Friday, 18 November 2016

Inside Reading Prison

 I dragged my family to Reading Prison to see 'Inside' by Artangel.

It was a dark rainy afternoon.

Inside it was dark and gloomy, particuarly in the cells.

A case full of photographs of early inmates was compelling.

The overiding feeling was of oppression and a shock at the small spaces that prisoners were confined in for 23 hours per day.

When allowed out of their cell they were not allowed to see the faces of other prisoners; made to wear a hood.

More recently the prison has been used for young offenders until it closed in 2013.

A stainless steel sink, toilet and mirror.

A metal table and stool.

Enough to test the sanity of the toughest.

Art made in response to the site focussed on light/absence of light, the absence of free running water and letters of separation.

 Oscar Wilde was incarcerated here from 1895 until 1897 for reasons of his sexual orientation.  He wrote De Profundis when finally allowed writing materials towards the end of his stay.

 Nan Goldin's work makes direct reference to the reasons for his incarceration.

Steve McQueens gold mosquito net bathes a cell in light,

and a bird is free to fly in the corridor in work by Gonzales -Torres.

The chapel held the original door to Oscar Wilde's cell. The plinth is the same size as the cell, and from it readings have been given of De Profundis.

I can only wonder what happens next to the building.

"outside the day may be blue and gold, but the light that creeps down through the thickly muffled glass of the small iron-barred window beneath which one sits is grey and niggard. it is always twilight in one's cell, as it is always midnight in one's heart"

Oscae Wilde, De Profundis, 1897

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

a show pops up

My MA course in book art is taking all of my creative juices and squeezing them out of me. Two projects on the go, and this is supposed to be the holidays.

My brain is in overdrive, and I am looking forward to escaping to Scotland next week.

This week we have a 'pop-up' show.

What does this mean?

We ( the book art students and printmaking students)  get the chance to make stuff, curate a show, have a private view and then take it all down again in just 24 hours.

I made a book last night, made it again at 6am today and then popped it at 12.00 in Camberwell.

So how does this work?

Well luckily we had a very experienced curator to oversee the process.

Two scruffy college rooms, 46 students and a lot of prints and books to be arranged appropriately on the old trestle tables and white walls.

I would like to say that it was fun. But we had to stand. So it was not.

People held stuff, and we discussed the themes that might or might not be arising.

My work is a book of 'found poems' in the style of Malcolm Parr's book of the same name from 1972.

Given that I am collecting texts for the re-draft I felt it appopriate to collect sentences from the curation process that I felt my other half would enjoy.

here are a few;

what kind of transition do you want from the floor to the wall?

I'm a big fan of nails and a mallet

Magnets? You are young..... we'll talk you out of that in the next 2 years.....

the other room is architecturally compromised
might this door become a metaphor?

flower arrangers.... lets put blooms in unlikely places....


a seed of a conversation ( between art works)

that seed might grow into something quite rich ...

this dress is becoming more and more generous.... 

 You get the idea.

And then we had to get the work on the walls, paint plinths white, chop the legs off others, and listen while some students had a serious falling out over the height of one work on the wall.

I dreamt of lunch, a cup of coffee, and a quiet night in.

For tomorrow we have a show, a crit, and then we break up for the holidays.


I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

A trip to the small publishers fair

It was expected that I attend the small publishers' fair in London this week as part of my course.

I duly attended ( and enjoyed the experience).

It was a wet, cold and dark day. My anorak leaked.

I was thinking about words as I walked there.

Colonic irrigation ( hydrotherapy by another name)  appeared before my eyes. I moved on swiftly.

You can see my short journey in this short video.


I was expecting a large and glamorous affair. 

But no. This was the world of small publishing; men with beards and trestle tables in Conway Hall. A crowded and friendly event. Nothing fancy. Not even a cup of tea.

There were about 48 publishers represented in all. Some sharing a table, others more luxuriant and spacious. All the books could be handled, and all the publishers were delighted to disucss their work.

First stop Essence Press

I had already discovered the work of Julie Johnstone in my explorations online. Her understated minimalist approach is exactly the feel/look that I  aspire to . Reminiscent of Agnes Martin and Rothko.  

Julie describes her work as 'concerning perception, distillation, and contemplative experience'

I had been contemplating this week what silence looks like; 

Julie has already considered this....

Julie Johnstone- on silence

 It was encouraging to learn that she makes her work at home on an inkjet printer.

Next up was Guy Bigland whose work with words amused me greatly. Playing with text, lists and ideas about four letter words . 

These were all very clever but I found myself wondering how often one might want to read them. The sort of content that suits a coffee table or loo, for quick browsing and then passing on, or for inspiring ideas for one's own projects. I was more impressed with his wealth of ideas than desirous to own his work. They emphasise the banal, which can be entertaining in itself.

text based works by Guy Bigland.

 Two artists that I spoke to used thread in unconventional ways in their work.

Geraldine Dubois uses machine stitching to join pages of her concertina books


and Batool Showghi uses thread to connect pages in her concertina books as  a representation of boundaries, in a similar way to the work of feminist artists, Sotau and Eisennegger,  currently showing at The Photographers Gallery.


Showghi's work explores her cultural heritage, memory, identity and loss. She wants to examine the physical limits that women can experience with regard to cultural and religious boundaries.

 There were many landscape based books, often in concerntina form that drew my attention. Delicate papers requiring a light touch in some cases. 

Clever use of text to create line drawings ; something that I have been experimenting with.

One word books - sold out.

Small Publishers' Fair 2016

And a collection of white goods in 'Still Works' .

Brilliant title.

And finally the most overworked book that I have ever come across, on the subject of the human intestine.

I think they need a quick irrigation.

And I needed some fresh air.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

I'm on the train

This word cloud was created using

It sorts text into a graphic display, giving weight to those words that appear the most often.

I tried some free writing on my way to college yesterday, by writing everything that I thought or felt for 5 minutes without stopping.

It is one way to analyse a situation and get writing when feeling 'blocked'.

It seems that the focus of my train journey to Peckham Rye was mostly about noise.

Itried the exercise again on a walk around the block in suburbia.

This time I spoke to words to my phone as I was on the move, and then downloaded the list.

A bit better; a few leaves amongst the cars and litter....

still some bangs and noises, but I look quite graceful don't you think?

Next stop the countryside, and hopefully more birds and trees.

I'll keep you posted.