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I am a huge fan of art. I use the term carefully, acknowledging  that the characteristics of fandom are more generally associated with popular culture , music, sci-fi tv shows etc, to describe my devotion to visiting sites for art often and retaining relics of my experiences.  The walls of my teenage bedroom for example, were not covered in Duran Duran posters but postcards of art and artists.

In this dissertation research I have used photography and film to explore my attachment to certain artists through some of my collections. Initially I used  black and white images of artists in their studio primarily taken in the 1960’s, later I extended this to video footage found on you-tube.

Here I have reimagined these images and films with myself as the protagonist performing repetitions, and re-enactments.  I see these affectionate inhabitations as a way of bringing these artists closer to me. The images, objects, and drawings displayed both feed and respond to the making of these homages. Highlighting the relationship between the knowledge available in the experience of art as viewed from a considerable distance: looking at a reproduction – of an artist appearing to perform an artistic act – in the past, and the actual of making art in the present.

This research questions  pedagogical approaches to engaging with the past.  It asks what teachers are offering students and opens up the possibility of  encountering  the past, that goes beyond the surface of biographical detail, and stylistic imitation, toward a different sort of mimetic mode. The capturing of interpretive, generative and embodied experience could present a rich resource, activating acute attention in both audience and maker.


Please come along, last day tomorrow


Research based practice term 4

DSC03753So Last autumn winter term I worked on these images. I constructed quick impromptu spaces to recreate/reenact images from postcards of women artist of the past.

Mimetics is a recurring theme in my artistic practice and in my teaching. In my proposal ‘Act like an Artist’, I was asking if we copy artistic behaviour, can we learn/teach anything about art or about being an artist? What are the ways in which an artist goes about her work? Can we learn, by re-enacting the physical activities of making artistic products or by striking a pose from an image, anything of the preoccupations, motivations, habits, influences, ideas, and materials beyond the mechanical use of tools and skills?

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Reenactment has a long history as social phenomena, as part of pageants, parades and religious events. The use of dressing up or more accurately ‘costumed interpretation’ (Heverin, 2015) is becoming increasingly prevalent in museums and galleries as Vanessa Agnew states,

…re-enactment is booming. History enthusiasts gather weekly to enact past events, television history programs are aired to good ratings, living museums hire costumed performers, civic governments sponsor local performances on historical themes, tourists “follow in the steps” of earlier travelers, and academics venture into public history.

(Agnew, 2004, p. 327)

Displaying the original image next to the image I created, invites a judgement of this stab at authenticity. The juxtaposition lends a satisfying story of enactment, there is a tangible delight in the closeness, or not (see Celeste Barber) of the reconstruction to the original, in noticing details, in a ‘spot the difference’ exercise. This delight reflects more than the aesthetic appeal of the finished matched photographs, but perhaps indicates an enjoyment of the aesthetics of the ‘attempt’, the fallible essentially ‘human context of their development’ (Dutton, 2004, p. 7). There is a great deal to be said for these amateur approximations (see (Dennis Severs House, 2000)) versus authentic real objects (traditional museum displays). The capturing of interpretive, and physical embodied experience seems to provide a rich resource, activating acute attention in both audience and maker.

This practice based research project seems to articulate the relation between the limited knowledge available in the experience of art as viewed from a considerable distance: looking at a post card – of an original photograph – of an artist appearing to perform an artistic act – in the past, and the actual bodily knowledge of making a work of art in the present. The latter appearing to shorten the former’s distance in the ‘lived experience’ of its construction. Claire Bishop talks about the apparent shortening of distance, between object and subject in participatory art’s audience experience. She describes Ranciere as ‘calling for spectators who are active as interpreters… putting to work the idea that we are all equally capable of inventing our own translations’ (Bishop, 2006, p. 16).

If one were just presented the pairs of images alone, the possibilities for learning are perhaps not clear, it is in the doing and the making. If, as Butler illustrates gender is an act of performance. We construct ourselves and all is constructed around us. Perhaps we can embrace this deferral of ‘definitional closure (Butler, 1990, p. 20)’ or ultimate authenticity, and allow ourselves insight into others, other ways of operating, other ways of being. It is these processes which will continue to hold my interest, the ‘batman effect’ the emancipatory nature of performing as other ‘a chance for… learning something different by enacting’ (Crang, 1996, p. 9)’.




