Category Archives: Reflection

A very satisfying outcome–now back to work!

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The results were released last week and I’m very pleased with the outcome on both this and the Contextual Studies module. I’m especially pleased that the ‘Textbook’ project has been very well-received and that the resulting artefact (the new, reconstructed textbook, returned to its original covers) is described in the feedback as having “gravitas”, being “engaging, compelling and challenging” but also as “very beautiful in its own right”.  Those words feel at least as satisfying as the mark I got, if not more so. As this blog has recorded, I’ve been aware that I’ve been doing something that felt significantly different, and you’re never sure where that might lead or whether others will appreciate the work. It’s a risk. I’m delighted that the assessors seem to have ‘got it’ and to have appreciated what I was doing. It’s very satisfying.

However, that’s enough trumpet-blowing!! There’s work to do and a standard to maintain. I’ve been busy extending the work within ‘Sustaining Your Practice’, for which I have a separate blog, here; and I need to find a route to take this work to an audience.  This will be the final post to this blog – ‘many thanks’ to those who have followed and supported; ‘thanks’ also to my tutors.

Assessment Submission

Assessment Submission

Doesn’t look like a lot! Two years work and a concern that I’m submitting too much – but it doesn’t look like it in this image!

It’s ready to go, apart from the box for travel and some final labelling.  There’s more than it looks, actually – about 30 prints in the black portfolio box, across the two projects, some supporting material for ‘Portraits’ in there too, and of course, all the content of the ‘Textbook’ project in that ‘old’ book that’s barely visible.  It’s poking out of its ‘slip case’ – a new soft construction made from four pieces of fabric printed with my own patterns from the project and some padding material (kindly constructed and sewn by my wife). I reflected in a previous post that the re-formed book looked a little bit underwhelming on its own.  I did experiment with another form of case – re-using some Amazon packaging and re-labelling it to look like a second hand book that had turned up in the post. Nice idea, but it ended up even more underwhelming, unfortunately. I’d been wondering whether there was a way to bring the fabric prints into the submission and came up with this idea – my design/print & Jayne’s final implementation (Thanks!).

My only real concern is that the assessors are going to either feel that I’ve sent too much or are simply not going to have the time to consider it all in depth.  But it was discussed and agreed with my tutor and the ‘booklet’ will hopefully provide a guide through the submission.

Contextual Studies is packed and ready to got, too – so this may well be my last post in the blog; certainly for some time.  Maybe come back and reflect on the results outcome in a few weeks!

‘Textbook’–reformed

Textbook - reformed

Spot the difference!

I finally brought this project to what has felt like a logical ‘conclusion’ last week. (Not sure ‘conclusion is entirely the right word because this can go on developing and will be my main focus for Sustaining Your Practice – to be blogged here.) After much trial and error (plus some tense final moments involving the ‘no return’ use of much glue with the need for accurate positioning of wet curling paper!), my ‘Textbook Project’ images are printed, re-bound and brought into the original cover of the original book that I bought getting on for two years ago!  There is a video available here ‘Textbook’ Book.

Besides a sense of relief that I’ve managed to do it, the overwhelming sensation when looking at it is one of strangeness, a weird surreal sort of uncertainty – almost as though I’ve managed to perform some sort of trompe l’oeil on myself. As it sits here on the desk beside me, it could, apart from the edges of the pages being a bit cleaner and less aged, be the original book, which almost makes me feel as if I haven’t done anything, almost a sense of disappointment.  I hadn’t expected to have that sensation, but then that is the ‘magic’ of art, I guess. It will go for assessment in this form and it remains to be seen what sort of reaction an assessor will have when picking it up and opening it.

Perhaps one source for the strangeness is that it is a unique piece of art that cannot be reproduced. Short of getting my hands on more copies of the original work, I cannot produce more versions of it in this form. I don’t think the video does it justice but it’s the only means of sharing it widely (as I will need to do to get feedback in SYP) in its ‘completed’ form – and one of the questions to be resolved in SYP will be how best to develop this project for wider distribution and exposure.

Tutor Feedback on Assignment Five–and what remains …

I was pleased to get positive feedback, last Friday, on my final assignment submission of the module.  The work was described as a “progressive journey”, as “contributing to contemporary cultural discourses around the challenges and implications of digital identity”, and also as having “interrogated the transformation of the medium itself as a result of digital technology” – all good to read, and satisfying after nearly two years work.  He also feels that it has a lot of potential for further exploration – which is great, but also makes me reflect on whether, by pursuing two projects, I have been in danger of never quite drilling down into either.  Should I have done more contextual work on identity, for example, in support of the ‘Portraits’ project?  Too late now, anyway, and the feedback is good all round on both this module and CS, so I’m probably just fretting!

