postcards taken from “the boy with the arab strap”, a book of the album by belle & sebastian, 2011.
the challenge i set myself over the summer was to submit for 3 open calls and i managed 2 🙂 little did i expect i’d actually get in to either but here’s #1. i’ve been looking for projects relevant to my current practice and i figured pursuing the mail art route could be productive. when i can find a personal connection i know i can make a decent stab at the project and so it was with the national brain appeal’s letter in mind project.
this came together for me at the very last moment. the silk machine stitching represents neural networks in the brain, the glass beads the molecular structure of oxytocin (C43H66N12O12S2) a neurotransmitter associated with birth, breastfeeding and human bonding, and implicated in several psychiatric conditions.
i knew i wanted to revisit/extend my work with cyanotypes, although the practicalities for me are prohibitive (evicting both the kids from their room for the night o_O) i only really had one shot at this and i lucked out – the process is also at the mercy of the weather – sunny days making for sharper exposures. while i’m still at the point of seeing mostly the technical flaws i’m happy with the result, it conveys the feel i was after.
the subject of brain functioning and disease was high in my thoughts at the time, due to family circumstance. i’ve always had a great affinity for scientific imagery and i strive to convey some small part of the poetry and simultaneous simplicity/complexity of those images in my work.
mark making experiments. drawing scares me. i do try to force myself closer to it as often as i can, but i can still only really approach it at a tangent.
previous work producing jewellery-scale models of molecules in silver and glass. having made these 3-dimentionally accurate models before i knew i’d be pushing the limits of my skill to make larger molecules. but i still wanted to explore, really get to know, those neurotransmitters that play such a significant part in my life and history.
i needed to find a way of translating these bead structures to 2 dimensions (also to fit in the mail art format). the physical act of transferring a pattern of 125 (ish) beads reliably was a headache i hoped to solve using a cyanotype print. not expecting the markings to transfer crisply, but accurately enough for bead placement. having those white dots on dark behind the beads i hoped would also increase the shine on the finished piece.
the iplayer has a load of “what do artists do all day?” documentaries atm. polly morgan was talking about her first sale, and installing it in the buyer’s house next to a grayson perry. i feel much the same astonishment at being on the same walls in my first bricks-and-mortar show 🙂
back from london with a grin on my face and a spring in my step, having seen my work as part of the letter in mind exhibition at the oxo tower in support of the national brain appeal. i’ll post up full details once the exhibition is over and we’re freed from anonymity.
but the experience of seeing my work on a wall, in a show, for the first time had quite an impact. the buzz of a really busy opening was a little overwhelming but it was (i think) almost all artists and their guests – a real mix of amateurs and established artists – and the conversation flowed around the work.
i’d read of someone who liked to check out audience responses by hanging around looking at the work next to theirs and catching comments good and bad. as i was planning to do just this one of the gallery staff came up and gave it a red dot \o/ now that really was a buzz. i figured maybe a quarter of the (nearly 300) pieces had sold by this point, which makes me feel good about the quality of the work and it’s ability to stand on its own merits.
i’d been very disappointed by how it had reproduced in the online gallery, the 3d piece look very flat and lifeless, with no hint of the play of light and dark i was intending to convey. i’m happy to say that it looked much better under the show lights, and over the moon i’ve made my first cash sale (even if that doesn’t come to me).
i think i could find this kind of buzz quite addictive. i have another submission pending atm, including a piece that needs some loose ends tidying up. i’m well motivated to get on with that now.
the postcards are a small part of a larger project that i intend to develop in my final year. the organic/accidental processes involved in their creation have obscured many of the elements that went into their production.
i’d been experimenting with shibori dying on paper, and found that a circular resist created a repeat pattern that reminded me of a series of planetary images, as sent back by the viking and voyager probes in the 1970s. as a child these lo-fi, fragmentary, images gave me irresistible glimpses into hitherto imaginary worlds.
i wanted to include a series of photographs i took of a frozen lake which, stripped of any external context, reminded me of nothing more than these planetscapes.
i wanted to dig deeper into the history of planetary exploration and was delighted to discover bernard de fontanelle’s conversations on the plurality of worlds. written in 1686, this was one of the first popular science books – being initially published in french, rather than latin which was usual for scientific texts of the time, and soon translated into many other languages. it presented a view of the heliocentric solar system very much coloured by earthly exploration and colonisation. given that every country “discovered” by europeans at the time was populated it seems natural for fontanelle to assume the same would be true of the planets, and i was drawn to use his fanciful descriptions of the people of each.
above is one of my initial experiments. i wasn’t able to complete the project and stored everything in a plastic box. unknown to me, at some point the dye tub spilled, causing discolouration to the samples and eventually mould growth.
the effect of this growth transformed my samples totally. i feel it completes the chain of ideas in the project, bringing it up to date with our current understanding of the planets and their moons, and the possibilities for finding life in our solar system: if it exists it will likely be microscopic, on a similar scale to the mould itself.
a series of 6 unique postcards: paper, procion dye, inkjet print, mould.
text is taken from conversations on the plurality of worlds by bernard de fontanelle (1686), overlaid onto shibori-dyed paper and original photography. the paper is growing mould, most visible on the address side of the cards.
for a postcard swap and mail art exhibitions.