exploring art and writing

Posts Tagged ‘Cardiff’

I Like People.

In Art, Drawing, Fine Arts, Life Drawing on November 25, 2012 at 5:54 pm

I really do like people, especially if I’m drawing them.

As I’ve made the decision to start painting again I thought it would be prudent to actually take pencil to paper and see if my approach to drawing has undergone a miraculous transformation in the last six years. It hasn’t, other than the fact that I cannot remember how to draw (properly, that is; the pencil landed on the paper just fine).

I can’t draw hands and feet any more. I can’t make hair shine. I can’t gauge perspective. But one thing that did resurface like a drowning man who just found the hole in the ice was the lines. Lines are great; I could draw the line of a waist or an arm all day. Forget tone; forget chiaroscuro; just the outline.

It’s no wonder that I’m fond of Matisse’s figure drawings and of Schiele’s writhing pencil marks. There are whole archives of renowned and forgotten scribblings that I’ve amassed onto my hard-drive over the last ten years, and yes, lots of them are faces and bodies cast in shadow. But give me a Chillida drawing over a Singer-Sargent study any day.

Drawing, like any other skill, requires persistence in order to maintain high standards. I’m not the arty swot I once was as a pre-university adolescent, but it’s still a bit of a shock when you realise that your current self can’t do something with half as much dexterity as your fifteen year old self could. For now, however, the joy is simply in the act of drawing.

With no intention of sounding over-sentimental, sitting and knocking elbows in a badly lit, crowded room and drawing mostly-naked people felt liberating. I almost felt younger, no doubt because I was doing what I did best as a teenager, having for some reason shirked the ‘classic’ artistic skills since adulthood.

The life drawing class that I attended on Tuesday was casual with some experienced artists and some beginners. Drawing advice was given if asked for, and offered competently when desired. Don’t be scared of a nude stranger standing in front of you; give life drawing a chance. If nothing else it will send you home feeling relaxed and, most importantly, with a sense of having done something different, productive and exciting.

While there isn’t a UK-wide website listing the times and whereabouts of local life-drawing classes, try local art schools and colleges or indie bars and cafés – there’ll be something happening close by. For those of you in the US, Art Model Book’s website is an amazing resource for finding your nearest life drawing class.

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The Exhibition Must Go On.

In Art, Exhibition, Fine Arts on August 16, 2012 at 5:31 pm

Laura Lillie at Howard Gardens Gallery, Cardiff 2012

The summer is nearly over. June’s smorgasbord of students, private views and liquor-soaked celebrations has dissipated. Now graduates, they hunt for employment, perhaps returning to the nest or living in packs in the city. But for a small handful of people the show is only just beginning: Masters students everywhere are preparing for their autumn exhibition.

Having forgotten how to make art myself I’ve decided to live vicariously through friends that have remained in art school. At this very moment I’m listening to a woman noisily scraping underglaze pencils across what can only be described as ‘plate-cones’ and watching another student tie and hang spherical bulges of latex from a shelf. At the moment we’re the only ones inhabiting the modest white cube gallery that we’re sitting in; in three weeks’ time it will be teeming with works of art, observers and free booze.

It’s a strange activity, exhibiting your work to tides of people. It can be exhilarating but it can leave you feeling exposed. When I ask one of the women, Laura Stevenson, how she feels about the impending exhibition she looks up from her ceramic plate-cones and grins. ‘Fiiiine! We’re miles ahead, it’ll be fine.’ Laura’s an artist after my own heart – expertly prepared – but there will no doubt be mania simmering in the warren of every art school. It’s just more expertly dealt with because the students are older, wiser, and more acclimatised to the way exhibiting makes you want to bang your head on the wall instead of hanging your painting on it.

Not Thinking About Art.

In Fine Arts on May 25, 2011 at 9:08 am

I hastily drafted this post in a local coffee shop, where for all intents and purposes I had gone to read. It didn’t occur to me until I had typed it up later that, whilst I made it explicit in the article that it wasn’t going to be a Fine Art-related post, it ended up being entirely about art.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 'Akashi Gidayu Writing His Death Poem Before Committing Seppuku in 1582' (around 1890)

This is the first time I have written anything on a napkin. Anything coherent, that is; I can’t count the hours me and my classmates wasted doodling obscenities on school canteen napkins. I don’t intend for this post to match those expletives in quantity (or quality), however. No, this is more intended as a harmless meander through my thoughts right now.

Depsite leaving the flat unarmed, my mind immediately set itself the task of writing something, anything, as long as it wasn’t about art. Fine Art that is; I’m still open to thoughts and ideas about the wider arts.

The previous statement no doubt sounds more pessimistic than my disposition genuinely is toward Fine Art at the moment; I’d say that my attitude towards [relationship with] the subject has actually reached a relatively ambivalent level. It’s certainly giving me more joy than it has at any other point since graduating last July. As a matter of fact, I’m beginning to recall some of the reasons why I chose to study Fine Art in the first place, and for once I’m not completely clueless regarding the possible causes of this: it is because, despite my recent silence on this blog, I have been writing about art – and art only – elsewhere. And in order to do that I’ve had to really start looking again.

It’s so easy to forget to look at something, or to forget how it should be looked at. It’s even easier not to bother contemplating or writing about what you’ve observed. Luckily for me the two activities are naturally symbiotic; if I take the time to do one I will inevitably feel compelled to do the other, because I can only discover what I may or may not know know about something if I put it in writing.

So I was really, really lucky when I landed a voluntary job writing for a small art and design column. There is something exciting about having a weekly deadline and knowing that by this time next week I will have discovered another artist or artwork that excites me. It has, for the first time in well over a year, encouraged me to spread my prized art books and texts in front of me, looking and reading for hours until I find that one piece or story that makes me want to devour more. Moments like that are often fleeting but they are precious reminders.

All this time spent observing has also begun to make curiosity re-spark certain queries in my mind. I had forgotten, for instance, how few contemporary women artists are represented in the books that I own. The drastic imbalance is intriguing and is a subject that I don’t wish to shy away from.

Another curiosity is of a more personal nature, one I haven’t properly considered since I left drawing and painting behind: my increasing aversion to oil painting and my affection for monochromatic draftsmanship.

Ernesto Caivano 'Philapore Tug (Due Tension)' 2009

In life drawing classes I was only ever interested in the lines that constructed the form, not in the gradients that rendered it life-like. There is something about a clean, delicate but confidant black line on a piece of quality cream paper that satisfies me more than any other aesthetic. It was the Japanese artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi‘s drawing of Akashi Gidayu (see beginning of post) that first reignited my feelings on the subject, inspired further by my research into contemporary draftsmen such as Ernesto Caivano.

