MA Practice and development, January – August, 2018.



Write about practice Jan – March. Reflect on exhibition at LJMU , why it didn’t fully capture the dialogue I want to create. Why it seemed half hearted. Discuss working on the dust sheet and thinking about ways to change the from into a sculpture like form. Write about discussions at uni meeting about working directly into the space, and leaving it behind. Include photographs of models as an experiment with the view of  having a to scale installation reminiscent of the sides of an abandoned building. Why has this changed? Mention how it was discussed it would be staged and that isn’t how I am working at the minute. Write about work in progress in the basement- why am I doing this – what are the images of . Talk about studies of human form- homeless people. Began to look at images of catacombs and the work depicted on the walls. I began to interpret the images in my own way and worked directly onto the wall in my studio.  Mention cave like drawings and the artist……. Werner Herzog. Why don’t the small images work as a piece – could they work in the basement. Discuss getting in touch with Jason about derelict buildings. Jason works in re developing derelict buildings within the fabric district of Liverpool. Discuss how I will continue working in the basement as a piece of art- to be seen in situ. Why is this important? Perhaps video work. Link to artist Jan Svankmajer. Brian Griffiths. Andy Warhol Piss Paintings?? Discuss attempting to leave the here and now – everyday materials selected for their potential in opening into particular and evocative experiences. Evoking imagined secret histories. Mention gargoyles etc….Discuss materials used – Burnt sienna, yellow ochre , spray paint. Discuss music I listened to . Write about walls supress yet give freedom. link to collaborative project – getting in touch with a prison. Discuss how my work presents studies from street life, rubble, homeless presenting memoires in basic primal formations. Sacred symbols that we have inherited and embedded within ourselves through the process of evolution. What are my plans for Kasmier Gardens ……….. responding to the space, working on the floor and perhaps a bit on the wall.



March : Discuss sculpting forms by applying resin to pulp paper. How did this work? What is the purpose behind it.

Working on found board.

Working on board to add to floor in KG

Continuing to work onto dust sheet.

Add photographs of floor from Kazmier gardens. What is it about the floor that your responding to.

What is it about the walls in KG that you responded to – seeing shapes- working into the shapes.

What did the sculptures look like on the floor.

What have I thought about the basement – link to platos cave, Roger Ballen’s work on the psyche.

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Reflection and personal journey through collaboration.

To be continued .

Key points to write about.

Why I made the connection with collaborating with artist Imogen Sidworthy and why I wanted to move away from collaborating with an artist in a school?

Why I pushed myself to do something different regarding poetry and Art?

Why I wanted to push the boundaries -as easy as it is to contact a family member over poetry and why this would be a last resort?.

Why ask poet Carol Ann Duffy to respond?.

Why provide a class to BA/MA students?.

What is about my practice that I made the connection to a prison e.g working into brick etc?

What is it about Roger B practice that made me think of emailing him, explain about coming across prison windows and he began to work into glass. This is something I could show prisoners and engage with them through Art and the written word.

Why did I turn the tables – providing roger with my own poetry and selecting images for him to give me permission to write about and how it pushed me?.

What I felt, when he responded giving me permission but selecting his own images and sending them to me?.

How writing about the images has helped my practice?.

How I have also responded through art to Rogers work?.

How writing about the process so far on collaboration encouraged a professional writer and editor, Liam J Cross to get in touch with me via my website? How did I feel when he responded, asking me to send him some images to write about.

Why did I choose the images that I sent to Liam?.

What are my next steps?  – read Liam’s response to my work – collate it and respond to his writing through art. Send him my responses too.

The reflection process regarding the collaboration with Liam Cross prompted me to take a step back and review the situation. Whilst I understand and appreciate that Liam’s style of writing is emotive, and the images he responds to are perhaps utilised as studies and  starting points for longer pieces of work, I consider some of his writing to be too emotive for my work. I recognise that Liam is particularly motivated by using images as a scaffolding for his writing, and that he uses his particular style to motivate others but I also recognise that his emotive style could dilute the meaning.  I further recognise that words are powerful but can also be a  weakening agent when applied to pieces of contemporary fine Art. Within this field it is crucial not to bear the soul but rather prompt intrigue and questioning. During my first year on the MA programme I experimented with projecting images into an exhibition space. The piece of work entitled walk with me had text on that I felt went well with the work. It is only now that I realise it actually weakened the work. I was however appreciative and satisfied with his initial responses to my work and the process has provided me with ideas of showing short pieces of writing to the students I teach as examples of how text can be applied to images and used for poster design, advertising or illustration. On the other hand emotive writing could be provided as a strong starting point to   a workshop for prisoners. Different writing styles whether emotive or not, could be a release for some and used therapeutically. For the purpose of a workshop, and for that matter any other workshop I offer in the future, I am certain that I would present an image separately to a piece of writing, encouraging discussion and engagement around the two.

Liam’s writing has not of yet inspired me to paint because of its emotive content. What it did do however was encourage me to think about ways in which I could motivate people in prison. What visuals and materials would I provide that would encourage prisoners to experiment with successfully using drawing or writing as a vehicle for creativity. I consider for this purpose I would show examples of my recent work responding to space and place alongside Roger Ballen’s work who used the idea of art work on prison windows to create his own work and how he incorporates drawing with photography. I would also show my written responses to Rogers images. It would perhaps be interesting to show an image as a staring point and encourage people to think of as many words associated with what they feel or see. I would provide an example of the expectations around the activity.  Continue provide example ……………….

Discuss a resent discovery on Ballen’s work re poetics of space and the attic links in with my practice and how I am working in the basement and responding to his images using words associated with the psyche and rooms in the house. How has his work changed my practice, add my own images alongside his work .