I submitted some A4 prints of the ‘Portraits’ and various examples from ‘Textbook’ – the first time I’ve sent prints throughout the module.  These were my own prints, so I was pleased to get positive feedback on those, too.  Interesting to look back two years, when I was about to submit the last of my L2 modules for assessment.  I had been producing my own prints but began ‘fretting’ then, too; about whether I should be getting professional prints done.  I did, in the end, but never felt quite as happy with them as I’d been with my own.  I thought I was playing safe, in a way; that by sending in professionally produced and mounted (at my then tutors suggestion) prints, I must be on solid ground.  I reflected in my last post here on the development of ‘confidence’ through BoW.  With the confirmation of this recent feedback, I feel confident that I know what I’m doing with my own prints of my own work – so that’s the plan for assessment.

Which brings me to ‘what remains …’ – lots still to be done, actually, to get everything ready for assessment in the next two and half months:

  • ‘Textbook will be submitted in book form, with some selected, supporting, large prints, representative of what might be used for an exhibition.  I have sourced what I hope will be an appropriate paper (less heavy) for the final  version (due for delivery today), but I may still have to alter the way I structure the ‘signatures’ to enable it to be bound properly.  I didn’t get any detailed feedback on the sequencing and editing I had presented.  I could take that as a positive, but I’m wondering whether to ask the ‘hangout’ group to also take a look at it for me in the next couple of weeks.  Then there’s the little matter of producing it!! [Some inspiration from a gallery visit on Saturday, though – Bank Street, Sheffield has had a show of 200 artists’ books, selected from 450+ entries for their bi-annual book competition.  Saturday was the last day, but just managed to get to see it.  There was some truly wonderful work – all of which one was permitted to pick and browse, a very special experience.]
  • The presentation of ‘Portraits’ is still a little uncertain, a view for which I got tutor support in the feedback.  Prints at A3 or A3+ will be the main form of presentation, but I do need to direct the assessor towards the wider context in which the images are presented.  One suggestion from my tutor was to get the assessor to do a Google Images search and see some of them online at first hand.  Then I also have the ‘Stanley Quest’ website and ‘The Stan’ tabloid.  It needs some reflection – how to get across the breadth of what I’ve done without overwhelming the assessor!
  • My Introductory Notes and Evaluation both got a ‘thumbs up’, too.  They’ll need a little bit of refinement, but more or less done.

So, still a fair bit to do, but I’m genuinely into the final straight!

Assignment Five Submitted

My final assignment submission has gone off to Clive today!  A draft set of Introductory Notes for Assessment, covering the two BoW projects; PDF/video versions of the Textbook book; the ‘Stanley Quest’ website; A4 prints of all the ‘Portraits’ and some of the ‘Textbook’ images; and an ‘Evaluation’ for my Body of Work module – there’s plenty for him to get his teeth into!!  The ‘Evaluation’ is a normal experience at this stage in most OCA modules, but it feels particularly significant for this module and we’re required to write 1500-2000 words.  I did wonder whether to make mine ‘public’ here, but perhaps a more appropriate approach would be to draw out some of the main points from it.