This re-acquaintance is tied in with yet another that has technically already been made explicit: draftsmanship. It has been over three years since I completed a painting or drawing that wasn’t a hasty caricature or frivolous parody, despite my dedication to both mediums for the majority of my first twenty years on this planet. I almost feel ashamed that I abandoned them, as if I have callously forsaken a faithful sibling.

I suppose I left drawing and painting behind because I know that one day I will revert back to them; there will come a time when I will experience something and instinctively reach for the pencil or paintbrush. It’s not quite the right time yet, but it will happen. And, as I am beginning to now, I will savor the joy of completely re-acquainting myself with an old friend.

Old school - my last completed portrait (2005-6)

The Unseen and the Unspoken: Rhian Haf Jones.

In Fine Arts, Site Specific on April 27, 2011 at 7:41 am

Rhian Haf Jones 'Sense of Place' 2010

Growing up in the small rural village of Gwytherin in county Conwy North Wales, it is easy to see how artist Rhian Haf Jones became fascinated with the historic complexities of ancient ruins and the age-old landscapes surrounding them. Pastoral, site-specific sentiments pervade her work, or rather it is her artwork that permeates each chosen site. With a craft based predominantly around the construction of glass objects, by installing the crisp forms of each piece of glass into an archaic context Haf Jones is drawing the viewer’s attention to both the ancient and the contemporary.

The placement of glass objects into environments that are a far cry from the conventional white cube is a method of challenging the traditional occupation of space typically associated with glass artwork. In the installations Blue Blind and Red Blind, in which strikingly linear pieces of glass were positioned in the empty windows of the ancient Hiraethog Mountain ruin Bron Haul, Haf Jones created stunning aesthetic contrasts that derived symbiosis from the very polarities that they each represented: the rugged, dilapidated ruins of a working farm alongside the clean elegance of glass artwork, placed strategically in the empty margins where windows would once have been placed. Each delicate line of glass transforms what was an unoccupied frame into a new ‘window’, a space to peer through as it responds to the transience of its environment. It is fitting, then, that centuries ago net curtains were referred to as ‘glass curtains’, something that Haf Jones has evidently and eloquently responded to in her artistic practice.

As a Masterclass Artist for the Women’s Arts Association, Haf Jones is currently exploring the development of her approach to site-specific work from a digital perspective. A very specific challenge that this presents is the documentation and portrayal of another major theme within the artists work: light. Its subtlety, its relationship with shadows, the patterns it forms, its ambience and its transience. This in turn evokes themes of the unseen and the unspoken, also reflected by the ancient, derelict buildings that Haf Jones utilises, themselves reminders of past time and forgotten events.

One such building is The Old Salthouse, a 16th Century ruin located in the renowned beauty of the South Gower coast. For her latest project Sense Of Place, in a similar fashion to Red Blind and Blue Blind Haf Jones has appropriated the voided windows of The Old Salthouse, but unlike the previous artworks the passage of time – and consequently the unseen and the unspoken – is addressed using a less precise and more untarnished aesthetic; each plate of glass, painstakingly placed in its window frame, appears eroded. Using time laps photography with the intention of graduating towards video she has digitally documented this synthesis of glass, brick and the resulting play on light. The transformative nature of the outdoor environment is both literally and emblematically reflected in each clouded pane of glass, forming momentary shadows and patterns that often remain unobserved. Haf Jones’s time laps photography is a determined attempt to give these moments a greater level of permanence; it is a search challenging whether such transient qualities can be successfully translated into a digital object.

The efforts behind such a project require copious amounts of preparation and research. Haf Jones has evolved a practice with foundations based in the tradition of glass-making, but to date Sense Of Place has also required extensive research fuelled by her fascination with windows found throughout Europe, in addition to a historical awareness of the antiquity of each chosen site (for instance, the swash-buckling pirate myths surrounding The Old Salthouse), and an ever-increasing appreciation of digital photography and video. Her practice is loaded with Welsh and nautical history and with the natural and the manmade. It offers us a view into an unfamiliar combination of materials: perfectly formed, ornamental glass with rugged stone, simultaneously encompassed by the unforgiving brutality and beauty of the natural elements. Rhian Haf Jones’s artwork accentuates each of these components through the documentation of the light and shadows that ensue; every piece of glass that she constructs, and consequently each digital photograph that documents, is a window allowing us to perceive a previously unnoticed and revitalised, albeit fleeting, moment in time.

The Unseen and the Unspoken: Jenni Steele.

In Fine Arts, Interview, New Media, Video on April 4, 2011 at 8:10 pm

See Jenni’s videos on Vimeo here and visit her website to read more, including an interview between myself and the artist: jennisteele.com.

'New Years Day on the Fens' 2010, Jenni Steele

Jenni Steele is a digital video artist with a fascination towards an often-overlooked feature of most outdoor environments: the washing line. In its simplicity is where this concept finds its strength and Steele uses her observations to frame, emphasise and challenge our perceptions (or lack of them) towards this loaded symbol of erotica, domesticity, social unrest and poverty.

Steele’s interest in washing lines is perhaps not so surprising considering her current theoretical studies. Her PhD research revolves around the interpretations and traditions surrounding dress and drapery within painting and how these themes translate into film. This fascination in domestic drapery, from 17th Century Dutch Curtain Painting to the violently intuitive use of washing lines in contemporary cinema, is far more indicative of the human condition than most people are aware of.

In order to discover the various interpretations and meanings behind the subject Steele has delved into an entire host of content: the news and media use washing lines, for instance, to accentuate poverty; television programmes such as Life on Mars have used them to convey an invasion of privacy; Hollywood films such as Halloween and Girl With A Pearl Earring utilise them to highlight tension, whilst The Full Monty is one of many films that use washing lines to represent men who are outside of their gender’s comfort zone. The list goes on, and Steele has fortified this research by looking as far as The Library of Congress in Washington, by instigating discussions with various directors and staff from television shows such as Coronation Street and Life on Mars, through researching the ‘Right To Dry’ movement in America and much, much more. The result of such thorough research is a body of work that reiterates this array of sentiments, its strength being evident due to Steele’s ability to question and challenge the context that fuels her own artwork.