Reflect on the new email to prison. What can I take from the visit. What will I show, what images do I think will motivate people. Which collaborative pieces will I show to prison –

Will their mark making, left over pieces from materials provide me with further insight into my own practice.


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Collaborative Practice. January – May,2018



“The most common way for artists to collaborate is with other artists” (Tate Online)

January, 2018

Other artists collaborate with individuals who work within varied disciplines such as writers, musicians, scientists, or a wider community. As a teacher and fine artist, my initial thinking around collaboration was to engage with another artist. I began this process by thinking about how I could collaborate with artist and tutor Imogen Stidworthy. The proposal involved an email to Imogen presenting my ideas around working together in a school. I suggested my interest regarding her discipline whereby she experiments with the combination of video and sound and thought perhaps this could be used to record interaction and communication between students. I would then perhaps respond to this through painting. This would be an on-going process until we came up with a creative dialogue. Imogen replied to my proposal and articulated that due to on going work commitments’ was unable to accept this collaborative project.

A journey between the visual and the verbal. 

“Seeing comes before words”, observes John Berger, though it could be argued that if words follow pictures, as when a poet creates a poem in  response to a piece of art, then words become a way of seeing. Robert Mitner suggests collaborations between verbal and visual artists produce such insights, regardless of whether the painter responds to the poet or the poet to the painter , since each is articulating in turn in the artistic dialogue which collaboration processes create. Though both poetry and painting have their own languages, at times these languages share affinities. “Painters make images, poets make images; the painter too has language” ( Howard Nomerov) and he believes this connection has historical roots occurring during the development of painting which begins as an alphabet of signs and codes to be unravelled or not within the creation and ends in the magic of writing.

My mother Margaret Gleave is an award winning poet and this encouraged me to think about the connections she has made with other writers.  In 2011 she read a poem entitled Spice from her book Weather eye alongside the poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.  (Reflection to be added :My thoughts on asking my Mum to respond to my work seemed to be too comfortable .  Dame Carol Ann Duffy is a professor at Manchester Metropolitan university, lecturing in poetry and creative writing. I emailed the writing department, for the attention of Professor Duffy, explaining I was an MA Fine Art student and as part of the programme we had a number of weeks to find the opportunity to collaborate with someone. Within the email I included my ideas of sending 3 or 4 images to Carol Ann Duffy asking her to respond through poetry in a way that she felt spoke about the work. I would then respond to the same amount of short poems through fine art. I included a link for my on line portfolio and artist statement.  (Reflect why what I felt date etc). James Draper BA (Hons) MA Manager at the university responded by saying that all requests for involvement in projects that Professor Duffy receives via the wiring school are required to be directed to her literary agent, Peter Straus. I forwarded the email and Peter Straus responded articulating how busy Carol Ann is but they wish the best of luck with the project. ( Thoughts feelings) . This initial process led me to emailing James Draper again and offering a proposal of collaborating with some of the BA students and MA students from the creative writing programmes. I explained that the process would involve students responding to a couple of my pieces of work through poetry and suggested that if this was a possible opportunity, we could meet at the university where I could present my work to small groups. James as of yet,has not responded to this email. (Thoughts feelings) Reflect critically motivations, viewpoints, values. Mention that because people so far were busy that it wasn’t deterring me from the thinking process.

I came across an article about creativity in prisons written by Claire Fisher who has spent years hosting creative writing workshops in various prisons. Claire discusses many women in prison have experienced serious challenges – domestic and childhood abuse, addiction and poverty. She talks about how people in prison reflect on the small things in life we take for granted: like going to the corner shop or sitting on the sofa with friends. Claire further articulates that women in prison, or men for that matter, talk about how they are just a number but they are more than just a number – they have just made mistakes. A page is somewhere a prisoner can experience freedom and gain a voice through creative writing. It is a place where prisoners can speak for the first time about their life, past and future. I started to think about the importance of creativity (Reflect Further why etc?)and how I could bring my practice into a prison. ( Why , what is it about my practice that could inspire prisoners , reflect. I emailed a proposal to Style Prison for men and within the email put forward a proposal:-

“Dear sir/madam, I am a fine Art specialist teacher and an artist working towards my final stages of an MA in fine art. As part of the process we have 12 weeks to find the opportunity to collaborate with someone. I am particularly interested in having the opportunity to perhaps work alongside a creative writing/English tutor within the prison, or if there isn’t a tutor within this field, I could deliver a few workshops on responding to visual imagery through poetry and creative writing. I feel that this would be an ideal opportunity for prisoners to express their feelings through the written word as a response to my work. It would involve me either collaborating on line with a tutor at the prison, or coming to visit and setting up a workshop. I could also provide Art sessions within the time frame and respond to peoples work through poetry. The work would be collated by me and put together to present to my university in Liverpool. This could be a fantastic opportunity for some people within the prison to have their self esteem boosted by collaborating with an artist and for them to have the opportunity of seeing their work in a book.  If you require an online portfolio of my work and artist statement please email me.I look forward to hearing from you. Kind regards Mikki”.

I received a reply saying I would need to write to Steve Lawrence, the governor of the prison. A written proposal was posted to him directly and included details about providing a workshop focusing on Art and Poetry.  Within the letter I included my website address and email address.

February, 2018.

During a recent tutoring session with a student, I noticed a page in her sketchbook documenting current research on international artist Roger Ballen whom I had made connections with during the final year of my degree in fine art, asking him if he could give me more of an insight into his work as my dissertation was based on Art and conditions of the mind. He responded to this email and sent me links to his Biography and also asked for a copy of my final dissertation to read.  It is suggested Ballen is one of the most original photographers working today and is best known for his challenging, thought provoking images that exist in a space between painting and drawing; photography and installation. He describes his practice as visual glimpses of parts otherwise invisible to the eye; the sort of things one would only see in a dream. He also compares some of his works as a journey deep into the psyche. His most recent work entitled Theatre of Apparitions was inspired from a photograph shooting in an abandoned women’s prison whereby a former prisoner had painted over the windows of her cell and then drawn figures into the black paint, leaving herself isolated with only the cement and dim light to comfort her. He began to create images similar to the ones he had seen in the prison using glass windows.  ( Reflect why is this important to me , what connections did I make) .

