Sketchbook work has always been a large part of my creative process, it’s a visual aid I use for ideas and inspiration. A lot of the work never sees the light of day, but each piece lends itself to my journey, and ultimately to the finished piece of work. I tend to start a project with too many ideas, and I find that giving each idea a small outlet helps me to separate the weaker ones, and oftentimes brings unexpected outcomes.
I was told by a tutor recently that there is a performative element to my work, which has been consistent since my first year on the fine art degree. This is something that has happened organically and has never been an outwardly conscious decision from day one when creating a piece. The journey from idea, to sketchbook, to end product is one of research and reflection, but always centres around myself. That is not to say I am self centred, but I find that my work takes on more meaning if it consists of my own experiences and feelings, isn’t that the crux of art? In order to understand ones own emotions and convey them to an audience and hope that something will resonate with another human being going through the same life experiences. So I usually end up being part of my work, whether it be my voice, my words or in the physical sense.
Experimenting with Dadaism and poetry
I experimented with a lot of collage during the second year, manipulating photographs and juxtaposing images looking at the works of John Stezaker, who’s work I had the pleasure to see first hand at the Whitworth art gallery in Manchester. Because I knew I wanted to incorporate poetry into this collection I started reading about Dadaism. The art of this movement spanned literary and sound media, including collage, poetry, cut up writing and sculpture. Dadaist artists expressed their discontent towards violence, war and nationalism. It was a particularly political movement that focussed on the artists feelings towards the times they were living in.
Selected works by Kurt Schwitters 1887-1948
This movement resonated with me after reading many articles about the demolition of the Thwaites Tower which had been a long standing landmark for the people of Blackburn, and there was definitely an air of discontent and anger from the general public. I am a member of a social media group ‘Blackburn now and then’ on facebook, and the general consensus was one of shock and loss, and brought about many conversations between strangers about their own personal memories evoked by this news. I began to experiment by gathering all the articles I could find on-line from local newspaper coverage and printed them out with the idea of taking a Dadaist approach in my sketchbook. I used the old tea bag method to age and colour the bright printer paper for the historical feel, and used only the words in the articles to create a piece of poetry amongst the headlines. This idea had been brought about by the blackout poetry I had originally experimented with using old books and markers, which can be found in ‘A creative process part one’ blog.
‘Now it’s a shadow of Blackburn’s heritage,
Thwaites tower, Iconic as the fabric of the town,
The aluminium clad structure, part of the heart of Blackburn,
A landmark to it’s community,
But regeneration brought demolition to the towns skyline,
Brick by brick, from the top,
Sadly now, the time for change is growing,
Bringing down the historic brewery, in a sad, nostalgic moment.’
Experimenting with photography and poetry
The demolition of the tower brought people together under an umbrella of reminiscence and indeed sparked my own childhood memories. I began to make regular visits to the site to take photographs of the process after being inspired by a trip to the Museum of modern art in New York where I had seen a series of photographic work by German conceptual artists, Bernd and Hilla Becher. The Becher’s focussed their work on disappearing industrial architecture around Europe and North America, each piece holding a documentary style approach, and taken in black and white. Their work was eye catching, exhibited in sets of typologies, grouping together several photographs of the same type of structure. The series of work at the MOMA consisted of cooling towers entitled ‘Anonymous sculpture’ (1970) and features 30 images curated purposefully in a uniformed formation.
The Becher’s focussed many years of work and travel to create an array of heterogeneous building types all classified by reference to function. It was a nod to the increasingly neglected relics of the industrial era, overlooked beauty, and the relationship between form and function. I was struck by the underlying sense of loss that emanates from the photographs, a lost world of architecture and history now erased and how it suited the sense of direction I wanted to take my own narrative in. I decided to use this inspiration when thinking about the images I had collected over months of demolition of Thwaites tower, and bring them all together in a grid formation. Each photograph holding a line of poetry with thoughts about my father to evoke the sense of loss I felt upon each visit to the tower during its demolition process. My father passed away many years ago now, but he worked as a brewer for Thwaites throughout my childhood and early adolescent years and I wanted to portray a sense of melancholic reminiscence.
The photographs had started out as colour pictures, all taken with an iPhone and manipulated with a photographic application, removing the colour and muting the sharpness at different levels, to enhance the overall mood I was trying to create alongside the poetry. During a recent critique, it was brought to my attention that not all of the images fit to the photograph size, taking away from the feeling of uniformity which I wanted to display, so if I was to decide to include these series of works in my final submission, I would need to think about how to restructure the images to create this.