As a Masterclass Artist for the Women’s Arts Association Steele is applying this body of context to themes of ‘the unseen and the unspoken’. Such an application loads the subject matter even further with connotations that are simultaneously private and public, a contrast reflected in the polarities that washing lines are imbued with: inside and outside, natural and domestic. Her artwork is a direct reflection of this. In her video My Place we are offered a view of the intense and enclosed kitchen environment, a domestically gender-specific place of work as the washing gets done. Following this Steele takes the viewer to a sparse, sandy beach where we see a washing line stand alone as the wind bombards each item of clothing; the wider, open spaces of the natural environment possess chaotic qualities as the clothes billow in the wind. Reiterating this hint at a domestic ‘clamour’, the indoor shots in My Place and other videos such as Encroachment are so closely scrutinized as to be verging on abstract imagery. Not all connotations need be so claustrophobic, however; Steele is sensitive to the positive implications of the washing line, both in an artistic and a domestic sense:

“Generally speaking, I think that women love to see a line of washing hung out to dry.  It is a sign of shared work and experience and women can quickly ‘read the signs’ that various articles imply.  More deeply, lines of washing can represent life’s experiences from birth to death, and what it takes to love and care for a family or an individual.”

As a primarily digital filmmaker, Steele first expressed her artistic inclinations through textiles and then found herself drawn towards video due to its transformative nature; a cameras conversion of reality into fragments and layers is, after all, not dissimilar to the layering and sifting of materials required in textiles. As a result of carefully considering the construction of each video Steele is intending to extend the digital experience for the viewer by maximising the audio as well as the visual, be it sounds from the beach, from a radio or a washing machine. The domestic implications suggested by the contrasting indoor/outdoor sounds are an imperative aspect of each artwork. This in turn may lead not just to sound pieces, but also to poetry and interactive projections.

To summarise, Jenni Steele’s work does what any successful body of work should do: it draws the audiences attention to a highly informative and challenging subject matter, raising political and social questions that the artist, and undoubtedly the audience, can empathise with. This process is executed with interest and inquisitiveness, and, of course, each video is also an extremely beautiful piece of artwork, reflecting Steele’s own view of her subject matter as being “a thing of beauty – sculptural, animated and painterly…A line of washing can be equally spectacular on the beach or on the balcony of a high-rise”. Her artwork is a celebration of domesticity and intimacy, of the natural, man-made, public and private lives that we all lead. As Steele herself claims, “what it shows is who we really are.”

'Hattie's Line' 2010, Jenni Steele

See Jenni’s videos on Vimeo here and visit her website to read more, including an interview between myself and the artist: jennisteele.com.

Blind Ambition.

In Identity, Life, Stressed on March 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm

I thought a visual metaphor might be pleasant.

Last weekend I experienced something alien and provocatively disconcerting: I went home and, through various discussions with old friends, I realised that most of them had a general inkling of where their lives are heading.

It seems the tables have turned. Ever since I turned three I would incessantly draw (and talk, incidentally), proclaiming to the world that I was going to be an artist. Of course, as I began to sprout upwards it dawned on me that you don’t so much just exist as an artist; rather, you go to art school. You do art, you practice it.

And then you probably don’t become an artist.

I won’t say that this epiphany was entirely negative, especially considering art school provided me with my most memorable life experiences and achievements irrespective of this realisation. But whilst I was having the time of my life at university making friends, making videos, editing, socialising, dancing, drinking, generally questioning and challenging and doing everything else that flying the nest goads you on to do, I didn’t consider the detriment of graduating into such a casual state of affairs.

When I use the word ‘casual’ I’m referring to my own personal attitude towards art as a practice, but perhaps ignorance is a more fitting word. The social environment that me and my fellow graduates are inhabiting is far from casual. I fully admit that I completely and utterly underestimated not just the state of the arts in our current economical climate, but also the overall gist of society, in particular employment (and I’m not even referring to arts-related employment. That would be far too broad a reference). Luckily there are always individuals and groups who persist through such times.

All of these matters have prodded and poked me into doing some soul searching, and it didn’t take long to conclude that the ambitions I hold so dear to me are all but blind. I’m not intending for that to sound pessimistic – more realistic. I’m also aware that I graduated only eight months ago. However, I can’t keep my impatience and frustration fully submerged as I look for jobs only to find that art, surprise surprise, isn’t depicting me in the best light to a society where efficiency is everything. As I’m sure many generations have experienced prior to myself, life in general seems pervaded with all things (emotionally) inessential at the moment; the Important and Necessary are elsewhere.

If I wanted to indulge in the woes of existential homelessness, however, I would end up doing myself an emotional harm. (Although it is an interesting topic – these guys, Dreyfus and Magee, have nailed it). This enlightening ‘soul searching’ has reinforced the fact that I have never really thought about what I want to ‘be’, or achieve, or participate in and contribute towards. The only definitive’s are compiled and listed below, merely to clarify them for myself. The sentences following each point are my way of attempting to justify what now appear to be amusing follies. So in no particular order:

Write a novella – this ambition began as ‘write a novel’ but that now seems slightly too ambitious. Perhaps I should reword it: ‘write a few short stories, then a short novel, then a Proper Novel’. The premise behind the story shall for now remain veiled to all but myself; what I can tell you is that the idea sprang into my mind whilst watching a theatrical production of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman in Edinburgh. It was awful.

Make a feature length video – by this I do not mean ‘I want to make a movie’. I’ll admit, I’m thinking beyond what could be referred to as a holistically Fine Art-orientated video. I would like to work with other people (I hear it can be done), maybe even with actors. For instance, the idea of a script doesn’t repulse me, although it would be preferable for it not to be written by myself (and I can’t imagine embarking on a verbal equivalent to, say, the Gilmore Girls; perhaps something a little more Gus Van Sant). I want to get a point across whilst utilising skill, empathy and maybe even beauty. Just don’t ask me what it’s going to be about.

To learn another language – perhaps due to surreptitious feelings of guilt when I go abroad. At least this ambition isn’t quite as blind as my previous one; I would like to learn Italian. My great grandmother was Italian, and whilst I can’t even remember meeting her I have, over the years, got an idea into my head that I may have distant relatives over there. Plus I bloody love the place. This leads me onto my next two aims:

To live and work abroad – yes, preferably in Italy. I’m not even saying it has to be an arts-related job. It’s all life experience.

To trace my family tree – this is so easy to do these days, I can’t even think of an excuse as to why I haven’t started this already.

To breed dogs (preferably Great Danes) – at the moment I’m failing to see how this will fit into my life, therefore I am making it my Retirement Plan. However, since it looks like people my age won’t retire until they’re 80, I might have to discover a way of integrating it into my life before then. Also, I’ll only do it if the Kennel Club eases up on the canine eugenics.

