My practice has gradually evolved through painting, from looking at memory to more specifically nostalgia and further, the concept of the hauntological. I am in search of 'lost time', as Roland Bathes writes about in Camera Lucida, 'to recover a life that has vanished.' Investigating and reconstructing lost cultural events that do not happen anymore, I am creating irreconcilable memories through paint. They become strange fictions that aim to blur the boundary of being familiar and not familiar. Continuing to reference from Ida Applebroog's practice with the way she uses multiple canvases and having experimented with this process a few times myself, I am continuing to develop this idea. I have chosen more contrasting colour pallets for the two separate pieces.
Photographs showing the journey of development
Splitting up the image with additional canvases exaggerates this idea of fragmented narratives and creates a further distortion, especially here using the copper pallet. Continuing to reference film photography, I have chosen a green pallet this time for the main canvas because green used to be one of the colours that was prominent in colour film photography. The coppery orange pallet reflects the colour of the film itself. This is the first time I have used two very different colour pallets next to each other like this and I think it is an interesting development. Both pallets are still muted and the separation in colour introduces a new fragmented aspect within the work. If I were to have more time, I would have liked to have kept extending the canvases out, horizontally or vertically, as Ida Applebroog does. From my last two paintings, I have realised that the work is better when the figures are larger in the composition.
Dancing Ladies, oil on canvas, 210cm x 150cm
I made this painting continuing to take my references from archives of old may day photographs, bringing communities together. Making references from Ida Applebroog's paintings in the way she uses more than one canvas to create her image, I decided to include a thin strip canvas on the end of the painting. I wanted the thin canvas to be a continuation from the main canvas but also something that could offer a different element to the painting and I liked the dream state quality it had. The side canvas, showing more information with it's detailed background of a house exaggerates the absence in the blue canvas and hints to what the blue canvas is missing. Loss is an important theme in this painting and is apparent in so many ways; a loss of what once was, a loss of lives, loss of tradition like Paul Kingsnorth talks about in his book, 'Real England: The Battle Against the Bland', and the loss of translation in what they are doing and what the meaning is.
Photographs showing the journey of development
People do not know exactly the complicated roots of this simple ritual and some believe the Maypole origins remain unknown. Reconstructing these may day photographs reflects the uncertainty of the tradition and how time has swallowed these histories. We are asked to ponder who these people are, what are they celebrating, or mourning, or who they are waiting for. Being inspired by the subtlety in Adam Dix's work, I have used a muted pallet and varying layers of visibility and repetition, leaving things out, putting things in, when reconstructing the images, reflecting a faded representation of the past. The paintings become strange fictions that blur the boundary between document and fiction.
I aim to trigger a feeling of nostalgia for a life we've never had and a sense of community that we no longer have. In doing so, I want to cross the boundary between a sense of longing and the anticipation of the unknown. I think the continuation of the side canvas works better than 'Red Handed', the disjointed tryptic painting I made before, because I prefer the subtlety of the composition. It also reminds me of film photography, or that bleached effect that happens when you leave a book on a bit of a photograph so that the rest of the photograph is bleached from the sun.
When film cameras were the main source of photography, film companies would alter the colours in photographs to make them seem more aesthetically pleasing; representing a dream world, different from reality. A utopian world. This is something new I have begun exploring when looking at colour in my paintings. Kodak for example would bring out the colour blue in it's photographs. There's an aesthetic that's more appealing than digitally converted photographs. Kodak film was much better at recording warm (yellow/red) tones for example when Fuji film (sold in green boxes) was better at the cooler greens and blues of landscapes. 'It had a great color palette. It wasn't too garish. Some films are like you're on a drug or something. Velvia made everything so saturated and wildly over-the-top, too electric. Kodachrome had more poetry in it, a softness, an elegance. With digital photography, you gain many benefits [but] you have to put in post-production. [With Kodachrome,] you take it out of the box and the pictures are already brilliant.' - David Friend (February 9, 2011). "The Last Roll of Kodachrome—Frame by Frame!". Vanity Fair. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
Dancing Ladies, oil on canvas, 210cm x 150cm
I'm interested in lost traditions and cultures; old ritualistic events that no longer exist. I have been inspired by the subject matter in Adam Dix's paintings. He too is interested in community and ritual, whilst he explores how humanity adapts to new modes of communication. As Jeremy Deller reconstructs processions through people, I reconstruct them through paint. To make this painting, I gathered people from different photographs to create a procession of people, all from different sorts of lost histories, including may day parades and fetes, it slightly reminded me of the procession from the film The Wickerman. The process of collaging has become quite a prominent factor in my work, inspired by Dexter Dalwood and Neo Rauch. Reconstructing these events through the painted image, I use objects and clothing to signal the emergence of different worlds, to distort the familiar to seem unfamiliar. I aim to trigger a feeling of nostalgia and a sense of community that we no longer have. In doing so, I want to cross the boundary between a sense of longing and the anticipation of the unknown.
