connect with these individuals in that moment of observation, what passes through your mind?

MT: How people carry their lives around with them. I don’t wonder particularly what the experiences are that have bought them to this moment, just what is visible and what is not, how the body responds to the ravages of ones life’s events. How fragile and unforgiving it is. How a face at rest is open to interpretation. I want to portray them just as they appear, not to project suffering or any emotion onto them. I have painted sleeping teenagers, women talking on their mobile phones, someone stealing a microwave – I am looking across the entire spectrum of possibilities, encounters and circumstances. The pain and joy in all of it.

Bupleigh Mansions (c)2012 Melanie Titmuss

Bupleigh Mansions (c)2012 Melanie Titmuss oil on canvas

JB:  “Within a constant flow of people, anonymity and custom create a definite one of interior and exterior. So even though I observe and paint individuals, it’s the collective that I’m interested in.”  That is a really interesting statement on the source of the interior and exterior self, can you explain that further?  What is in the ‘collective’ that interests you?

MT: The connection to place, each other and ourselves; the sensations and movement that are specifically bound to transient space form an experience that is both internal and shared. I am talking mostly about non-space – i.e. mall space, suburban space, corporate space, generic or interchangeable space – the space of postmodernity. They are communal areas that stimulate a unique level of perception and consciousness, and the habitual presence of strangers can inspire a sense of participation, reassurance and continuity.  It is deceptive and the energy of it, quite seductive, ‘dwelling in the throng, in the ebb and flow, the bustle, the fleeting and the infinite.’ Though for many, these journeys take place within one’s ordinary sphere of existence, they are far from mundane.  Merging into the crowd, with all those arriving and departing, ‘you are delivered from all depth – a brilliant mobile superficial neutrality, a challenge to meaning and profundity, a challenge to nature and culture.’[1]

Man waiting for tram (c)2011 Melanie Titmuss

Man waiting for a tram (c)2011 Melanie Titmuss oil on canvas

JB: Do we see the toll taken by socialization in your paintings?

MT: All of the individuals I’ve selected to paint could only be in a metropolis. Fully contained, there is no interaction and therefore no projection at all – no awareness, no anticipation (on their part). Because of this, no decision or distinction is made regarding what to put forward, or reveal.  All that is visible is a barely responsive exterior.  The sheer volume and flow of people in the city can contribute to a sense of ‘conscious-less’, and is usually an opportunity to switch off.  This indifference, characteristic to the figures in my paintings, suggests the social is almost taken away.  You wonder what is revealed in this state of consciousness, just mindless projections on to others perhaps.


[1] Jean Baudrillard. America, Verso Books, 1989, p.124

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.

Melanie’s Reading List:

On Photography by Susan Sontag

Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity by Marc Augé

The Future of Nostalgia by Svetlana Boym

The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies by Roland Barthes

Mythologies by Roland Barthes

London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd

The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton

The Tourist Gaze by John Urry

The Letters of Van Gogh by Ronald de Leeuw & Arnold J. Pomerans

America by Jean Baudrillard

Jane’s Additions:

The Life and Death of Images by Diarmuid Costello and Dominic Willsdon

Wim Wenders: Places, Strange and Quiet by Wim Wenders

Matisse in Morocco by Jack Cowart

Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes

If you enjoy what you see here, follow the progress of the project by clicking the ‘follow’ button at the bottom of the page and share content you really like using the ‘share this’ buttons below each article.

Leave us a comment too, we would love to talk with you.

If you would like to support the project contact me at ThisMeofMine@gmail.com


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Living in the Constant

Film still from 'Nightfall', (c)2011 Anthony Boswell

Film still from ‘Nightfall’, (c)2011 Anthony Boswell

Anthony Boswell is an active blogger on Artists Talking, the a-n blogging platform for artists.  I’ve had the pleasure of watching Anthony’s practice unfold and last year I was struck by seeing his work ‘Time Box’ pictured in an essay written by my colleague and friend Becky Huff Hunter.  I went back to Anthony’s work and had a closer look.  I hadn’t actually met Anthony and our connection through Artists Talking had been brief and intermittent with only occasional comments to each other on our respective blogs.  Anthony’s blog posts often deal with issues of time spent waiting and the effects this kind of relationship with time can have on creativity and one’s emotional and mental states.  In his ‘Time Box’, I saw an interesting statement on the influence of memory and time, and the transformation that takes place in time and us as a result.