I emailed a proposal to Roger and his assistant Marguerite. Within this proposal I asked his permission if I could respond to four chosen images through poetry.

Dear Marguerite and Roger,

I hope you are both well. I don’t know if you remember me but I corresponded with you a few years ago regarding questions around research. Rogers work, Asylum of the birds was included in the writing towards my dissertation for my degree and I forwarded you a copy of the work via email. I was most grateful of the response and honoured that Roger asked to read it.

I am currently in my final year of study on an MA fine art programme and as part of the programme we have a few weeks to collaborate with someone. This can be done in person or via email etc. I am particularly interested in responding to Art through poetry as it could open up opportunities for my own practice. I have written a response to some images created by Roger and I am asking his permission for me to continue with this, providing I send him the work. Would it be possible for Roger to perhaps choose his own work that I could respond to – it only needs to be four or five images? Could it also be possible for Roger to write a response to my Art – again only 4 or five images. The response could be a few lines of poetry or in what ever way Roger feels suits the work. I would collate all the work in the form of a magazine created on line by Blurb and it would be presented at an MA exhibition in Liverpool John Moore’s University. I would also send you the final product. I am attaching an example of what I have written as a response to Rogers work and included a couple of my images . Please tell me what your thoughts are on this. This wont be time consuming in any way. It is like keeping a diary of thoughts in response to an image, and as artists I feel we share similar thoughts on the psyche. I am also attaching my portfolio of work for Roger to look at and my statement. I look forward to hearing from you and hopefully it will be possible to go ahead with this proposal.    Best wishes to you both.

I received a reply saying;


Roger Ballen

Feb 12 at 8:32 AM

Dear Mikki

Thank you for your email. Wishing you a healthy and successful 2018.

I am enclosing scans of 4 of Roger’s photographs that we thought might be good for writing a poem about.  Please note that in the examples you sent, the first one of the head being eaten is a collaboration between Roger and a Belgian artist so we cannot give you permission to use that one.

Unfortunately, Roger is unable to comment on your work as he is under heavy work pressure and is travelling a lot. He is swamped with requests every day to write about  people’s work so it is really impossible for him . 

Wishing you all the best for your dissertation.

Warm regards from Johannesburg.


Reflect – why this was important- what I felt about him giving me permission and sending me images. Why I have then made the link between showing my work, his work and my ideas of providing a workshop in a prison .

Images I chose to respond to by artist Roger Ballen.


Images Roger Ballen attached to an email giving me permission to write about.


Words by Mikki Gleave in response to Rogers work. How has this changed my practice?

 No Way Out, 2010. Roger Ballen

The above image, No Way Out reminded me of childhood, playing with friends in an attic. I have recollections of a hairy mask within the space, reminiscent of a monster and we used to chant the black man’s coming. Add this to reflection. The words link to my practice …… (explain) .. Poets of Space and Ballens work about the attic and basement as part of the psyche.The words from the following pieces will form a collection of work entitled ………… explain why…

The written response to Roger Ballen’s work has been an on-going process and been edited several times in order to capture depth and prompt intrigue.


The black man’s coming;

We chant. We sing

Childhood voices in Attics lair.

These days we play hide and seek in basements place

Coming ready or not;

The black man’s here.

Ethereal, 2011. Roger Ballen.

Ethereal, 2011. Roger Ballen

Hands are still.

Veins tormented.


Frothing, writhing, wriggling.

Hand twists

Neck breaks.


6151_2011 FFF 001

Consolation, 2011. Roger Ballen.

Hands are still.

Veins tormented.


Frothing, writhing, wriggling.

Hand twists

Neck breaks.


Bobby sits for a while.

Eyes vacant.

Smiling. Always smiling.

No rest for the wicked

Drawing. Always drawing.

No materials.

Just Bobby.



March, 2018

Professional writer and editor Liam J cross @the_unbroken_poet responded to this on line portfolio post and I emailed him asking him if he would consider writing about my work. Within the email I attached 3 images of recent work.He accepted my proposal and responded to the 3 images. The writing produced by Liam sits directly on the images. I requested if he would put both our names on the images as the first image he responded to included his name only. Liam added both names and posted them on his instagram account. I was then able to post the combination of visual and verbal on instagram. Liam recently contacted me and asked if he could continue with this process and select images from my instagram account. I agreed to this although wont necessarily show some of the pieces on my social networking platforms as I feel some of the responses may be too emotive, therefore this takes away the meaning of the Art work. I recently emailed Liam and asked him if he would consider using words associated with my practice and if it would be possible for him to remove his emotions from the work. As yet I haven’t had a reply.

Discuss why? Discuss how I reflected on this by seeing the writing on the work and it reminded me of a piece of work I exhibited with writing and how it diluted the meaning.  How is this informing my practice, what are my aims? Discuss whether or not Liam’s writing captures my work and how a recent piece of writing he did has perhaps diluted the meaning behind the image. How has the process so far with Liam responding to my work and my response to Roger Ballens work beginning to build a dialogue for future practice whereby I have ideas of working in derelict buildings and offering a workshop in a prison. What is it about a prison environment and how could I use this process of visiting within my own practice. Talk about marks and traces in the environment. Write about contacting Jason who works in the building industry. How will this all link to providing future workshops in a prison. Mention being selected by Art curator magazine from the recent posts on instagram. What benefits does this have and why do I think it has happened. Discuss developing practice.

