Twenty-eight

i. On Tuesday afternoon I went to visit Artists First, a group of 16 disabled visual artists with learning difficulties based in Bristol. Artists First has been working together since 1988 and to mark its anniversary has been looking back and making artwork about the people and events that have shaped it over the years. We talked about our work and the reason artists make portraits. The possibility of me returning to run a printmaking workshop was discussed. I had a really good afternoon.

Peter Sutton,  Self-Portrait

Peter Sutton, Self-Portrait

Liz Lane,  Lying on Patchwork

Liz Lane, Lying on Patchwork

ii. I have rejoined Bath Artists Printmakers and, because I was already in the South West, decided that I'd get more done there than at Camberwell this week. I made a couple of large monotypes (experimenting with layering and collage based on drawings and photographs of the The Three Crowns. It was fun, playful and a step in the right direction. I may well exhibit these in the interim show. It also quickly became apparent that I need to make a lot more drawings and gather new source material over the summer. It could be a really exciting project.

iii. Whilst I was at Bath Artist Printmakers the editor of Pressing Matters visited about a possible feature about the group in the future. He chatted to me about printmaking and took some photographs of my work. I need to remember to get in touch with him about future exhibitions/next year's degree show.

The Three Crowns,  2018

The Three Crowns, 2018

The Three Crowns,  2018

The Three Crowns, 2018

iv. I spent the weekend exhibiting in the Whiteknights Studio Trail, an arts trail in Reading sponsored by the University of Reading. It was pretty boring weekend but I did manage to sell a couple of pieces.

v. Unfortunately, because I was hanging work on the Friday night I was unable to get into London for the private view of the Bainbridge Open and have since been informed that I won the Bainbridge Print Studios prize! I will visit the show next Thursday to find out what that actually entails but I am surprised and obviously delighted.

 
Mum,  2018

Mum, 2018

 

Twenty-seven

i. On Wednesday we had a meeting to present and discuss our initial ideas for the research paper. Jo often asks me to question the contemporary relevance of my practice so I have decided that I want to write my essay about two of my favourite artists at the forefront of contemporary portraiture: Chantal Joffe and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. It was suggested that I try to arrange interviews with both artists (coincidentally someone on my course told me that Chantal Joffe is her neighbour) and, although I need to specify a question in the next few weeks, the general ideas were well-received and encouraged.

Chantal Joffe,  The Squid and the Whale,  2017

Chantal Joffe, The Squid and the Whale, 2017

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye,  Coterie Of Questions,  2015

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Coterie Of Questions, 2015

ii. The majority of Thursday was taken up with Symposium 2, a series of presentations by the second years about their current practices. It was fascinating and reassuring to see how much their work had developed and moved on since the first symposium back in October.

iii. The symposium also reiterated the need to develop a 'project' (more specific and outward-looking than just portraits of friends and family) in order for my practice to have a focus and a purpose for the duration of the MA. On Tuesday I made a quick monotype of Jake from a recent trip to the pub. Making this and reflecting on my tutorial with Emma Stibbon last week, I have devised a plan for the next few months (although it could end up lasting longer). I am fairly itinerant at the moment (probably one of the reasons my work has been all over the place) and yet my local pub the Three Crowns has become a bit of a constant. It is somewhere that I have a real fondness for, regularly make a point of visiting, and have made a few works about before. The Three Crowns is a traditional community pub full of weird and wonderful regulars and, in the same way that Alice Neel depicted the citizens of her New York neighbourhood or Leon Kossoff painted his son's swimming pool, a series of works based on its everyday goings-on and inhabitants might be a project that I could really get my teeth into.

iv. I then went to visit and draw from Teniers the Younger's A Man holding a Glass and an Old Woman lighting a Pipe at the National Gallery in a room devoted to 'Scenes of Everyday Life'. I can't wait to further explore Dutch tavern paintings, Michael Andrews' paintings of the Colony Room or contemporary paintings and prints of pubs and bars by artists such as Alice Macdonald and Ben Westley Clarke. Contextually it is going to be a rich and exciting project!

v. I have arranged to rejoin Bath Artist Printmakers next week and plan to spend two long days next week churning out some initial monotypes based on photographs and sketchbook drawings of the Three Crowns.

 
David Teniers the Younger,  A Man holding a Glass and an Old Woman lighting a Pipe,  c.1645

David Teniers the Younger, A Man holding a Glass and an Old Woman lighting a Pipe, c.1645

 

Twenty-six

i. Emma Stibbon RA came in to give a talk about her practice. Emma travels around the world (often on residencies) making prints and drawings that explore our fragile relationship with the landscape. I had a brilliant tutorial with her and asked her how I might think about my practice as both individual projects and a wider practice. Emma suggested I not worry about the bigger picture yet (after all, she did show twenty years' work in an hour's talk) and to just get as much out of Camberwell as I can whilst I am here. She also suggested (after looking at my work) that it might be a good idea to continue making pictures of ordinary people in contemporary and everyday situations (such as my Three Crowns prints).

ii. I was lucky enough to attend the memorable event 'Paul Coldwell in conversation with William Kentridgebeing held at Camberwell last week. The talk focused on Kentridge's approach to printmaking and how it has informed his wider practice. He was gentle, articulate and hugely inspiring: it was a superb evening.