Jane Boyer: ‘Place’ is of major importance to your work.  You have achieved an interesting merging of identity and context through ‘place’; it’s as if ‘place’ represents both an identity and a context simultaneously.  Can you tell us more about the significance this has for you and your work?

Painting 'D' (c)2012 Anthony Boswell

Painting ‘D’, (c)2012 Anthony Boswell, acrylic on canvas, 23.5 x 29.5cm

Anthony Boswell: The real basis for my paintings is the home, specifically my own home, because what I want to achieve is capturing ideas of intimacy.  Also the effects of time on place, so thinking about my own life within the home and how time affects the fears, doubts, hopes and wishes as well as daily activities.  I feel it’s a place where I can try to exercise some control over the environment by controlling time within that environment.  The idea of the clock running forwards but appearing to run backwards in ‘Time Box’ is about being stuck in the middle of that, about freezing time.  I don’t think I could achieve that anywhere outside of the home, because the home is such an intimate place.  The subject I deal with is about intimate things.  You can also get the feelings of loss, because of the things that aren’t there as much as they are there; this creates an air of melancholy in the work.

JB: Becky Huff Hunter refers to the temporal loop and the endlessly returning of ‘something missing’ in the melancholic state in the essay, ‘On Time, Repetition and Melancholia’, she wrote about your work.  Is there ‘something missing’ or has the loop replayed itself so often it has become an entity of its own for you?

“The ticking clock in the mirror runs backwards, indicating disorder. Its face points up, directing one’s gaze perpetually back and forth between the real and the reflected scene. This doubled stage disrupts the completeness of conventional viewing, fixing instead a boxed-in, spatial and temporal loop…[i]n a psychoanalytic account, the painful, desiring state of melancholia is full of such returns, endlessly
circling in one’s mind something perceived to be missing.”

from ‘On Time, Repetition and Melancholia’

AB: I think the loop has become an actual entity of itself.  The subject does repeat itself very often.  I find myself working within the framework of the loop.  My very self is stuck within the loop; melancholy comes because I am stuck in the loop.  Perhaps what’s missing is what’s outside that loop or the fear of its ceasing to be a loop and become something that runs forward in time.  All those fears and hopes, everything the intimacy within the home brings, begins to open up to a greater loss and eventually time will bring the loss of things because of the infinite nature of time; everything outside of time is infinite.  As Becky says, there is always a longing with melancholy.

Coign of Vantage (c)2012 Anthony Boswell

Coign of Vantage, (c)2012 Anthony Boswell, acrylic on canvas, 50 x 20cm

JB: Your latest work is a series of paintings in your house, however the house is not the subject of these paintings; the emotional translation of a life lived, light, shadow and time is the subject.  It is a context but in your work it is less a context than an identity.  It is not wholly your identity because the place & space influences how you feel.  Have the dissolutions of these boundaries given you freedom or are you contained and confined, captured like the light sources in your paintings?

AB: It’s quite an interesting way of looking at it.  The subject is as you say.  The light starts to reveal something that is always slightly out of reach.  I’ve never thought of it from that point of view, but it’s interesting to think about how much of the control is being forced upon me rather than the other way around and maybe that’s why there is always such a sense of melancholy longing because I’m never satisfying what I’m trying to achieve.  Maybe I’m not actually in control.  For what I’m trying to achieve in my paintings, life outside of the house is quite insignificant in a way.  But thinking about the fact I’m not able to make a painting unless I feel comfortable with the situation in the house, the light or a certain part of the room and how it all fits in together; that is actually out of my control.  I can’t control the light, how it comes into the house or what type of light.  There are boundaries being put on my creating of the paintings.  Until the light reveals itself in a certain way and shadows are made in a certain way, I don’t witness anything and I can’t make the artwork until that situation arises.  Waiting for it to come along is quite a powerful thing because I never know when it’s going to happen, sometimes it comes quite quickly and spontaneously and sometimes you have to wait.