It is a longing for the past, or perhaps a nostalgia for things we haven't lived yet. This painting can therefore be seen to forge a bridge between what has already come to pass and that which has yet to happen. I referenced the background buildings from Poundbury as I was interested in the way Poundbury is home to so many different kinds of buildings that look like they could be from different eras.
My practice has shifted from making nostalgic paintings of the distortion of memory, to looking more specifically at loss. I have created 'loss' literally when looking at different layers of visibility. This can be seen in the ghostly blocked out figures that reoccur within the painting. I have also looked more closely at the idea of repetition; the ghostly shadow of the boy on the right hand side also portrays this hauntological notion of the past never escaping us. This painting marks the start of expanding the muted pallet so that the figures are painted in other colour pallets, rather than being b/w or sepia tones.
Photographs showing the journey of development
Looking at the physical aspects of the painting, composition is something I have been working on whilst on this course. I have learnt that my practice works better when there are areas of blank space within the composition, rather than having it too crowded. Depth is another subject I have considered more recently and therefore I think the gradual fade of people into the background is something that works with this piece.
'The Procession', oil on canvas, 130cm x 160cm
I wanted to continue to develop how I arranged the canvases and being influenced by Ida Applebroog, I wanted to create a piece of work made up from multiple canvases to create a story. I like the arrangement of this piece and I think it is interesting how each of the canvases make up a different aspect of the story. I do think that the overall style is too graphicy and photographic because I use much more painterly approaches in my usual practice. The subject matter was an experimental choice and I think it comes across as too political. The lack of collage means it is too straightforward and there is little mystery or ambiguity which are qualities I usually aim for in my paintings.
My practice has shifted from making nostalgic paintings of the distortion of memory, to looking more specifically at loss. I have created 'loss' literally when looking at different layers of visibility. This can be seen in the ghostly red figures. I have also looked more closely at the idea of repetition; looking at the bottom of the piece, the red men's outlines have been been repeated along the bottom canvas. The repeated drawn men at the bottom of the piece speak of the repetitions of life and the replaying of daily events. They are suspended in time by the lost memory of their actions, like haunting repetitions of the past.
Red Handed, Oil on canvas, 76cm x 110cm,
I wanted to extend my source material by looking at other cultures and characters from the world. I found these Chinese images through my Great Aunt. I was drawn to the undefined histories, the unknown information from the photograph, the reason for why it happened has been lost. From what I could tell, the original photograph was from an opium gambling den. I painted a tea party set where the gambling was taking place on the table. It is this idea of creating new truths, uncanny in the way they appear to be something but on closer inspection, something different. The tea party creates a utopian version of what once was; the ghost of the ideological to create something hauntological.
I have been looking at the concept of hauntological art which means presenting something that in some way is idealised; something has happened to disrupt or contradict it to create satirical doubt and disillusionment.
My pallet is an indication of the lost histories that I am portraying; they are faded and degraded with a low fidelity. The arrangement is significant. The first painting is of the full reconstructed scene. The second painting is a close up repetition of one of the man's faces. I have been experimenting more and more about this idea of repetition symbolising the haunting of the past with history repeating itself. The last painting is a close up of one of the banners that featured in the original source photograph. I had to get a Chinese student to translate all three to me. The first said 'Good Luck', the second said something related to 'Screw them!' and the last said 'Get the money'. When put together they create some sort of narrative. If I had more time, I would have liked to keep going with these small paintings to fill a wall.
