Collaborative Practi… on Basement Place – Notes f…
International artist Roger Ballen and Artistic director Marguerite Rossouw emailed me a selection of images and gave me permission to respond to them through poetry. Marguerite and Roger were pleased with the final collection of work entitled Basement Place and allowed me to publish the work. Ballen draws inspiration from the analytical insights of Jung and Poetics of Space by French philosopher Gaston Bachelard who applies the method of phenomenology to architecture basing his analysis not on purported origins but on lived experience in architectural places and their contexts in nature. Bacheleard’s highly original study of lived in spaces combined with Ballen’s thought provoking work has provided inspiration throughout my practice and continues to provide a scaffolding of ideas for current work. Personal 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. The written collection entitled Basement Place links to my current practice whereby I am concerned with memory, place and trace.The writing hints at the fragility of the mind and aims to capture emotionally charged atmospheres within space and place.
We chant. We sing.
Childhood voices in Attic lair.
These days we play hide and seek in Basement place.
Coming ready or not;
Off the Wall.
Today felt like yesterday.
Or was it the other day?
Or the day before that?
The rain makes its usual noise;
Pissing vomit on earth’s nest.
Is it the rain?
That was this morning.
Or was it Friday?
Yogi sings her usual song.
Or was that yesterday?
In later years you painted Still life with ladybird.
You contemplated ochre to warm the chill.
Magpie visited some weeks before;
Singing a story only she knows.
You said you were ready.
You raised a glass to the air;
talking to those seen only by you.
You whispered, shouted, laughed.
But this day you left quickly;
All packed. Brushes, letters, ring. Check.
Today ladybird often visits;
a comfort for me and maybe for you.
Development of practice MA Year 1, 2017
“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”. Douglas, 2005.
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. 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).
Recollections, 2016-2017. Paint, ink and bleach on Polaroid series.
Silent Witness, Dirt, wax and Paint on Card . Video projection. Busted Flush MA Exhibition. St Johns Market, Liverpool. July 2017
MA Year 2 – Key moments in development.
Thought patterns started to shift whilst working in MAKE studios on the Dock Road in Liverpool. Within the studio, work involved making marks and gestures on dust sheet, discarded aluminium, card , paper and wrappers from cheese slices. Using pastels to etch representations of faces on the surface of wrappers , (reminiscent in scale of a polaroid photograph), 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 marked brick walls and watched as work began on the sheet. At first, wild gestural marks were made, without much thought about the final result, 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 passing. The shapes of existence appeared within the folds and creases- manifesting as symbols, faces and torsos. Marks became intentional ; the spray paint applied, stiffened and darkened the cloth becoming old and weathered in appearance. The application of materials was suggestive of embalming fluid and careful execution of the work suggestive of discovering remains,perhaps as one would in an archaeological dig or crime scene.
Top left and right – Untitled, 2017, Ink and paint on paper. MAKE Liverpool.
Bottom left and right – Untitled, 2017 , Spray paint, ink and ash on dust sheet. MAKE Liverpool.
Untitled, 2017 , pastel on cheese slice wrappers – MAKE Studios
Reflection and development from Ghosts MA Exhibition LJMU, December 2017.
Passageway, 2017, Ink, Paint, Ash and Charcoal on dust sheet, paper and card.
The above 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. On reflection, the ashes scattered around the work were half hearted and the placing was too close to the wall. The visual material and language however showed development and the work begins to emerge in more subtle ways; leaving behind the more familiar imagery used in previous works to cite around the themes of place, time and memory – thus allowing the work to speak for itself. Whilst the language of painting had started to develop, the installation needed pushing further to where the sculptural dimensions worked.
January – March, 2018.
“It has become apparent to me that all forms of life have a unique spirit. If we become a spirit after our short stint on Earth, then it is not inconceivable that everything that has ever lived will become an apparition. The universe is a very big place, so there should be room for all”. Roger Ballen.
