Tag Archives: signifiers

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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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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Family Romances

British & Foreign Beetles ©2004 Annabel Dover

British & Foreign Beetles, ©2004 Annabel Dover, watercolour

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

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

Christening Gown Ayrshire ©2002 Annabel Dover

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

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

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

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

Water Garden ©2012 Annabel Dover

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

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

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

Iris' Stocking ©2011 Annabel Dover

Iris’ Stocking, ©2011 Annabel Dover, cyanotype

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

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

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

St. Anthony & Putti ©2010 Annabel Dover

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

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

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


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


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

Annabel’s suggested reading:

Archaeology of Knowledge by Michel Foucoult

Art and Artifact by James Putnam

Biographical Objects by Janet Hoskins

Burning with Desire by Geoffrey Batchen

Charles Darwin and Victorian Visual Culture by Jonathan Smith

Reading Boyishly by Carol Mavor

The Archive edited by Charles Merewether

The Emancipated Spectator by Jacques Rancière

The Familial Gaze by Marianne Hirsch

The Politics of Focus by Lindsay Smith

Jane’s additions:

Grimm’s Fairy Tales

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

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

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What Are You Prepared to Give in Exchange?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Birdcage by Kate Murdoch

Birdcage, ©2009 Kate Murdoch

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

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

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

10 x 10 by Kate Murdoch

10 x 10, ©2008 – 2012 Kate Murdoch

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

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

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

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

Kate Murdoch

It's The Little Things by Kate Murdoch

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

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

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

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

Gentlemen by Kate Murdoch

Gentlemen, ©2009 Kate Murdoch

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

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


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

Kate’s suggested reading:

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

Jane’s Additions:

Color Photographs by Marie Cosindas
Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry

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

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Annabel Dover and Cathy Lomax in ‘Tainted Love’ curated by Corinna Spencer

PV: Tonight! May 3, 6 – 9pm

Tainted Love

Alice Anderson, Kirsty Buchanan, Annabel Dover, Georgie Flood,
Andrea Hannon, Paul Kindersley, Hayley Lock, Cathy Lomax,
Alli Sharma, Corinna Spencer, Mark Scott-Wood, Jessica Voorsanger
Selected by Corinna Spencer

4 – 27 May 2012
Gallery Open fri – Sun 12-6pm
Preview: Thur 3 May, 6-9pm

You are an obsession, you’re my obsession…

Cathy Lomax
Corinna Spencer

For those who do not share it, unconditional devotion is seen as unhealthy and unsettling. But to the devotee their chosen idol – however undeserving – is at the centre of the world.

Tainted Love is a day dreamingly dark installation about obsessional love. These desires for desire will range from simple groups of paintings to more elaborate devotional structures each dedicated to what Proust claimed was ‘the only successful (sustainable) love’ – unrequited.

From cabinets of transgression to intimate shrines the Tainted Love artists use objects to attempt to come closer to their objects of desire.

Tainted Love will also be touring to..
Meter Room Coventry, 8 June – 8 July 2012
Preview: Thur 7 June, 6-8.30pm
Downstairs Hereford, 22 September – 18 November 2012
Preview: Sat 22 Sep, 6-9pm

Paul Kindersley
Hayley Lock

Transition Gallery
Unit 25a Regent Studios
8 Andrews Road, London E8 4QN
Directions

Please contact Corinna Spencer for more information and images
corinna@transitiongallery.co.uk

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©2012 Transition Gallery | Unit 25a Regent Studios | 8 Andrews Road | London | E8 4QN
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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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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

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

THANK YOU!


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

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Edd Pearman at John Jones

John Jones and Rise Art are pleased to present ‘Lágrima’, a series of prints by British contemporary artist Edd Pearman at John Jones Front of House space throughout March 2012.

Edd has previously exhibited his work at the Royal Academy, RCA Secret Event, and the John Jones Project Space in 2009. His latest series of work has recently been published by Rise Art.

Lágrima IV, part of a series of works focusing on bullfighters, captures a moment in time in which these grand, decorated men are left vulnerable. There is a sensitivity to the images which focuses on the flow of the materials, the detail of the uniforms and the gently falling bodies while neglecting to show the violence of their injuries.

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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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