Tag Archives: Jane Boyer

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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This ‘Me’ of Mine is open in Sevenoaks

This post was written Friday, May 17th the day after our opening in Sevenoaks, but due to preparing for my imminent return home to France, its publication was delayed.

This 'Me' of Mine opening at Kaleidoscope Gallery

This ‘Me’ of Mine is open in Sevenoaks! We had an enthusiastic group and a lively discussion of ‘space’ for the ‘Artists in Conversation’ at Kaleidoscope Gallery. Melanie Titmuss and David Minton discussed how space functioned in their work, but more importantly how they perceived their own space and how their responses to that space manifested in their work. For example, Melanie felt the most significant relationship to space in her painting, Woman with Cardigan, was in the actual anonymous encounter she experienced with the woman in the painting; the experience of occupying space and proximity with this individual.

Installation 2_lo resSeveral questions regarding space and curating were raised by our guests, questioning my decisions for placement of the works in the gallery space. These questions were particularly welcome because it gave me a chance to discuss some of the reasons and influences behind my decisions. I was very pleased to explain why I had chosen to place Shireen Qureshi’s Untitled Nude flush against the edge of a blacked-out window in the gallery.

David Minton denied any attempt to convey meaning in his work but many friends and fellow artists at the opening expressed feelings of contemplative spirituality when looking at his Peripherial Vision. I agreed and confirmed my decision to hang David’s piece high in a position suggestive of spiritual meditation for those very reasons. You’ll get to see some of these discussions soon. Henrietta Thomas is videotaping the ‘Artists in Conversation’ discussions and producing 20 to 30 minute clips.

This 'Me' of Mine installation at Kaleidoscope GalleryFor me, the challenge of re-curating and re-configuring the exhibition for each venue space has been immensely rewarding. I’ve had an opportunity to delve deep into these works and into the project premise exploring and developing many of the significant themes underpinning the project. Each venue has presented particular opportunities:

APT allowed for the visualisation and physical manifestation of ‘context’ in the project premise – ‘self in relation to context’ through the space given to the works.

The space at Strange Cargo brought the works into personal proximity, meaning visitors were eye to eye with the pieces and experienced them within their own personal space.

Kaleidoscope has given me a chance to make groupings and tell stories; stories of memory, loss and longing | age and nostalgia | social strictures and the demands of a global reality | psychology, physicality and the pervasiveness of the influence of time.

What awaits? The Art School Gallery at Colchester Ipswich Museum with 10 galleries on two floors surrounding a hexagonal atrium. This ‘Me’ of Mine in all that space!

Coming September 21st, 2013 to January 5th, 2014.

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Successful Opening at APT

“It always amazes me how much better works of art are as artifacts, not as digital copies. We forget, especially [with] photographs.”

this 'Me' of Mine APT PV image

Photo by: Rosie Hervey

What a wonderful evening! we had a great turn out of around 100 visitors, despite the stomach bug going around. People were open, receptive and incredibly encouraging. Our PV guests were varied and various; I was delighted that Duncan Brannan from Kaleidoscope Gallery, the third venue on our tour was there. We had a chance to put a face to the emails! We saw old friends, friends we only knew in the ether, and new friends whom we’d just met.

“Love the sense of space and the generosity given to each piece…very engaging, questioning. High quality work, interesting curating. Good to be actively drawn in to conversations with the artists.”

This 'Me' of Mine APT PV image

Photo by: Rosie Hervey

Our first ‘Artists in Conversation’ went over really well with about 50 people gathered to listen to what we might have to say about ‘Detail’. It was a casual discussion and our guests joined in, asking us some great questions. The artists who participated, Kate Murdoch, Sandra Crisp and Shireen Qureshi really enjoyed the discussion and the conversational nature of it. Kate said it made her think more closely about her work.