Throughout this period ,work continued on dust sheets using ink , fire ash ,spray paint and charcoal within the basement of my home. Further consideration to the language of the work involved thinking about ways to push it further into sculpture artistic forms. Meetings with fellow colleagues and tutors involved exchanging plans about working directly into a constructed space, and leaving it behind to become a memory. It was suggested that the space could be constructed within the exhibition grounds and work would be made directly into it/onto it, perhaps presenting it in the form of a tent or hut made from dust sheets. On reflection however, and from having further discussions around these plans, the idea of building something within a space wouldn’t be a true representation of the work and would be staged. The work needed to exist in its own physical space and thus allowed to speak for itself. I started to work directly on brick walls within the basement, interpreting studies of marks, traces and images of existence into a visual language depicting basic primal formations and sacred symbols that we have inherited and embedded through the process of evolution. Thoughts of feeling trapped within the walls coincided with imagining secret histories and feeling a sense freedom from opening up a gateway to new experiences. This determined that the work would continue and developed further, to be assessed in situ.
The gestural markings within the work of Antonio Tapies and Henri Michaux combined with the photography of Brassai has had a profound impact on current 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. Brassai took photographs of wall markings and carvings over 3 decades. He was interested in how images eventually changed, either through additions by other artists’ or because of the passage of time. Recent work evolved through reinterpretation and absorbing various aspects of their creations. In comparison to previous works, (similar to the work of Gerhard Richter and Luc Tuyman’s), whereby the focus depicted 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.
Graffiti Series II, Brassai ,1933 – 1950. Silver Print.
Top four images – working onto brick walls.
Bottom four images– Untitled, 2018 Studies on A5 card – ink, ash and paint.
Further research that assisted in developing the dialogue of current work includes the filming inside the Chauvet cave in France by Werner Herzog. The walls are covered with the worlds oldest paintings and Herzog discusses how the artwork represents humanity’s earliest dreams. Furthermore, international artist Roger Ballen inspired by the carvings on blacked out windows in a women’s prison draws inspiration from the analytical insights of Jung and Poetics of Space by French philosopher Gaston Bachelard who applies the method of phenomenology to architecture basing his analysis not on purported origins but on lived experience in architectural places and their contexts in nature. Bacheleard’s highly original study of lived in spaces combined with Ballen’s thought provoking work has also provided a scaffolding of ideas for current work. A collection of writing entitled Basement Place responds to the images of Roger Ballen. The writing is an exploration of the psyche and refers to the attic and basement as metaphors for the different parts of the mind. The basement being a metaphor for the subconscious. The process of writing about Ballen’s work has helped to further develop ideas with regards to working within the environment and encouraged deeper thinking around current practice. Interestingly, Ballen’s work takes the idea of living space as a metaphor for the human mind. In an article entitled The house of the mind, Roger Ballen discusses that the rooms within a house reflect various places in the mind. The attic for example, reflects dreams and the basement reflects primitive consciousness. (2016). In addition, George Schneider works in rooms within different dwellings and conceives the rooms as 3 dimensional sculptures that can be walked through. The rooms he works in are existing rooms he finds in various settings.
Void– MA Exhibition at Kasimier Garden, Liverpool. March, 2018
Void, 2018,Mikki Gleave
Void exhibition was held in an unused, abandoned space attached to Kasimier Garden bar. In the weeks leading up to the pop up show, further development work involved sculpting forms by applying resin to paintings of figurative images on pulp paper. The sculptures were situated on/ under/behind tables until they began to speak their own language and thus became a part of the environment; dirty, discarded and tired. Further responses to the space involved working onto discarded board and broken tiles whilst continuing to develop ideas from the shapes, traces and marks visible within the space. Marks made on the floor also became a piece of work and were varnished to correspond with the ambiguous form depicted on a broken tile. The work highlighted layers of time, space and place.
Void, 2017. Kasimier Garden Liverpool.
March – August, 2018.
“Gesture within its multiple forms is the most primal and yet one of the most complex media for communicating ideas and emotions to others and the self.” Walter Benjamin.