It’s surprising how writing a list actually helps; each tangent suddenly seems linear rather than being a spasmodic scribble in my head. There are other ambitions that I consider to be more universal: read as many books as possible, meet people, see places and so on. Priorities at the moment are to find a second job and somehow keep myself involved in the arts. Also, to bat away the rejections and learn from each instance of failure. Like so many of my fellow graduates, the best way to decipher the ways by which we can become ‘successful’ (however one may define the word) is to make mistakes and be persistent. Apologies if that sounds like an excerpt from The Power of Now or something – really it’s just what I’m reiterating to myself as the days go by. If you’re reading this and for some reason need a decent pep talk, J. K. Rowlings Harvard commencement speech is a good one for a quick enthused pick-me-up.

Lastly, I’d like to narrow my eyes pointedly at education, yet again. Universities should teach (or is it warn?) us of what they know in the way of self-employment and freelancing; invoices, taxes, funding applications, etcetera, etcetera. The opportunity has been and gone, however, and I’m not bitter about not having learnt these things; I like to think that I possess a relatively useful amount of resourcefulness and so shall hopefully survive. It’s just that, looking in retrospect at my higher education, I can’t for the life of me understand why these skills are not integrated into a Fine Art course. What they definitely forgot to mention in art school is that filling in a form is now as much a part of the art-making process as the creation of the artwork itself.

The Unseen and the Unspoken: Clare Potter and Julia Thomas.

In Fine Arts, Interview, New Media on March 4, 2011 at 7:52 am

“The very nature of something that has been unseen or unspoken means it has been dormant, hidden, pushed down, kept like bees in a jar – for however long – and in our collaboration, we are looking at ways to take the lid off.” (Clare Potter, 2010)

In the collaboration of Julia Thomas and Clare Potter we have the coming together of two very different types of artist: Thomas, a multi-media visual artist and Potter, a poet, storyteller and performer. Together they will utilise Thomas’ technical background within science alongside Potter’s expression of the written word to create an interactive artwork exploring the process of expressing ‘the unseen and the unspoken’.

Clare Potter, originally born in Blackwood, South Wales, has recently returned from New Orleans, where she moved after graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi with an MA in Afro-Caribbean literature. Her poetic approach, as Thomas puts it, is “immediate and spontaneous; her performance poetry is very powerful, the intensity and delivery of the language being just as gripping as the language itself”.

Forgoing her career as a Biostatistician at Cardiff University’s College of Medicine, Julia Thomas is now an artist exploring the social and ethical considerations surrounding genetic technology and the implications that such developments have on our health. Her work “strives to provide an alternative form of expression when words do not capture what needs to be said”; a fitting principle when considering the ‘unseen and the unspoken’, both major themes that shape the current project being undertaken by Thomas and Potter as Masterclass Artists for the Women’s Arts Association.

Donned with the title Show and Tell, the project begins with the premise that every one of us has unexplored anxieties and that these must be expressed in order to prevent further negative manifestation; as Thomas emphasises, “a lack of emotional expression and of any sort of acknowledged reflection, may well lead to some detrimental physical manifestation further down the line”. Their specific interest lies in the more internal outlets allowing individuals to channel their inherent emotions, not through pervasive cyber-networks, but rather through subtler and less exploitative means. As Potter herself states, “the catharsis we are aiming for might not necessarily be the exact facts of what was unseen or unspoken, not the pouring out of the truth, but more the space to air it in whatever way one wants to.”

The methods that Thomas and Potter are exploring in order to allow such emotional expression to be articulated lie in heavily digital territory. Sonic whisperings will hint at various participants emotional revelations and a visual projection will respond to the intensity of the audio; in this respect, sound and sight are wavering and ephemeral, much like the thoughts and murmurings that they reflect and represent. Show and Tell will ultimately become a live, interactive performance, allowing the audience to be immersed “viscerally as well as cerebrally”.

By executing a combination of spoken word, projection and sonic art to a live audience, the two artists are not attempting to mimic the “inner world” that a human being’s emotional foundations are built upon, but instead to echo the way in which we present ourselves outwardly to our external environment; whilst doing so, however, they are encouraging reflection and release whilst adding their own voices to the previously unspoken. This is not the naked bluntness of Facebook or Twitter; it is a series of gentle revelations that simultaneously do not expose the ‘confessor’, thereby provoking honesty and catharsis.

Thomas and Potter’s intention is to emphasise the lack of genuine, meaningful correspondence in a society that is constantly communicating via electronic and digital means. By revealing aspects of hidden emotions without clarifying definitive thoughts they will be allowing the viewer to reach their own conclusion regarding the voices heard and the images seen; through this we can consider the art and catharsis of expression, of telling, even if only internally. We can begin to closely consider not only how we project ourselves to the world, but also how well we genuinely know our internal selves and those around us; as Thomas succinctly puts it: “strength and beauty born from complexity”.

The Unseen and the Unspoken: Carolina Vasquez.

In Fine Arts, Interview, New Media on January 7, 2011 at 10:11 pm

Visit Carolina’s website at www.carolisides.com or Twitter her @carolisides.

Image still from 'Farren of the Sea'.

Carolina Vasquez is an artist of many talents. When browsing her website the viewer will encounter an impressive array of multi-media artworks, be they stop-motion animation, digital video, theatre projection, serial web streaming or drawing – and the list goes on. What with such an eclectic practice that spans the introspective and personal life of the artist alongside numerous group-based productions, Vasquez produces artwork that is ultimately imbued with a fervent sense of human narrative and a strong community spirit.

Born in the Dominican Republic and moving to Miami at a young age, Vasquez first expressed her ideas using black and white photography and spent her school-day afternoons developing prints in the darkroom. This led to experiments with various photographic techniques, from cyanotypes and stereoscopic photography, to appropriating more unconventional materials such as glass and wood to print her images on. The progression of using still images to those that formed movement therefore seemed a logical progression; Vasquez began with flickbooks and from this advanced towards digital video. She went on to explore her practice professionally at Florida State University in Tallahassee and at Slade School of Art in London.

'Home'.

Vasquez is concise about the concepts and themes that drive her to produce artwork: “A central theme for my work is people – who they are, where they’re from and how they communicate.” This is reflected in her body of work, be it the fictitious habits of a young boy in the animation Farren Of The Sea, in the Youtube ‘video diary’ of hippy musician Hatty Rainbow or in the documentation of Malawians in Play On Sound. Another of Vasquez’s videos, 25 Years in Six Minutes and Fifteen Seconds, is a digital accumulation of the artist’s life and the people surrounding her; it is a documentation of one person’s existence, allowing the viewer to absorb numerous aspects of her own life. As Vasquez herself states, “I’m always interested in people’s memories and stories and all my work relates directly or indirectly to this”.

Image still from 'Play On Sound'.

