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On the Shoulders of Giantesses

Working with unstretched yet primed canvas. Using sponges, palette knives, bubble wrap and stencil brushes. I used washes of paint mixed with medium to keep the texture yet intensify the colour. I also left some of the underpainting visible and developed other parts.

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Creative Process in the expanded field: February

I’ve been working with mum’s archive of Greenham Common photos and also in the expanded field. From gestural beginnings on the kitchen table |I pinned up the canvas in the studio and let loose.

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Initiation: Creative Process

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Initiation: The Ages of Woman

I am working on Definitive Practice for the MA Contemporary Fine Art at Salford University. This is the final part of my Master’s degree which by the time I finish will have taken 3 years. I took a leave of absence through the several lockdowns of the last year as I am homeschooling my children as well as working as a teacher two days a week. This enabled me to slowly work with my final piece over a longer period of time punctuated by the rhythms of this new pandemic life. On the plus side I have a studio at home where I could set everything up, use the space whenever I could and leave everything out. On the negative side it has been a time interrupted and lengthened. This has been an organic process really as it’s been a case of adapt and survive.

My proposal for the final definitive practice is to explore the Ages of Woman through the triune lens of Maiden, Mother and Crone. Going right back to the start in a re-visioning, a contemporising yet referencing pre-Christian, pre-patriarchy, folkloric, mythological concepts and symbols both personal and universal. Facilitating an intuitive response and alchemical development, creating my own mythopoeic language.

Who are we? What are the Ages of Woman now and their deeper significance and links? When do our initiations through time and a sense of being occur? What are our significant phases of growth? Where do we perceive our evolving place in the world to be? How do we counter the lasting effects of  Patriarchy and honour our process, retell our story? Can our changing role and state be mapped and connected with something more eternal and universal? How can these questions be explored and expressed through this work?

My final work has developed from creating a huge concept scroll of my practice on this MA. I traced my process to this point: I used elements of paint and print imbued and influenced by interconnectedness, perception, time, cycles, crows, feminism, philosophy, archetypes, dreams, symbolism, otherness and magical realism. I have come to a point where I am reviewing the bigger picture and re-visioning the life cycle or Ages of Woman.

This has stemmed from MA work on the concept of motherhood, grief, memory and experience and has broadened though tutor conversations to embark on a creative journey exploring the Ages of Woman. The lens has widened to not only include my own experience of this lifecycle and those around conversations with other women but to also consider epochs, art and movements such as the persecution of witches, the suffragettes, feminism, woman’s protest and #metoo. I aim to draw upon and reinterpret our rich heritage, memory and a personal archive of historical photographs from Greenham Common.

Here are some gestural beginnings stemming from releasing the canvas from the tyranny of the frame and working in the expanded field ( in my kitchen!)

Unstretched canvas in the kitchen
Paint tubes straight o to the canvas
Gestural beginnings with knives
Moving into the studio
Composition emerging from chaos
Working stood on a stool in the morning
Sat down in the afternoon
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Freeing Up

Having spent 160 hours on the first painting of my large triptych I feel completely spent. So I’ve decided to spend the Summer creatively freeing up and going wherever the muse takes me!

Exploring colour, process, texture and creating surfaces to work on (paper and board)

acrylic paint, oil pastel, gouache and glaze
acrylic paint, gouache, glaze and crow feathers
acrylic paint, glaze and masking tape
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Portal Painting

acrylic on canvas ( 122 cm by 76cm )
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Light over Glastonbury Tor

Doing some armchair travelling as we are on lockdown, through some old photos and found this one from two years ago when I was at Glastonbury Tor just before a storm in the evening. The light changed dramatically and I took this photo.

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Exploring Theory and Practice MA Contemporary Art Practice

Panoply, Postscripts and Unpresentations

Panoply was the chosen name of our Symposium ( second year Fine Art MA students) on the 3rd December. We persued several different venues and finally agreed to book Partisan in Manchester; a volunteer-run collective with a large basement exhibition and performance space. We had worked successfully with them before and were familar with the space. We created a facebook page and I worked on some digital promotion platforms including: artrabbit, eventbrite and the press association.

After several dynamic meetings, we felt that Panoply was an ideal title as it included all of our idiosyncratic work. Panoply means:


A complete or impressive collection of things


A splendid display


historical, literary A complete set of arms or suit of armour

https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/panoply

So this then was an aspirational title. I was intrigued by its meaning from history and literature as a complete set of arms or armour, and its implied meaning as our defences, coats of arms, posturing on the battlefield and protection. It could be translated to artwork, creative justifications and statements, logos and how we present ourselves on the battlefield of the artworld.

During the symposium there was a flowing combination of more formal presentations, musical experience, performance art, sculpture, film, installation, painting demo, expo and the printed image and text.

The Unpresentation

My presentation as such was in the form of a zine – the printed word and image. After all my research and work I was keen not to impede the primary experience of the viewer. This was in some senses an ‘unpresentation‘. Where viewers did seek me out I pointed them in the direction of the zine and asked them to fill the gaps themselves, the interstices; to shape their own meaning or experience. They talked to me about different positioning of the work creating a different narrative and that the narrative if any would change depending on the viewer. The most challenging aspect for me was not to overtalk the research and resources used.

