DJCAD Reflective Research Journal – Week Two

This week started with an induction to the print workshops. I began mono printing from a sheet of aluminium. First, my stylised tree shapes, and then the shadow symbols (as I think I’m going to start calling them). These are the shapes I began laser printing last week. I felt excited and energised by the immediacy of the mono printing. I had played around with this method years ago, but with glass and no printing press and the results were not as satisfying. I took a sheet of Perspex home and spent that evening scratching a drawing onto the sheet to make a dry point the next day. I worked from a plein-air drawing I had done in my sketchbook of a central, large tree with a river and buildings behind, and I populated it with the shadow symbols. It came out well but I didn’t feel like I could take it any further and I found the process of dry point printing too long and arduous.

During my studio tutorial with Mark Wallace, he was very positive and encouraging about my work so far and suggested various ways I might go forward with these ideas. He mentioned it would be easy to animate the figure symbols with video and when I mentioned that I had some poetry to go along side these and that I might like to try some sound with them too, he was enthusiastic about this idea. After years of working on my own and not thinking I particularly need feedback anymore, I realised It can still be quite useful and my confidence was boosted by his enthusiasm. I am definitely already working better within a structure of sorts, even though it’s an open brief and am also finding the access to new materials and methods of working is making me very productive. I also mentioned the fire and wanting to bring that into my work somehow and Mark said that as artists we had the perfect opportunity to work through traumas and get closure. I immediately thought I don’t think this is something I am going to be able to “close” and that maybe I just don’t want to yet…

Back in the print workshops I took a sheet of black card from which the shadow symbols had been cut and laid it over the monotone dry point scene. At the suggestion of our printing tutor, Mark Hunter, I scanned these two together, and then, in Photoshop, cropped to a couple of the single symbols and turned the blacks to white and vice versa. I blew the shapes up and printed them out at A3 and A2. They were quite exciting, but I wasn’t happy with the blurred edges, caused by the 2mm or so depth of the stencil, I’d scanned.

So I tried making a woodcut of one of these images with its internal shapes and patterns, but although it made a nice print in its own right, I hadn’t reproduced the delicate patterns created by the drypoint marks and it felt like another dead end. That night I went to the DJCAD library, did some of the recommended reading on semiotics and tried to work out if my figures fitted into this subject. Then as I was leaving, a book on the end of a shelf caught my eye. It was called “Cut Ups and Cut Outs” and showed a paper cut out by Hans Christian Anderson on the cover. The next day I began folding paper and making freehand cut out figures, beginning with one of Andersons Danish fairy-tale characters, then my shadow symbols. It was surprisingly easy and satisfying. I decided I might try animating some of these paper figures but have not yet worked out how to do so.

At the same time, I was thinking about the idea of incorporating the fire damaged remnants somehow. But as I put a stack of charred book pages on my desk, people began stopping and commenting on them and after I had explained that they were remnants of my house fire and then witnessed the familiar recoiling in shock or embarrassment, that people often react with; I stopped explaining. Later I took an oval of a charred book page, and from it cut a figure symbol with its arms in the air and mounted it on a red paper house with flame shapes coming out of it. I wrote on it an example of the kind of short exchanges I had with people after the fire. This all seemed a bit too obvious and not how I wanted to express things, but I hoped would serve as a sort of explanation to passers-by. It made me realise I maybe didn’t want to include the fire stuff right now after all. That the explaining and exposing myself as a victim was maybe going to get in the way of things. While I thought about this, I drew some monsters form some of the burnt children’s books of which there was no trace, googling them for reference and explored project titles like “The Lost Books” and “The Land of Burned Things”. For me the shadow symbols are all part of the fire and the events surrounding it, but the way I was exploring things here, felt like two separate projects. I decided I wanted to interview each member of my family who were directly affected by the fire and use (possibly just the audio) to make a short film; but not now; maybe in the future.

I thought about my shadow characters and what they represented, and the fact that the words animal instincts or base instincts were the best descriptions I had so far. Then I thought about Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights and wondered if doing some research on him and his characters might be helpful. So, that’s my plan for next week.

The artists talk this week was by Tracy MacKenna from The Museum of Loss and Renewal which sounds like a great project to have come out of a traumatic situation and from which I take hope.

Our Critical and Contextual Studies lecture was by Sandra Plummer on the subject of What is Modern Art? in which we discussed symbols, visual devices and gender in art. I am still reading some of the recommended articles that were suggested for this lecture, including “Why Our Pictures Are Puzzles” which so far, is looking at theories of hidden political messages in paintings. I find the idea of embedding messages in paintings tempting.

There was also a screening of a film about Cindy Sherman, which I found fascinating and if I have time, would love to explore her work more thoroughly, and though I think it is not so relevant to my work just now, is historically really interesting and was very prophetic of the social media selfie culture of today and fittingly, she has now adopted Instagram as her current platform.

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