Good Luck Oil, Oil canvas, 50cm x 40cm
Being drawn to these sinister, menacing subjects in the old photographs that inspired my previous work, I was led to think about this forbidding aspect that continuously reoccurs within my practice. The feedback from my Pecha Kucha made me question whether it was the threat of the past? As a result, I have begun to explore hauntology as a new theme within my practice. The idea of the failure of the future whilst we live in a world that is constantly threatened by our past. The idea that everything inevitably finds itself dependant on an always-already existing set of conditions due to these undeniable histories that we have to live with. You can read more about this here.
I created this image as a collage on photoshop using images from the internet before I began painting from it. I wanted to create a feeling of uncertainty of the date in which this painting was set. The combination of time periods in the painting symbolise a world forever threatened by it's past, while the different 'pasts' foreshadow the future. The ghostly shadowed repetition of bodies also portrays this notion of the past never escaping us. Mixing up different costumes, there are a number of different ages that make up the composition. Ranging from the medieval man to the left in his purple costume looking like something from Robin Hood, to the man on the right of the central women with his 1700 wig on, to the woman in the middle wearing early 1900s may day clothes, to the girl with the modern day bugs bunny hat. This is just to name a few of the characters in the painting.
Being inspired by artists like Neo Rauch, who uses collage as a method of making images to paint from, I am trying to develop my process by creating much subtler arrangements. Although, this concept is juxtaposed by the fact I have begun to create images made up from two canvases. I like how the split disrupts the image even more than the collaging process itself. I think this painting would be more successful if it were made up of more layers of depth; I battled with this thought, putting things in, taking things out and putting things in again.
I spent a lot of time focussing on the people's expressions in this painting and envy is a feeling that comes across in a lot of the faces. I'd invite the viewer to interpret it as an envious nostalgia for a life never lived. The people all look at the women with the red hat as she walks of the set. The scene reminds me of a theatre set with everyone in their costumes, the stage and the painterly mountain in the background.
My practice has shifted from making nostalgic paintings on the distortion of memory, to looking more specifically at creating strange fictions that focus on loss and hauntology.
Photographs showing the journey of development
May Day, oil on canvas, 110cm x 180cm,
I began specifically looking at photos of old ritualistic histories or cultural events that no longer exist. 'Salem Walk' marks the start of the investigation into ritualistic types of subject matter in my practice. It is this sense of a loss of community that I find myself more and more interested in. A longing for the past, or perhaps a nostalgia for things we haven't lived yet. I painted 'Salem Walk' throughout the summer break. It is inspired by photographs I found of May Day in Salem,Leeds, around the 1950s. Children were dressed up with crowns made from flowers and they danced around a maypole.
My practice has shifted from making nostalgic paintings of the distortion of memory, to looking more specifically at loss and the concept of the hauntological. I have created 'loss' literally when looking at different layers of visibility. This can be seen in the ghostly blocked out figures that reoccur within the painting. I have also looked more closely at the idea of repetition; looking from the left, the third girl in has been repeated as a follower in the crowd at the back.
Inspired by Dexter Dalwood, I'm interested in placing out of place objects within a composition to confuse the viewer. In this case the banner that the children are carrying becomes that object. It is the brightest thing in the painting and therefore looks quite alien-like, hints of 'Salem' only just appearing. I am looking at introducing things in my work that signal the entering of a new world. I want to create a sense of community that the viewer can not relate to.
Salem Walk, oil on canvas, 110cm x 180cm,
I have been looking at themes relating to time, memory and nostalgia and how I can portray them through painting. I have continued to collect old photographs that I find in antique shops, flea markets and the internet to influence the trigger of each piece.
'Erasure' is a painting of a school classroom photograph, supposedly dated back to the 30s. I played on the black and white haunting feel of the photograph; there is something about children in old black and white photographs that I find quite poignant. Perhaps it is the ghostly physicality of the photograph, or maybe it is the not knowing who any of the children are, or the fact that these children are probably all dead. Yet I find myself with the possession of something so personal to someone once upon a time. To read more about the effect a photograph can have on us and Roland Barthe's theory behind it, click here.
