Realised I was missing the visual stimulation of images of work I want to develop and of things (and people) that inspire me… the rough texture of de-laminating wood, the wonderful, layered s…
Source: Some Visual Stimulation
Over the last year I have been exploring landscape art and investigating the various forms attributed to Landscape Art throughout the history of art. Throughout the Modernist, the Postmodernist and into the Contemporary Art era, landscape art has changed and evolved through continual experimental research grounded in our link and relationship to forming new ways of seeing the world around us. Interventions in the landscape; Abstractions; Shattered Landscapes – developed from the returning soldiers from the First World War; Found objects brought into the gallery space and extractions taken from the post-industrial landscape, explore landscape in new and interesting forms. My particular journey began when I left the U.K. in 2013 for a residency for six months in Cyprus and six months in Spain, being drawn to the dry, eroding, weather worn and Sun scored land of Mediterranean culture.
During my explorations finding new ways of working, away from my previously Media inspired figurative work, I explored extracting information from my walks – using technology to record my pilgrimages via GPS, collecting rocks, soil and photographic images taken from the landscapes I was travelling, evolving my processes of painting and drawing in new ways. These developed further once I returned back to the U.K. in July 2014 and whilst teaching at a PRU for a year. I began to extract soil samples and develop bacteria cultures in Petri dishes. These formed the basis of my Petrus prints and since May 2016 have developed into methods of layering printing ink, forming and exploring through chance, intervention, will, Eco-Feminist and Zen principles – exploring landscape through seeking a synthesis between masculine and feminine co-operations, using nature (application and pressure) and material exploration to form memorial abstractions of the landscape and time.
What is collaboration? How do we frame collaboration? What ways do we collaborate?
Do we press a button? Do we manipulate and interact with objects? Do we become involved through forms of participation? What is the future for Contemporary Art in an age of austerity?
How do we become less a passive observer and more actively engaged as a participant in our visual art culture? Jacques Ranciere, a leading French critical theorist writes about the visual arts and delves into ideas exploring aesthetics, participation and emancipation. In his critique ‘The Emancipated Spectator’, he explores the idea that for an ‘Art’ to exist and be known as ART, it must ignite an activism in us – to become critically engaged and involved in the work being seen and experienced. Over the last 16 years it has been noted a rise in community projects involving the visual arts, engaging audiences and opening up ideas about art learning and education; these processes of engaging with an audience teaches new skills to produce something from its processes, both physically and mentally and is something that has become more evident through the funding structures and frameworks set by the Arts Councils and Government initiatives, leading to the expansion of an active engagement with communities, leading to a shift away from private gallery and avant-gardism of the 20th Century. This has brought an expansion of art initiatives and community practices, leading to new understandings of the importance of the visual and participatory arts to the community.
Claire Bishop’s essay ‘The Social Turn: Collaboration and Its Discontents’ explores this shift in thinking with regard to the expansion of the ‘Arts’ to the wider audience. She observed:
‘…these practices have had, for the most part, a relatively weak profile in the commercial art world…they’re also less likely to be [considered] “works” [and seen as] … social events, publications, workshops, or performances – they nevertheless occupy an increasingly conspicuous presence in the public sector.’(1)
These come under the headings: ‘socially engaged art, community-based art, experimental communities … participatory, interventionist, research-based, or collaborative art. These practices are less interested in a relational aesthetic, than in the creative rewards of [a] collaborative activity…’(2)
But, what does ‘becoming actively involved’ mean? How has the role of collaboration from the 20th Century influenced collaborative art practices in the 21st Century, contributing to its evolution?
Beginning in the 1990s and into the 21st Century the increase in digital realities has transformed previous ideas about the role of the artist. Artists and galleries reach an audience directly through websites, video sites and social networks, expanding the role art plays in the community and society.
What can be considered a form of collaboration?
Collaboration was thought as something that did not much happen in the past. Yet, this is an incorrect assumption. Through the Masters’ workshops, training apprentices who would form the main body of a painting: its composition; forms; and style follow the plan drawn by the Master. The Master would add their signature style, finishing the work and in-so-doing completing a form of collaborative practice.
Artists have set up collaborative partnerships in the past, which continues to this day. An example of this can be seen in the work of Peter Paul Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Elder(3) who executed around two-dozen paintings together between 1598 and Brueghel’s death. Most notably The Five Senses series (Taste, Smell, Touch, Sight and Sound) reveal the level of their collaboration – Brueghel’s landscapes and Rubens’ figures.
