It is my third week at the Museum, and it has been a busy one before I leave on the 17th of October. This week I visited the Museum Collections Centre in Duddeston, home to all the objects not currently on site at Museums across Birmingham, I ran a ‘Big Print’ workshop on the 4th of October in my studio as one of many activities taking place within the Museum as part of Fun Palaces, and I have been working on my ideas for the Final work.
During my time at the Museum I have been carrying out research into pieces held at the Museum to generate a new piece of work in response to what I have seen. Taking inspiration from artists such as Hans Sebald Beham and Helen Chadwick who have used a circular shape within their work, I have been playing with this circular form as a basis to my work. When looking at these artists I became aware of the effect the circular form had on me as a viewer, the shape draws your attention into the image having associations with an old fashioned peep hole of which to view others through.
Here is a piece I am working on that incorporates this circular frame:
I have been playing with the use of coiled newsprint paper to form a circular surface on which to screen print upon, I am interested in the distortion of imagery to create a closer inspection from the viewer. During my residency I have seen many images that observe women carrying out certain actions from bathing to changing to sleeping, all private and quite intimate acts however, they are on display for us to observe. It is the subject of women and their image which I think I will focus on as the basis to my piece.
I wanted to learn more about how other artists have used photography within their work to stage certain acts and how they use technology to distort the images they work with. Two artists that do this are Mohammed Bourouissa and Semyon Faibisovich, artists who have pieces held at the Museum Collections Centre (MCC). It was a great opportunity to view the pieces in person and see the techniques used by the artists.
Semyon Faibisovich’s images examine contemporary urban life in his home town of Moscow and particularly the lives of those at the bottom of the social ladder. Using a mobile phone, Faibisovich takes photographs of people on the streets and uses these low resolution images to make his oil paintings, enlarging the images to life size and then painting over the image creating pixelated distortions. This was clear when up close to the works entitled Repose, from At the Stop series, 2009 and Sick on the Way?, 2008 from the same series.
Mohammed Bourouissa is an Algerian photographer who uses staged photography to create images that appear real, often depicting moments of physical or emotional tension through the careful arrangement of people and their gestures. They leave you questioning what has happened in the image or what will happen, I like the suspense he creates leaving you wanting more. I saw La rencontre (The Meeting) and Le toit (The Roof), 2005-2007 during my visit to the MCC and both looked at this tension between the characters depicted.
After viewing these specific pieces I spent the rest of my time exploring the vast number of objects and works stored within the centre, it is very easy to get carried away! These are just some of the things I came across:
The Museum Collections Centre (MCC) has a huge natural history collection, with examples of taxidermy ranging from delicate butterflies to a brown bear! Although not relevant to my practical work it was fascinating to see such an array of animals dating back from the 1800’s.
The MCC holds open afternoons for the public on the last Friday of every month and are open for pre-arranged tours and study days, for more information or to make a booking visit: www.bmag.org.uk/Museum-collections-centre.
Finally, thank you to everyone who came to ‘The Big Print’ drop in session to have a taster of what you can achieve through printmaking. From 11-4pm the studio was full of people experimenting with polystyrene prints and mono printing, some fantastic work was made which people could take home or add to the ‘Big Print’ wall in my studio to remain till the end of my residency.
Next week will be my final as artist in residence at BMAG, it has gone so quickly! I am keen to hold one last printing workshop, this time with adults, taking place on Friday the 17th of October between 12.30-2.30pm. We will be making bookmarks inspired by Edward Burne-Jones intricate woodblock patterns I came across in the collections using a Lino print.
Here is one of Edward Burne-Jones’s designs in the collection originally made for the boarder of a book to get you started:
Whitworth Wallis Artist in Residence
It is coming to the end of my second week here at the Museum and half way through my residency. I have managed to do and see a great deal inside and outside the studio, I’m really enjoying the fast pace of being right in the midst of the gallery meeting visitors, viewing new pieces and trying new things.
On Saturday the 27th September I ran a print making session with the Art class held at the Museum, for children aged 6-11. It was great to show the children all the exciting possibilities of print and see them enjoying the processes, making great finished pieces. We tried three techniques, mono print, a type of Lino print using polystyrene tiles instead of thick Lino and Foilography. Here are some examples of both the children’s and the parent’s pieces who seemed to enjoy it too!
For the second time I visited the print and drawing collections held at the Museum with Fine Art curator Victoria Osbourne. On this occasion I asked to view pieces that focused on the act of observing, I tried to narrow my research upon certain pieces that document an act or tell a particular narrative. I also wanted to look at examples of printing techniques used by artists and how different print methods produce differing images.
