For several years I have been visiting and taking photographs of the gunning placements in Orkney at Hoxa Head and Shapinsay recording their deterioration.
There are a number of reasons I am drawn to them:
Recently I have been considering how I might make an artwork that will make others aware of their existence and then question their past function and role in WW2.
I have decided upon sculpting small scale replicas in wax which I would then cast in lead employing the lost wax process. These would then be mounted onto plinths of wood that I had found on the beach.
Speaking to my lecturers at Gray’s they were excited that I wanted to try some casting but were concerned about the toxicity of the lead. I was told to research and reconsider my choice of metal. Having spoken to the head technician Phil Chaplain who amongst other things has used brass hinges to make casts I came upon the idea of looking for spent brass artillery shells. Not only would brass be a suitable metal for casting but the shells would be a symbolic memorial.
Although I drive and have a car I prefer to take the train when I travel to Gray's. I am constantly on the go, always busy: so I enjoy the captivity of the conveyance that forces me to slow down, consider and reflect.
When I travel northwards I have a ritual that I am compelled to observe. I will look out of the window of my carriage to seek deer. Once that task has been satisfied I am free to stare and wonder at my fellow incarcerated commuters.
This Friday however I did not follow my usual routine. Instead I used the time to read and write down quotes for my impending dissertation. The text in my employ, "Camera Lucida" by Roland Barthes. The work takes all my concentration as Barthes academically dissects 'the photograph' but I am immediately connected by a quote in chapter one which expresses how I feel when I show my found objects to some people:
"Sometimes I would mention this amazement, but since no-one seemed to share it nor even understand it (life consists of these little touches of solitude"
My arrival at Grays this Friday was to complete two main tasks; to take down my exhibition of work and to receive feedback for my studio practice from my principal tutor Dr Jon Pengelly.
One of the many aspects of Grays that I love is the kindness off all the staff. It was noted by the head electrician William as he walked by that I was using a screwdriver to take down my show. I had forgotten to take my cordless drill so he offered me a shot of his. Speaking casually to the head technician Phil Chaplain that I was wanting to do some lost wax casting he promptly led me to the casting studio, advised me on process and metals, showed me exemplars then told me to get in touch with him when I was ready to start making my metal sculptures.
Show finally down it was time for my feedback. This showcase of work has most certainly been a turning point for me. I am now beginning to make sense of the extensive experiments that I have been making and feel focused on the works I wish to output for my Masters Show. This is the feedback I received:
The work you have presented offers a fascinating insight into the breadth and depth of work you have developed over the period of this Masters course to date. These different aspects of your art practice are each closely related but yet stand along in their own right we feel. There has been significant progress in your confidence this is very clear in the confident and assured way you have curated and presented this work.
More recent developments and experiments - pinhole camera and stereoscopic viewer for example show a purposeful and clear sense of forward direction and aspect to your practice which rather interestingly acts as a counterpoint to your more opportunistic 'found' and beach combing works. Which more easily celebrate your aesthetic control and selection of artifacts and objects.
It is in this area or space you are starting to map out between serendipitous and more purposeful experimentation that we feel your starting to recognise. We do feel you might be more experimental in terms of scale (photographs for example) and think about the location both in terms of subjects as well as venue for this work.
At this point you are very well placed to move forward into the Masters element of this course, in the knowledge that your visual and critical language has developed in a very interesting and marked direction. This growing sense of self confidence, is self evident in your work and the progress you have made.
Oonagh Devoy, Merlyn Riggs, Julie Green and Fiona Stephen
Friday morning 6 am saw me being rudely awakened by my traditional bell alarm clock. The night before had seen me sort out all that I needed to set up my PG Diploma Show at Gray's. The only worry now was that the treacherous weather may disrupt my journey northwards.
The drive to Stonehaven was very windy. Many branches littered the road and the high winds made passing lorries hairy. Destination reached I transferred my belongings to my fellow classmates car, Fiona Stephen, then we headed off to Gray's to set up our show.
Without a doubt the close friendships formed with the girls in my year has enhanced our collective MFA experience as we support each other, offload problems, share our ideas and offer constructive advice. As we set up our show we helped carry each others works in from their cars, shared tools, lent a eye to check that works where level. Lunchtime saw us stopping to eat together and share dishes of food that we had made.
By mid afternoon our Show was set up and we were all still smiling! A good omen for our forthcoming Masters Show in August!
This week saw the completion of the first of my display cabinets. A build that I can say I am very happy with.
In true beach combers style I sourced two of the components from the tide line:
- Rubber tyre rope for the ridge that holds the Perspex in place
- Driftwood to strengthen the copper pipe legs
I also made use of my dads new workshop and learned how to use a pipe cutter and a fixed drill!
Over the next few months I plan to make a number of these cabinets to house my most special collections for my Masters Show.
With the January exhibition nearing I have been considering how to display my glass cyanotypes. Although I could construct light boxes for them I felt that a frame directly around the image would be distracting.
I searched the internet and decided that the solution may lie in drilling a hole in each corner of the glass then using a spacer fixing to attach to the wall. Not only would this render a sense of space around the image but it would solve the problem of illumination.
A couple of YouTube tutorials and a set of diamond tipped drill bits later.........
I cannot tell you how many pieces of glass i broke or convey my sense of frustration after having successfully drilled two holes to then break the glass on the third. Not that I was slapdash. I made a jig for my glass, made a well to hold the lubrication that would cool the drill bit, kept my torque low. Because the glass is only 2mm thick the task proved too difficult.
Speaking to a new friend of mine (artist David Fyans), he suggested that l look into using neodymium magnets. Four screw in a wall followed by four spacer magnets then the glass cyanotype sandwiched inbetween four final magnets. Success at last!
Not only had David's suggestion saved me from ruining anymore glass but I can also visualise other ways I can incorporate the magnets when curating my Show.