Emma Stibbon,  Stromboli Smoke,  2016

Emma Stibbon, Stromboli Smoke, 2016

William Kentridge,  Ubu Tells the Truth, Act 1, Scene 2,  1996-97

William Kentridge, Ubu Tells the Truth, Act 1, Scene 2, 1996-97

iii. I spent Thursday in the etching workshop developing a small sketchbook drawing into a finished print using sugar lift, aquatint, spit bite and soft ground etching. It was fun just making marks, playing with techniques and developing my vocabulary. Although it's just a small etching it's a massive step forward: I felt a lot happier in etching (rather than lithography) and these techniques can definitely be pushed further.

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Mum,  2018

Mum, 2018

 

Twenty-five

i.  I was feeling a bit worried about going back to uni this week (I didn't realise I was such an anxious person until starting this MA...) because of the forthcoming interim exhibition, research paper and symposium. However, Jo quickly reassured us: the research paper isn't due until October, the interim 'display' only consists of one work each, and we are only an audience for the symposium. I also went for coffee with second year student Leah for reassurance and advice: she suggested that she had felt like this last year and that it's completely normal.

ii. I took part in a group crit where I explained that I was putting aside processes such as lithography to focus on developing my etchings and monotypes (which was encouraged). However I still feel a certain pressure to define 'a project' or find a specific focus so that my work isn't too vague and all over the place. I am unsure if this pressure is coming from the tutors or myself.

iii. The poster and list of exhibiting artists for the Bainbridge Open was revealed. I was delighted to see my name in the company of several artists that I really admire such as Alice Macdonald and Professor David Ferry (who taught printmaking in my first year at Cardiff). I can't wait to see my work in the context of a show devoted to contemporary printmaking.

 
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Twenty-four

i. In the run up to its opening, London Original Print Fair shared a series of 'Everything you've ever wanted to know about...' videos featuring Mike Taylor (who we met at Pauper's Press) demonstrating a variety of printmaking processes. After watching the video below I really want to make etchings again.

ii. I really enjoyed my Thursday evening etching class this week. Our tutor Rossen helped me develop my initial drypoint (and begin another etching) with hard ground and aquatint. None of the techniques are new to me but being encouraged to push and develop a plate further and further feels really exciting and liberating - I'd forgotten how much I enjoy etching!

Becky Reading (first state),  2018

Becky Reading (first state), 2018

Becky Reading (second state),  2018

Becky Reading (second state), 2018

iii. In my initial project proposal I wrote that I will 'continue figurative printmaking... with expressive and painterly drawing methods... and will try new approaches such as lithography and painterly etching.' One of my main objectives for the MA was to get a lot better technically. Unfortunately I've come to the realisation that I could spend two years making lithographs and, because of its technical difficulty, not be that good at it. Reflecting on my practice as a whole, I've realised that I spend a lot of time trying out different processes (bronze casting, woodcut, lithography etc.) but never in enough depth. If I spent the next year-and-a-half developing my etching (something I'm already fairly proficient at and did intend to do at Camberwell) I could get really good.

Susanne du Toit

Susanne du Toit

Leon Kossoff,  The Window,  1984

Leon Kossoff, The Window, 1984

iv. I visited Tacita Dean: PORTRAIT at the National Portrait Gallery (the gallery's first exhibition devoted entirely to film). The show mostly consists of 16mm films of artists such as David Hockney, Cy Twombly and Julie Mehretu (individuals are depicted sitting, working and talking). The videos are quiet, intimate and, despite not a lot actually happening, incredibly moving.

 
Tacita Dean,  Portraits,  2016

Tacita Dean, Portraits, 2016

 

Twenty-three

i. Last Thursday I visited the London Original Print Fair at the Royal Academy. I (unsurprisingly) enjoyed the etchings by Auerbach and Freud at the Marlborough stand and thought the colourful landscape etchings by Etel Adnan were wonderful. My friend Tom Cartmill won a prize earlier in the year to create, edition and sell a print with Rabley Drawing Centre which was probably the best curated stand in the Fair (including memorable works by Sadie Tierney, Katherine Jones and Emma Stibbon). Overall it was an exciting and impressive display of printmaking but, because of the quantity, it quickly become a bit much to take in. The works that stood out were usually big, bold and brash such as Tom Hammick's woodcuts and monotypes or William Kentridge's etchings - how do I get my prints to stand out in a room full of prints? (Something to consider before next year’s degree show.)

Lucian Freud,  Man Posing,  1985

Lucian Freud, Man Posing, 1985

Etel Adnan,  Paysage de feu,  2017

Etel Adnan, Paysage de feu, 2017

 
Sadie Tierney,  Into the Gloaming,  2017

Sadie Tierney, Into the Gloaming, 2017

 

ii. I will be exhibiting my monotype Mum in the Bainbridge Open. The print-only exhibition aims to show 'the diversity and breadth of contemporary print-based art practice today' so is a particularly good show for me to be a part of. I look forward to seeing how my work looks in this setting.

iii. On Sunday morning I received an email notifying me that I’ve been elected as a member of the Bath Society of Artists. The Bath Society of Artists was founded in 1904 and artists who have been members or have exhibited with them in the past include Walter Sickert, William Scott, Patrick Heron and Mary Fedden. It was completely unexpected and I am thrilled.

iv. Although I'm not happy with a lot of my most recent output, it's been encouraging to exhibit, sell and win awards for artworks that I made in the last year or two. It's a good reminder that I can definitely get back to that place and use this third term at Camberwell productively.