  • There is no question about my overall response – ‘positive’.  The module has worked well for me and I have made significant progress, gaining a great deal of confidence.  That’s confidence in the work and confidence in presenting or talking about it; something that comes as much from Contextual Studies as the development within this module, I must add.  There was one stage where I was struggling to articulate the link between the two, but I got there, and the experience made me more confident in what I was doing.
  • I came out of L2 feeling that a creative ‘voice’ was developing, based around constructed, largely studio-based image-making, and that is the way things have continued.  I originally expressed some concerns about being wholly ‘studio-based’; and also about a tendency to get into ‘over-intellectualising’ the work.  In the end, like it or not, I have produced two projects which, although certainly able to be appreciated in all sorts of ways, are essentially conceptual and highly constructed. C’est la vie!
  • There is a slight regret/concern that the work lacks what I can best describe as emotional resonance!  I set off on a mini ‘personal journey’ early in the module and found no inspiration.  I played around a little with constructing images that ‘responded to events’, but took it no further.  My projects could be interpreted as somewhat cold, detached, at times light-hearted.  So much of what my fellow students produce is about personal responses – mine is not.  I’m not sure whether that matters or is of significance in assessing what I’ve done, but it is worth noting!
  • One question that I reflected in early in this blog has certainly been resolved.  I am not; possible never have been; and maybe never will be ‘a photographer’!  Well, that depends on definition, of course (and tongue is in cheek as I write); but I would describe myself as a contemporary artist who works with photographic images.  And if I am going to make anything of my work in Sustaining Your Practice, that is the cloak I will put on.
  • The ‘Evaluation’ covers influences, which are well enough covered previously in here, so I won’t repeat; and also asks about plans for the work.  ‘Textbook’ is emerging as a book, as expected, and I can see the potential to self-publish within SYP, maybe.  ‘Portraits’ is a little more complicated, as I’ve also discussed in here before – and may end up side-lined after assessment.  By far the most important ‘plan’ must be to find ways for a lot more people to see the work.  I’ll never know whether the confidence expressed earlier is well-founded until the work has been exposed to more ‘criticism’ and I’ve had significantly more feedback.  Which, conveniently, is the whole point of SYP – so, onwards and upwards with that!

… and on that note; I have just set up a Blog for SYP.  There is nothing there as yet, but if anyone reading this is interested (and patient – nothing much may happen for a while), it is here stansocasyp!

Getting over some frustration … and moving on!

This post is just intended as a record of some frustration that has impacted on me and my work over the last few weeks – stemming from some bad communications by OCA, I’m afraid.  Back in June, at the L3 weekend event in Barnsley, some significant changes to assessment procedures were communicated, with an indication that they would apply to all L3 students and would begin on 1st September 2015.  Now, I missed part of the session and might have had a slightly less than clear picture; plus it happened to catch me exactly at the point (Ass 4 going towards Ass 5) where I was trying to get my assessment plans organised; and, I may, through a desire to get things right, have got overly concerned about matters – so I’m prepared to acknowledge those aspects.  However, that I and a fellow student had the change confirmed to us just three or so weeks ago, only for there to be an announcement, ten days ago, that a decision not to change had actually been made back in June, but not fully communicated – that isn’t excusable.  However, apart from recording that it doesn’t help one’s planning (or motivation), enough said and time to move on!

I have submitted my final Contextual Studies Assignment; I have enrolled on Sustaining Your Practice; and I have been working on some ideas for BoW submissions – of which more later.

Assignment Four Feedback

Councillor Stan Framed Typical Characteristic Curve 02

I had a tutorial conversation with Clive on Friday, regarding my submission for Assignment Four.  That submission included the tabloid version of ‘Portraits’, the Google search outcomes for that project, the ‘wherenothingisreal’ website, the sequenced slideshow version of ‘Textbook’, plus a set of pdf notes bringing it all together and discussing the choices I seem to be facing just now.  The outcome wasn’t quite as I’d expected.  I had thought we would probably discuss the pros and cons of continuing with both projects or concentrating on, say, ‘Textbook’.  Actually, even allowing for due modesty, I have to say that he seems so enthusiastic about ‘Portraits’ that it’s hard to see how I could even consider side-lining it.  Indeed, it might even be argued that he would favour ‘Portraits’ over ‘Textbook’!  Really good to have enthusiastic support and positive feedback, flattering even, but it leaves me with, maybe, an even more difficult situation regarding assessment submission.  There’s  a fair bit of time, of course, but potentially a lot to do as well.  And I don’t want to fall into the trap of submitting so much that it’s hard for the assessor to look at it in enough depth to really appreciate the work that’s been done.

We certainly spent quite some time on the complications of presenting ‘Portraits’.  Clive really likes ‘The Stan’ tabloid and wouldn’t change anything about it.  He also feels that some/all of these images should be presented as large-scale prints – and I agree.  But neither of those formats can do justice to the broader ‘virtual’ context in which the images exist and, in some ways, come into their own.  They are ‘out there’ as, potentially, ‘real’ identities, so how do we do justice to that aspect in bringing the work to Assessment.  I do have an idea for another website that might do the trick, but it’s going to require more work to put it together.  The ‘wherenothingisreal’ website doesn’t do the job – but I have in mind a more ‘conceptual’ idea that would build on some of its content.