“Absolutely – there is a great deal of freshness in the approach to all the work here that is wonderful to see.”

this 'Me' of Mine APT PV image

Photo by: Jane Boyer

My colleagues and dear friends, Sarah Hervey and Helen Scalway and I announced the formation of our new organisation: Associated Artists Curators and Writers (AACW). This organisation, formed to further independent practice in the arts, has come about through the experience of developing This ‘Me’ of Mine. I made an appeal to everyone that night to help us gather information to develop the organisation further, and people very graciously filled in our questionnaires with great enthusiasm – people were gathered around the counter writing way with great determination!

“I really valued the curator’s presentation and the words of the artists. Gallery spaces can be quite ‘clinical’ and imposing – friendly, stimulating and enjoyable exhibition. Thanks all around.”

It was a great launch, a great twitter day with tweets flying, and our best day so far for views on the blog, surpassing the day the blog was launched over a year ago. Thanks to everyone who came, we look forward to seeing you in Folkestone!

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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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No, No, No, Kate Murdoch exhibits with Shape Open 2012

No No No by Kate Murdoch

'No No No' by Kate Murdoch

Shape Open 2012

Kate Murdoch has been accepted to Shape Open 2012, a visual arts competition that asks disabled and non-disabled artists to respond to ‘disability’.

“I think the reason this exhibition might raise a few eyebrows is an element of confusion over the meaning of Disability Arts. To make Disability Arts within the Disability Arts Movement framework, you had to be making work about disability and the artist had to be a disabled person.

But disability arts outside the movement is a conceptual term and refers to the work having some sort of conceptual relation to the meaning of disability and this doesn’t mean you have to have a disability to be able to respond with validity to the subject. This is part of the reason why we opened the exhibition up to disabled and non-disabled people because this is a survey of contemporary disability arts and not a survey of the types of artists who made it.”

Ben Fredericks, Shape programme officer and co-curator for Shape Open interviewed by Trish Wheately.

The exhibition runs through May 6th at Portobello Gallery, Notting Hill W10 5XL.  Awards presented May 3rd at 6:30pm.

Rise Art Featured Artist

And I’ve been selected to be a Featured Artist on Rise Art!  Follow the link to see my work for sale – or rent it, and take it for a spin!

becoming (c)2010 Jane Boyer

'becoming' (c)2010 Jane Boyer

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I Am a Black Box

David Riley is an artist’s artist – he works with raw ideas and even when these concepts have attained a ‘result’, as David calls them, they are still wide open for interpretation, further development and wide ranging tangential possibilities.  His work could be seen as a springboard to so many other ideas in so many possible media.  I continue to be amazed by his output and the sheer magnitude of his inspiration pool.

David also is a keen blogger and has written several blogs on a-n Artists Talking.  Two of his blogs have been chosen as ‘Choice Blog’, the most recent by Linda Stupart.  FORMAT is an artwork and a unique blog, as Stupart points out in her article; it is uniquely David Riley.    It uses the a-n blogging platform to explore the “facilities and limits within the context of an a-n blog,” as David writes in his intro.  He explains, “this should not, in any way, be taken as criticism. The intent is to explore the limit of the facilities offered by an a-n blog (implied and actual) as a form of visual enquiry”.

Stupart says, “Riley’s collapsing of form and content then is notable within the collective blog imaginary, which often fails to be critical of its own formal structure in a way that other types of practice could never get away with.  Through an explication of limitation FORMAT also reminds us of the incredible potential of blogs as medium, as well as making visible the otherwise invisible restrictions of the institutionalized blog – a very big, fairly convoluted white cube, but a container nonetheless.”

See what I mean – a springboard wide open for possibilities.

Jane Boyer: The statement on each of your blogs reads, “I am a black box, an abstract device evolved to hide the complexities within. Given the appropriate stimulus, I can be triggered to display a transient pop-up model of my inner self and disclose a little of what would otherwise remain secret.” 

Beyond the stated reason ‘to hide the complexities within’, why do you present yourself as an object and your inner self as a ‘transient pop-up model’?

