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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