 
Walter Sickert at the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath in 1939

Walter Sickert at the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath in 1939

 

Twenty-two

i. It's been a couple of weeks since my last post. I'm back at school and trying to focus on what my practice is about and get as organised and prepared as possible for starting the final term of my first year at Camberwell. I've still got lots to figure out.

ii. I managed to pop into Tom Hammick's brilliant exhibition Lunar Voyage at Flowers Gallery, a series of seventeen woodcuts that recount an imagined journey to the moon and back. The prints themselves are bold, colourful, fun and yet somehow melancholy. I particularly love how Hammick makes his prints feel as immediate and important as large-scale paintings. Although he is also a painter, his monograph describes his particular love for printmaking: 'printmaking puts an image in touch with its status as an object in a way that oils as a medium may not, with all their seductions and high aspirations. Ink remains ink: 'the materials have their own authority…''

Tom Hammick,  Sky Atlas,  2017

Tom Hammick, Sky Atlas, 2017

Tom Hammick,  Lunography,  2017

Tom Hammick, Lunography, 2017

iii. I started my Thursday Evening Etching course at the Royal Drawing School. We began with drypoint and I had a brilliant time playing around with mark-making and image-making without feeling the pressures of deadlines and crits. I am really happy at Camberwell but it has affected my approach to making. I hope I can carry the enjoyment and freedom from this course into the print rooms at uni.

iv. Before the etching course I visited Holly Froy's fantastic exhibition Fasting & Feasting. Holly writes about the title of the exhibition: 'The idea of fasting and feasting applies not only to rituals surrounding food and its stories - an abundance and then a drought - but also to an imbalance or lop-sidedness, a series of peaks and troughs that relate to ideas and processes.’ This description (and the exhibition itself) interested and reassured me: I met Holly at a one-night-only exhibition/party I was showing work in just over a year ago and remember her describing feeling frustrated and inhibited at the Royal Drawing School. And yet her current show is so exciting, a release of creativity and pleasure in image-making having left the school. One of my most productive and fertile times for making art happened in the year after I left Cardiff. Perhaps this feeling of frustration and confusion is simply a part of art school and perhaps creative freedom (a result of everything learned) only realises itself afterwards. Obviously that’s not to say I will stop trying, just that I must try and learn to ride out the frustration and trust that it is part of a bigger process.

Holly Froy,  Two Leopards,  2017

Holly Froy, Two Leopards, 2017

Holly Froy,  Cutting Grass Two Ways,  2017

Holly Froy, Cutting Grass Two Ways, 2017

v. I am daunted by the coming term at Camberwell which will involve an interim show (which I feel wholly unprepared for) and the main written component of the course. I know my essay will be about portraiture and have been trying to get as much research done now in preparation. I stumbled upon a crumpled bit of paper on which I had scrawled a superb quote by Martin Gayford a few years ago: 'This brings out a wider point about portraits. Sometimes we are interested in them because of whom they depict... Very often, however, we neither know nor care... It is, if you think about it, a remarkable fact that we can be so impressed and involved by representations of people long dead, of whose names and lives we know nothing. The reason, perhaps, is that we see in their features what we know about people: friends, family, acquaintances.’

Twenty-one

i. I spent two sunny days in London. I met up with my friend and fellow artist Beth to see the band Big Thief . Before the gig we popped into Whitechapel Gallery to see Chantal Joffe's new series of colourful, small-scale paper collages, which will later be enlarged to form a permanent mural at Whitechapel station. These cutout figures (some collaged, some painted) were about the same size as my monotypes and were intimate and fun and must have been made quickly and spontaneously. I need to lose this anxiety about making work that seems to have developed and start enjoying playing with ideas and experimenting with materials again.

Chantal Joffe,  A Sunday Afternoon in Whitechapel  (detail) ,  2017

Chantal Joffe, A Sunday Afternoon in Whitechapel (detail), 2017

Chantal Joffe,  A Sunday Afternoon in Whitechapel  (detail) ,  2017

Chantal Joffe, A Sunday Afternoon in Whitechapel (detail), 2017

ii. On my second day in London I (re)visited All Too Human with dad. I enjoyed the show more this time having had time to reflect on the work and read the catalogue. The following are quotes from essays in the catalogue that I found useful:

Charlotte Mullins:
'The artists in this exhibition have spent their lives trying to... pin down the intensity of a lived moment, of reality... despite the speed of contemporary life, or perhaps because of it, an increasing number of artists now... try and capture their experience of it.’

'Figurative painting has moved beyond needing to prove itself as a valid medium at every turn. Finally it coexists with authority alongside more recent trends in contemporary art, such as performance and photography.’