Clive didn’t have too much to say about ‘Textbook’.  I’m not sure it appeals to him quite so much – which is fair enough – and he did raise, again, the question of copyright and appropriation; which I’ve mentioned before myself and which would certainly have to be considered in the Sustaining Your Practice module.  We didn’t get into the editing of this work at all.

And mention of Sustaining Your Practice brings me to a final reflection that I should make here.  I think it’s time for me to enrol on that final element.  In fact, it occurs to me that the issues I’m struggling with are precisely those that should best be resolved within that module.  Of course, I’m thinking through the question of Assessment Submission format for BoW, but this is also bound up with ‘How do I take this work to the outside world?’.  A significant part of that module is about networking and seeking feedback on the work and perhaps it’s that wider feedback I’m in need of if I’m to resolve everything in a meaningful fashion.

So – fantastic to receive positive and supportive comments on my work from Clive, but a lot to do to resolve it for the various audiences and I may have to go looking for advice on a broader basis.

Linking Body of Work & Contextual Studies

CS essay front

A few weeks ago, I submitted the first draft of my Contextual Studies extended essay – part of the front cover, including the title, appears above.  I’ve had positive feedback; the essay needs a little more editing and my tutor posed a few questions for me to think about but, in essence, the essay is written.  Apart from being a great relief (!), this also presents a good opportunity (and my CS tutor encouraged it) to reflect in this journal on the linking and mutual support of the two modules.  There is no doubt at all in my mind that the research and writing has helped significantly in contextualising the work I have been producing here; and the making of the work has also influenced and informed my understanding of the contemporary art context in the essay.  Summarising the conclusion of the essay, it says that:

· The particular relationship of the photographic image with something perceived as reality survives today – whatever the context of the making and the viewing.

· The origin of that relationship may be cultural, psychological, even scientific; but it resides, even through the torrent of digital images pouring across the internet.

· The existence of this relationship is fundamental to photography’s significance in contemporary art; and through the exploitation, extension, and also subversion, of the medium, the contemporary artist can create meaning in a viewer’s perception, and provoke questions.

· Digital technology does not replace or undermine this significance, but it offers scope for continuing experimentation and exploitation of the photography/reality relationship.

Both of the projects that have progressed to this stage in my Body of Work have relevance within, and/or owe their relevance to, this context. The ‘Portraits’ project makes use of the perceived ‘reality’ of a photograph to create ‘believable’ images of ‘Stan’ identities that have never and will never exist. Yet they appear in Google image searches with apparent credibility alongside ‘real’ images of ‘real’ people – so potentially questioning the role of the photographic image as a representation of identity and, perhaps, the whole manner in which we perceive ‘self’ and identity. The ‘Textbook’ project constructs a seductive series of images that hover between something ‘real’ and something ‘virtual’, inviting the viewer to look for meaning and narrative, perhaps even to see significance for the photographic medium itself. Yet they are constructs, empty tableaux made from detached signifiers, strung together with no ‘meaning’ other than that they were made – in common, perhaps, with so many of the images through which we seek to construct ‘reality’ in the 21st century.

That seems to be quite a brief reflection, but I don’t think there’s anything else to say about it.  The two modules have come together successfully in my own mind.  I feel confident that I can talk about the context of this Body of Work and I hope my contextualising has the credibility to make sense to those who read/hear it and who look at my work.  “Job done”, so far!  Assignment Four of BoW should go to my tutor in the next couple of days; I hope to enrol on Sustaining Your Practice shortly, too; get BoW and CS into an ‘assessable” form over the next 2/3 months (though they won’t be assessed until March); then ‘onwards and upwards’!

Portraits Project–Presentation?

The Stan Photo

I’ve almost certainly made all the images that I’m going to for the Portraits Project (need a title!) and so thoughts begin to turn to presentation.  There was an opportunity to try something out over the weekend, when I attended a ‘gathering’ of 14 current and prospective Level Three students (with two tutors) from OCA. ‘Crit sessions’ were very much part of the agenda and I took along some prints of the portraits plus, more significantly, a print of a mock ‘red-top’ tabloid newspaper called ‘The Stan’.  I’m not going to document the design and print process here (it’s written up in a notebook at the moment), but the photograph above shows the principle and there is a large PDF version of all four pages here – ‘The Stan’.  This was an experimental way of bringing all the images into one place, together with either the full ‘back story’ or an allusion to it.  My questions for the group were, essentially, ‘Does it work?’ and ‘Is the print quality acceptable?’.  The latter question arose because this particular newsprint version is certainly not of high aesthetic quality – but that doesn’t seem to have been an issue for those who saw it. ‘Cheap and nasty’ works as a tabloid aesthetic, I think.