I started my MA last September and am reaching the end of my first year.
I have loved learning, reading and most of all thinking. Thinking about all manor of strange and wonderful art. Painful and uncomfortable at times like all new things, but ultimately transformative.
This was my first stab at an essay in a longish time, and I really did enjoy it.
William Kentridge is the perfect artist to start with, so happy is he to explain himself over and over both in his work and in his writing and lectures. He has that great combination of charisma and virtuosity that makes the very difficult seem very easy.
A bit of a hero now…..


I have gone back to school and am very much enjoying it. This term we are working with the British Museum, looking at ‘digital engagement’. We have been asked to develop a family activity. We were assigned Room 65; Sudan Egypt and Nubia, it is the room next to the big hitters, next door to the powerful imagery of the Pharaohs.

This room attempts to explain a complex history. Movements of people and culture back and forth, up and down. A story of assimilation, appropriation, dominance,and subordination. Apparently this region has a huge amount of knowledge gathering focused on it. An archaeological long-term project I found hard to piece together.

It made me think of the complexity of history, of trying to find simple narrative time lines in amongst convoluted human behaviours. Shifting loyalties, personal and political allegiances. I wanted it explained, who did what and where? I am lucky to have a resident historian of Africa here, and he helped…

The cultural production of these peoples used familiar Egyptian iconography mixed with more recognisably ‘afro’ features and forms.  I made these images blending the images from the room and images of me.


Me and the gift bearers.

We need empathy to understand others.  I wonder what future historians will make of our allegiances, our current complexities, inexplicable loyalties, and duplicities.

I left all my pottery stuff in Kenya. Sold my wheel, got rid of my clay, moved on.

Now every exhibition I go to seems to give me permission to do or try something. Previously I might have seen others’ work as a closed door, a reminder of that which I will never achieve. An under scoring of my failure, lack of true commitment, lack of integrity.

Now I don’t seem to care quite so much.

I started doing some work on childhood, more specifically, girlhood. The work I saw, the things I looked at, and my daughters behaviour seem to come together to make a series of photographic and video works.



This scene of Pomelo destruction reminds me of the lovely poem Liddy’s Orange, it is, to me, a perfect description of childhood.

Liddy’s Orange by  Sharon Olds


The rind lies on the table where Liddy has left it

torn into pieces the size of petals and

curved like petals, rayed out like a

full-blown rose, one touch will make it come apart.

The lining of the rind is wet and chalky as

Devonshire cream, rich as the glaucous

lining of a boiled egg, all that protein

cupped in the rich shell. And the navel,

torn out carefully,

lies there like a fat gold

bouquet, the scar of the stem, picked out

with her nails, and still attached to the white

thorn of the central integument,

lies on the careful heap, a tool laid

down at the end of a ceremony.

All here speaks of ceremony,

the sheen of acrid juice, which is all that is

left of the flesh, the pieces lying in

profound order like natural order,

as if this simply happened, the way her

life at 13 looks like something that’s just

happening, unless you see her

standing over it, delicately clawing it open.







So I could start with an apology for being away, but that would assume both an audience and an interest, so I won’t bother.

We came back to London in August for a myriad of rational and well though out reasons. I know it to be the right decision but I would confess, my heart was not really in it.

I live among boxes and chaos, my kids are disorientated and stressed. The up side so far is family and friends still look quite pleased to see us.



Guava Branch, Watercolour on Tracing paper

So my collection of photos of this lovely place and my drawing practice have started to pay off. I have been asked to design a range of woodblock prints for fabric to be used in children and babywear. I have so relished this process, drawing and redrawing. Pattern and Form. I am looking forward to what the Indian craftsman make of it.

The friend that asked me to do it, asked me to draw emblematic East African animals and plants with a Indian sensibility. We swiftly eschewed Giraffes and Rhinos, in favour of the wonderful animals that are less often drawn and therefore more interesting. Whilst working on the drawings I realised how close this idea was to my previous practice in ceramic. In which I explored the cultural richness of East Africa, through working with Islamic decorative motifs on strong bold clay forms. One on another.


Gerenuk, Pencil Watercolour on Tracing Paper

Augustus and His Smile

Reception Illustration Project

So the Reception Project is finished. I very much enjoyed making this with the kids. Reception year is bursting with energy and sometimes it was hard to manage but the result is lovely. I can’t lay claim to the image it is a direct descendant of Catherine Rayner’s wonderful illustrations in “Augustus and his Smile” one of my favourite and most lovely children’s books. I sent a copy to her I hope she likes it!

The Piece is very large about 18 x 12 ft. Takes up a wall. The school now has to find somewhere to put it! But my work is done….I am on to cooking up my next idea…..