Sunday, 31 January 2016

Groundhog Day

Another melancholy shaped day. I have managed to be somewhat productive in that I didn’t just eat toast avec diffĂ©rentes garnitures but otherwise, it’s been yet one more day of my mind grating itself into futile pieces.

I have managed to get some of my research down on paper, however I am a crazed knowledge junkie and studying art is just too fucking sweet. There’s just so much. It’s as though I am in some delicious labyrinth of doors and with each one I walk through several others pop up, and I simply cannot turn away. It makes me wish I didn’t have the dull blooded-organism liability that is sleep. Those hours could be better spent continuing my research in how the school of Geometric Abstraction was influenced by Islamic art, which used geometric abstraction to represent the vital universal balance between spirituality, science and mathematics and humanity without literally depicting figures etc. as that was forbidden in the Koran, and in turn how that relates to the Cubism movement.

I tell a lie. I love sleep. 

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Ideas and several small rants

After a sorrowfully unproductive day yesterday feeling woefully under the weather I have managed, yet again, to successfully emulate the sleeping pattern of those on the other side of the equator.

 Not having a phone, again, is hideous. I never know what time it is, I don’t get the vital opportunities to set 45 alarms to wake me up in the correct hours for GMT. It’s very disorientating.

My fist project back at university is due in next week and although the research is done; the practical side is not even touched upon. This project is exclusively about paint and I (embarrassing to admit) don’t have any left after last semester. I am beyond infuriated and fed up by Student Finance still having not paid me half of my money.
 This course has been an utter struggle in the way of finances thus far and it’s nearly over. To do an art course when you were on benefits prior and haven’t even been paid enough by SFE to cover your rent is near impossible. All the ideas I have are just not feasible without even some tiny current of money.

Perhaps more hilariously my Debit Card has ceased working and the little money I have after paying a large portion, but not all, of my rent arrears upon receipt of my loan is locked away, leaving me with the splatters of my remaining birthday money after I paid for the faulty washing machine. Oh life. You can never be easy, can you?

Unconsciously though I have seemingly had the clever discussion about what is more important: the education I have desperately wanted since childhood and that is costing me 8k or eating palatable items, and I seemingly decided the latter wasn’t so necessary. So I have restrained myself from buying food, and am living off a healthy diet of peanut butter on toast and am having to talk myself into spending a large portion of all the money I have for basic survival and travel on equipment, including an easel.
 I find it equally despicable and amusing when people don’t grasp when one exclaims poverty- I have found myself in many situations throughout my years clawing at survival where I had, quite literally, pennies to my name, not even enough to get a bus or a loaf of bread. When I have no money, that is quite literally what I mean. I guess it would be lovely to think ‘no money’ means not going abroad this year or cutting back on luxury purchases, rather than shit I can’t eat and I can’t afford tampons this month.

Anyway, I digress. In the kitchen for my breakfast (at half past three, it turns out) I was thinking about all the people who have taken the same steps as me in this house over the years. I adore this house, and the area, mostly due to the irony that it is seen as one of the largely impoverished areas of the whole of Britain yet it was built as an exclusively wealthy area for civil servants and members of the judiciary. The houses ooze with a magnificent Victorian splendour, with a grimy coat of modern poverty. The juxtaposition of old affluence and contemporary paucity fills me with a melancholic thrill. I have always adored looking at photos of places I know 'then and now' and the more I see the more I hunger for it. I have spent days lost looking at old photos of the cities I have lived in and the streets I have walked.

Belmont Road, 1900

Belmont Drive, 1905

One of the many boarded up houses in the same area 

The difference in state is mind blowing

A house in my road, one of the many boarded up

My house is an old council flat, now owned by a housing association, in a beautiful Victorian manor. It has been structurally altered to accommodate two separate dwellings, one flat down stairs and our maisonette which spans across three floors. Thankfully, the house has retained many of its architectural features inside and hasn’t been overly butchered by so many years of grim council house greying-cream fixtures. I often sit and picture what rooms would have looked like in the years gone by- what they would have been purposed for. How much has it changed? Who lived here before? This week my curiosity has been elated by the discovery of two new rooms that have been boarded up in the loft level where my bedroom is.
A road in my area in the 1900s and 2015

Judges Row, Newsham 1900. Built for the wealthy.