David Riley: I don’t intend to ‘present myself as an object’; a black box is a system metaphor so I use it to present myself as a system, a complex system that no one can fully understand (not even me).

The ‘pop-up model’ idea was planted by Richard Taylor when he interviewed me for an a-n Degrees Unedited Blogger Profile back in 2010. The idea meshed quite naturally with my experience as an engineer, where I often analysed systems that were new to me by treating them as a black box in order to understand their true function.  At art college we were encouraged to self-analyse our output and I found myself not fully understanding how I travelled from initial concept to final outcome. So, now I find it useful to think of myself as a black box where every new line of enquiry has the potential to reveal more of my inner (often hidden) self and my motivations for doing what I do.

679-607-700 (c)2012 David Riley

679-607-700 (c)2012 David Riley, post-it note and ink

JB: Your blog REMNANTS could be seen as a companion piece to FORMAT in its use of the blogging platform limitations.  Your introduction statement is a philosophical one and reminds me of Deleuze’s observation “Underneath all reason lies delirium, and drift.”[1]  You state:

“Everything is T R A N S I E N T.

Although the tools here at a-n (and in general on the world wide web) try very hard to make everything permanent, this is not the natural order.  Any impression of permanence is illusionary. The nature of the universe is for everything to return to the universe for reuse.  I have removed (from this blog) everything the a-n system allows me to delete. I could hide the rest by unpublishing it, but this does not release the storage space for reuse.

So here we have a new outcome based on everything that has gone before: the R E M N A N T S.”

Can you comment on that existential triumvirate – memory, transience and reason, in relation to your enquiries and do you feel they are as present in your work as for someone who is working in more traditional media?

DR: If memory is knowledge and experience; if transience is the coming and going of a new influence or a loss of knowledge through lack of use; and if reason is the use of knowledge and experience to filter the infinite possibility into a manageable focus; then yes these factors are most definitely present in my work.

JB: You have two works in This ‘Me’ of Mine, twitter user names: coded (follow the link on David’s page to see the virtual version of twitter names) and bar EP blues (kinetatic), tell us what is behind the further coding of what is often already a code name in the twitter piece.

DR: I chose to translate the twitter user name into a different form, a form that would retain the full meaning but hide it in plain sight. As I wanted to use twitter, this had to be in a form that would still fit within the limitation of a tweet. If you can read my code then you can read the name, the meaning hasn’t changed. But even this is little more than a side-effect. My concept was to take the names and present them in what is to me a visually interesting way while at the same time engaging new people who might interact with me and stimulate new paths of exploration.

stringing code triptych (c)2012 David Riley

stringing code triptych (c)2012 David Riley, wood, steel angle brackets, screws, steel hooks, bungee cord and nylon bungee hooks, editable wall mountable sculpture/ re-mountable installation; 144cm x 144cm x 4cm

JB: I admire the ease with which you move between codes and systems.  Your latest enquiries, stringing words, involve stringing bungee cords which represent the alphabet, short phrases and now names.  You mentioned earlier that you see text as code and so all language is code to you, does this affect your notions of communication and how you relate to others?

DR: My life has been riddled with codes, as a systems engineer I see them everywhere; consequently I am very comfortable with codes. On reflection, using codes may be a strategy, being an artist is relatively new and I prefer to keep an aspect of the process familiar while I explore other aspects for the first time. Changing one variable at a time is a familiar strategy for experimentation, working with the familiarity of codes allows me to handle the unfamiliarity of materials and reactions to my work. It helps me focus on the new connections I make with people and ideas through sharing my output.  I am always absorbing new things and this feedback can influence and encourage something new further down the line. It is rare for this process to change my own perspective on the work, but it does happen on occasion, when it does this can lead to a new line of enquiry or a variation on an old one.

Maybe there will come a time when I move on and explore a different aspect, one that takes a step away from code into a less familiar territory. Although experience suggests codes will always be there somewhere.

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.