Celia Paul:
'I can only work from people and places that I know and love. This is my purpose. I need to be aware of where I am in my life and to consider what is most important and relevant to me at this present moment.’

 
Frank Auerbach,  Head of Jake,  1997

Frank Auerbach, Head of Jake, 1997

 

iii. I'm starting an evening etching course at the Royal Drawing School with my friend Jon in a couple of weeks. I was worried I wouldn't have time to squeeze this in, but I like the idea of having two-and-a-half hours a week of structured teaching to ease me back into etching (something I proposed to do in my project proposal). I think it's ok for me to just keep playing with processes for this first year - I just want to learn as much as possible.

Twenty

i. Not only did I get two prints in the Bath Society of Artists show but I also won the Harry Walker Young Artists Prize for my portrait of Becky. Both prints on show were made from life at Bath Artist Printmakers a couple of years ago. I'm particularly proud of these two portraits and am delighted to have them hanging on the walls of the Victoria Art Gallery for the next couple of months. I attended the opening night and prize-giving and found my prints hanging right next to a wall of etchings by Katherine Jones -  a brilliant evening!

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Becky,  2016, monotype

Becky, 2016, monotype

ii. I attended a talk by Jon Benington on Howard Hodgkin's relationship with Bath and the Victoria Art Gallery - a fascinating and personal insight into the life of a very private man. I was particularly encouraged to find out that the first piece of artwork Hodgkin exhibited was as part of the Bath Society of Artists exhibition in the 1950s.

Howard Hodgkin,  Still Life,  1950s

Howard Hodgkin, Still Life, 1950s

Howard Hodgkin,  Leaf,  2007-9

Howard Hodgkin, Leaf, 2007-9

iii. I received my Mid Point Review feedback. It was neither particularly good or bad but did raise some interesting points.

'You should consider the difference between the self-portrait and the other-portrait. You discuss connections and there is more here to unpack. How do we connect to our own reflection? When drawing ‘strangers’ we don’t draw a reflection of them like we do of ourselves, but rather we see them how they can’t see themselves. You must try to liberate yourself from anxiety of making and try things that don’t work as well as celebrate successes. There is also digital language and contemporary discourse around the ‘selfie’ that you should explore further – try digital methods to see what is allows. You have received a lot of varied feedback so far throughout the academic year. You must now reflect on this and consider how you move forward through this feedback, filtering and defining a deeper personal direction.’

It's certainly true that I need to figure out how to develop and engage more with my proposal. I will look into the above and really consider my direction ready for next term.

iv. I'm delighted (and relieved) to have some time off from both school and uni. I have spent the first week working on a portrait of retiring headmaster Nigel (commissioned by the school) ready for the end of the academic year. I think it's sometimes worth remembering that these things are not side projects but valid and important aspects of the same emerging artistic career.

Nineteen

i. The following is an abridged transcript from the discussion of my work (below left) from the Mid Point Review last week.

Jack: I find it quite ghostly. Especially her gaze. You don’t know where she’s looking. Of course there’s a lot of portraiture about the eyes. It could just be a human form. It’s slightly abstracted.

Gill: I think it’s really strong. It holds the wall. It could go anywhere and it would dominate the space. It’s a powerful image. Part of the power is that it’s unclear. There’s a strong emotion, a feeling of sadness. Yet it feels quick and extremely lively and there’s a tremendous charge.

Ellen: I find it harder to emotionally connect to as much as I do to your other pictures. I find it distancing. It feels cold. I don’t know if I want to know who it is. Your other ones are a lot more human.

Jo: This one, for me, is anonymous yet I can connect with it. There’s something about longing, something so personal. The element of collage is like you’ve said ‘it wasn’t like that, it was like this’. There’s an honesty to that.

Me: I don’t think it’s particularly successful. I don’t think I’m trying to make a sad image. Normally when I make these portraits, I normally have them face-on in that pretty straightforward artist-sitter thing. That idea of separation or turning away probably just comes from the composition. I’m glad that no one talked too much about process or technique. I think one of my biggest frustrations this term is that I thought I was just going to strike upon a technique that was going to resolve my work. I’ve tried all these things and thought I’d just find something that I’d been missing all these years. So now I’m trying to think about the picture itself, the image. It’s not working yet. It’s not meant to be sad, I can see why it would be considered allusive and dark and moody but it’s not meant to be like that. I wish I could’ve shown the exhibition piece. That’s the most successful artwork I’ve made in a while, it’s a very different image, it’s got a sense of honesty, intimacy and playfulness. 

Leora: Well it’s really useful to have the contrast then. To see the two different ways of working. So great: that’s not what you want to do. However we all thought it was quite strong. It has this presence. You have this great ability with paint, the way you can relate to the figure, to people.

ii. I continued with lithography this week (having been scared off after tutorials with Katherine Jones and Tom Hammick). I made a silly image of Becky and I in our underwear as a response to the suggestion that my work is moody and sad. I feel that mark-making with tusche and litho crayons could allow for a similar vocabulary to that of my drawings and monotypes. I didn't have time to print from my stone but will continue experimenting next term.

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iii. Grayson Perry came in to talk to Camberwell students about his practice and about working in the arts. It was unsurprisingly silly but he also said some genuinely inspiring things: 

'When you're at art school, have a go at everything.'