Time Box (c)2010 Anthony Boswell

Time Box, (c)2010 Anthony Boswell, mixed media construction, 20.3 x 27.9 x 20.3cm

JB: ‘Time Box’ is a surreal statement on time, memory and recall in the sense of ‘knowing’ the truth of something rather than simply remembering the specific details of it.  This knowing and memory can be at odds sometimes and time can be the disrupter between the two.  Is this the message of ‘Time Box’ for you?  What do you see in ‘Time Box’?

AB: The message of Time Box for me is being contained.  It’s about being inside an environment that is really familiar and trying to stay in the present; you don’t want to necessarily go back to the past but you definitely don’t want to run into the future, so it’s trying to keep within the loop, trying to be completely stationary in the present.  But also apart from being something familiar, it’s a space which can be quite intense as well.  You can’t sit comfortably within it.  It gives a sense that you’re looking down on a life which isn’t your own.  There is an unfamiliarity amongst the familiar within it.

JB: How does this reflect on your view of self and identity?

AB: Identity is quite a difficult thing for me because my own view of identity is a unique personal view rather than understanding things as cultural identity.  I mean obviously I understand cultural identity and identity in a wider scope, but my own view of identity is to think of everyone as an individual.  Though I’m really aware of everyone else in the world, I’m not aware of people being part of a culture or a wider context of things.  When I think about it, I just think of all these people with their own unique personal identities.  I think I’ve just imagined them in their space in their privacy grappling with the same things I’m grappling with, you know with the fears, the longing and the doubts.  I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.  It’s just wrapped up with self isn’t it?  I suppose I want everyone to deal with the bigger questions by coming to know themselves.  I find if you know yourself you come to know a lot more about the wider context of things.

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.

Anthony’s Reading List:

Art? No Thing! By Fré Ilgen

Paths to the Absolute by John Golding

Peter Lanyon: Modernism and the Land by Andrew Causey

Jane’s Additions:

Mark Rothko by David Anfam

Francesca Woodman Photography by Julia Bryan-Wilson & Corey Keller

The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

If you enjoy what you see here, follow the progress of the project by clicking the ‘follow’ button at the bottom of the page and share content you really like using the ‘share this’ buttons below each article.

Leave us a comment too, we would love to talk with you.

If you would like to support the project contact me at ThisMeofMine@gmail.com


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This ‘Me’ of Mine Symposium

I have been hard at work the last two months writing scads of exhibition proposals and grant proposals – and I’m not finished yet. But I’ve just finished the largest, most complex and the most important grant proposal for the project. In working my way through that, several things have fallen into place – significantly the proposed symposium in conjunction with the exhibition.

I’m very proud and honoured to announce three of the four invited experts have agreed to be on the panel and the fourth may join us yet!

The panel members are:

Dr David Jones photoDr David Jones, Director of the new Visual Culture initiative at the University of Exeter.  His current research interests focus on visual culture, in particular installation art and the archive and the visual coding of trauma and testimony. He is currently exploring contemporary theories and representations of the archive, especially in visual culture.  He co-organised a one-day workshop at Exeter in May 2011,  Repositioning Memory: between the Archive and the Rubbish Heap.

Dr Claire Hart photoDr Claire Hart, Lecturer and Researcher with Centre for Research on Self and Identity at the University of Southampton. Her research largely focuses on self and identity. The self is an important point of contact between theories of social behaviour and personality. For example, according to self-categorization theory, the self can be defined at different levels; in terms of an individual self (as a unique individual) and a collective self (the self as a group member), and her research focuses on these levels of self-categorization.

Annabel Dover photoAnnabel Dover, Artist and PhD Fine Art candidate at Wimbledon College of Art, explores the social relationships that are mediated through objects.  She explores the relationships we have with objects that simultaneously confound and support emotional expression. The personal narratives imposed upon objects often provide a hidden expression for the breakdown in human relationships and the overlapping, disparate and disjointed memories and emotions that they reflect.  As a result, her work is specifically engineered to be overlapping, mythical, disparate and disjointed.