A return to stop-motion animation with a strong emphasis in the sound design is the means by which Vasquez is currently expressing themes of ‘the unseen and the unspoken’ as a Masterclass Artist for the Women’s Arts Association. However, it is her fascination with memory and narrative that has led her to begin the project based around already existing, more familial environments rather than specialized animation sets:

“…This time I want to delve into the small worlds that already exist – the corners of a room, small spaces under the stairs, or even a lonely tree in a field that usually gets overlooked or unseen. I will create a set that blends into the existing environment and make it a liveable space for my character”.

These unsung dimensions are the basis for the animation’s narrative and will be expounded by equally unusual audio; obscure noises that pervade spaces but are commonly ignored. The interactions of Vasquez’s protagonist with these seemingly foreign sounds are intended to emphasise the unseen and unspoken worlds that only ever exist as background, brought necessarily to our attention via wonderfully contradictory digital means; this perhaps is where the fascinating nature of such a project will come into its own: with the omnipresent nature of digital video – and subsequently the internet – allowing a wider audience to experience the previously unseen and unspoken.

Image still from 'Merry Christmas', one of the animation shorts created by Vasquez for the Women's Arts Association.

In addition to previously being commissioned as a photographer and designer for Westminster Abbey and the Saatchi gallery in London, Vasquez has also contributed to several localised, community-based projects; as Project Manager for Bloc’s DIY Kenya she was heavily involved in organising Welsh Artists travelling to Kenya to take part in Makers Faire Africa during Summer 2010. Other video projects include theatrical trailers for ‘Llwyth’ and ‘Measure for Measure’ Sherman Cymru, Strike 25 for theatre company Mess Up The Mess, alongside working with the CBBC on OOglies and various primary schools to workshop innovative and educational animations.

There is a lot more to Carolina Vasquez’s career than the artworks, videos and workshops that have been discussed above; the experimental and diverse nature of her artistic practice is reflected in the numerous collaborative and community-based projects that she initiates and takes part in. She is a multi-media artist in the true sense of the term.

Visit Carolina’s website at www.carolisides.com or Twitter her @carolisides

Third Year/Degree Show Practical Analysis.

In Fine Arts on May 13, 2010 at 7:41 am

Still from 'Miriam' 2010

Recently I went back over some footage that I had filmed in Osnabrueck, Germany, when myself and fellow student Lucy Thompson went to take part in the annual media arts festival there. The footage was of Lucy packing to leave the night before our departure and my focus was for the duration of filming on her face and hands. This is the first instance of me documenting a person in a way that directly associates with my method of filming now; honing in and focusing on certain aspects of people’s physical demeanour’s in order to try and extract something more internal, as if attempting to analyse their state of mind. It was ironic then that I paid no attention to the footage once returned to the UK, and only when watching it in retrospect could I laugh at us in our hostel room as I pressed record and hummed the song Getting To Know You to myself. I swear that I didn’t even know this when I named my December assessment statement ‘Getting To Know You’; it’s almost as if my mind was trying to offer me clues from whatever subconscious depths I possess, most of them in vain until at least six months later.

My artwork has always been about the other person. Gillian Wearing phrased it so well when she said, “I thought what I had to say was pretty limited and I could learn from listening to and observing other people” (in Corrin, 1997), as I so often like to quote. However, it is also said that no matter what you portray in an artwork it will also say something about the artist as well, as I suppose is inevitable with most tasks that we commit on this earth; but I’ll return to that in a moment. For now it might make sense to quickly refer to my artistic inclination prior to university, especially since the themes within my work have been far more consistent than I initially suspected.

The focal point of my painting and drawing practice revolved around the human portrait, in particular the faces of those that sat for me. I also had a fascination for hands and skin, as well as the physical, muscular line that a human could be seen to form when closely observed. I used to draw the school jazz band and my friend when she practiced her saxophone during otherwise non-eventful lunch breaks; it is amusing now to think that a video I produced of the very same friend years later geared my work in the direction that now constitutes the majority of my Recital project. My dissertations during this time were based around the concept of ‘truth’ when regarding the human form and how it’s portrayal by certain artists revealed massive and yet simultaneously intricate, emotional intimacies; Lucian Freud, John Singer Sargent and Egon Schiele were my main points of reference. My own painting, however, I found extremely unfulfilling and I was permanently considering my artwork with carelessness and frustration .

Video was the medium that allowed me to evade this attitude of pointlessness towards my artwork, a value that prior to my artistic discovery of the moving image was beginning to contribute to my overtly existential view of art as unnecessarily self-indulgent. It’s probably worth mentioning that I still consider this somewhat of a fact; the only difference now is my own enjoyment (and therefore my own self-indulgence) of this. No wonder, then, that I only feel the drive to observe and document others around me in the world; in this way I can attempt to convince myself that the indulgence is less prominent and it’s purpose more substantial. Whether I succeed in this is up to the audience.

My observations of people through the camera began with my need to make my experiences with them more permanent. What is recorded through the camera and projected onto a screen may just be a simulation, but it is a physical representation of a memory that we can hold onto for as long as the medium lasts. A tempting offer in comparison to the vague fuzz that is human memory. My anxieties that for various reasons have manifested themselves since childhood relate strongly to loss and instability, and as a result of this I have claimed Cardiff as my only home and my relationships here form what to me is a strong family unit. This was the driving force behind my videos Nintendo Night and Manipulation as well as, I later came to see, Emily. How this previously (somewhat subconscious) approach developed towards my latest film Miriam I will go on to discuss in more detail later. Firstly I must address certain obstacles that have surprised me along the way.

The most significant hurdle (and certainly the one loaded with the greatest amount of irony) is the fact that I had (have?) a terrible relationship with feature films and television, in that generally – until I could get away with it no longer – I used to avoid them like the plague. I have an amazingly short attention span. How then have I come to be a person making a go of being a video artist? Who knows. The only way I can defend myself on the matter is that video fulfils for me everything that I found absent in painting; you can scrutinize the physicality of a person whilst at the same time digging deep into their emotional state of mind, you can draw out intimacies and idiosyncrasies in a way that is so unique and, dare I say it, true in comparison to a painting. This doesn’t mean that I am convinced of the ‘truth’ that some consider the lens to behold; like Wearing I am conscious of the verite claims of documentary and the subjectivity of the maker. After all, video is just a literal representation of a hyperreality, “substituting signs of the real for the real itself” (Baudrillard, in Poster, 2001:70); a simulation of our physical reality and a sometimes superior imitation of human memory. But despite this neither am I a reveller of Bergman, or put more bluntly of symbolism that drips from every frame of a film. Whilst I have no doubt that films such as these are capable of pertaining to whatever human truths they wish to discuss, the theatricality and poise of such an approach often leaves me stone cold.