The process of responding Roger Ballen’s work alongside the involvement and collaboration with Liam Cross  has enabled me to put together a more concrete proposal for providing a workshop in a prison. It has also provided me with clearer expectations of what I want from the workshop and enabled me to think productively about providing prisoners with ideas around creativity through words and/or imagery. Whilst I still await a reply from governor Steven Lawrence I have emailed another prison. I am aware this may be a long process.













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MA Fine Art. September-December, 2017

 3 week Residency at Make Studios, Liverpool, 2017. Working into Dust Sheet, Painting on the wall and drawing on cheese wrappers.

“Celebrate existence, the marks and traces people make on the world. Acknowledge life’s ability to destroy and treasure the memories. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence”.

Artist Statement and documentation of research.

The trace is a strong part of my practice. I am concerned with how this emerges in photography, film, drawing and painting. Works’ are opaque and multi-layered, aiming to capture the layers and fabric of the mind whilst highlighting the vagueness of borderline experiences and the complexity of the psyche.Cassie Findlay reports the need to leave a trace is an essential part of being human. We desire to leave some evidence representing our existence. Graffiti for example is one of the simplest methods of free expression for individuals to creatively voice their opinions but there is a fear of it being washed away and this leaves one with an unsettling tension, what the French philosopher Jacques Derrida termed” archive fever”. As a society we are keen to show our existence through symbols and marks but uncertain that our traces will remain or be removed (Derrida, 1995). I am preserving my existence by using materials, which in my opinion are symbolic of memory. For example, I make comparisons to the act of graffiti by using spray paint in my work to establish my existence. Going back to the ancient Greeks, we begin to understand how they saw memory as a means of recovering divine knowledge. The historian Francis Yates has shown these memory skills or mnemotechnics were classed as one of the liberal arts and the art of memory often resulted in spectacular displays of recollected data. Research compares the memory as a mnemonic surface or etcher sketcher to explain its function- it can store thousands of images, reawaken them, and be ready to produce new forms. (Gibbons , 2017).

IMG_5737Recollections, 2016. Paint and Ink on polaroid.

During the first year of the MA programme, I moved away from creating ambiguous marks onto the surfaces of Polaroid’s and digital images, (highlighting memories ability to erase and reproduce new forms), and concentrated on creating small and large scale works consisting of paint, soil, varnish and spray paint. In the book Purity and Danger anthropologist Mary Douglas articulates dirt absorbs atmospheres and retains a memory of what it has encountered.  By its nature dust is uncanny as it is formed from the decay of the home. It is composed of the detritus of the living and includes shed skin from the inhabitants’ as well as the decomposition of the house (2005).  Such works were projected and latterly videoed, signifying moving across a landscape saturated with memories, fading to black for several seconds and then to white, thus acting as the process of closing the eyes and thinking. Laura Mulvey points out that one of cinemas enduring uncanny effects lies in its ability to preserve time, across all ages, much like a ruin.  Projecting work to such a large scale can potentially provide visual traces and recordings of dreams which then travel to trouble and inform the present. (Mulvey, Laura, Death 24 x a second stillness and the moving image).


IMG_5758Silent Witness, Dirt, wax and Paint on Card . Video projection. Busted Flush MA Exhibition. St Johns Market,  Liverpool. July 2017

September – December 2017. 2nd Year MA Fine Art.

There is something wonderful about being able to articulate something that can never quite be expressed through words. When that moment happens, I can only compare it to a feeling of release, a shift in thinking, a new journey. Thought patterns started to shift whilst working in a studio on the Dock Road in Liverpool. This shift was an exciting beginning within my practice.  As an artist- strongly drawn to nature and signs of life, I realise it is my own fear of death that drives my creativity. It is a fear of the disastrous world that we live in, a fear and experience of life being cut short too soon that drives me to want to preserve any traces of existence that I possibly can. I share this beginning with pride. Fascinated and intrigued with whatever material I can find to release my thoughts, I begin to work on dust sheet -yet I flit from sheet, to paper, to wall. My mind often does this, needing stimulation from different things, becoming drained and claustrophobic if I work on something for too long. I begin to create work without much thought at first and then I see the remains of drawn faces on walls, those of which I presume were associated with warehouse raves in the 90’s. I contemplated about the people, who had been in this space, I wondered whether some had passed on or are still alive. It  made me think of existence and remember the faces I pass on the streets, the faces that have been in my life, some very much alive and others a memory . Using thick pastels I etched representations of faces onto wrappers from cheese slices. The wrappers , reminiscent in scale of a small polaroid, acted as transparent gateways to reveal other forms. Depicted as coloured distorted masks, celebrating their life on earth’s unpredictable stage, they joined the cracks and crevices on the brick walls and watched me as I left for a short time to begin work on the sheet. At first, I made wild gestural marks, not caring about the outcome and then the sheet became a blanket, a blanket that caresses life, a blanket that wraps the body when homeless, a blanket that burns with life inside in it and a blanket that warms the bones to rest on our passing.  I saw the shapes of existence within the folds and creases- manifesting as symbols, faces and torsos.  The marks became intentional – the spray paint applied stiffened and darkened the cloth- it became old and weathered in appearance. I thought of embalming fluid and discovering remains as one would in an archaeological dig or perhaps a scene of crime – my work was changing and I felt this overwhelming release

1P8A9500Passageway, 2017 Ink, Spray paint and paint on Dust Sheet.  Ghosts LJMU

And then Berlin came shortly afterwards – a city haunted with memories, I started to make connections with the images not only depicted on many of the surfaces but with the ones I imagined – images of anxiety and claustrophobia from hundreds and thousands of people trapped and afraid. I imagined the feeling of suddenly having freedom and finally escaping from such traumatic times. I visualised buried faces, their souls fighting for freedom and on my return I started to work in my studio to release these thoughts. Working with ink, ash and charcoal,  hard edged gestures were used autonomously on board, paper and dust sheet to form images that represent abstract beings inspired by  history and existence. The supports hold the memory of touch from periods of aggressive human scribbling to gentle rubbing away and smudging.This autonomy within my current work is played out in the resulting of visible forms whilst not conforming to a specific nameable place or object. Drawing and painting based gestures using raw materials including ash and coal all play a significant role in my work. They are materials that guide me in creating works that offer an opening into a world of visual perception. At the same time by using such materials as a means to question my experiences in the world, by extension, offer the viewer a means of exploring their own relationship(s) with and their visions of the world around them.