See the Symposium page for more info.  Follow the development of this project by following us on Twitter and becoming a follower of this blog, see below.  If you would like to support this project contact me at: ThisMeofMine@gmail.com

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‘Beyond Painting – The Dream of Arcadia’ by Anthony Boswell is Choice Blog on a-n Artists Talking

I’m very pleased to announce Anthony Boswell’s blog, Beyond Painting – The Dream of Arcadia has been chosen by Andrew Bryant, editor of Artists Talking, as Choice Blog for April 2012.

Painting G (c) 2012 Anthony Boswell

Painting G, (c)2012 Anthony Boswell, acrylic on canvas

Bryant says, “I like a man who sticks to his guns, who knows himself well enough to know what matters to him and what doesn’t. To arrive at a place like this and stay put takes time, close attention and a strong will – to resist the empty promise of the always new…Like Morandi, he pursues one thing and keeps pursuing it, until what remains is the pursuit itself, in the form of longing. And what attends longing, of course, is loss. Morandi, maybe, was no stranger to loss, to disappointment, and I would hazard a guess Boswell is likewise acquainted with that Master.”

This is Anthony’s post #29 from his blog, it is a particularly poignant description of his point of view:

# 29 [23 March 2012]
Thanks to Sam Bell once again for the comments on my work. Yes, it is important that art comes first, finding that visual correlation between life and the work is what allows the process to bridge that gap and allows for the ambiguity to exist, further enhancing the possibilities of the paintings to take one into personal places by way of actual experience.This week, taking time to be calm in the house, to wander through the incoming and transient light, has allowed me to find a place that can work in painting. It is the result of days of waiting and looking, sometimes listening, that makes it possible to suddenly see something that has potential, that speaks to me. Often, this happens in the most exact of places, this time I was required to lower my eye level to see what was being revealed in a mirror that had been placed against the wall. It was going back to that place at different times of the day, in different light, that reveals a general emotion of experiences that are hidden there. I have been able to make just three quick visual notes of the spot to help give me a feel of what is going on there. The time is now here when I can keep going back, look at the empty space of the small canvas, and feel my way into the visual correlative that Sam talks about. It is moving from the life witnessed to the art, for the painting to take over, for the conversation between canvas and myself to take place, and in doing so, in letting this process happen naturally, the experience I had as I knelt in the room, everything I felt, saw and heard will be translated into an experience that can be felt by the viewer via the ambiguity set up in the paint and on its surface.
'Out of Ennui' sketch 1 (c)2012 Anthony Boswell

'Out of Ennui' sketch 1 (c)2012 Anthony Boswell, Pencil on paper

'Out of Ennui' sketch 2 (c)2012 Anthony Boswell

'Out of Ennui' sketch 2 (c)2012 Anthony Boswell, Ink on paper

'Out of Ennui' sketch 3 (c)2012 Anthony Boswell

'Out of Ennui' sketch 3 (c)2012 Anthony Boswell, Ink and pencil on paper

Out of Ennui (c)2012 Anthony Boswell

Out of Ennui (c)2012 Anthony Boswell, Acrylic on canvas

Read more of Anthony’s blog and visit his website.

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The Temporary Suspension of Tension

In a series of interviews with the artists in This ‘Me’ of Mine, we’ll explore their practice more in depth and find out what inspires them to create the work they do.  We’ll discuss issues of the self, how the artists deal with it within the context of their work and how they see themselves in relation to their work.  Objects play an important part in many of their practices; we’ll also look at this relationship and the issues of fascination, projection and meaning which surround our connection with objects.

The issues surrounding this exhibition and the work of these artists attempt to explore notions of a psychological self within an artistic context; these notions are issues of identity and experience, the very subjects which make up most of modern and contemporary art production in the twentieth and twenty first centuries.  Modern psychology makes a distinction between the ‘self as I’, the subjective self and the ‘self as me’ or the objective self; in simple terms, ‘I that knows’ and ‘me who is known’.[1]  This distinction is at the very heart of This ‘Me’ of Mine.