Work continues on the walls of the basement and develops its own language.The surfaces within this body of work depict studies of existence presented in basic primal formations and sacred symbols that have been embedded through the process of evolution. It draws on the dynamics and the material qualities of the here and now and the space in which the work is made and has a dynamic tension that addresses the immaterial through mark making and graffiti style imagery. The dust sheet attached to the wall is an example of gesture used; it is between the mark making that gestures of working on brick are made evident. These gestures also indicate another layer of history. Further work continued on the wrappers of German smoked cheese. Initially, the transparency, size and fragility of the wrappers presented qualities similar to that of a Polaroid photograph.Discussions in tutorials focused on ideas of presentation and determined that this work would be lost on a wall or shelf and dilute their ambiguity . Further meetings articulated ideas around presenting them in a large scale book similar to that of an important document. The book will be exhibited in the final show on plinth with pulpit style stand and white gloves – a requirement for public viewing. The basement is to be viewed separately.
Video documentation of basement. Digital images of work on basement walls, dustsheets, tiles and board on floor.
A bespoke made to measure book entitled This Day, 20.5 inches x 17.5 inches, consists of the work on 24 cheese slice wrappers, their size and fragility evoking that of a polaroid photograph. Like a polaroid series, layers of history and gesture recorded on the wrappers act as a diary of the time working in the basement. The excessive scale and preciousness of the book is a stark contrast to the diminutive scale and the raw working on wrappers. The book suggests it is an important document, perhaps a way to decode the ambiguities of the work as a whole.
This Day, 2018. Mikki Gleave . Book – 20.5 inches x 17.5 inches , 24 pages. 24 singular works on cheese wrappers from Germany, 3.5 inches x 3.5 inches.
This Day, Bespoke made to measure book bound in old library linen. 20.5 inches x 17.5 inches. Wooden plinth with space for document reading gloves and plinth foot stool.
To have exhibition in basement – open to the public- view by appointment only.
To work in abandoned places in different parts of the country. Document through video and photography.
To continue working on cheese wrappers to record external/internal areas.
To work on giant sheets of polythene on floors to record marks and apply dust sheets on top to take imprint.
To exhibit book This Day .
To apply for Bloomberg Contemporaries.
To provide further workshops to prisoners and collaborate to produce work on responding to internal environment through mark making . Work to be exhibited alongside my work to show place and time within different environments.
“The more reflective you are the more effective you are” – Hall and Simeral
Shortly after emailing tutor and artist Imogen Sidworthy, regarding a proposal for collaborative work, I contemplated whether or not I wanted to work alongside an artist in the school where I work. I recognised that I was perhaps staying within my comfort zone and not challenging myself to do something completely different. Understandably, due to Imogen’s on going commitments, she was unable to accept my proposal. Imogen’s reply however, confirmed my doubts, and on evaluation, if she had have accepted my proposal, this particular process perhaps wouldn’t have challenged my ability to network and develop my own practice. I considered engaging with another school and setting up an Art project with students. On reflection however, I feel that this is something I can do as an enrichment project to develop my own professional role as a teacher.
Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks. Simonides c 556-468 BC Plutarch Moralia
Creative writing is something I enjoyed as a child but it is only as an adult and practicing artist I understand how writing can help shape and mold work, particularly critical and reflective writing. I considered it would be interesting to observe how poetry could perhaps influence my work, and possibly provide me with a deeper insight into my own practice. My Mum is an award winning poet and often her writing evokes thoughts and prompts questioning. My initial thoughts around this process were to ask her to write about my work. I felt however that this would be an easy option and furthermore, by doing this, it wouldn’t push me enough to network with other people. On reflection, I feel that the thought process around responding to Art through writing, developed ideas for collaborative proposals in other areas. For example the email I proposed to James Draper with regards to a collaboration with Professor Carol Ann Duffy prompted me to think of other ideas around collaboration, and as excited as I was about the possibility of having a renowned poet write about my work, I started to think of other avenues I could pursue. Another example of the development process was contacting James Draper again and enquiring about going to Manchester University to work with MA creative writing students. I feel this was the beginning of another journey, and although I didn’t receive a reply regarding my enquiry, I started to think about how else I could engage with an artist through poetry and art.
Notes from Johannesburg. Observations, Thought process and Reflection.