I wondered if it would be possible to get the records of the previous tenants throughout the years and contact their families and ask if they would like to come and have a look where they/their ancestors spent at least a portion of their lives and ask if they had any photos of what it looked like during their time period. (I for one would love to go into all the houses I have lived over the years and see what they look like now).
 The idea to take a photographic portrait of these families/persons and paint them in the styling’s of either the most revolutionary practitioner or just in the general style and clothing etc. of the time came about, and somehow that developed into doing a Pointillist piece using prints of all their hands to make a picture of the front of the house.
 That then got me thinking about forensics (I, too, have been swept up in the Steven Avery case) and how many finger prints there would be if one could see it using forensic equipment over the centuries.
 In turn, that got me to thinking about the blue tones of forensic lighting, which made Damien Hirst (I actually am not a fan of Hirst nor the 'Young British Artists' scene altogether, however it was the colours and eerie toning that I thought would be suitable to study for this purpose) and Francis Bacon explode into my head.

I am excited by this idea. It is definitely something I would love to work on. As an interior-obsessed history-possessed artist it would be incredibly fitting. 

Francis Bacon, Study after Velazquez II, 1950

Francis Bacon, Head 1, 1953

Francis Bacon, Screaming Pope

Damien Hirst, White Roses and Butterflies (2008)

Damien Hirst, Shark's Jaw, Skull and Iguana on a Table


Damien Hirst, Skull


Thursday, 28 January 2016

Miss Baines

The first slide of my PowerPoint

Today I went to Brookhurst Primary school in Wirral, Merseyside to give a presentation about Art to a class of Year 3 children. I was exceptionally nervous, as I hadn’t done anything of the sort before but the usual Artist who gives these annual presentations for the Art segment of the school year was unfortunately ill, so I was asked by a family member (the teacher) to do it instead. It was an overall charming challenge to conjure up a presentation that would be suitable for that age group and ensure their attention, delight and inspire them whilst keeping it educational.

 I prepared a PowerPoint presentation including photographs of my work and some of the basic principles of the Artistic process followed by a mini lecture on Jackson Pollock. The decision to use Pollock as my artist profile for the children came from my being engrossed in researching the Abstract Expressionism movement after attending the Blind Spots exhibition at the Tate Modern gallery in the Albert Dock late last year with University. I thought Pollock would be an interesting contrast to the usual artists children study at that particular Key Stage and one of the main points I wanted to get across to them was that art comes in many forms, as well as the principle of ‘mistakes can be useful’. I also wanted to get them involved and produce some work of their own and thought that all the sloshing and splashing involved in a Pollock-inspired piece would be endless fun for young artists.

 All traces of nerves were swiftly vaporised after my second slide where I went through some of the career paths one could take down the artistic route and the eager hands shot up to ask me a continuous assortment of questions. They were really engaging and the overall experience was mutually inspiring.

 I won’t dwell too much on the details of what was said but we covered many things, including the different types of paints, canvases and types of paper, artistic techniques and even Surrealism. The children reacted incredibly positively to my every word. It was so humbling when Janet (the teacher) said that it was time for break and they all let out a moan of grief and I had a little crowd of excited faces talking at me about their own art work and running to show me paintings and drawings they had done.

 After break we did some paintings inspired by Pollock. Going through the tables helping them and showing them techniques I observed that many of them were thoroughly enjoying the process, however some of them couldn’t quite understand the concept of ‘not painting anything’; just painting and one boy just painted a park scene instead. Some of the work that was produced was outstanding to say the least.

 For the children that were confused or discouraged by not having a subject, I pulled up an example of fellow Abstract Expressionist Willem De Kooning’s work and explained that you can still have a subject when producing work ‘with feelings’ (as my simplified explanation of Abstract Expressionism) but the point was that art doesn’t always have to look ‘photographic’.

We finished with a lot of paint splattered children, and I asked them what they had learnt today. The responses were heart-warming: ‘that mistakes can be good’, ‘it’s ok not to be perfect’, ‘to never throw away work’, ‘art can be anything’ and about Jackson Pollock. It was just what I wanted them to come away with; that imperfections can make a piece, that although as artists we can be cruelly self-critical never to throw away a piece of work, and that art doesn’t just mean realist paintings or sculpture.

 I asked for a raise of hands of who enjoyed themselves today and every one reached for the sky in an instant. That followed by a last wave of questions where I was overjoyed to hear them say that I had inspired them to do more art work, to become an artist and that I was ‘the best artist they had ever met’. Some of the children said they wanted to do me some paintings and send them to me through the post, and were beyond excited when I said I would definitely be coming back to do more work with them in the future. 

Upon returning home I received a text from Janet, who is actually my step-mum (that was hilariously difficult to keep secret when I was talking about my family in response to a question and when the children kept shouting ‘Miss Baines’) saying that one of the children exclaimed to her parents that they'd had “the best day I’ve ever had”.

 That experience today is what inspired me to keep a blog, as talking in a school about art was one of the most enriching experiences I have ever had as an Artist and is most definitely something I would love to have the opportunity to do again. I came out of that school full of motivation and a renewed outlook on how much art actually means to me.

Note: Photos of the Children's work and my presentation to soon follow