This gallery has so often surprised and delighted me with its exhibitions and this was no exception. Claudette Johnson’s work is a wonderful example of the work of women artists being brought to the forefront in gallery calendars as the realisation dawns that we have been missing out for so long. Once again work of a female British artist we should all know as well as her many male counterparts. But this work is not the work of a woman trying to fit the historical art model. This is the work of a woman proud and strong in the way she approaches both her gender and her culture. She might be black but she isn’t not playing with any stereotypes here she is strong and you feel true to herself. Her strongly figurative style is utterly engaging in the way it does not complete. The story is not fully told. There works large in scale, life size and larger are strong. There is a new kind of gaze. The sitters are anonymous, sometimes imagined and sometimes self portraits but we are not told which is which. They gaze strongly out at the viewer, you are arrested by their looking back; these sitters are knowing and somehow familiar.
How could I not be drawn to the style of these works, so much of it resonates with my own drawing style and scale. It was one of those exhibitions that will be key in my own work. One of those rare and beautiful occasions when one fully connects with the work of another artist.
Having made a wire figure using chicken wire I can see that the concept is interesting but the chicken wire is definitely problematic. I have begun knitting with wire to see if I can make my own wire surface that can be moulded on my body in the same way as the chicken wire but will have a much better aesthetic. This first attempt was quite difficult as the wire is too thick. I thought I would need thick wire so it wouldn’t be floppy but I can’t really knit with it and I think thinner wire will work as it will be stronger when it’s knitted together. There is a connection to the knitting and the form of the figure that I like; this is a traditional women’s craft used to describe the surface of a woman in labour.
I have been experimenting with making a pouch to go into the slide so that it doesn’t leak. I was thinking about how they seal bags at the fish counter with a bit of heat. First attempt with a. Hot knife was not perfect but it’s getting there... of course as soon as I put it into the slide it burst as it was too bulky to go into a slide so I will need to make them thinner and possibly find a way that is not as tricky as the hot knife!
Always good to go to the life drawing session in Braunton. Felt great to draw today.
Coming to the end of the second year of the MA it’s is time to reflect on my personal development as an artist.
In my DPD writen in May I hoped to have built a rigorous practice around the ideas of birth, motherhood and memory. I was pursuing the idea of creating a “bricolage of memory”. What has come out of the work has been a more focused enquiry into birth.
I also wished to make connections outside of the University.
As I progressed through this year I have begun a focused practice investigating birth. I want to improve my methods of making and refinement. I will work hard to remain focused on birth alone.
I have over the last year begun to make good connections to the arts in North Devon. I have curated an exhibition for Art For Life at Musgrove Hospital and have made better connections to North Devon Arts, I was there opening exhibition in there new collaborative space 20 Joy Street, Barnstaple.
I would like to make stronger connections to the public through investigating the stories around birth. I have approached some of my students in this respect and they seem quite keen to get involved.
It is good to see that being on the MA has clearly enabled me to find my own voice and I wish to continue to find that voice across the various outcomes within my own practice as an artist.
Assessment 704 practical work
I was pleased with the work that I brought to the final assessment, having felt somewhat unsatisfied with work in the end of year show before the Easter Break. I have been able to bring the slides to a place where they are becoming more successful, I had new paintings and the triptych had been replaced with the wire figure. I feel I have come to a place where I have lots of work to carry me into the final year.
It was very good to work on the wire figure and even though the material of chicken wire is problematic there is a fragility and transience that I like about the piece. I like that I can mould it around my body and the performative nature of doing it. I will now need to investigate other materials and see what works as a surface with the projections hoping to retain a transparency and fragility.
Just beginning this project I have found that women are telling me their stories and I hope to investigate a way to incorporate these possibly within the surface of the sculpted figure.
It will be good to work towards a body of work that has come out of these beginnings.
I presented the work and was much more confident about the drawings and paintings. I was pleased with Anya’s and Tabatha’s responses to the work. It was good to be able to use the space to put the work especially to see the wire figure in a clear space.
Today I am beginning a second full size wire figure using my own body as the mould. I have asked a friend for an old wet suit as this is quite scratchy and I think the wet suit might offer a bit more protection. I want the figure to continue to have an anonymity to it but to also open conversation around the birthing stories of others. I’m am beginning to consider how and why I might collect those stories. It would be good to somehow use them on the surface of the figure. I want to experiment with tissue that has stories written onto it. It might be more interesting if these stories were written by other people in their handwriting. It would be good to collect the stories told by mothers, children and fathers... we all fit one of these categories...
I want the wire figure to take the place of triptych used in previous experiments with the slide projections. As soon as I felt that the wooden triptych were too ridged I began to think of them as the form of woman and this feels at the moment they way to represent the birthing mother onto which I will project the liquid slides. The expectation being that light will catch the tissue paper and will also fall on the wall behind the figure.
Today has been about making a new painting. Drawing from my head thinking about the internalising nature of birth. The woman thinking only of her self and the next hours that will unfold and the beginnings of pain and the effort ahead. What every happens and however much medical intervention is involved the woman is often very much within her own head... I’m continuing to use the wire type marks and aiming to have an anonymity to the form figure.
The shape to cut the slides has thus far been somewhat problematic in that it has tried to be a wet shape but has often looked a bit like a cartoon splat. Having been working or the labour pictures I wonder if they would work better as a silhouette of a woman in labour. I have cut some of these now and am waiting for the plastic weld to dry before filling them with liquid. I am trying to resist racing in with is and making them before the weld has fully set.
Visiting Ilfracombe today for there open studio event and parked by verity. Damien Hurst’s monumental sculpture of a pregnant women with one side open as if dissected. This anatomical and monumental sculpture looks out across the harbour sword held aloft, a warrior woman, valiant and mystifying. She is beautiful and some how distant. Very distant from the realities of labour and pregnancy. I feel I love this piece whist still reserving a part of me that is not quite sure. It is wonderful for such a remount part of North Devon to have a piece of work by such an acclaimed artist and it helps to draw the crowds. She is bold and valiant but in a masculine way. Som6hing about her does not quite ring true.