The work of Roger Ballen has continued to inspire me for a number of years. I recollect his prompt assistance regarding research towards my BA Hons dissertation and his enthusiasm on reading my final written work. After seeing his work in a students sketchbook I felt it would be a good opportunity to email him and put forward a proposal. It is also interesting to note with regards to my interest in the prison, that the work entitled Theatre of the mind, 2016 by Roger Ballen was inspired from a photographic shooting within an abandoned prison. The windowpanes in a prison cell had been painted over by a former prisoner leaving herself completely isolated. Roger Ballen and director Marguerite Roussouw worked together on glass to produce images that were photographed. At this stage I was beginning to think about images I could show to prisoners to prompt thought.
I took into consideration Roger’s busy schedule as an international artist, and provided him with pre -selected images of his work. I felt that responding to Art through poetry would be an excellent tool for my own thought process and thus challenge my creativity. On receiving the email from his assistant Marguerite Rousseau I felt particularly excited that both Marguerite and Roger had discussed my proposal and furthermore, pleased that Roger had chosen specific images, giving me permission to respond to these works through writing. On reflection, I felt his courtesy and willingness to agree to my proposal was a privilege and a fantastic opportunity.
The written responses to Ballen’s work link to my practice whereby I am concerned with the trace and currently responding to the environment to record traces and memory through painting, mark making and sculpture.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.The written work was an on-going process and edited several times in order to capture depth and prompt intrigue.
The image entitled Offering prompted thoughts of childhood, playing with friends in an attic. I have recollections of a black hairy mask within the space, reminiscent of a monster. We used to chant to one another the black man’s coming. The writing is an exploration of the psyche and refers to the attic and basement as metaphors for the different parts of the mind. Interestingly, Ballen’s work takes the idea of living space as a metaphor for the human mind. In an article entitled The house of the mind, Roger Ballen discusses that the rooms within a house reflect various places in the mind. The attic for example, reflects dreams and the basement reflects primitive consciousness. (2016). Ballen draws inspiration from the analytical insights of Jung and Poetics of Space by French philosopher Gaston Bachelard who applies the method of phenomenology to architecture basing his analysis not on purported origins but on lived experience in architectural places and their contexts in nature. Bache lard’s highly original study of lived in spaces has provided me with many ideas throughout my practice and continues to provide a scaffolding for my ideas. The piece of writing entitled Off the Wall is a response to the image Ethereal by Roger Ballen. Off the Wall hints at the fragility of the mind and aims to capture emotionally charged atmospheres within an environment. This particular piece may be interesting to use in Wymott prison due to the suggestions of losing all sense of time within the writing. The response to Consolation hints at memories of death and comfort found afterwards. The process of writing about Roger Ballen’s work reinforced the importance of leaving the viewer to make their own connections with the work and to avoid giving too much away. This process is equally important within contemporary Art.
Throughout the process of editing the collection of work entitled Basement Place I worked alone with my own thoughts in response to the images by Roger Ballen. On one occasion I asked my mum for her thoughts on the pieces entitled Mask and Off the Wall. She felt both pieces of writing prompted intrigue and confirmed it is necessary within creative writing not to give too much away. She was unsure of the words “earth’s nest” within the poem Off the Wall , but agreed it worked well with regards to the bird within the piece of work Ethereal by Roger Ballen. Roger Ballens and Marguerites reply regarding my work was helpful and informative. Both were concerned with the statement ‘black man’s coming’ as this may be seen to be racist in Johannesburg. Although it was by no means meant to be offensive I completely understood their concerns and on reflection, the wording was perhaps too obvious for describing the darker parts of the mind. I edited the work and changed the name to Victor. Victor is a fictional name for the darker parts of the mind. The final collection, entitled Basement Place sent to Marguerite and Roger was successful and I felt honoured by the response:- “Congratulations! Both Roger and I really like what you have written in response to these images. You can go ahead to present it on your online blog.” Roger was also happy for me to use the work in a prison workshop.