David’s Reading List:
The Janus Aspect: Artists in the Twenty-first Century by John Tusa

The Infinite Line: Re-making Art After Modernism by Briony Fer

Lines: A Brief History by Tim Ingold

Cryptography (Very Short Introductions) by Fred C. Piper and Sean Murphy

You’ll Never Know: Drawing and Random Interference by Henry Krokatsis, Jeni Walwin and James Flint

The Cloudspotter’s Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds by Gavin Pretor-Pinney

UML Distilled: A Brief Guide to the Standard Object Modeling Language by Martin Fowler and Kendall Scott

Use Your Head: How to Unleash the Power of Your Mind by Tony Buzan

Jane’s Additions:

The Ghost in the Machine by Arthur Koestler

Phenomenology of Perception by Maurice Merleau-Ponty

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[1] L’île déserte et autres textes (2002). Trans. Desert Islands and Other Texts 1953-1974 (2003). p. 262.

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Anchors of Observation

Strange Fruit (c)2007 Aly Helyer

Strange Fruit (c)2007 Aly Helyer, ink on paper, 67 x 101 cm

I first worked with Aly Helyer in April 2011.  She was one of three winners of the 2010 Core Gallery Open; the other winning artists were Tom Butler and Marion Michell.  The prize was an exhibition of their work called Extra-Ordianary, and extraordinary it was.  I co-curated this exhibition with Rosalind Davis.  During the artists/curator dialogue each artist made a PowerPoint presentation discussing their backgrounds; that was when I saw Aly’s Strange Fruit – I melted where I stood.

The simplicity of process, pouring and puddling ink, combined with a personal trust in the power of artistic creation gives these works a complex psychological tension.  Aly made a series of these images during a time of personal difficulty.  They carry the innocence of child’s play and exude human turmoil.  They are delicate, fragile and vulnerable but with a captivating presence and force.

I knew immediately I wanted to exhibit this work.  I asked Aly at the end of the dialogue session if she would like to exhibit them in a show I was putting together and she said yes with no further hesitation.  Elation!  Now I had to put a show together.  I didn’t know what it would be about or who the other artists would be, all I knew was I had Aly and I was thrilled.

Hot Lady (c)2010 Aly Helyer

Hot Lady (c)2010 Aly Helyer, oil on linen, 56 x 42 cm

Jane Boyer: Are you working with specific ideas of individuals in mind when you locate the ‘eye’ or ‘mouth’ and develop the portrait from there or is it purely fictional?

Aly Helyer: No I wouldn’t say specific individuals, although when a painting is finished something about it can remind me of someone I know or once knew. Mostly though they feel very familiar as if I’ve known them all my life, but this is the first time I’ve truly seen or recognised them.

JB: How does memory function in this approach for you?

AH: Everything is filtered through memory whether directly observed or not, nothing is objective, we all see and remember things differently, but I am also interested in an older shared memory, a universal memory. A friend took me to see the Tito Bustillo cave a few years back and it was incredible how these drawings and paintings from thousands of years ago had the power to trigger something deep in my own memory, there was an amazing connection, a familiarity there.

 “It was the first time everything I was making was made on the floor, it was very much process based another first for me, just pouring inks and watercolours and letting them find their place…I wanted to surprise myself, searching for something I hadn’t seen before, emptying my head of all the crap, all the people, even myself as far as this is possible. Gradually something resembling heads started to appear, lots of them and it was as if they were having conversations with each other. This was my journey back to painting.”

Happy Family with Sheep (c)2007 Aly Helyer

Happy Family with Sheep (c)2007 Aly Helyer, watercolour and ink on paper, 31 x 23 cm

JB: How did this experience, which we see examples of in Strange Fruit and Happy Family with Sheep, affect your work overall?

AH: It was a very difficult period of my life; the studio slowly became a safe place for me to have some fun, to start experimenting and it was the first time in my life I hadn’t worked from observation. It was a very liberating time for me, this way of working and the openness it allows is still very much with me now.

