NEO:Artists – Artist in Residence : Days 31 through 39

Days 31 – 39, 12th – 19th April, 2017:

It just seems like days are running away at the moment, I suppose when you’re busy time flies.. but not almost 10 days since I last posted! Jhees. Well, you couldn’t guess what I’ve been up to… Printing!! Lots and Lots of printing. Over the past few days, I have actually been completing editions of some of the work I’ve made up here. This is in order to try and make a little money as that stuff is running low, shame it doesn’t grow on tree’s (like I use to think when I was younger!). I’ve created an edition of 7 for the etchings, ‘BANK’ and ‘The Mill’, pictures below:


‘BANK’, Etching – Aquatint, 35 x 45cm, 2017.


‘The Mill’, Etching – Aquatint, 35 x 45cm, 2017.

Why did I choose the Mill and the Bank?
I became interested in the value that these buildings had in society (when they were both fully functioning), how grand and important they must have been and the wealth that came from them. This would have been why they have an interesting architectural value, the bank has this awesome ‘BANK’ sign in the middle, almost out of sight, pretty high up the building. It was this that gave me a real sense of Gotham city as if the bank was from a Batman set.
Here’s an image of the Bank:
Then there was the Mill, red brick, absolutely massive, I think it’s around 25,000 Sq feet. Just a massive building, for sale at 3 Million – wouldn’t even get you an apartment in central London, why not buy yourself a Mill in Bolton. Haha. This building stood out to me, not only because of the sheer size of it but because of how square everything about it is. It’s not tall, it’s wide and very uniform. It caught my attention.
Here’s an image of the Mill:

Now, these prints are the biggest etchings that I have done to date. They take an incredibly long time to ink up and print. Totalling about 2 hours to make a singular print. This has been a true test of patience for me… I got pretty frustrated after the 4/5th print. It’s not the same as seeing what it looks like for the first time!
These etchings were created through the creative process of; deconstruction equals construction. Simply, I took photos of the Bank and the Mill in Bolton as I walked past or around them. I pointed the camera at the same point for each shot enabling me to capture a sense of movement within the images through the shifting and changing perspectives. From these images, I then began picking out points of interest, sections of the photograph that had interesting geometric shapes, or elements that I thought would show the shifting of perspectives well. Windows, Steps, Bricks, Gutters, walls, are all captured within these prints. I began to layer up each of the photographs using tracing paper – this gave me a rough idea of what my print was going to look like. Once I had my design I took it to the etching process… Here’s the video again, in case you want a refresher!
First I started by etching all the lines – this gave me clear boundaries for where I needed to add the Aquatint.

I then went on to add the Aquatint – Here’s the refresher:

I also had a little experiment with both my etching plates and ended up making a smaller edition (Ed of 4) of ‘Emerald City’:


‘Emerald City’, Etching – Aquatint, 35 x 45cm, 2017
Named after precious stones and the relationship I have with architecture (precious) and the deconstruction of time, space and place. These are probably my most favourited prints. I really love the colour and the intricacy of the print itself. I really feel that it gives off a chaotic understanding of the architectural world and the hustle and bustle of city life.

Anyway…

On the 13th of April, I was invited to go on a tour around Bolton’s museum, exhibition space and art collection. I was given the tour by Mathew Watson – Collections Access Officer (Art and Social History). He is such an animated and incredibly knowledgeable man. We walked around the current exhibition and Matthew gave me an in-depth explanation about the entirety of the exhibition: ‘Making Landscape’ which features a selection from 1778 – 2016, including stunning 18th century watercolours to contemporary photographs. There were some incredible works in there and it has definitely inspired a couple of ideas, maybe I might start to create some landscapes??

Matthew spoke a lot about the ‘Mass Observation’ experiment that happened in Bolton, now because I have such bad memory I have to copy and paste in the information below in Grey, if you ever find the time to come to Bolton – you MUST check out this exhibition and give it your support. It’s totally worth it!

Mass Observation:
Mass-Observation was a large-scale investigation into the habits and customs of the people of Britain that was started in Bolton in 1937. Bolton was named “Worktown” by Tom Harrisson.