'People go to galleries to see real things. Make things. I went to art college because I enjoyed making art.'

'Don't be faux-naive. Literally be as good as you can be.'

'You are of your time. Don't be afraid to make art about now. Make art about things you really care about.’

 
Grayson Perry,  Animal Spirit,  2016, etching with chine colle

Grayson Perry, Animal Spirit, 2016, etching with chine colle

 

iv. I hate that I sound so downbeat when I talk about my work. When I saw my work on the walls of Mercer Chance or when I've shown my website in tutorials, I feel confident about it - I know I can make good things! I need to utilise the next eight weeks and really prepare for next term: I need to make a lot of drawings and catch up with my contextual research. I'm currently reading Bob Dylan's autobiography. Referring to the beginning of his career Dylan writes: 'I had grasped the idea of what kind of songs I wanted to write, I just didn't know how to do it yet.' I have to be optimistic that all this fiddling about in the print room will, in time, lead to strong and successful work.

v. I found out that two of my favourite prints will be exhibited in the annual Bath Society of Artists exhibition. Katherine Jones is this year's invited artist and I look forward to seeing more of her work. A good way to finish the term.

Eighteen

i. I started my week in London with a quick visit to some galleries to see some shows that I had seen recommended online by other artists. Within a couple of hours I managed to see Kaye Donachie: Silent As Glass at Maureen Paley (poetic and ghostly paintings that reminded me a little of Elizabeth Peyton), Eric Fischl: Presence of an Absence at Skarstedt (morose and too photographic) and London Painters at Ordovas (small School of London paintings). London Painters at Ordovas was a quiet companion piece to the monumental All Too Human. I loved the tiny Kossoff self-portrait and thought it wouldn't look out of place in my Mercer Chance show.

Kaye Donachie,  Silent As Glass,  2018

Kaye Donachie, Silent As Glass, 2018

Leon Kossoff,  Self-Portrait,  1971

Leon Kossoff, Self-Portrait, 1971

ii. Thursday was taken up with the Mid Point Review: a student-led group session where we could discuss and reflect upon our learning and work at Camberwell so far. The monotype I showed was described as intense, visceral and strong; but also sad, distant and anonymous. This means aspects of my current work are unsuccessful: I want it to be honest and playful (like my work in Mercer Chance) and certainly not mysterious or sinister! Although I was quite anxious about the day, it was an enjoyable and useful activity. I have a lot to consider over the research break.

iii. One of the artists mentioned to me in the Mid Point Review was Richard Diebenkorn. I love Diebekorn's work and recently stumbled upon some of his lithographs. The following is from a Terry Frost quote that dad sent to me: 'Always try to make, or a great danger is that you could think yourself to a standstill. Take advantage of the offer of all techniques. Leave the school capable of using all the media, button up the grammar and stretch your awareness.' I was put off pursuing lithography earlier in the term but now really want to give it another go…

Richard Diebenkorn,  Reclining Figure I,  1962

Richard Diebenkorn, Reclining Figure I, 1962

Richard Diebenkorn,  Nude,  1962

Richard Diebenkorn, Nude, 1962

iv. During the last couple of weeks I have watched (and loved) Moonlight, Lady Bird and The Florida Project. I used to think I was interested in 'the human figure' but I think I am just interested in people.

v. Becky and I have planned to go on holiday to Scotland in the summer. Apart from all the drawings and paintings I am looking forward to making, I found out that there are solo exhibitions of work by Jenny Saville and Emil Nolde on whilst we are in Edinburgh. There is also a Chantal Joffe show opening in Manchester in May. Depending on its size, I may have to arrange a visit.

Seventeen

i. The 'Beast from the East' arrived and made travelling between and around London and Reading a bit of a nightmare. It was especially snowy as we were hanging the show on Wednesday morning and during the private view on Thursday night. Despite this, all went ahead as planned and has made the whole week pretty unforgettable.

ii. Through the Looking Glass (a group exhibition of self-portraits that I've been planning with Mercer Chance Gallery since last September) finally opened this week. It was great meeting the artists involved and seeing artwork in the flesh instead of over email or on a screen. It was a fun and fascinating experience curating and hanging the work with Rachel and Michael on the Wednesday morning. The final show looked great.

Oliver Mulvihill,  Self-Portrait in Stripes,  2017

Oliver Mulvihill, Self-Portrait in Stripes, 2017

Anna Choutova,  Self-Portrait in North London,  2017

Anna Choutova, Self-Portrait in North London, 2017

Despite the weather, the private view was packed. Lots of friends made huge efforts to be there on the opening night and I felt loved and supported. I received a lot of encouraging comments about my work (painter Leon Pozniakow even said that my work was his favourite!) and felt that my print held its own alongside the work of some artists that I really admire. We get asked a lot at uni about the contemporary context of our practices and this is it. Onwards and upwards!

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Photographs by Jennifer Sian Abell

Photographs by Jennifer Sian Abell

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iii. I had a few hours to kill after hanging the show so went to see All Too Human on its opening day at the Tate Britain. It is a brilliant survey of British figurative art. The majority of the rooms are superbly curated and the work on display is incredible. It was exciting to see paintings (some familiar, some new to me) by Auerbach, Kossoff, Freud and many others. It's only March but it may well end up being my favourite exhibition of the year. I look forward to my next visits.

