Art as Transformer
What are the relationships between the photographic image, painting and mediation?
This extended essay explores participatory relationships relating to the photographic, painting and our mediation with these images. Since the year 2000 to 2017, the exponential growth in mobile devices has enabled a greater connectivity to the Inter-web, enabling the uploading of individual daily experiences, via social networks, instantaneously sharing digitised images with families, friends and strangers around the world.
Although some research explores the impact of social networks on the psychology of users, contributions have generally been beneficial and positive, particularly with social activist movements leading to greater democracy. However, as with all new technologies, we must be cautious about how our psychology is affected and the possible detrimental effects these platforms might have on our identity and social interactions, as well as controlling types of information.
We must be vigilant and cautious due to photographic images becoming easier to
manipulate. Editorially manipulated collages that form corporationist ideologies that could seek to control ways we interpret our view of the world. One can become easily enraptured with these new forms of photo-paintings pervading the virtual world, especially during this so-called fake news era.
It is also concerning how information can be directed via algorithms, creating individualised feedback loops of implantable desires and appetites, reducing access to new information vital for a balanced mind, society and democracy.
[The 80 page book Art as Transformer will be released as a published paperback book and as a Kindle download from Amazon this month circa 26th May 2017]
Walking and being immersed in the landscape brings a connection to its integral beauty and its value to our mental and physical health. Through these walks I absorb the sights and sounds the landscape of Somerset and elsewhere brings to my mind, as I consume the imagery for my painting and printmaking. Lately I have expanded my printmaking with rock powder, obtained from the rocks and materials collected from my walks, using them as pigment to form new ways of layering and forming landscape art.
The latest works that can be seen below explore the connection we have with rocks and their connection to life on planet Earth. Through the sciences of geology, chemistry and biology, I explore the obscure aspects of the landscape and its effect upon our perception of reality and its links to our past, the moment and where it is heading, particularly concerning the environmental aspects and our effect upon it through the industrial age and our current post-industrial digital age.
These new paintings explore various influences coming from my walks in the landscape, either from rocks I have seen, cliff faces, caves, old walls, planet surfaces, moons, peeling paint and objects left to the elements of nature, bringing their own aesthetic to the object and the image. These explore Zen inspired practices and landscapes resonating with the great Chinese and Japanese paintings of the past.
I have also included a video revealing some of the process that went into making these forms of painting. These explore the intervention of the artist with the materials, in this case rock powder taken from rocks collected from Watchet, Somerset and Soapstone powder, working with the natural consequences of chance, accident and natural forces of nature (maybe even those tiny microbes in the seawater and collected snowfall water added to these paintings).
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.
‘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/
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.
How can we make the experience of walking more pleasurable?
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.
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.
Soil Bacteria in Agar
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.
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.
A new set of oil pastel drawings exploring the effect of a remembered past and how it is affected by the moment of remembering in the present. These landscapes, this one from Belalcazar, Spain, explore the fleeting images in my mind when I begin to remember the places I walked – journeying around the landscape – seeing and experiencing changing light, weather, objects of the landscape, mountains in distance and the approaching rains yet to come during my walk.
Each scene (seen) remembered and combined into a new form of landscape – one of memory and rememberance. Diaphanous realities flip in and out; captured lines of tone, colour and forms, that bring the experience lived – relived in the present/ past time.
There is a fine balance between having enough and having too much of things in one image. This balance I have sought over the last ten years, playing with overlays, seeking the right balance between image and colour. The unfinished sensibility harks back to my childhood seeing billboards which sold promises with their models and imagined lifestyles, selling an ideal, a dream. The billboards of my childhood had been abandoned, left to the elements in the mid to late 1970s. Looking back these act as a symbolic gesture to economic decline during the 70s in the UK – something I have never forgotten (three day week, power-cuts, inflation, Winter of Discontent in 1979). Then the 1980s and the rise of Thatcherism with her stance towards the unions and trade, leading towards an economic recovery (built on debt) or what would become known as Laissez-faire economics.
My particular favourite billboard was one by the old cinema in Yeovil Town, by the telephones. I remember the first time I saw it whilst waiting to see Star Wars in 1978 – noting its entropy, (although at the time I did not know of this word), but that symbolic image in reality and an altogether other reality which came with SW – a new hope was stirring. The previous poster images appearing through the gaps, the torn areas created by wind and rain, revealed a past that had still the potential to affect the future, one which would lead me to a quest to research how a past affects a present and the present affecting the past at the point of remembering, in one feedback loop of time.