In Modernism the Surrealists produced hundreds of ‘Exquisite Corpses’ as a group, playing the game of forming strange and surreal figures – each taking their turn in their production. Picasso and Braque worked on the development of Cubism. The Dadists worked on their publications. De Stijl worked on purifying art to its essence. Collaborative groups of artists working together to form and inform their work to their audience.
Performance and Conceptual art from the 1960s through to the 1990s were recorded and developed through Lucy Lippard and groups like Fluxus and Yoko Ono exploring social issues including: Ecology; Feminism; Civil Rights; Gay & Lesbian Rights; Transgender; Conflict and War – exploring the artist as observer and the public as participant to complete the work.
Artists in later part of the 20th Century explored collaboration through their work, engaging the public through social notions of Modernity. Cindy Sherman and Kara Walker explore social conventions through their work – ‘emancipating the viewer’ from the stereotypes to become active in how we read images from our position of prejudices, becoming more aware of a viewers role and participation in their social role in the 20th and 21st Century history. Alternative perspectives explore the role of the feminine through class and race – the collaborative roles we play in society and social conventions, galvanising social change, leading to emancipation from set frameworks from a particular class of society.
Jeremy Deller explores performance in art through a process where the public becomes integrated into the art. We witness the artist and their questions. The re-enactment of the Battle of Orgreave bringing generations together to relook at a historical event – working with the original miners to explore a point in time. He initiates a dialogue between miners, police, and community; exploring a new angle of enquiry [although whether this heals or re-opens wounds is open to further study].
Ai Weiwei explores memory and history through objects associated with past time. Hand painted porcelain seeds link to China’s Imperial past and their cultural ceramic past – symbols used to highlight ‘the People during China’s Cultural Revolution…the seeds nourish, the ubiquitous discarded husks provide evidence of existence … Sunflower Seeds comments on social, political and economical issues relevant to contemporary China such as the role of the individual in relationship to the collective.’
Grayson Perry explores ideas on identity and role-play. He explores the other through ceramics and tapestries (The Vanity of Small Differences) – he questions social conformity and the identities we become. His work on the system of class and identity is worked through collaboratively working with a community – living with them and exploring their way of life.
Marina Abramovic’s collaborative work The Artist is Present explores interactive participation. A moment of connection: looking, seeing and feeling. The artist stares and the participant stares back – bringing unknown emotions to the surface through a one to one engagement. A direct form of communication witnessing a transformation between artist and viewer, both becoming the work.
Collaboration has also witnessed co-authored works by many visual artists who have worked as a team or partnership. These relationships have seen prominent stars of the art world including: Gilbert and George, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin with their mixed-media assemblages;
Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen with their large sculptures of everyday objects and vinyl forms; Christo and Jeanne-Claude Javacheff and their material covered buildings, islands and architectural forms; ATOI exploring ideas about what sculpture is and can be considered in spaces; Patrick Gallaher and Chris Klapper explore mapping and the elements of nature, forming interactive performance pieces; Erika Barbee relays through her performance pieces a collaborative passive process through applications like Twitter – exploring our relationship with technology; Professor Josef Danek explores collaboration with artists around the world, using dropbox to send projects to work on and exhibit in the Czech Republic.
Mike Collier from Sunderland University explores working with groups of artists, scientists, writers, poets and the public through the act of walking in the landscape. The research gathered from these walking journeys lead to the formation of new works exploring the phenomenological aspect and our place in space.
The 21st Century has seen many changes in the way we send, receive and share content. These innovations are leading to new ways about researching collaborative projects. Technology has emancipated communities, social groups and individuals.
Claire Doherty’s From Studio to Situations: Contemporary Art and the Question of Context (2004), …notes:
“using art as a means for creating and recreating new relations between people.”(4)
One such relationship was recently shown on BBC Two’s Artsnight.(5)
Nicolas Serota explores the role of art in the 21st Century and the changes happening outside of the gallery space – revealing projects that utilise the Internet and the gallery space. The Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art has been exploring the work of The Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise, a group based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa. Through Dutch artist Renzo Martens he brings together plantation workers who engage in art making at settlements of the Institute for Human Activities in the country’s rainforest, for the purpose of affecting social change.