Shaping of ideas. Throughout the collaborative module I have been working directly onto the walls in my basement. The basement being a metaphor for the subconscious. Poetics of space written by the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard prompted me to title the collection of writing in response to Roger Ballen’s work, Basement place. I consider the process of writing about Ballen’s work has helped to further develop my ideas with regards to working within the environment and encouraged me to think deeply around my practice. Further reflection has enabled me to visualise and potentially offer fruitful workshop/s in a prison whereby I can strongly discuss meanings behind my work and present images of work in my environment alongside other artists’ work including Roger Ballen’s. My written responses to the work of Roger Ballen photographed on glass , (inspired by the abandoned prison), could be a really interesting combination with regards to showing prisoners how images prompt thought and evoke meaning. It is interesting to note that after a discussion around my collaborative journey , Imogen Sidworthy pointed out that the prison environment would be a thought provoking place for me to find traces of existence within this space and to perhaps consider further how different environments could inform my practice.
On receiving the response from xxx in regards to the prison workshop, I felt optimistic about my proposal, but considered it may take some time for the proposal to be accepted. It was thus a pleasant surprise to receive an email of acceptance from the Senior Team Leader for Employability at Wymot prison. The date is booked for the 7th June 2018 to deliver an all day workshop on poetry and art. During the phone call with xxx it was discussed that there may be other opportunities in the future to deliver more workshops. This may be something that could be offered once a month for a set period of time .Throughout this entire process, I have developed ideas and a body of work that aim to inform the delivery of a productive workshop within a prison. I am currently planning a schedule for the workshop which will include an introduction of my role as an artist and professional. The session will also provide opportunity for learners to see images of current work, the collection of writing entitled Basement place alongside the work of Roger Ballen. Creative writing can help to free emotions without giving too much away; thus combining writing with art could therefore develop an interesting language and be a creative vehicle for learners in the prison. I consider the sensitivity required to create Art and write poetry combined with the harsh atmosphere of prison would make an interesting creative environment. Furthermore, I consider their mark making and traces from the materials used will perhaps provide me with further insight into my own practice.
Observations and reflection on correspondence with writer L .Cross. The reflection process regarding collaborating with L .Cross prompted me to take a step back and review the situation. Whilst I understand and appreciate that L’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 L 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 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 in a workshop for prisoners. Different writing styles whether emotive or not, could be a release for some and therefore 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. L’s writing has not of yet inspired me to create Art because of its emotive content.
What L’s writing did do however was encouraged me to think about ways in which I could motivate people in prison. I began to think about the visuals and materials I could provide to encourage prisoners to create successful outcomes using drawing or writing as a vehicle for creativity. 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. It may also be interesting to show poetry from external prisoners. I would provide an example of the expectations around each activity.
Outcome and Conclusion.
I consider I have developed my own collaborative opportunities with external partners and have developed collaborations that reflect and support my existing practice whilst providing me with opportunity to further develop skills and abilities aligned to my areas of interest. I have tangibly put together responses from all exchanges and by doing so have provided a further stimulus for current practice with opportunity to share outcomes with Roger Ballen and develop ideas for the delivery of a creative workshop at Wymott prison. I consider the projects undertaken have placed emphasis on generating and managing collaborative practice.
I understand and respect that as artists and professionals, we are often too busy to take the time to correspond with one another. This process however, has reinforced that if you are determined enough and want something enough, then no matter who it is or what it is your proposing, it is possible to achieve a positive outcome and furthermore gain possibilities for future practice and development.
Long term Aim.
The workshop I deliver will hopefully provide further opportunity for future workshops in Wymott or within other prisons, psychiatric establishments and rehabilitation centres. The work produced by prisoners at Wymott , whether it be creative writing, Art or both would be exciting to see collated and combined with my Art alongside the written responses to the work of Roger Ballen. This could take place in the form of a book and issued to the prisoners and perhaps to Roger Ballen and Marguerite Roussow. The book would be titled Voices Inside.
Thank you to @Roger Ballen and Marguerite Roussow for your time throughout this process and giving me permission to publish the work.
Thank you to @L Cross for taking the time to write about my work.
Thank you to all at Wymott prison.
Thank you to tutors at Liverpool John Moores University.
“The most common way for artists to collaborate is with other artists” (Tate Online)
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. 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 articulated my ideas regarding sending 3 or 4 images of my work to Carol Ann Duffy and asked 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. 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 writing school are required to be directed to her literary agent, Peter Straus. I forwarded the email.
Peter Straus responded articulating how busy Carol Ann is, but wished me the best of luck with the project. This process prompted me to contact James Draper suggesting a proposal of collaboration 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 did not responded to this email.