Leon Kossoff,  Children's Swimming Pool, Autumn Afternoon,  1971

Leon Kossoff, Children's Swimming Pool, Autumn Afternoon, 1971

Lucian Freud,  Sleeping by the Lion Carpet,  1996

Lucian Freud, Sleeping by the Lion Carpet, 1996

iv. I managed to get into the print studio at school in preparation for next week's midpoint review and made some monotypes from small sketchbook drawings. They’re ok but I wish I could show the print I'm exhibiting in Mercer Chance instead. I need to make better work soon…

v. Faye Ballard (daughter of J. G. Ballard) came in to uni to give a talk about her drawings. It was an interesting presentation but I wondered if the work was somehow too personal: why should we care about her relationship with her parents? Do other people wonder this about about my work too?

Sixteen

i. As a follow-up to my tutorial a couple of weeks ago, Jo told me to look at 'if one thing matters, everything matters', a catalogue designed by Wolfgang Tillmans for a Tate retrospective in 2003 that contained almost every photograph he had released as a piece to date. At the back of the book is an interview with Tillmans that I think has really helped me to make some sense of why I make the work that I do:

'From the day I recognise that something has meaning to me, I hold on to it, saying 'If this matters to me now, then I hope that it will matter to me in the future.'

'It's impossible to take a good picture of something when one hasn't consciously or subconsciously understood something of the nature of what one is looking at... it's always about having understood, or at least felt the relevance of something and wanting to convey that sense.'

'Like in the past, in the future I'll probably have phases of doubt and feelings of a lack of direction. However, working on this book has been a good reminder of the need to carry on, and of the fact that the bigger picture sometimes reveals itself only over the course of time. I'm driven by an insatiable interest in the manifold shapes of human activities, in the surface of life, and as long as I enjoy how things are pointless and hugely important at the same time, then I'm not afraid.'


Perhaps for now monotypes are going to be the most appropriate medium for me to work with. Perhaps I should just make images of the people, places and things around me. Perhaps I should, as Katherine Jones and Tom Hammick suggested, make some monotypes from my landscape drawings and paintings without worrying about them being staid or old-fashioned. When I exhibited in Oxford in the summer I hung small sketchbook pages alongside framed prints next to finished paintings and I thought my works made sense as a whole. I need to start looking at my artworks as one practice, not several parts.

ii. The following text is from a press release from a past show of portraits by Claire Price at Mercer Chance. I love it.

'Over the past few months I have been asking friends and acquaintances to sit for me. Each drawing marks a specific time and place of a shared experience. For some it has been a repeated exercise, the drawings charting a period of our evolving relationship, changes happening in each other’s lives. 

To draw portraits is intimate. It is a peculiar situation of mindfulness, particularly in our digital age. To be alone in a room together, still, not exchanging many words. To be actively invited to dwell on the playful pleasure of exploring another person. Taking in the way they hold themselves, the character of their expressions, their features, lips, hands. Becoming aware of the distance between you, their weight, strength and fragility. And to leave a record of this on your page – a record that can be surprising to both of you. It is a reverential process to try to make a truthful image of someone, whatever that is.

I know all the sitters, in one way or another, but they don’t all know each other. Some of them I had only met in this past year. I soon realised that I was interested in bringing their portraits together for this exhibition. They represent the diffuse social network that I experience living in a city. Versions of my own identity seen in the relationships that make it up. I enjoy the playful relationship which this gallery of characters has to the galleries of snaps that we see on social media.’

iii. It's been a particularly theory-heavy week. I've spent a lot of time reading and writing and not a lot making. My dad sent me the following quote by Terry Frost: 'A certain problem in art schools is to cope with a surfeit of ideas, some new, some old... The great problem is to sort out your own ideas. Practice is the answer, experience is the catalyst between theory and practice. Always try to make, or a great danger is that you could think yourself to standstill.’

iv. I also turned twenty-five this week. Below is a drawing of me as a baby made by artist and friend Ruth End in the year I was born.

 
Ruth End,  Samuel,  1993

Ruth End, Samuel, 1993

 

Fifteen

i. Over the course of two days I made an experimental print where I tried not to think too much about the technique and just to make an image. I started with a jigsaw woodcut (Tom Hammick advised me that this was a quick way to get going) and ended up using monotype and screenprint on top. I'm not sure what I feel about the image yet, it's blocky and graphic and the colours have changed now that they've dried. But I don't hate it and it got me making so hopefully it's a step in the right direction!

 
Becky and Tamsin,  2018

Becky and Tamsin, 2018

 

ii. I took part in a Photoshop workshop which instructed us how to photograph and edit our work for publication, websites etc. Fortunately it confirmed that I'm mostly doing the right thing.

iii. I managed to catch the Peter Doig exhibition in its final week at Michael Werner. Tom Hammick recommended I go and look at Doig's use of colour and shape, the way he plays around with the same motifs and his different uses of textures and materials. I'm mostly unfamiliar with Doig's work but really enjoyed the show - I will look into him further.