Ghosts, MA Exhibition LJMU, December 2017.

1P8A9501 (1)


Passageway, Ink, Paint, Ash and Charcoal on dust sheet and paper.

Recent work , exhibited at LJMU entitled Passageway consolidates an artistic language which visually conveys personal experience, bringing sounder knowledge and a clearer understanding of the world around me. The exhibition was installed within a day and was a challenge because my initial idea and execution of displaying Passageway (work on dust sheet) with string attached around the outside weakened the language of the work. The idea of incorporating string tied to small wooden blocks situated around the edges of the work transpired from looking at images of archaeological digs. Observations of this within the exhibition space prompted me to remove the string as the work was visually strong on its own. The smaller pieces of work were presented on a bed of ash and worked well within the space. However, I think if there had been more time to change things I would have moved it further away from the door. I consider this work requires its own space to breathe. The lighting had a significant impact on the works, particularly on the sheet. It came alive, writhing with texture, wet in appearance, haunted with presence.  Future plans of exhibiting works will involve the presentation of several large scale works on cloth, displayed on the floor and the walls. Smaller works will be presented on a larger ash bed,perhaps displayed in their own space and viewed as one would if entering a shrine or tomb. Such plans could, and possibly will change with regards to presentation, but this will depend on the nature of the space and the lighting.

Influenced by the work of Antonio Tapies and Henri Michaux , their wild gestural marks has had a profound impact on my practice. Tapies combined paint with resin, dust and other materials to create rough, textured surfaces. He compared his work to the heavily marked walls of the streets in Catalonia, which seemed to bear witness to the sufferings of the civil war. Michaux on the other hand, began to paint when he realised this new medium might enable him to say what he found impossible to articulate in his poetry. His work has an unusual complexity, depicting worm like patterns, intense markings and enigmatic facial forms. My work evolved as I reinterpreted and absorbed various aspects of their creations. In comparison to previous works, (similar to the work of Gerhard Richter and Luc Tuyman’s), whereby I focused on depicting recollections of landscapes into strangely familiar places, current work is developing a language whereby textures, forms and marks come together to create a spiritual, philosophical and cathartic response to the world around me.

Frottage, ca. 1942–1945

Frottage, ca. 1942-1945


TETE, 1947

   Henri Michaux

TETE, 1947

Image result for henri michaux

Henri Michaux

Untitled, 1960


Antonio Tapies

900cm x 600cm

Museum of Barcelona

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Personal Statement. A Journey into the Strangely Familiar by Mikki Gleave.


 Silent Witness

Wind chants across wasteland

Salty moisture falls

Spitting white

Froth solidifies on Dreuf’s hill

Melts to red

Fades to grey

Skies hangover quenches her thirst

Colour returns

Digging into his surface

Dancing behind chaos.


photo (2)Mikki Gleave – Silent Witness, 2017 . Spray paint, soil and paint on plastic .

I am interested in the memories extraordinary ability to recall the past and this interest has provided opportunities to develop practice by making new connections between memory and the uncanny. Memory and the uncanny make a perfect combination because every part of our existence, whether it is listening to music, viewing art, reading a book or entering a building create an immediate feeling or a response that will perhaps return another time. My work aims to articulate the hazy details of past experiences and emotions through application and removal of materials.  I draw theoretically from Freud’s comparison to the layers of the psyche to those of an archaeological dig- if it makes an appearance we can bury it or leave it at the surface and acknowledge it. In the poem I wrote entitled Silent Witness, Dreuf’s place is an anagram of Freud – the words hinting at the many layers of the mind and the memories that can be retrieved from them. The removal of wax and soil from the surface reveals clues that are depicted in trace like forms amongst a seemingly strange landscape.  And indeed for me, to work with different materials results from a need that painting does not satisfy: working directly with my hands enables me to enter into a connection with memory.  I work strongly with the trace and am concerned with how this emerges in photography, film and painting. Works’ are opaque and multi-layered, aiming to capture the layers and fabric of the mind and prompts the feeling that there is something hidden behind the traces and marks. On closer inspection however, it is apparent that things aren’t completely hidden.  Current work highlights the vagueness of borderline experiences and the complexity of the psyche perhaps changing each time it is viewed as they venture beneath the surface. The surface however is inexhaustible.

IMG_5755Mikki Gleave – Silent Witness, 2017. Spray paint, wax, soil and paint on card.

Our memories are based on our experiences, our histories and can linger in either darkness or light. Some recollections are strong and vibrant and sometimes they are buried in our subconscious, blurred and faint. They may be filled with gaps like childhood memories and may be faded traces of a remembered moment. My intention as an artist is to create work that articulates the minds ability to recall memories and furthermore, highlights the existence of life within the surface. Thus memories are depicted through an exploration of mark making to reveal traces within the work. Cassie Findlay reports the need to leave a trace is an essential part of being human . We desire to leave some evidence representing our existence. Graffiti for example is one of the simplest methods of free expression for individuals to creatively voice their opinions. Graffiti is however washed away and this leaves one with an unsettling tension , what the French philosopher Jacques Derrida termed ” archive fever”. As a society we are keen to show our existence through symbols and marks but uncertain that our traces will remain or be removed (Derrida , 1995). As an artist I am preserving my existence by using materials , which in my opinion are symbolic of memory. For example , I make comparisons to the act of graffiti by using spray paint in my work to establish my existence and thus preserve memory.