‘The current exhibition features sculptural portraits or representations of art-market figures such as the collector. Each one is moulded from clay and then reproduced in Belgian chocolate through multiple technologies, including 3D scanning and printing. Profits generated from the sale of these works are directed back to the plantation workers, improving their living conditions and help redressing global economic inequalities.’(6)
These experiences are being explored in the community of Middlesbrough. Groups of artists run workshops teaching how to work with local clay from Teesside, once used in the ceramic industry, creating new skills and learning, forming sustainable living – repositioning concepts on contemporary craft and art-making in the 21st Century with the traditional skills from the past.
New technologies are re-shaping the future of Visual Art – ready to be accessed online and 3D printed directly in the customers home. These developing technologies will change the way artists collaborate with the community and the World at large – changing the way people see and think about art and craft-making, its production and the shifting creative economies of the future – no longer bound to a gallery and high street system. Art and Design accessible to the individuals and communities via our developing Internet mindscape.
The future is now.
‘Art Spread’s main vision is to help artists and makers get their work seen and bought by people within their communities. This will be achieved primarily via an A5 publication which will be distributed freely to the public. The bulk of the magazine consists of a creative catalogue of original artworks, prints and handmade gifts crafted by the talent often hidden around us.’ http://www.artspread.co.uk/spring-2016-art-environment/
The Art and Science of Walking
Roundtable Seminar at the Institute for Advanced Studies, Bristol University
Walking improves memory, health, fitness, well-being, slowing dementia, community, mental health. Keywords in a strategy exploring the value of walking in the landscape with the only purpose to explore and re-gain the joy of being surrounded by Nature and experience the wildlife, flora and fauna, abandoned post-industrial spaces and being in the environment surrounding the towns and cities around the world.
Since July 2013 I have immersed myself more in the landscape through the work I now create – exploring ways to represent the landscape or work that uses the landscape as a basis for pieces exploring our deep connection with the external. An external world that has clear science to reveal its value to our well-being and to the internal structures of our minds and body. It is logical and simple to realise the importance to our health, both bodily and mentally the value of getting out and about to explore and be at one with the Earth. To run in a field, to swim in a sea and see the many thousands of things which fill the space – a space that is in union and sync with every other object. To be aware of the fundamental connections between objects of nature and the wildlife that is part of and responds to each other object that inhabits a ‘wild’ space. An interesting term to use: Wild as opposed to Ordered. Yet it is clear through walking and being in nature that all things are ordered – each with their place and each being in the right space – productive, conducive and integral to the place in which it grows, lives and carries out its daily tasks to survive, live and flourish.
‘A flower exists because of the Bee and the Bee exists because of the flower.’ (Alan Watts)
At the roundtable seminar hosted by Professor Ralph Pite at the Institute for Advanced Studies, the seminar brought together a range of artists, scientists and council/ government agencies exploring Walking the Walk, an investigation in exploring research about walking, its value to peoples’ health and how to promote and encourage people to pleasure walk.
For most walking is a time of exploring our head space – a place to reflect on things we are doing in our lives. A opportunity to re-collect and re-form ourselves. I know lots of people who find time to go for a stomp in the country and even around urban centres, seeking the bliss to be found in the sublime moment.
What are the key benefits to walking a daily 30 minute walk?
What aspects to perception and visual awareness were key to developing an attitude to walking?
How do patterns on the floor influence the way we walk?
How can we change the urban environment to make walking more of a pleasure and brighten our walking experience?
Perception plays an important role in our daily lives – something we take for granted. We may not fully understand how our perception of reality responds to the way we think about the world and about ourselves, however, more of us are staring into mobile phones and not taking in the surroundings. We forget to look and listen.
How many of us sit quietly and take in the audio reality? The sounds of the everyday, picking out sounds we do not normally perceive. Our brain structured, in some sense, to perceive the immediate surroundings – a survival strategy from evolution. But sit quietly for a while and listen to how much there is. Focus attention and explore the effect of walking differently in our surroundings; observe how this affects the way we perceive our view of the world.
Artist: Shelley James
Dr Mike Collier, an artist and researcher from the University of Sunderland gave a talk about his work and the research he has been following and the exhibition Walk On. His studies explore responses to objects, our engagement with space, exploring the ‘flesh of the world’, as Merlaeu-Ponty wrote, thinking about the first point of contact in our experience of the world and surroundings through our body1.