The project focused on Bolton initially and during the Second World War was enlisted by the Government to monitor public morale in the population as a whole. The project still exists today and the archive is currently held at the University of Sussex.

The founders of Mass-Observation were: Tom Harrisson, an anthropologist who had made a name for himself studying cannibals in the New Hebrides; Charles Madge, at the time a promising poet and a member of a London based artists movement called the Blackheath group; Humphrey Jennings, an artist, poet, historian, translator and film-maker. Also a member of the Blackheath group. Jennings became widely known for the influential war documentaries he made after he left the Mass-Observation.

Between the two World Wars the Mass-Observation founders felt that there was a gap in real knowledge about the lives of ordinary people.

It seemed obvious to go out and study the very different worlds of tribes living in remote places. What happened closer to home was generally taken for granted and probably seemed a little mundane by comparison.

The media generally portrayed the population as having a broad consensus about the issues of the day. The Mass-Observation was formed to test this depiction of reality.

It was also an opportunity for a diverse group with a wide range of interests to work in a new and creative way. Artists and poets influenced by surrealism and socialist ideology worked alongside sociologists and anthropologists to develop a “science of ourselves”.

Many of the observers were middle-class students at Oxford or Cambridge Universities, though there were some working-class people from Bolton itself. Many of the people that joined the team during that time were politically on the left – though the project itself claimed no political allegiance.

The emergence of Fascism in Europe had unsettled the intellectual middle-class and for them the investigation was a way of connecting with a part of society they had no experience of. Many found a certain amount of reassurance that, at least in the North West of England, there was little evidence of a thriving Fascist movement.

The team decided that the best way to understand what real people did and what they thought about the world was to watch and record them as they went about their everyday lives. This was generally without their knowledge, though the team did also conduct surveys.

Tom Harrisson instructed the observers to record hand gestures, hats, clothing and all kinds of minute detail. For instance, observers recorded how many pieces were in a six-penny portion of chips (25 and one sixth!) or the proportion of black to brown shoes worn on the high street.

There were also many volunteer diarists who would write down their day to day observations. They would also be expected to respond to “directives” where they would be instructed to investigate, or give their opinions on a particular subject on a given day.

Harrisson was very interested in public houses, work life, political rallies and so forth. It was these kinds of themes that he asked Spender to observe and photograph.

There was some suspicion about the motives behind the Mass-Observation. Spender experienced directly negative reactions from people who objected to being photographed and made this observation years after the project had finished: “We were called spies, pryers, mass-eavesdroppers, nosey parkers, peeping-toms, lopers, snoopers, envelop-steamers, keyhole artists, sex maniacs, sissies, society playboys.”. Spender was uncomfortable with feeling like he was intruding on peoples’ privacy. These feelings eventually persuaded him to give up journalistic photography for good.

Once the Second World War had begun the project was co-opted by Duff Cooper, Minister of Information. The Mass Observation was utilised to monitor public opinion and morale and to gauge the effectiveness of public information campaigns. The Mass Observation earned the title “Cooper’s Snoopers” from the popular press of the day.

Copied from: http://boltonworktown.co.uk/about/mass-observation

Matthew and I then went on to the Art collections where he showed me a range of different artists and styles although there were many, many watercolour artists! Watercolour is so incredibly beautiful! Reminds me of my grandfathers work

I thought this was truly amazing…

Perspective view of Fonthill Abbey from the south-west
By JMW Turner
1799 (circa)
Watercolour & gouache

Fonthill Abbey was built by this complete eccentric, William Thomas Beckford and because he wanted to live in his castle, he had it built really really fast which meant the main tower actually collapsed, smashing pretty much the rest of the building. However, Turner managed to get 4 different views on the magnificent building before it collapsed.


Mathew also showed me the Humphrey Spender photography collection which was also incredible and really interesting to look at. It’s so interesting looking back into the past through this medium. Here is Matthew Watson in his element:


I’d just like to give a massive thanks to Matthew for giving me some of his time and such a massive massive amount of information on so many different things! Thank you! and If you are able to get to Bolton, please come and check out this amazing collection! It’s beautiful.

Right, back to printing! x