More significant, though, is the question of whether it works as a culmination – perhaps the culmination – for the project.  Views inevitably varied, with there being at least one suggestion that one may need nothing else – just the newspaper as the final outcome presentation.  Another view, though, was that the project critiques a wide range of image styles and contexts, so perhaps the ‘tabloid’ wasn’t appropriate for an overarching presentation.  The project seeks to explore the way photographic images create fictions in the ‘real’ world, so maybe something (or more than one ‘thing’) is needed to bring my own fictions into the ‘real’.  It’s a valid point, but not an easy one to resolve.  It did lead me to reflect, in the ‘crit’ that perhaps one approach would be to drop this project as having gone as far as it can without some major piece of work that would be difficult to do this late in the course.  I haven’t resolved that question yet – rightly and understandably.  In my own mind, this project has been slightly ‘second string’ to the ‘Textbook’ project for a while; so that might be basis enough for making a decision between the two.  But on the other hand, the Portraits always produce a reaction in others; always make people think; certainly have an ‘audience’, which might be important at a later stage; and, as the person who was questioning the tabloid said, ‘have legs’ (literally!).  Although this project makes people laugh (a ‘good thing’; nothing wrong with humour in art, surely), it has a very serious side and enough depth of context and interpretation to stand on its own, if I chose to make it do so.

So I’m faced with further reflection about this, as I head towards submission of Assignment Four.  The project will definitely form part of that submission, whatever the final outcome.  The discussion at the weekend has led me to look back at a couple of other angles into this piece of work.  Firstly, I have been taking another look at the website I put together at the end of last year – www.wherenothingisreal.com.  I’m sure there are aspects that could be improved but, coming back to it after several months, I feel that it doesn’t work badly as a presentation of the project – though not as a way of bringing the images into the ‘real’.  Another angle that I’ve referred to a few times is the concept of a Google Search for an old school friend.  This is the first page of a search for ‘Stan Dickinson’, done yesterday afternoon:

Google 01

There are five of my Portraits in there – part of the ‘real’ world then, perhaps?  I tried a search for ‘Dick Stanley’ and, most appropriately, my own ‘Dick’ appears on page three:

Google 05

Maybe, as I say, these images are already out there in the ‘real’?

Much to reflect on further, after the weekend discussions, but the project will stay on its ‘legs’ for the time being.

Textbook–the endgame continues

Solarization 05

Solarization 05

I’ve found that there is potential to be creative as well as destructive with the burning power of the sun.  I experimented with some printed pages from another old book and found that, page in one hand & magnifying glass in the other, I could ‘draw’.  That had potential to be re-photographed and combined with other images to produced another type of interesting image – on the way to the books eventual Armageddon!  These are two examples of the work, so far.  The one below is very ‘controlled’, worked at bit by bit to create the effect, whereas the sun got (appropriately, given the title) quite powerful in the one above and the whole was about to ‘go up’ in my hand – as can be seen on the right of the image.  But that element of risk in the process is quite attractive to me.  And I take ‘control’ again, by photographing and layering with a previous ‘Solarization’ image.  People seem to see an insect in the one below; certainly wasn’t intentional.

 

Typical Characteristic Curve 02

Typical Characteristic Curve 02

It was a real benefit to share some of these Textbook images, including these two new ones, with some fellow students in an informal ‘hangout’ session earlier in the week.  The feedback was pretty positive, which is pleasing.  Everyone seems to have found the images visually interesting and attractive, which is one of my first objectives – to seduce the eye and attract the viewer to look further.  There was a sense of puzzlement about what was going on in the complex constructs, which again is something I want the viewer to experience.  But there was also a sense that the group wanted some guidance on context.  I had kept that deliberately brief – chiefly because I was interested in their immediate responses at this stage, but also because the background is very complex and explaining in full is both time-consuming (for the viewer to read) and directive (in the sense that I prefer the images to ask puzzling questions and be open to all sorts of potential interpretations – something that did also emerge in the discussion).  What this does tell me is that writing an effective ‘Artist’s Statement’ for this project is not going to be easy – especially one that can work in a variety of contexts.  That’s likely to mean more than one, perhaps.  It was really good to have the chance to discuss my work, though – very grateful to those who were present and gave me such helpful feedback.