In the tradition of the Romantic Poets, Mike Collier explores the environment with groups of people – exploring and engaging in walks across the landscape, recording and sketching, bringing ideas back to the studio on experiencing the surroundings. The walk has no specific end point. These experiences allow him to draw upon research to form new ways of engaging with the world. Mike recommended the diaries of Dorothy Wordsworth, who writes about walking, as well as the Kinder Trespass, a mass movement of ramblers protesting for the right to roam on the 24th April 1932 – leading to public sympathy and an expansion in the right to roam across land – something we take for granted today.
Having awareness of your surrounds will bring an enquiry into your space, taking objects from the landscape and the urban environment to explore in the mind. We become increasingly aware of objects we might not have noticed before.
These can take the form of:
Weeds and Flowers
Colours in the Landscape
Emotional Impact on the Landscape
Phenomenology (Feeling and Emotion)
Through working with others with different skills sets including: Biologists, Photographers and Poets bring an alternative aspect to the experience, exploring the social impact on health and well-being – being aware of our improvement in mental and physical health through walking in the landscape – something shown in scientific models2.
Street Patterns and Bristol is Open
The talks explored areas concerning the effects of street patterns on the way we walk and the problems associated with shared paths between walkers and cyclists. How do street designs influence the way we walk and where we walk? How could these be improved to make people feel safer, preferring to walk rather than driving of catching a bus/ taxi.
These questions revealed a new initiative happening in Bristol with the scheme called Bristol is Open. This will open up the city for people to become more involved and invested in their city, sharing and accessing data, allowing more research about how people interact and walk around the city of Bristol. How this experience will evolve to promote more walking. I made a suggestion in getting schools involved; the younger generation who are becoming computer and coding literate and this being something they will explore to share information and continually evolve the project along new lines of enquiry. A system allowing citizens to play with the technology and bring new innovations.
Walking reveals more about us than we imagine. A person trained in watching how people move is able to work out what is going on in the person’s mind. A able to see their thinking as well as their general health. Other studies reveal walking in nature brings benefits to the mind. Studies involving tasks show there is a marked improvement in the performance of a subject after they have taken a 30 minute walk in natural environments – even just looking at images of nature does the same – revealing vast improvements to mental and physical health.
How does the environment play an integral part in the way we interact and immerse ourselves with the outside world? Do distractions cause more harm than good and is there a way to reduce these effects? What are the differences in walking around a place we know well and one we do not?
The importance to familiarise oneself with the new environment.
The emotional feeling of being
Health/ Body awareness
Feeling lighter or heavier
Mapping an area
Personal Memories in the space
Input from new people we meet
Access for All
This is one area of great importance to those of us who live in towns and cities that have given way to the motor vehicle. Some places have done great changes in removing vehicles from the centres, freeing up the space for people to walk and cycle in the knowledge they can safely do so without fear of being knocked over, hit or restricted by a system made for cars and buses. One striking area that needs drastic improvement is greater access of cycle lanes that are kept separate from walking areas, therefore making safer for cyclists and walkers and greater access for those in society who rely of mobile transport to get around – wheelchair access and mobile electric units.
There is still more improvement which need to be made – especially in areas outside of the towns and cities. How can those who rely on these forms of transport also enjoy the great outdoors if there is no access or restricted access for those who would like to go out more, yet feel they can not due to the perception they will have difficulty getting around.
Some suggestions might include:
All towns and cities should have vehicle free centres and greater access for disability access
Shopping centres should not only be constructed for the purpose of shopping
Centre squares should be places for meeting, chatting, playing and entertainment
More contemporary sculpture and artistic performances
Greater access to free wi-fi in centres for access to local information
More colourful spaces to brighten up centres of sociability as well as commerce
Easier access to utilise empty shops for creative activities and pop-up events
More walking trails & routes around a town that are easier to recognise (colour coded)
Some questions to consider:
What makes your area a worthy walk?
How can we improve an area as a community?
Window decorations put in place for people to walk around and seek out?
Local community areas getting together to create walking routes?
Changing the use of language in the description of things?
What is meant by a shared space?
These are just some of the questions and discussion that took place at the Institute for Advance Studies in Bristol University. The day opened my mind to new ways of seeing the way we use space and how we could convince people to become more aware in the benefits of a daily walk. This is something we can all think about and hope a council would consider – but it will be down to local community and individuals to push for changes. These are some of the things I will be thinking about and working on a strategy to push for greater awareness in changing our urban environments to create a more pleasurable experience in walking. It is an activity which is free, beneficial to our well-being, sharing, exploratory and can be fun to do individually and as a group our for the day to walk with no real purpose other than the joy of walking and becoming more involved with the world around us and the landscapes that lay just our of our front doors.