To understand memory as both a form of knowledge and a powerful vehicle for the imagination is to be found in Marcel Proust’s novel In Search of Lost Time (A la Recherché du Temps perdu, 1908- 1922). According to Proust, memory bridged the gap between past and present , connecting personal experiences to a wider audience. Proust contemplated on two types of memory: the voluntary and the involuntary – involuntary memory can occur when we encounter something and it evokes recollections of the past with conscious effort. On the opposite side, voluntary memory is characterised by a conscious effort to recall the past. Going back to the ancient Greeks, we begin to understand how they saw memory as a means of recovering divine knowledge. The historian Francis Yates has shown these memory skills or mnemotechnics were classed as one of the liberal arts and the art of memory often resulted in spectacular displays of recollected data. Research compares the memory as a mnemonic surface or etcher sketcher to explain its function- it can store thousands of images, reawaken them, and be ready to produce new forms. (Gibbons , 2017). I’m particularly interested in these theories as I consider the past to be a strong part of my work. It is a past fondly remembered but nonetheless peppered heavily with somewhat darker elements. It is the external and internal landscape that cloaks my memories thus acting as a departure point for my practice.

A feeling of the uncanny entails a sudden revealing. It pounces on us, out of nowhere. It requires another way of thinking about the beginning. The beginning is already past, it is haunted with memory. It will neither begin nor end (Royle, 2003). If anything is to put the uncanny in a nutshell, Nicholas Royle’s  succinct description does. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) considered that the human psyche contains numerous layers of information that are repressed out of frustration, fear and anger. A moment that is unfamiliar is revealed immediately afterwards or at a later date. In other words, it compares to a forgotten memory that is revealed when something or other taps into the layer of the mind. Whilst these theories act as a scaffolding for informing my practice – I am particularly concerned with  individuals experiencing different feelings and furthermore , I contend that Art work exploring this ambiguous concept is very much a personal encounter. Viewing a piece of art is often pursued in silence, where we are at one with our thoughts. It is perhaps during these times of solitude that the feeling of the uncanny occurs. My work aims to unsettle time, sense and space and by doing so, provokes the audience to experience their own individual sense of the uncanny.

photo 2

Mikki Gleave – Silent Witness, 2017. Spray Paint, soil, ash, acrylic paint on board.

The body of work entitled Silent Witness was created using ash, soil, spray paint and wax. In the book Purity and Danger anthropologist Mary Douglas articulates dirt absorbs atmospheres and retains a memory of what it has encountered. It is therefore a silent witness to events, (2005). By its nature dust is uncanny as it is formed from the decay of the home. It is composed of the detritus of the living and includes shed skin from the inhabitants’ as well as the decomposition of the house. Curtis has written a book entitled Dark Places : The haunted house in film and discusses how cloth holds the sometimes bearable gift of memory. I’m suggesting that the soil I use within current work and the cloth I use to wipe away paint and wax has absorbed atmospheres and retains memories from the past- thus becoming a silent witness to events. The techniques I use explore Surrealist strategies whereby unplanned and additional associations are generated by new juxtapositions.

Recent Works and Exhibition.

I am currently moving away from projecting photographs of still images and videoing my paintings. Small scale works created with paint and soil onto various surfaces including Perspex, plastic and card were videoed and edited on Adobe Premier Plus. The process of videoing acts as a signifier of moving across a landscape  saturated with memories, fading to black for several seconds and then to white thus acting as the process of closing ones eyes and thinking. Furthermore this process reinforces a physical presence behind the work . The final  piece was exhibited as a projection in the LJMU MA Fine Art show Busted Flush at St Johns Market, Liverpool.


Mikki Gleave, Silent Witness, 2017, Video Projection.

The frame attached to the work signified a window frame or opening and the black out blind was significant of a moving landscape behind. On reflection however, I feel that the frame interrupted the viewing of the work. It needed to be free without anything in the way in order for the viewer to appreciate the true experience. Videoing my work however has opened up countless opportunities’ for my practice and I aim to continue to push this medium to its full potential during my final year and look at the visual language of film making , particularly of those created by Andre Tarkovsky. I intend to project works’ on a much larger scale , onto four walls within a completely darkened space without sound . I feel by perhaps having a smell of turpentine or wax within the room will heighten the experience. The associations connected with a particular smell may evoke a personal response and return in different places when least expected. Smell is strange: it can be familiar and return unexpectedly and distort the present into the painful and/or pleasurable world from the past. (Royle,2003)

On leaving the space the viewer was able to walk and see exhibits of my work depicted on hand made paper and board. Having tangible pieces of work is important for me, (as is with all my work), because I want the viewer to feel an intimate connection through touch and smell. The process of being able to walk out of an enclosed space into an open space or vice versa acted as a metaphor of coming face to face with a memory.  I am considering however for the future, not to exhibit several works’ as perhaps it would have more of an impact to have one  painting on board or paper – the same scale as a projected image thus reinforcing stumbling across something familiarly strange.



Mikki Gleave, Silent Witness , 2017 Spray paint, acrylic paint, wax , soil and charcoal on boards. 4ft x 4ft



Mikki Gleave , Silent Witness, 2017, Spray paint, acrylic paint, wax, soil and charcoal on board. 4ft x 4ft.