This is not to say that I hate all films. I don’t hate film at all; I am just very specific about what I personally find worth watching. After all, movies are on the same bandwidth as art when it comes to subjectivity. Because of these issues I have to closely consider my reasons for exhibiting my video as a large-scale projection with tiered seating; the lighting will also reflect that of the theatre or cinema.

The first reason for this decision stems from my last assessment piece The Recital, a video that I now consider clumsy and unsuccessful in expressing the intimacy I had intended to convey. I exhibited it on a small television screen in a curtained off area of the space workshop, with only ten seats allowed for the audience. The limit to the scale of the space and size of the audience was originally intended to create a more intimate environment, to make the video more of a personal experience. I don’t think this worked, no doubt due to the fact that the video in my opinion was rife with flaws (discussed more in my summary on page 15). What I have come to realise since December is that despite the cinema projection being stereotypically more formal than a television screen, the sheer scale of the image being projected makes the scrutiny of the performer so intensified as to somehow imbue the experience with a higher level of intimacy. The performers face, magnified dozens of times so as to fill the screen, becomes inescapable and the viewer must examine them; if an object is at that scale in front of you, you will notice so much more of their little habits and expressions as they work through their performance. The second reason behind this method of exhibiting the video is that I am in awe of the performer and I am struck by the music that they produce; my desire is to fulfil the brilliance of it by documenting it through video and using it to encompass an entire space.

The cinema setting is not instigating a transformation of my video’s characteristics to those of a feature film. Miriam may portray a recital and I am wary of boring my audience but it is not intended as pure entertainment; rather, as Douglas Gordon says, for enjoyment: “Enjoyment is in your head but entertainment stops when the curtain closes. Enjoyment can be when you go to sleep and remember things, when you’re falling asleep and when you’re waking up, your reflection, and your memory” (in Ferguson, 1996). If my aim was to market it as entertainment I wouldn’t include the repetition of Miriam’s recital – a technique that was inspired long ago by the monologue repetition in Bergman’s Persona (so it certainly isn’t for entertainments sake) – or her warm-up on the cello which, although necessary to the performance of a recital is not imperative to the recital as an event itself; generally a solo performer does not embark on a range of warm-up exercises while the audience sits before them in anticipation.

The major question that now remains is of course what the major themes are that form the concepts behind my videos. For the sake of practicality I will here refer to my Recital Trilogy videos only, those being Emily, Rhiannon and Miriam, although more often than not there is a strong continuity running through the entirety of my work anyway. All of these and the rest of my videos have been previously discussed in more depth so here I shall offer a quick summation of what drove me to make the work. The dominant themes are:

Human expression: this term can be taken both of two ways; ‘expression’ as in a creative outlet that allows a person to express something more personally internal; or ‘expression’ as in literal facial expressions or gestures, which themselves reflect a persons state of mind. Musicians embrace and embody both of these to a dramatic extent, allowing the audience to gain insight into their involvement in the performance.

Intimacy: I am aware that this is quite a broad term; I mean it to encompass the various types of relationship that develop when filming a subject or when participating as the subject. In order to begin confronting the idea of onscreen intimacy the topic of the recorded performer needs to be addressed; after all, how could a video of a recital be more intimate than watching a musician perform in person? And herein lies the paradox: the complete lack of intimacy that mass-produced DVD’s and videos are inevitably steeped in is the definitive way for making the experience of a film more personal and intimate. The clinical and repeated production of the product allows it to be experienced multiple times and in an array of places; those who would not generally get to see a music recital are therefore able to experience one, albeit a simulation. But it is also its simulative nature that emphasizes the intimacy between director and performer, performer and music, music and audience, performer and audience; because the recital of the musician has been documented through the camera lens the person controlling the construction of the video can hone in on aspects of the subject that generally may go unnoticed. By closing the focus of the lens in on Miriam’s eye or nose, for instance, I am hoping to capture an expression that reflects her concentration on the music and on her internal state of mind. Even for those who regularly experience live music such close observation may be missed simply because of the physical proximity of the audience to the musician. My aim with Miriam, as with all my Recital videos, is to examine and extend this physical closeness in order to gain intimacy on a more emotional level, be this through the facial expressions and gestures of the performer or through the music itself.

Picnolepsia: Let me begin here by warning that Paul Virilio, the French theorist who coined the term ‘picnolepsia’, is not the most adept at describing in prose what it actually is. After reading his Aesthetics of Disappearance I quickly returned to the essay in which I discovered the term, Timothy Allen Jackson’s Towards A New Media Aesthetic. Jackson explains what Virilio chose not to by using the computer game Mortal Combat as an example; those playing the game are transferred into another kind of ‘reality’ and to their immediate physical reality they become a daydreamer transfixed in another world. Their concentration is what permits this. So the picnoleptic can be found in the home, in the cinema, in the classroom; pretty much anywhere, but for me a prime example of the concept exists in the performing musician. As I know from playing an instrument myself and as many people all over the world will know, when practicing a piece of music unless already distracted it is impossible to focus on anything else. When filming, this intensity allowed me as an observer to step closer so that I was almost ‘in’ the performance rather than an object external to it.

The musical recital: As I have just stated, the musical recital is perfect for what I want to achieve in an artwork; a musician deep in practice is not only going to be more used to performing but also less aware of the camera as they recite, allowing me to hone in on them in my efforts to achieve the facial and gestural intimacy that I feel the need to portray. The universality of music is also something that I believe is approachable to any kind of audience; again, whilst I do not want Miriam or my other videos to be considered entertainment, I have no intention of making my work so impenetrable that it is only accessible to those few who possess the ability to contextually scrutinize it. The cathartic nature of music also plays an important role in my Recital videos; for me the obliteration of the ‘real’ world that playing the piano offers is an important therapy. People who take up music as their lifetime’s vocation must do so for equally (or far more) imperative needs, just as those who choose to make other forms of art do. Because of this relationship that people are capable of grasping with music I cannot see how filming a musician deep in practice could not be intimate in terms of ‘interior’ as well as ‘exterior’. And if the audience relates to both the performer as a human and the performance as a piece of music, then a further intimacy has been gained.

My choice of exhibiting Miriam for the degree show makes sense to me for many reasons: firstly, it is technically the last Recital video to have been completed during the available time on my university course, so chronologically it makes a lot of sense to exhibit this over, say, Emily. Also, because it is the last one (at least for now) it appears to be the most successful in portraying the themes I have just discussed above; through filming Emily, Molly and Rhiannon previous to Miriam I slowly deduced what it was that I needed to achieve in terms of visual imagery, sound quality and readable concepts. I needed to get closer, to zoom in on her as much as possible and again and again in order to create a video worthy of her as a performer and of the piece of music. Now all I can hope is that the audience will find the piece to be articulately expressed as an artwork.