Peter Doig,  Red Man (Sings Calypso),  2017

Peter Doig, Red Man (Sings Calypso), 2017

Peter Doig,  Red Man,  2017

Peter Doig, Red Man, 2017

Fourteen

i. Another week shortened by school commitments: I had arranged for artist Jeanette Barnes to deliver a workshop as a follow-up to a recent school trip to London. The week was also cut short because I had to leave early on the Thursday to get back to see the school play (which I had designed and made a lot of the set for). It was an enjoyable week but I sometimes worry that I'm getting behind everyone else. In reality, I'm sure everyone has similar work pressures and struggles to find enough time to make work - I just wish I didn't feel like I'm only treading water on the course…

ii. Although I've spent several hours over the last few weeks fiddling about with lithography, I'm not sure it's the right thing for me at present and both Katherine Jones and Tom Hammick told me that it would slow me down. I had a tutorial with Jo who told me to 'feel free to interrogate your themes in whatever method is most suitable for your intentions. Don't be harnessed to a certain process unless it gives you what you want from your image. That's the only rule!' I expect I will spend the rest of this term making monotypes and then think about my direction during the study break.

iii. I read a revealing article in The Guardian: 'From Paula Rego’s au pair to Lucian Freud’s daughter, five sitters explain the discomfort and joy of being a painter’s muse.' It was was an interesting description of the intimacy and intensity of a portrait sitting. All the artists referenced in the article are a part of All Too Human which opens at Tate Britain at the end of the month. I think it's going to be an important show in the development of both my MA project and my long-term practice.

 
Euan Uglow,  Georgia,  1973

Euan Uglow, Georgia, 1973

 

Thirteen

i. Printmaker and Camberwell alumnus Katherine Jones came in to give a talk about her practice. Katherine's imagery juxtaposes man-made structures with the natural world and combines etching, collagraph, block-print and other traditional forms of printmaking. I signed up for a tutorial which was (mostly) really useful. Katherine suggested that lithography might be too slow a process for me and that once a week (or at least regularly) I spend some time bashing out a load of monotypes simply to quickly generate work and ideas. She also suggested I experiment with True-Grain film and photogravure which I am less sure about - I feel like the final print would be too far removed from the original artwork.

 
Katherine Jones,  Frame , 2015

Katherine Jones, Frame, 2015

 

ii. We also had a visit from painter-printmaker Tom Hammick (another Camberwell alumnus). I’m a big admirer of Tom’s work and, although he wasn't giving formal tutorials, he agreed to have a chat with me before his talk. Tom was incredibly complimentary about my work. He told me not to worry so much and to keep making the work I make regardless of trends in the art world. He also gave me a list of artists to look at including paintings by Phoebe Unwin, Nick Bodimeade and Indian Miniatures; monotypes by Tai Shan Schierenberg, Betsy Dadd and Lucy Jones; and to look further into Diebenkorn and Kitaj. He told me to stop worrying about technique and to just make pictures. He gave me his card and invited me to his studio for a longer tutorial in a couple of weeks. It was encouraging and inspiring and exactly what I needed.

Tom Hammick,  Terrestrial,  2017

Tom Hammick, Terrestrial, 2017

Betsy Dadd,  Basement II,  2015

Betsy Dadd, Basement II, 2015

iii. I went to the private view of The Real Thing, a solo show by printmaker Jake Garfield at Mercer Chance Gallery. Jake uses lithography, monoprint and woodcut to make images of 'masks of the everyday: beards being shaven; make-up being applied; faces being distorted and reflected through screens, frames and mirrors.' I was thoroughly impressed with the show and blown away by his skilful and inventive use of printmaking.

 
Jake Garfield,  Painting My Face 5

Jake Garfield, Painting My Face 5

 

iv. I started taking my Drawing Club (that I run with school) life drawing. It was great to see them looking so carefully and good practice for me - I definitely need to make more time for drawing in my own practice!

Twelve

i. I had an extra day in London to make up for last week and managed to get several hours in the workshops making monotypes and preparing a stone to start experimenting with lithography. A good (at times frustrating) practical week.

ii. On Wednesday morning we visited Paupers Press, a fine art print and publishing studio in Hoxton that works with leading and emerging contemporary artists. We were introduced to master printmaker Mike Taylor who gave us a tour of the workshop and showed us prints by Grayson Perry, Paula Rego, Chris Ofili and others. Mike explained to us some of the processes he had developed with artists, often combining several techniques using hand drawn, photographic and digital imagery. He also generously gave us each a copy of The Mechanical Hand (a book featuring several of the examples we had been shown) as a memento. It was a fantastic reminder of why I love the practicalities and processes of printmaking and an inspiring visit.

iii. I spent most of Tuesday morning preparing for the upcoming group show at Mercer Chance (writing a press release and emailing artists) - it takes a lot more admin than I expected to organise a show! I think I’ve also decided which self-portrait to exhibit too. Not long to go now!