Voices Inside – Creativity in Prison. Corresponding with Prisons: Workshop opportunity.
January – April 2018.
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 and how I could bring my practice into a prison. The following emails show correspondence between myself and 2 prisons. During this process I networked with an international artist Roger Ballen and a professional writer/editor Liam J Cross. I developed a body of work that determined a final outcome.
Email to Style Prison for men.
“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 explaining I would need to write to xxx who is 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.
For the purposes of confidentiality all names and contacts have been removed.
Hi Mikki, I have forwarded your email on to xxx who is the Education Deputy Manager here. They do already do some similar workshops here but she said she will have a look and see what she can do. Good luck! Thanks, xxx
Hi Mikki,Please see below. Sounds promisingFrom: xxx
Sent: 06 April 2018 10:22
Subject: RE: Re Proposal for workshop in prison.
Thanks for this. I will speak to my manager to try and arrange for her to come in and deliver a workshop to our art class. There may also be some scope to work with the art department at Garth.
I will liaise with Mikki as soon as I know any more. Thanks, xx
Senior Curriculum Team Leader
I replied to this email and discussed an appropriate time to ring and discuss further plans.
Telephone conversation with xxx at Wymott prison. 24th April, 2018.
The conversation with xxx confirmed the date 7th June to provide an all day workshop at Wymott prison. The workshop will be split into two sessions. In the morning all learners consist of vulnerable prisoners (VPS) and in the afternoon the learners are category C prisoners. xxx discussed the procedures required for going to the prison which include sending my national insurance number and date of birth. On arrival at the prison it is compulsory to lock mobile phones and personal belongings away. It is also prohibited to bring in items including perfume, liquids and tin foil. xxx articulated there may be opportunity for the work produced by the prisoners to be published anonomysly. I am going to devise a PowerPoint that I will send to Lisa so she can put it on the prison computer. The PowerPoint will set expectations around the session and include an overview of my practice and recent work including the written responses to the work of Roger Ballen. Prisoners will then have the opportunity to produce a piece of creative writing and/or art work. There will also be opportunity for prisoners to show individual work and discuss it.
Hi Mikki Thank you so much for getting back to me asap with this. I have got admin to submit a gate pass in for you. I am on leave from the 02/05/18-14/05/18 and hope to catch up with you then. I hope you do not mind but I have passed your details onto my colleague xxx who will be in touch to make arrangements with you. xxx is an art tutor and will be able to discuss your ideas etc. and help with organising the power point etc. Look forward to speaking to you soon. Kind Regards xxx Senior Curriculum Team Leader
Hi xxx, Thanks for passing on information to the art tutor. I will hold out with regards to the PowerPoint until I speak to xxx. It may be worth xxx emailing me some details of what she includes in a session as a guideline etc. Best wishes Mikki.
29th April, 2018. Powerpoint to learners at Wymott prison to include the following. This is only a draft and needs to be discussed further with xxx.
Who I am
What I do: – Current Practice and professional role.
What I aim to do in the workshop
Why I think it is important about having a voice in prison. Discuss self -expression is rarely practiced in prison. Words and art can help to free the mind.
Why we need to have silence to think. Workshop will include a few moments of silence. Learners to think about surroundings, schedules, cells, night time, day time, noises and smells. Discussion on words.
Learners to think about words associated with the outside world; family, memories, smells, landscape, buildings. Discussion on words. Write words down.
Write words down when looking at an image – what images spring to mind. These can be any words.
Show collection of writing from Basement Place (See notes from Johannesberg below) and Roger Ballen’s work. Discuss what I felt when looking at these images.
Show poetry by external prisoners.
Practical – create a short piece of writing/poem based on the images and words we have thought about.
Follow an example of rhyming or write something that doesn’t rhyme.
Jingle, jangle keys
A sudden bang
No man’s land
I hate the sound of keys
And the dark nights
And the cold empty days
Keys, footsteps, slam
concrete, trapped , grey
this is what my day is.
this is what I pay.
Break. 10 minutes.