I see Happy Family with Sheep as a kind of ending, closing a chapter of my life; it came out of obliterating an early piece of work, but it also contains the seeds of some of the processes that you see in later works. Strange Fruit was really the catalyst, the first work I made without any anchors.

JB: Your method, if we can call it that, has moved from outward observation to inward intuition to letting the painting develop on its own terms.  Is this significant for you?  Does this relate at all to how you see your own position in the world?

AH: Initially it was very important to move away from outward observation, it came out of necessity for me, and I had to close myself off from the real world for a while although outward observation is creeping back into the work acting as little anchors.

I think it was [Philip] Guston who said something about searching for the technique, and the technique becoming inseparable from the object, an interlocking of image and paint, so yes the methods or techniques that I use are incredibly important as they allow me to get closer to this way of working, sort of trapping the image that I arrive at. The act of making paintings is a way of me trying to figure out my place in the world and how I relate to it.


­­­­­­­Aly’s suggested reading:

James Elkins – What Painting Is

Herschel B. Chip – Theories of Modern Art

Giles Deleuze – Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation

Jane’s suggestions:

David Sylvester – Francis Bacon The Human Body

Rudolf Arnheim – Art and Visual Perception

Samuel Beckett – Three Novels

T.S. Eliot – The Wasteland, Prufrock and Other Poems


Mistress (c)2011 Aly Helyer

Mistress (c)2012 Aly Helyer, oil on linen on board, 77 x 62 cm

Aly was invited to be part of The Perfect Nude, curated by Phillip Allen and Dan Coombs who asked over 100 artists to make paintings of the nude in hope the show will create a rich network of images that will establish a context for representation of the body in contemporary painting.  This exhibition, opened at Wimbledon Space in January and travels to Phoenix Gallery in Exeter later this month:

Thursday 29th March – Saturday 12th May 2012

Open Monday to Saturday 10am – 6pm (closed Bank Holidays)

Phoenix Gallery | Exeter Phoenix | Bradninch Place | Exeter EX4 3LS

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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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From Idea to Intention: This ‘Me’ of Mine

Peripheral Vision (c)2010 David Minton

Peripheral Vision (c)2010 David Minton, oil on canvas, 152.4 x 121.9 cm, courtesy the artist

It takes a great deal of fortitude in the initial moments of moving from idea to intention.  It’s akin to jumping off the cliff in full swan extension.  Well, that’s how I felt at least when I made the decision to turn my idea into intention.  It started with this painting.  I had approached Aly Helyer about possibly showing her ink on paper works months earlier, but it was Peripheral Vision which made me certain I wanted to bring this show together.

David’s painting expresses so much of the philosophy behind the premise of this exhibition in an elegant understatement.  The bird, inextricably bound to its shadow, suspended forever in a fall and bound on both sides by delicate lines almost imperceptible but constraining nonetheless.  It is an expression of a weightless existence outlined by boundaries.

This is the very essence of my enquiry as curator; are we forever bound by our context or can we effect change in a context which defines and shapes us?

The artists in this exhibition are exploring this notion in their own ways within their practices.  Some interact with digital media and question the effects it has on our identity and physical being, some look at the effects of aging seeing strength in vulnerability, some regard objects and uniform as profound signifiers of personal meaning and identity, questioning the relationship we have with objects.  Presence and transience is also evident in many of the works.  It is a presence which is likely to be global now in scope thanks to social media, but which is so fleeting all we can hope for is a moment to exclaim our existence; our fifteen minutes of fame has turned into seconds.

I’ll talk about these works, the artists and the exhibition over the coming weeks in this blog.  Do let us know if you have any comments about what you see and read in these posts, we would be happy to hear from you.  If you would like to follow this blog and the development of This ‘Me’ of Mine, scroll down to the bottom of the page and give us your email address to receive updates or click the link to follow us on Twitter.

If you would be interested in hosting this exhibit or supporting its realization in other ways, you can contact me at thismeofmine[at]gmail.com.

Jane Boyer

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