I can end only by thanking those who have allowed me to intrude upon this intimate relationship between themselves and their art-form; for allowing me to subject them to “the relentless gaze” and the “unflinching eye” (Rees, in Parker, 2000) of the camera and consequently of the future audiences that will view the performance as a simulative event. Each video that I have made is just as much theirs as it is mine, if not more so.

Video Summary 2009-2010

In Fine Arts, Video on May 12, 2010 at 9:32 am

The following summaries are intended as contextual statements about each video; they are what I would present to an audience in order to briefly inform them of the concepts behind my videos and what these these concepts have developed from. I have also only covered the videos that strongly emphasize my conceptual and technical progress throughout the year. Almost all of these artworks – in particular the Recital videos – have been discussed more thoroughly in previous blogs; these are intended as a quick summary only.

A to B.

16:9
6’56

A to B was my first video of the academic year and I consider it the catalyst for my current Recital Project. Following several viewings of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker my interest in the idea of observing the observer was growing, as was the idea of motion as subjects remain stationary (of course it is actually the subjects that are moving and their surroundings that are stationary, but that is not the visual nature of the image we see on the screen). This theme of motion was one that had interested me for some time due to Jun Ichikawa’s Tony Takitani, where the camera is constantly tracking past the occurring scenes as if to represent the passage of time as a person remains internally stuck. The mine-cart scene in Stalker is a more literal depiction of motion than Ichikawa’s but is equally metaphorical; for me it personifies the concept of an internal as well as external event as the three men travel into The Zone. My solution to obtaining the visual illusion of stationary subjects surrounded by an an environment apparently rushing by was the Cardiff City Sightseeing bus due to it’s lack of a roof on the top floor. Whilst the video is lacking in any internal, emotional metaphors it did spark my interest in terms of the observing individual and how their concentration allows me to scrutinize them more closely; as shall be seen in the following videos, through my dissertation research I came to know this concentration as the state of picnolepsia, a concentrated daydream that transfers a persons mind into another kind of temporary ‘reality’.

Nintendo Night.

4:3
7’15

Nintendo Night was a video that involved a lot of retrospection on my part because at the time I wasn’t aware of the concepts driving me to make it. What became evident was my desire to really hone in on people in order to convey them in a way we do not usually get to experience; I wanted to film Laura and Gemma in a way that I didn’t usually see them, to pick up on their habits and idiosyncrasies in order to get to know them a little better (hence the title of my statement from last assessment), inspired no doubt by my viewings of Cassavetes’ Faces and Leconte’s Le Batteur du Bolero. What interests me now about this is how the camera allowed such intimacy despite being an object that is technically in the way between myself and the other person; the simulation that I make by pressing record, instead of hindering my approach somehow allows me to become a part of the private intimacies that my subjects commit. Since making the video and since being interviewed about my work I have realised that the drive behind this way of filming is my attempt at making my experiences with these people more permanent. This sounds obvious at first as technically committing anything to film and video is making it more physically permanent than memory, but there is a strong emotional pull for me towards attempting to secure both people as human beings and people as ‘home’. My video of Laura and Gemma was me relishing my familial intimacy with them.

Recitals.

4:3
4’25

This video is what I class as the first ‘Recital’ video that I made, although the theme of the picnoleptic receded somewhat in this and a few others that followed. By asking Laura and Gemma to recite things from memory I wanted to examine their relationship with the camera and how it either suffered or flourished when their concentration was fixed on it, or rather on themselves being watched by it. The intention was to reveal habits and expressions that were unique to that situation and to each of them individually. The video itself seems inconsequential but it had an important part to play in spurring on my interest in the ‘performing’ human: a person who is aware of the camera and whose actions are almost shaped by it. This theme eventually intertwined with the idea of the concentrating – or the picnoleptic – performer in the form of musicians.

Manipulation.

4:3
4’25 (looped)

I consider this video as standing alone amongst the rest of my work, despite it continuing many of the themes that I did and still do work with. Firstly, I presented it as a projected installation rather than on the big screen; the screen was very small and in line with the base of the wall; it was also in the installation room and on a constant loop. All of these things were intended to heighten the intimacy of the setting and the sensitivity (for me) of the subject matter. The content of the video was my own voice dubbed over fellow student Lucy Thompson’s face as she mouthed the excerpt I was reciting; over this I placed increasingly loud sounds that I obtained from around my home. The extract itself is from a piece of writing I wrote in my first year of university; it pinpoints the time when I had gone home from university only to be violently refused a home, an event that was emotionally problematic for me as the rest of my direct family were unobtainable. I came back to Cardiff and spent the Easter holidays on my own; I made the piece of writing that I am speaking from in Manipulation the main occupation of my time, entitling it The Fifteenth Floor after my home at Ty Pont Hearn (included in independent study). This may all sound irrelevant to my videos as a whole but I see it as being highly important in my reasons for making videos at all; the experience, which was slightly unsurprising and familiar, developed my already present anxieties into a condition that I am still living alongside today. My videos as I said before are my catharsis, my way of extending my experiences with those I am fond of and admire in preparation for inevitable loss. This is why asking Lucy Thompson to read my extract was significant (she is in fact the only person ever to have read it), as was the obtaining of sounds from a domestic environment (the attainment of which was inspired by Tacita Dean’s Foley Artist installation). For the audio I was strongly inspired by David Lynch’s Eraserhead and I used them as a sonic representation of sounds I often experience as well as from a more metaphorical perspective. Like Lynch I wanted to use the audio not just as a background soundtrack but as one of the integral aspects of the piece, an approach that is now prominent in my musical recital videos. The dominance of the audio was also inspired by Elia Kazan’s On The Waterfront, in which a confession that Marlon Brando makes is overpowered by the whistle and pounding of the dockyard, promoting massive frustration and yet emphasizing the dismay and anger contained with the situation.

The Recital.

4:3
16’40

The Recital was my assessment piece for December 2009. By using two cameras I was hoping to reveal more of each persons facial idiosyncrasies and through this something of their relationship with the camera; by asking them to recite things from memory and in their own home I was hoping to examine their internal thoughts and state of mind, thereby creating an intimate video that expressed the character of each individual. While I think that it did succeed in this to some extent I do not think that the video was conceptually successful as a whole. At the time I thought the memories that surfaced in each recital would be indicative of extremely personal intimacies and that the two cameras would intensify the scrutiny of each subject; instead the piece to me just seems invasive and sometimes uncomfortable. Whilst their discomfort at being in front of the camera was an integral part of the piece, I found that it held any of the intimacy that was present in previous videos at arms length. In retrospect, even though I did not initially know the musicians I went on to film, I ‘got to know’ them far better than The Recital allowed me to ‘get to know’ those I was already on familiar ground with. I now consider this the result of my confusion regarding the nature of the recital that I was searching for; since filming musicians I have discovered the need to film those who are performing but while entirely engrossed in their performance (as Laura was in Nintendo Night) instead of being dominated by the camera and addressing it directly; this creates an ease with the subject that allows you to hone in on them and gain the intimacy I am constantly searching for. Despite all this, however, The Recital was a useful video for me to make; it taught me that I needed to look closer to find what I was looking for in my observation of people as well as developing my technical skills with audio and editing.