2nd half of workshop . Markmaking activity
Look at images and create marks. Angry marks, anxious marks , excited marks ,
show art work and encourage learners to use materials to produce images.
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. 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.
I emailed a proposal to Roger and his assistant Marguerite. Within this proposal I asked their permission if I could respond to Roger’s 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;
CCRoger Ballen Feb 12 at 8:32 AM
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.
The written responses to Roger Ballen’s work have been edited several times in order to capture depth and prompt intrigue. Some words have been changed for political reasons. The words from the following pieces form a collection of work entitled Basement Place.
Offering, 2010. Roger Ballen
We chant. We sing
Childhood voices in Attic lair.
These days we play hide and seek in Basement place
Coming ready or not;
Ethereal, 2011. Roger Ballen
Off the Wall.
Today felt like yesterday.
Or was it the other day?
Or the day before that?.
The rain makes his usual noise;
Pissing vomit on earth’s nest.
Is it the rain?
That was this morning.
Or was it Friday?
Yogi sings her usual song;
Or was that yesterday?
In later years you painted Still life with ladybird.
You contemplated ochre to warm the chill.
Magpie visited some weeks before;
Singing a story only she knows.
You said you were ready.
You raised a glass to the air;
talking to those seen only by you.
You whispered, shouted, laughed.
But this day you left quickly;
All packed. Brushes, letters, ring. Check.
Today ladybird often visits; a comfort for me and maybe for you.
Marguerite Rossouw <firstname.lastname@example.org> ToMIKKI GLEAVE
Work in Progress – Developed from writing about the work of Roger Ballen.
Untitled, 2018. Ash and charcoal on paper.
Untitled, 2018. Work on brick
Roger Ballen and his assistant Sarie Pretorius have also agreed that I can share my written responses and images on Instagram.
Response from Poet and writer Liam J Cross. February – March, 2018
Professional writer and editor Liam J cross @the_unbroken_poet responded to my on line portfolio posting a like for my on going process. I emailed him asking him if he would consider writing about my work. Within the email I attached 3 images of recent work.
Message: Dear Liam,
I am an MA Fine Art student in my final year at John Moore’s University in Liverpool. You responded to my on line portfolio yesterday , regarding an on going process of collaborating with other artists.
As you may be aware, I am particularly interested in having an opportunity to engage with someone through poetry. I have already been given permission by international artist and photographer Roger Ballen to write short poems about four pieces of his work which he sent to me via email. This is an exciting opportunity for me to engage with other people’s art through poetry and as I am not a practicing poet, an exciting challenge that could open up opportunities for my practice. Would it be possible for you to respond to one or 2 of my images through poetry? It doesn’t need to be a long process. It is merely a response to my work and it would be so interesting to have a writer responding in this way. I have attached my website and on this you can see my portfolio of work and my personal statement. I look forward to hearing from you and if you are willing to respond to a piece of my work please let me know . Best wishes Mikki
Time: February 15, 2018 at 11:08 am
IP Address: 126.96.36.199
Contact Form URL: https://liamjcrosswritingandediting.com/contact/
Sent by an unverified visitor to your site.
Cross <email@example.com> Wow, this is super scary. Head over to @the_unbroken_poet on Instagram. That’s my poetry page that I have just put a story on reaching out for an artist! I would love to do that. Please send some pieces over😊 Kindest regards, Liam J Cross Owner of Liam-J-Cross Writing & Editing From: firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com> on behalf of Mikki Gleave <firstname.lastname@example.org> Sent: Thursday, February 15, 201
Owner of Liam-J-Cross Writing & Editing
Liam accepted my proposal and responded to the 3 images. The writing produced by Liam sits directly on the images. I requested could he 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.
A response to my work by Liam J Cross.
I emailed Liam discussing my thoughts about the process.
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).
Recollections, 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).
Silent 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
Passageway, 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.
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
900cm x 600cm
Museum of Barcelona
Wind chants across wasteland
Salty moisture falls
Froth solidifies on Dreuf’s hill
Melts to red
Fades to grey
Skies hangover quenches her thirst
Digging into his surface
Dancing behind chaos.
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.
Mikki 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.
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.
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
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).
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 .
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.
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.
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).
This gallery contains 5 photos.