1 Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception explores how we interact with reality and the object through our body, moving through space to relate to an object of our attention, moving with the flow to gain the necessary detail to understand and relate to the object to be perceived and understood.
2 Penny Priest, ‘The Healing Balm Effect: Using a Walking Group to Feel Better’, (Journal of Health Psychology, 12, 1, (January 2007), (University of Birmingham), pp 36-52, <http://hpq.sagepub.com/content/12/1/36.full.pdf+html> [accessed Jan 24th 2016]
Attending a group discussion tomorrow on the value of walking, art and the environment. Will be taking notes and will share what I learn with a write up on this research blog over the weekend. http://www.bristol.ac.uk/ias/diary/2016/shifting.html
The two images below form the basis of something born out from my practice research of layering images on top of one another from one place and time of a past moment. Through memory I recall the time spent walking around Cordoba and Granada in Spain, and these images below are an extension of the one’s I have drawn in Bic biro as above. I am presenting something which seems fragmented, yet upon closer inspection I am portraying an inter-connected reality, portraying a viewpoint through Spanish culture and history, the connected reality and the idea that space in itself is an invention of the mind to give form to objects, in that space is not empty as we once imagined. It is filled with numerous realities accessed through a variety of means. Through re-living my time living and working in Spain for six months and Cyprus previous to this, I am an explorer of time and space, squeezing and compacting space, because to the images in the mind there is no space – just an inter-connected reality of neurons that access information, in the form of memory, from somewhere either inside the mind or as David Bohm and Judda Krishnamurti  or Nassim Haramein  might contemplate, somewhere outside of the mind accessible through the antennae of mind/ body consciousness.
The layering explores ‘layering of time’. In this instance I am not placing each event on a different plane, or rather not differentiating between each time slot – instead they are all compacted together on the same plane or level – interacting with one another, interfering and mixing up the memories. In one sense I am producing images which correspond to the way our minds work, through grouping similar events into one place – hence for some a difficulty in remembering events as they happened – here they are a jumble, a spaghetti junction of various signposts and symbols representing a symbolic language we all come to with very different thoughts and reactions.
During my travels I saw so much visual information with a range of styles from the Islamic, Roman, Visigoth, Jewish, Catholic and the contemporary, all adding to the evolving Spanish culture, enhancing their culture to bring new forms of craft, music, love of life and their architecture. Where ever I turned my head my eyes consumed a wealth of aesthetic wonder, something sublime to my imagination. The range of art coming from a country I had fallen in love with from a young age still held wonder and my inner child’s curiosity. Wanting to know more from the most simplest of forms, each contributing to my research into the value and importance of inter-connecting cultures and their contribution to the evolution of an
identity and its relationship to the past, informing its progress into the future.
These kaleidoscopic colours resonate with the graffiti art I had seen, in and around the cities, portraying the inter-mixed colours of culture and its values, attributing to each thought portrayed through the marks I made and their re-interpretation of them.
These experiments move on a little from the previous images I have created – exploring the use of colour to enhance, change, provoke and challenge the creative act – making an image with no clear objective, yet no fear of failure. This allowance for chance to play its part, in the formation of something new, odd, strange and challenging, pushes my boundary for new discoveries into what constitutes an image and how one responds to such images seen above. Bringing back together a wholeness to all things rather than continually fragmenting and breaking apart objects and thoughts, bringing further division and conflict within the mind and therefore inevitably outside the mind. 
Through an entropic state I re-form how I view the world and in turn form new ways of seeing, of negotiating this space and time, without the reliance of a representation – more of a re-presentation of reality, felt and experienced, through the memory of once walking through these places, re-experiencing from a distance I am re-mapping through these images – gaining a little more understanding of what I had seen and experience in my thoughts.
Where these are heading one can only guess at this time… More will come later as I reflect.
Merry Christmas ;D
 David Bohm & Judda Krishnamurti, The Future of Humanity, Coversation, Year uknown at this moment, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohJuREhJ_OY> [Accessed 20th Dec 2015]
 Nassim Haramein, The Connected Universe, Lecture, 5th December 2015 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbE5bVl8r2ghttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbE5bVl8r2g> [Accessed Dec 18th]
 David Bohm, Fragmentation and Wholeness, Interview, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDKB7GcHNac>