When clearing the space we had an informal reflection together as a group. The overriding conclusion was that it had been a successful event with more attendees than last time and positive yet interesting feedback and discourse.

Did we create a Panoply?

You decide.

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Exploring Theory and Practice MA Contemporary Art Practice

All that we see or seem is but a zine within a zine

Adaptation of quote from the poem A Dream within a Dream by Edgar Allen Poe (1849)

” All that we see or seem,

is but a dream within a dream”

Exploring a variety of zine formats within the lecture.

I was particularly drawn to the A5 folding out into the A3 ‘posteresque‘ format below. The idea of something beautifully made with a limited number yet that was free appealed to my sense of equality.

Following the link of interstice I wanted to create enough to communicate some of the process and background yet not too much to dictate the experience. This in effect would be my non invasive contribution to the symposium. My printed bridge of the gap between the paintings. A reflective experience for the viewer to absorb.

In a serendipitous collision of events the week before the symposium we had staff presentations 26.11.19 that included Alex Mitchell from the Archive & Special Collections of Salford University. She showcased the collections and the work of artists who had used archives such as Sarah Coggrave. This gave me the context for some of my source material; the family photo archive, particularly the women’s protest movement at Greenham Common that my late mum had wholeheartedly supported and documented.

I folded the sheet in a variety of ways to vary the experience and narrative of the zine. It depended which format was selected and how the viewer picked it up as to how the zine unfolded. The title could be Interstice or The Gaps Between the Stories. One became the story within and the other the story that enclosed it.

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Exploring Theory and Practice MA Contemporary Art Practice

John Moores Painting Prize

The John Moores painting prize is a biennial exhibition held at the Walker gallery. For over sixty years this prize has showcased contemporary painting including Peter Doig, Rose Wylie, Mary Martin and David Hockney. The changing movements of art can be traced through its exhibits such as; realism, figurative work and pop art.

When I attended however, I overwhelmingly perceived abstraction. Maybe this is why the figurative work seemed to stand out or perhaps my interests were developing along these lines.

Using the scheme of analysis from the art students critical writing bible How to write about Contemporary Art (Wilson, 2014) I asked the following key Questions:

“What is it?

What might it mean?

What might this add to your thinking or the world at large?

(section 3:1)

“What is it?

This was a large primitive style figurative canvas by Andrzej Jackowski, inspired by a real-life event; the birth of his son and entitled using Sylvia Plath’s poem  The Beekeeper’s Daughter (Plath, 1960).

What might it mean?

The use of the unusual motifs and fantastical positioning of the figure , complete with the story behind it alludes to the coming journey of life, unknown potential and unknowable path ahead for the youth of the title.

What might this add to your thinking or the world at large?

The positioning of the large figure in the sky with the landscape beneath or as part of the landscape struck me as very different from the other works surrounding which were large abstracts. This was in some ways more intimate and held resonance for me with the use of poetry as a reference.

“What is it?

Large oil on canvas by prominent artist Peter Doig. Figure of his brother absorbed and reflecting in a frozen landscape created in 1993.

What might it mean?

Although Blotter appears as an ‘outscape‘ in that it refers to the paint permeating the canvas during the creative process. It can also be understood as an ‘inscape’ in that it is contemplative. It conveys the idea of contemplation; th unknowable inner thought processes to the viewer, yet we can relate to the moment. The inwardly absorbed solitary figure both reflecting and reflected on the ice amidst a beautiful winter landscape.

What might this add to your thinking or the world at large?

Many facets of this work intrigued me such as the idea of customizing the landscape almost like a theatrical production. In order to attain the desired image the landscape has been designed and altered by water to enhance the reflective qualities for the artist. The solitary figure absorbed in his reflection with the viewer in turn absorbed and reflecting upon it articulates layered levels of perception. The title having a double meaning for the painter’s own process. The use of colour is powerful with a limited palette of cooler colours. The primary source being a family archive photograph – which I can relate to having used them as source material myself. These were all powerful elements within the work and experence of the work for me.

“What is it?

Oil on canvas, painted in 2006 by Martin Greenland of an imaginery landscape of heaven scaled to our human perception.

What might it mean?

This could be construed as a visionary painting using naturalistic elements and places meaningful to the artist. The positioning of Nature in the foreground, painted in a focused and detailed manner, could be a comment on human endeavour on the planet as the space occupied by the town is minimal compared to landscape and sky. Putting our human place in perspective.

What might this add to your thinking or the world at large?

Martin Greenland has used classical as well as local
references and combined these with the imaginery to create a higher synthesis. I find the combination of these elements inspiring as in some respects they are unlimited, yet they retain recognizable references for the viewer.

From my collected triad, the elements that inspired me and I found powerful and meaningful were the visionary yet classical concept; the use of family archive and poetry- which I am developing; the idea of layered perception and what we ourselves bring to the painting experience.

Are we the narrators?

Do we ascribe meaning or are we receptacles for the artistic vision conveyed?

Does the answer lie in both fields?