The above piece of work on board was worked into and worked over several times until I felt satisfied it translated the layers of the mind. I created this particular piece shortly after hearing of the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London. It is a response to the turbulent times we live in and the memories we build from experiencing private and shared emotions. It is important however that this work, (and for that matter, all the work I make), evokes different responses within the viewer and they are able to see different things within the image – they are ever changing surfaces which are open to different interpretations.


Mikki Gleave, Silent Witness, 2017

(Collection of Polaroids’ and paintings on paper) acrylic, wax, soil , ink ,gloss and charcoal.

The above image depicts the view from the space projecting the video piece. The work is a collection of paintings and painted Polaroid’s exploring memory that were created on an uneven concrete floor whilst listening to music. Each image translates layers of memories, from childhood up to the present day. They are charged with different emotions that are often too intense to put into words.


Mikki Gleave, Silent Witness. Mixed Media on Paper x 4. 74 x 51 cm



Silent Witness, 2017 Mixed Media on Paper 74 x 51 cm

Artistic References.

I am particularly drawn to the work of Susan Hiller whose work is very much about private memories as well as the ones we share . Her work provokes personal experiences of memory, through sound and image. Hiller’s video piece Belshazzar’s Feast, the Writing on Your Wall is an example of work that prompts the viewer to respond to it in different ways. The work was prompted by hallucinations experienced on television screens and Hiller seeks to encourage the role of the imagination by creating a situation that provides the audience to see images in the flames. Thus, they create their own fantasies and judgements. (Gallagher, 2011).

Susan Hiller. Belshazzar’s Feast, the writing on Your Wall. 1983-4. Collage, video and sound.

I have also looked at the work of Do Ho Suh, an artist based between London, Seul and New York who is known for his architectural spaces, psychological and mnemonic dimensions. In the 1990s Suh started to make recreations of architectural spaces composed of planes of translucent fabric supported by metal pipes. Suh compares his fabric creations to personal clothing and architecture is an expansion of this. Thus the architectural spaces Suh creates are closed structures and are perhaps symbolic of the inhabitants within. Curtis discusses how houses have a particular relationship to memory as the inhabitants within project their psyche into the interior. The house is equally alive as it stores memories from the past (2008).  The Rubbing/loving project took 3 years and involved covering every interior surface of the artist’s former studio and apartment in paper and taking its impression by rubbing it with pastels to reveal the entire spaces memory. He is concerned with how he has a longing for a space and how home is a space that you have to leave at some point in your life and when you return it isn’t the same. Suh considers that through his rubbings, he is able to get to know the space and will often find marks that he did as a child, bringing back memories of growing up . (Mark Rappolt, 2016) Suh allows the viewer to have very individual thoughts about the space. They aren’t subjected to feeling uneasy by witnessing disturbing objects, but rather allowed the freedom to respond to it personally. I’m suggesting that Suh’s method of working is a form of spiritual connection to a place he fondly remembers. Suh is able to transport these life sized rubbings to different places and will undoubtedly create individual responses. The work, (initially created in the space that was occupied by the artist), can be witnessed by thousands of people with different feelings and thoughts. This , I argue is familiarly strange.

Do Ho Suh, rubbing/loving. 2016. Mixed media, dimensions variable.


Memories live within works of Art and thus become a part of our memory. They will always be strangely familiar in the associations and connections we have made with them. Franz Kline’s work for example continues to remind me of strange isolated countryside buildings associated with childhood walks and each time I view it, the images associated with the work come flooding back. Interestingly, it was when Kline was looking at his sketches on a large projector that he began his first large scale blown work.


Franz Kline, Vawdavitch, 1955. Oil on canvas. 158.1 x 204.9cm

I make reference to Kline because his work encourages the infinite possibilities of meaning within the surface that offer the immensely complex imagination to travel to wherever it chooses. There is a violent silence within vawdavitch and its presence has the ability to disturb and awaken memories from the past.


“if the world comes to seem uncanny, this will not happen gradually , reasonable doubt by reasonable doubt; it will come all of a sudden. It will be prepared of course, like an avalanche, but when it comes, it comes all at once. The uncanniness comes as a revelation”. (Gordon C.F . Bearn).

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Reflection continued- Mikki Gleave March 7th, 2017

And so the reflection of practice continues. During the build up to an exciting exhibition,( to be held in St Georges Hall , 9th March – 10th March), I had a very useful critique. My work , entitled Walk with Me is projected onto the wall within a space, offering the viewer a gateway into memories and traces from the past. When viewed collectively the work aims to trigger everyone’s memory of a place from their past. When projected in large scale the images return as the familiar but strange, taking on another form. I have to confess that as an artist, I am new to projecting, and I agree that I could make the work have even more of an impact by experimenting further with transitions and different projectors. But it’s a start and I’m excited by the possibilities this work could lead to. I also feel a massive shift is taking place regarding my work and I am pushing myself out of a comfort zone. Everything takes time- and it is sometimes difficult as an artist to move away from what we are safe with.  My fellow artists were particularly responsive to the work and encouraged me to take it a step further by suggesting that I video my creations and present them as a film. Some people thought that the text worked within the piece and others felt that it interrupted the feeling of the images. The development of the final piece involved removing lots of text and I feel that the words selected compliment the work as perhaps it would do if one was watching the beginning of a film. Nevertheless, it may be more powerful if I leave out quotes in the future and have minimum text.


It was also suggested that I have a black space rather than a white one to project the work onto. I think that would work really well- but do I paint it ? I think that would be the case.


It was also interesting to hear curator Bryony Bond say that she felt the work reminded her of a spiritual intervention- this is the kind of dialogue I’m interested in creating and I feel that all of a sudden the communication of distorted marks and traces are being experienced by others.  I look forward to future practice .