Erasure, Oil on canvas, 100cm x 80cm
Small Collage Series
I wanted to experiment with some collaging techniques and decided to play around on some small 5'7 inch canvas boards. Painting so small meant I could do these fairly quickly to figure out what worked best for me.
The surface of the boards was rough which made painting more difficult and looking back, I should have probably primed them better. I am not used to painting so small so it was definitely a challenge but it was successful in the sense that I could be playful, knowing that these were just experiments.
I constructed the images using found photographs, images from books and magazines and my imagination. The results are quite dream- like. I used the techniques from the tippex series to flatly block and obstruct some aspects of the compositions.
Small Collage Series
After completing the darkroom induction, I wanted to see how my own film photography would compare to the feel of the photographs that I am collecting in flea markets. I decided that I much preferred the mystery of the images that I am finding, as well as the physical ageing of the photographs themselves.
I wanted to take the idea of distortion further in regards to the photography. I used tippex as a way of distorting the photographs to represent how our brains can obstruct our memories so that they can only be partially remembered. Things can be removed or even falsely added to our minds to create inaccurate recollections of the past. It can be slightly sad finding all these, once sentimental photos, disregarded in a box in a market and the use of tippex on the figures, emphasises this idea of loss. These people are now all dead and the memories are dying too. In this way, loss has started to become an important theme in my work. It is not only the loss of peoples, but the loss of memories entirely.
Tippex is a liquid used to cover up writing and things that may have been written wrongly and so it is also ironic that it is being used here to cover up real events.
I made quite a lot of these tippex photographs but I would have liked to have made an even bigger series and I still want to think about how I can display them.
Tippex on Photographs Series
In one crit, it came about that maybe the background of this painting was more interesting than the boy himself and therefore how would I feel about removing him completely. This definitely got me thinking in terms of the theme 'loss'. If I were to take him out, I would want to keep a trace of the boy behind to show that his presence was once there as this would reflect the loss of the boy. I traced round him to make a card template that I then painted it aqua marine like the background. On top of that, I continued to paint the background over the template so that the silhouette eventually merged into the background. The edge of the template could still be seen when it was stuck to the canvas, creating this strange shape of a boy, that was obviously a figure but also quite confusing because it was also a part of the background. I decided to photograph the silhouette standing above the painting as well, which I actually quite liked. The photographs above show the silhouette in three different ways within the painting and I think it has opened future doors within my practice.
I found the boy amongst my collection of found photographs and was instantly drawn to him. He reminds me of an Oliver Twist kind of character and I like his cheeky facial expression. In contrast to the boy, the background is not real and merely a scene that has been constructed using my imagination and other photographs of buildings.
Collaging has become a metaphor for the unreliability and distortion of our memories. Memories are not reliable records of events because they are in fact reconstructed in many ways after events happen. I want to attempt to trigger a feeling or memory within the viewer by using old evocative imagery to cross the boundary between nostalgia and the anticipation of the unknown.
Looking at Dexter Dalwood, I'd like to push at the idea of collaging images to make compositions that challenge realistic perspectives. I don’t want the paintings to make complete sense so that the viewer is made to think about the image and interpret it how they wish.
I want to begin using new photos as well as old photos because I like the idea of mixing moments from the past and the present to create different time frames within the compositions.
Boulevard, Oil on canvas, 90cm x 90cm
To start with, my practice emerged from the fascination of the found photograph. I painted from old photographs that I found in flea markets and antique shops around England. I was drawn to the ambiguity of the people in the photographs, each one begged a fiction. By painting from them, I was also saving the lost memories into something that would last longer than a crumpled old photograph. They were turning this moment from the past into a solid present object, something with fixed dimensions.Memory was a key theme to my work and I distorted the photographs to reflect the notion of faded memories. Here, I took this figure from my photograph and immersed her into a made-up background from my imagination to create this strange fiction. I was attracted to the ambiguity of the figure whom I presume is a nurse. The figure could be male or female. I liked this uncertainty in my work; I want the familiar to seem unfamiliar. The painting hints at war and religion; I like the unknowing of what is real and what is fake.
Nurse, Oil on canvas, 120cm x 85cm