The following are excerpts from the first in this series of interviews.

Fallen Pigeon (c)2010 David Minton

Fallen Pigeon (c)2010 David Minton, oil on cotton duck, 55.9 x 55.9 cm, courtesy the artist

David Minton describes himself as, “…one of many who return to their roots after teaching….. What if…..I studied at Chelsea in the late 1960s?”  David maintains that sense of urgency required of someone attempting to make up for ‘lost’ time.  He works full-time in his practice and since October 2008, has written the blog Dead and Dying Flowers on an Artists Talking.  In October 2010, it was chosen as ‘Choice Blog’ by Tamarin Norwood.

Jane Boyer:  You describe Peripheral Vision as, ‘Two birds, Two lines, Space, Colour’.  What significance do each of these have for you in creating your paintings?

David Minton:  The birds and the lines might just be a romantic notion tied up in nice colours. I find myself retrospectively putting together a kind of narrative around the work, based upon conversations online and in person. The idea of ‘two birds, two lines, colour, space’ was an attempt to avoid commitment to meaning; commitment to meaning makes you vulnerable. But it may be that without meaning there is only space, so in a sense I make my paintings by accident, but knowingly so.  The central space created by painting ‘at the periphery’ has a tension that is constantly pregnant with possibility.  In order to remain so, the tensions of space are never resolved, but continue and it is this continued lack of resolution that forms the overall content of the picture.

The lines, complementary colours situated adjacent to opposite sides of the canvas, are complementary in an antagonistic manner.  There is a kind of standoff. The bird at the top of that picture is perpetually echoed by the ‘shadow’ at the bottom. The two are ‘me and not-me‘, ‘being and not-being’, a resonance. Working on from that, so are the lines and the space. I have a feeling of something that is almost not-there and this may be connected to a need to repeat experiences in order that they might occur in a new way; the pregnant notion.

Birds in Progress (c) 2011 David Minton

Birds in Progress (c)2011 David Minton, oi on cotton duck, 76.2 x 61 cm, courtesy the artist

JB:  The striking thing about your painting is what is and is not there.  In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze says, ‘…real opposition is not a maximum of difference but a minimum of repetition – a repetition reduced to two, echoing and returning on itself; a repetition which has found the means to define itself.’[2]  Do you feel the unresolved element of your work functions as a repetition of your own intentions?  Does the unresolved quality oppose your intention?

DM:  I came to the notion that the arrival of a painting is an awakening. This notion of awakening connects to a thought about the preconscious, in that the business of division – the literal dividing, complementariness, image and shadow, being and not being, stands for or at the conjunction of conscious and preconscious. Incidentally, (or centrally even) I am given to wondering if we all live at this conjunction; this is where our-selves are located in between unconscious motivations and actions in the world. It is at this ‘conjunction’ that consciousness dawns, between unknowing and the real. In so far as what I do is a search, my intention, if I have one, is to step out from the preconscious. But this involves necessary returning; I have to step back each time from a slightly altered understanding. So definition occurs as a dynamic thing striving to maintain balance in instability.  The unresolved is central to what comes next.


This series will also offer reading suggestions by the artists.  These are books they have read and found informative for their practice.  If you click on a link below, it will take you to The Book Depository where you can find out more about the book and make a purchase.  Your purchase will help raise funds for the exhibition.

David’s Reading List:

Art and the Degradation of Awareness – Jeff  Nuttall

The Transparency of Evil – Jean Baudrillard

The Cultural Turn – Frederic Jameson

Art in Theory: 1900 – 2000 – ed. Charles Harrison & Paul Wood

Jane’s Mentions:

[1] From the opening paragraph of the Wikipedia entry for Psychology of Self, found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychology_of_self.  This is referenced: James,W. (1891). The Principles of Psychology, Vol.1. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (Original work published 1890)

[2] Deleuze, Giles. Difference and Repetition. Translated by Paul Patton. London, England: Continuum International Publishing, 2004. P. 15.

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