Chinese Brushwork

Excellent Chinese painting workshop with Chun Chao Chiu in Northumbria Paper studio, the room wonderfully named as a ‘paper hatchery’.  It led to two contemplative mornings working with the sense of purposeful craft associated with this painting tradition.  In the first workshop I imagined a series of smoke streams that linked to the last drawing workshop in October. The 2nd part of the workshop was centred around the ‘mounting’ of the original Kozo mulberry paper with a second backing layer with a starch glue.  The glue was made from wheat starch, cooked, thickened and manipulated into a paste and then thinned to make a light glue.  I was struck by the organic nature of all the materials, lack of bleaches and chemicals, plastics or additives of any sort.  This included the tools and raw materials.  There is a big contrast with the western production of white paper, chipboard or photo paper. I wondered if this paper could withstand a cyanotype or other wet chemical photographic process.

Pendulum – Personal Narratives in Education – from Polynesia to Scarborough


tracing circles

fragile finger’s fulcrum –

winter debris


Two recent sessions for the MaFaEd have focused on how personal narratives are constructed.  The first was a response to a workshop led by Christine Egan Fowler developed from work with her students at RoyalGrammarSchool Newcastle and other artist collaborators.  The second was a trip with fellow Northumbria University Students to take part in the Scarborough Winter School.  

Christine’s  workshop asked participants to construct personal maps from scrap materials in the style of the stick charts used by the Polynesian navigators of the Marshall Islands to help construct narratives about their geographies.


I decided to make a three dimensional piece that suggested movement, a map in flux, and travel in more than two dimensions, including time, feeling that my personal geography is a changing thing.


When asked to explain this to Christine and the cohort, I constructed a further narrative about my personal journey to find and construct a new identity from the mess or debris of previous lives and careers.  The stone at the top represented an anchor point, a weight, that held the pendulum, this could be seen as the weight of my conscious self.  Later I wrote the short Haiku style response at the top of the post.

Scarborough Winter School

I attended Scarborough Winter School as a delegate from Northumbria University. This was presented on different levels as firstly,  a response to the history of Scarborough as a centre of radical transformation of art education through the Basic Design workshops for teachers  initially provided by Victor Passmore, Tom Hudson and Harty Thubron in the 1950’s. Secondly it is a direct response to the challenges laid down for art education articulated in the art party conference of 2013 inspired by visual artist Bob and Roberts Smith.


Paper collage by a fellow student

I attended a workshop by Cane Cunnigham called composition that looked at the teaching of the formal elements and the language used to describe them.

The task was to design a abstract piece with two pieces of paper, black and white.  Using only 3 shapes – circle triangle and square.


3D composition showing formal elements

I made a 3D composition. This was critiqued using a formal language word list. We were taught to use this vocabulary to describe the work and at all times remove of dismiss the narrative element. In fact, until prompted to use the language sheet, Most students wanted to talk about the 3D nature of the piece, the relative creativity of the different  ideas.

conposition by fellow student

It made me ask the question – what do we teach? asked in the day conference’s first session. It raised questions about the use of private language, or elite language – is this a right of every student to be able to use this language? Or is it out of date and applicable to a certain sort of abstract formalism only? The degree students responded very warmly to the workshop. Cunningham maintained that this language was inherently universal and expandable to all areas of contemporary practice.

2nd formal sculptures in paper


teaching the language of art


How do those words channel thinking about artwork, positively or negatively?



Llum is the Catalan word for light and Llum BCN is a new festival of light to coincide with the revived feast day of St Eulalia, patron saint of Barcelona.  There for a school visit to Barcelona we encountered the collaborative work of Onionlab and Smow called Dansem amb la llum és (Dance is Light).  This was an extraordinary reanimation of the Placa St Jaume in Barcelona’s historic centre.  The play of light on the building, great energy in the moving light projections and excitement was capped off  by an final sequence that illuminated a great swathe of smoke like giant swirling maps – beautiful.