I saw a variety of works by Frederick Sandys who was an English Pre-Raphaelite painter, illustrator and draughtsman (1829-1904). Within the collection there are a few of his wood engravings that depict people watching over others. I love his piece entitled The Sailor’s Bride, the image was originally created to illustrate a poem by Marian James. The piece depicts a grieving man who turns up too late, arriving once his beloved has passed away.
Victoria showed me the uncut wood block with Sandys drawing upon, once Sandys had drawn his design onto the block he would give it to W.H Hooper to engrave. It was unusual to see the block as an object itself and gain a sense of how the process works.
This is another of Frederick Sandys wood engravings called Sleep (1863), the tender gaze between the two characters intensifies the melancholic tone of the image which again focuses on death.
These prints are by Edward Burne-Jones, they are wood engravings and tell the story of Psyche and Cupid. The myth tells of the tasks Psyche had to pass so she could be with her true love Cupid. The images are less detailed compared with Sandy’s engravings but I like the use of bold lines that suggest depth and movement.
Finally, one of my favourite prints within the collection is a drypoint etching called Changing by Laura Knight (1926). The subject matter of a woman being observed changing relates to my own interests in documenting those unaware they are being watched, the very personal act of undressing is captured beautifully through the etching process.
In response to this piece I have experimented with creating my own screen prints focussing on the act of undressing.
Next week I am visiting the Museum and Collections Centre with Modern and Contemporary Art Curator Lisa Beauchamp, I will be looking at staged photographical works by Mohamed Bourouissa and paintings by Semyon Faibisovich. Both artists create works that observe the general public using new technologies to capture these characters and situations that unfold.
Come and take a closer look at my work on Wednesday afternoons in my studio, situated in the activity zone, between 1pm – 3pm. Feel free to pop in and ask me about what I am researching or working on as I am keen to talk to visitors to hear their opinions on voyeurism and the act of looking when in the gallery.
Whitworth Wallis Artist in Residence
It’s been a busy first week as Whitworth Wallis Artist in Residence at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, I’ve been moving into my studio, viewing the collections and meeting many members of staff and visitors. My studio is situated in the activity zone on level two, the space itself really suits my practice of observing others although, with the large glass wall I can now be easily observed too sometimes feeling like an artwork myself.
For the next four weeks I am going to be researching, gathering images and experimenting with ideas to make a new piece of work inspired by the collections held at the Museum. I have already had the chance to engage with the vast collection of prints, drawings and paintings held at the Museum and can’t wait for another visit.
My work focuses on the act looking, I like to make pieces that question the viewers participation in this act of observing others becoming aware of our own nosiness when it comes to viewing what people are doing. I stage photographs of people within interior spaces carrying out their everyday actions and turn these into screen prints upon sculptural steel structures that playfully distort the image further making the viewer work to see what is happening.
During the residency I am keen to look at how people interact with the artwork on display as well as each other within the gallery and how they engage in the act of looking. I have been working with some images taken from inside my studio of visitors as they walk or sit outside the glass wall. Here are two quick pieces (see images above) combining digital prints, ink and pencil, can you see the figures?
The images are formed of many horizontal lines similar to contemporary printmaker Christiane Baumgartner’s woodcuts entitled Asphalt 1 and 2, which are currently held in the Museum’s collection. I went to see these pieces with Modern and Contemporary Art Curator Lisa Beauchamp, it was great to get up close to see the time consuming technique which Baumgartner uses to capture quite mundane landscapes.
I have a keen interest in printmaking of all kinds always wanting to learn more and try out new things, this week I have visited the huge print and drawing collection at the Museum with curator of Fine Art Victoria Osbourne. One of the pieces in the collection that struck me was a wood cut by Hans Sebald Beham entitled The Woman’s Bath (1530). The piece shows the private act of women bathing being captured by the artist for the viewer to enjoy, what I liked was the circular shape of the print which makes you want to look closer drawing in your attention.
Next week I will be spending more time researching drawings from the collection that have a narrative, I am interested in those moments where an event between people has been captured by the artist, leaving the viewer to guess what has happened or possibly what will happen next.
My studio is open to the public every Wednesday 1-3pm, feel free to pop in and see what I have been up to. This will also be posted on the blog at the end of every week.
On the 4th of October I will be holding a free print workshop called ‘The Big Print’ between 11am-1pm and 2-4pm. This is part of Fun Palaces, a scheme of cultural events for all to join in across Birmingham – participating venues include the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the REP and The Pen Museum. We will be trying a variety of prints that you can take away on the day, open for all ages. More information can be found on the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery website: http://www.bmag.org.uk/events?id=3422
Whitworth Wallis Artist in Residence