 
Self-Portrait With No Clothes On,  2018

Self-Portrait With No Clothes On, 2018

 

Eleven

i. This week has been manic. I took a group of students around London with school which unfortunately meant I only ended up with one day at university most of which was taken up with a group crit. I managed to make some monotypes on the Thursday morning and showed some of these in the crit. The feedback was generally good and I was mainly encouraged to just make more work. Hopefully I'll be more productive next week…

ii. I was invited to apply for the Whiteknights Studio Trail (a series of exhibitions and open studios around Reading) and this week I found out I have been accepted. It's a chance for me to exhibit (and hopefully sell) some work and I look forward to being a part of it.

iii. I read a beautiful BBC News article about artist Norman Gilbert. When Gilbert's wife suffered a stroke, the artist sat at her bedside in hospital for a week and drew her. The resulting sketches are simple, honest and enormously moving. 'I have no regrets about doing the drawings,' says Norman. 'I love having them and I cherish them.’

 
Norman Gilbert,  Pat,  2016

Norman Gilbert, Pat, 2016

 

Ten

i. I was keen to start my second term at Camberwell by actually making some work so started working on some large self-portrait monotypes (for my upcoming show). I was shown a slightly different process for making monotypes that involved building up multiple layers of ink by passing a dry piece of paper several times through a lithography press. It creates a very different mark (possibly not as sensitive as using damp paper) but does allow an interesting translucency between layers. Worth exploring further.

ii. I visited Thomas Ruff: Photographs 1979-2017 at Whitechapel Gallery with my photographer friend Ant. Ruff's Porträts (monumental, neutrally-lit studio portraits) were fascinating: their scale creates an intense interaction with each image yet I felt almost entirely detached from the people depicted. Conversely the modestly-sized Interieurs (carefully composed details of Ruff's own Düsseldorf apartment and those of his parents, relations and friends) felt quiet, gentle and altogether a lot more intimate. This was an attempt to see an exhibition that I wouldn't normally visit and I got a lot more out of it than expected.

Thomas Ruff,  Porträt (P. Stadtbäumer),  1988

Thomas Ruff, Porträt (P. Stadtbäumer), 1988

Thomas Ruff,  Interieur 6B , 1980

Thomas Ruff, Interieur 6B, 1980

Nine

i. Christmas has been and gone. Becky bought me my best present: an out-of-print book about Auerbach drawing at the National Gallery which I've been after for quite some time! It was a lovely, busy, family-filled week but now I'm looking forward to getting back into some sort of normal routine. I've made lots of drawings of friends and family over the festive period. I hope these will develop into some larger prints next term.

ii. The Friday before Christmas I met up with Jon Dixon in Bath to deliver some artwork that I've been looking after since our exhibition together over the summer. We also swapped some drawings and visited Howard Hodgkin: India on Paper at the Victoria Art Gallery. I love Hodgkin's expressive and painterly use of printmaking using carborundum, lithography and hand painting (something to consider in my own work?). This was my second visit to the show and no less exciting.

Jon Dixon,  Durham Cathedral,  2016

Jon Dixon, Durham Cathedral, 2016

Howard Hodgkin,  Mumbai Wedding,  1990-91

Howard Hodgkin, Mumbai Wedding, 1990-91

iii. I've managed to see a few exhibitions during my time off. From Life at the Royal Academy describes itself as asking 'what it means to make art from life, and how the practice is evolving as technology opens up new ways of making and seeing.' Although the show as a whole was underwhelming, it did contain some brilliant work, particularly a new series of self-portraits by Chantal Joffe. Joffe describes her self-portraits as therapeutic: 'when things are hard in my life I will paint myself. It is a way of saying I am okay... It's a way of owning it, of holding onto a moment. Painting is the absolute present tense of a moment.' 

These new artworks are particularly pertinent as I work towards a show of self-portraits next year that I am exhibiting in and co-curating. I've made several self-portraits in the past but it is Joffe that has inspired the print I am working on for the show: a straight-on, naked self-portrait. It feels important to me to make a deadpan image of myself without any swagger or self-fashioning. By stripping (literally) things back to basic I feel I can then start again, and start moving forward with my practice and make some new portraits of others.

Chantal Joffe,  Self-portrait with Hand on Hip,  2016

Chantal Joffe, Self-portrait with Hand on Hip, 2016

Chantal Joffe,  Self-portrait Naked in Garden,  2016

Chantal Joffe, Self-portrait Naked in Garden, 2016

iv. I also went to see Soutine's Portraits at the Courtauld Gallery: it was the best exhibition I've seen in a long, long time. The show brings together a series of portraits of French hotel and restaurant workers from the early 1920s. Although Soutine’s sitters are unnamed and distorted through paint, they are recognisably individuals, full of humanity, feeling and personality. ‘Though Soutine may project his… most personal feelings on to his subjects, the viewer never loses sight of a particular physical entity being carefully observed and experienced. Even the distortions and exaggerations of facial features and the shiftings and dislocations of body parts do not destroy the essential recognition in each painting of a certain person and a reality specific to him or her.’

Chaïm Soutine,  Cook with Blue Apron (La Cuisinière en tallier bleu),  c.1930

Chaïm Soutine, Cook with Blue Apron (La Cuisinière en tallier bleu), c.1930

Chaïm Soutine,  Valet (Le Valet de chambre),  c.1927

Chaïm Soutine, Valet (Le Valet de chambre), c.1927