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Reflection by Mikki Gleave 26th Feb 2017

It is only after you have come to know the surface of things […] that you can venture to seek what is underneath. But the surface of things is inexhaustible. _ Italo Calvino

My research is centred on investigating the uncanny. Historically, my practice focused primarily on digitally layering drawings and photographs, creating a fabricated place, becoming a vehicle for the uncanny to manifest. Other works mainly consisted of small scale pieces including polaroid’s and other works of ambiguous scenes presented on to different surfaces.


At present, I consider my practice is starting to change. Currently I am interested in exploring the uncanny by making images that articulate a pictorial language of directly applied mark making. I am continuing to work onto the surface of materials thus creating distorted images, symbolic of memories that often resurface as the uncanny. Recent research highlighted that the uncanny doesn’t need to be presented as a frightening image to have an impact, and to consider how the uncanny can manifest itself in different ways. To put this ambiguous concept in a nutshell , the uncanny is a feeling one gets when one encounters something familiar yet appears strange. The uncanny can resurface through repressed memories and dreams. We have memories of places whether they exist or based on make believe, but it is important to understand that memories create feelings. Henry Bergson writes:-“With the immediate and present data of our senses, we mingle a thousand details out of our past experience”, (1908).

Memories present as hazy, distorted fragments within our minds and it is this exact dialogue of work that I am trying to create. I want to encourage a feeling that perhaps evokes a thought or triggers a memory within the viewer.   I consider that my practice is evolving and recent works are starting to speak of interference – presented through traces and marks.

Memories return as “mnemonic traces” in the form of “dream thoughts. Visual culture can store images , reactivate them, and yet be ready to produce new forms. (Martin Lefebvre – Landscape and film)


Photograph of film still- Looking at how colour can evoke atmosphere and tension. The shape appearing above the chair manifests itself as a form. I was particularly drawn to the ambiguity of the shape thus the form appears within my work and is symbolic of interference, perhaps reminding us of the passing of time.


 Mikki Gleave


Photograph of Film Still layered with own images of marks and traces of graffiti.

The image of a film still does not necessarily work as a final piece but it is a piece that I draw from for inspiration. Perhaps this may work as a polaroid.


Mikki Gleave

Research highlights the importance of traces within our existence. The desire to witness and to leave a trace is an essential part of being human; to leave some evidence representing our part in events , large or small.(Derrida, 1996). I aim to explore mark making further to capture the traces of existence and furthermore, to create a sense of the familiar being strange. I draw theoretically from the works of Sigmund Freud, Karl Jung Antony Vidler and Nicholas Royle. Freud was concerned with “free association” and dream analysis techniques “might be used as a treasure trove of poetic inspiration”. His interest within these areas were a great inspiration to the Surrealists whose practice involved depicting out of context objects thus making them new and afresh. My practice embraces the 2 seemingly contradictory states- reality and dream and aims to ask the question , “why does this seem familiar?”. I’m suggesting that memory is a powerful vehicle in transporting our collections from life and their vagueness offers us the sense of the uncanny, familiar but strange.   Further research will delve more into domestic spaces, symbolic of enclosing repressed anger and secrets making reference to the haunted home within gothic literature,(“Purity and Danger “by Mary Douglas and  “Silent witness of home” by Barry Curtis).Curtis talks about how cloth holds the sometimes bearable gift of memory and Douglas discusses how dust traps secrets and is symbolic of darkness. I’m suggesting therefore that discarded wooden surfaces have absorbed atmospheres and they retain a memory of what has encountered – thus becoming a silent witness to events. I feel I can strongly link this theory to my practice. Recent works include soil and paint onto scratched Perspex and soil and spray paint on card, scratched off to reveal an image, symbolic of interference. I’m also considering taking Polaroid’s of my work so that they begin to exist as another place, presented as a photograph.

I am interested in how my work is supported and how it can capture the traces within the work, thus becoming a part of the final piece. Presentation of my work will therefore undoubtedly be an important process. I’m interested in creating a landscape of rusted iron supports, old gates and fences, revealing images peering from the tops. The works become part of a battered landscape, equally saturated with memories. We walk past rusted supports, battered gates and weathered walls every day and I think it will be interesting to try and present this within a gallery space.

The first image (shown above), depicts a rusted support that I photographed on a journey from university. Once again I am drawn to the memories that are within the surfaces and crevices of areas that are slightly hidden away. I thought I would experiment further and manipulate the image, (adding my own pieces of work so that they appear to exist within the space). It adds an interesting take on the work as it is the familiar we are seeing to be made strange. The images begin to articulate layers of memories depicted by other peoples traces accompanied by my work which in turn adds another layer of meaning. On reflection however, I feel that setting up a landscape within a space could be a long term project and at present my thoughts are centred on projecting the images in large format. The above images may also work well projected as another piece of work thus becoming a reality to the viewer. It may also be interesting to hang work from mini scaffolding supports within a space- making the familiar , once again, strange.

“Our desire to carry on knowing that a trace of our existence will exist to allow us to remember, but at the same time the uncertainty that such trace will be preserved or removed” (Derrida,1996)


The above image depicts a projected image shown to BA students. The work was created on Perspex, worked into with wet soil and acrylic. It presents the viewer with the experience one would perhaps have at the cinema. Laura Mulvey points out that one of cinemas enduring uncanny effects lies in its ability to preserve time, across all ages, much like a ruin.  Projecting work to such a large scale can potentially provide visual traces and recordings of dreams which then travel to trouble and inform the present. I’m suggesting that projecting images in an exhibition (as a final piece of work), can thus heighten the experience of the uncanny, because as a medium, it enhances us into another dimension of memories, traces and ghosts. (Mulvey, Laura, Death 24 x a second stillness and the moving image).

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