Emily.

4:3
15’58

Quite ironically Emily was a desperate attempt to just give me something to do with video; once the idea was planted in my head, however, I wouldn’t drop the matter with her until she let me film. For many reasons now this video is significant in my work and to me personally, and whilst there are other videos that I have gone on to make that I am equally satisfied with, Emily encompasses all the themes that I aim to portray in my work. It portrays Emily as she recites her Ryo Noda performance but it also shows her warming up, a fascination of mine as it is the private task of a professional musician; I hoped that through portraying the warm-up its usually ‘hidden’ status would give the video another level of intimacy. I also filmed Emily as she prepared for the practice, her pre-performance routine as it were. All this occurred in my own home, the problems associated with which were still manifesting themselves in my attitude towards it at the time. Emily stayed with me in the house for about 3 days which along with my brother made the place bearable and even enjoyable; by portraying it as Emily’s home in the video I think I was celebrating the filling of this house with her presence and with the presence of the music. Ultimately to an audience the video will probably appear as a documentation of a musician practicing in their home, which is entirely suitable, but to me it is a video that rids my home of the ghosts I was associating with in Manipulation. It also paved the way for my following Recital Project.

Molly.

4:3
10’13

Molly was my first attempt at filming a musician – in this case a singer – since Emily. I now understand how difficult a process it is to advertise and organize events with people outside of the art school, but after many disappointments and much frustration Molly was the first one to stick to our agreement; for this I am extremely grateful because even though I am not pleased with the video as a whole it told me what direction I needed to be facing in my work. I couldn’t stick to the theme of home that was present in Emily because I love my home here in Cardiff and so there is no need for an external presence to come and fill it. Her presence as a stranger is obvious in the video, whereas Emily’s preparation previously gave it the intimate level that I could never achieve with Molly as an artwork. So from making this video I learned to either continue filming friends in their home environment (or in my own) or to stick to some of my themes but on a different route: the route of strangers and their genuine ‘practice’ environments. I chose the latter because, despite the difficulties of arranging each event, the prospect of meeting new performers and experiencing their skills greatly excited me. So at this point my work shifted from the homely environment to focus solely on the themes of recital, performance, music and the internal expressions that can be gained from these, both from the point of view of the performer and the audience.

Rhiannon.

4:3
14’38

Rhiannon is the second video in my Recital Trilogy, Emily being the first and Miriam the last. By placing these videos alongside one another to form a trilogy is not a claim insisting on their having to be viewed together. It is more of an indication of the three videos that have successfully represented the themes I am attempting to portray more than any other work I have done. As a musician Rhiannon was a force to be reckoned with; her voice really could blow your head off. My choice of the Samuel Barber piece over the others that she performed for me was to convey the gentleness that such a powerful voice can possess. Like all my recital videos I show Rhiannon warming up and breathing and, as in Emily, I black out the screen as the sounds she makes begin to emerge, albeit in a more constant and simpler way than I had done previously. As before this is intended to allow the audience to focus on the quality of the sounds. Whilst I consider Rhiannon a general success there are aspects that I would change if I got the chance to film her again; I don’t think the camera is zoomed in enough, for instance, and the room was so big that it lacked an intimate feel. These were both approaches that I rectified in Miriam.

Miriam.

4:3
18’00

Despite making The Dark Studio after Miriam I consider Miriam to be the last video that represents my current Recital Project, at least for the duration of my time at university. It is the result of the deductions and additions that I have deemed necessary since making Emily, Molly and Rhiannon. As with Rhiannon we recorded the video in the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama but this time in a very small practice room with a window at eye-level (a similar layout to Emily and very important for the light of the video). I have also known the cellist Miriam Wakeling for some time, albeit not on intimate terms. The familiarity that we did have, however, seemed to make the filming more relaxed and Miriam seemed very poised when faced with a camera at close range. I made it my aim to really concentrate as closely as I could on her facial features and later on her hands and body for the manipulated repetition. The small scale of our environment encouraged this, as did Miriam’s engrossment in her warm-up and performance. Her concentration, her ‘picnoleptic state’ if I want to continue with previous terminology, allowed me to observe her in a way that feels more concentrated than previous videos.

Whilst my last few months of making work have been quite intense and direct in that I haven’t really done anything but make videos, since finishing them I have begun to consider references in more depth. Jayne Parker is the most obvious figure to refer to; her work encompasses both the intimacy and the recital aspect of my work in a way that is gentle but passionate. Like her my aim is also to not use music as a backing track but to include it as an integral part of the artwork; Miriam’s person when playing would not possess the idiosyncrasies that it does without Crumb’s sonata, and equally this particular performance of the sonata would not exist without Miriam as a performer. Person and music are intertwined as one entity during any performance; what I have attempted to do with Miriam is document this as closely as possible, to portray the unfolding of the music and the person that executes it. Their state of mind during the performance, whilst always being rooted the picnoleptic shift from one ‘reality’ or state to another, can hopefully be spied through the movement and habits of their facial expressions, hence why the first depiction of the performances are always a constant shot of the performers face alone. The following manipulated repetition is intended to show the body’s more general involvement with the music by drawing attention to the complexity of its construction and recital. In addition to this the warm up that the video begins with is just as integral to its format as the ‘final’ performance because it is what makes the performance possible; without the practice we would not have the music. It is also a chance for the viewer to enjoy the timbre of the instrument rather than just focusing on a piece of music; I want them to enjoy the qualities of the sounds that the cello is capable of producing through Miriam.

A quote that has deeply resonated with me regarding my work is Anthony Howell’s comment on Jayne Parker: “she works with the exterior to produce as essay on the interior.” (32:2000). This notion summarizes my aim nigh on perfectly. To use an external event, a performance, as a key into the internal formation of both the performers mindset and the performance that they are producing. It is from this that intimacy can hopefully be gained through attempting to observe such a person in such an event. Whilst I am constantly aware of the simulated nature of video, I am hoping to allow an audience to view a performer and a piece of music in a way that, although not alien, is somewhat different to our experience of the two things in our day-to-day lives.