A wonderful word of greek origin, Ekphrasis might be derived from the words ‘out’ and ‘spoken’, but now has definitions that are closer to ‘Poetic Description’.  In theory this could be the description of any object or scene or situation. However poems that are regarded as particularly ‘ekphrastic’ are ones which use the creative description of works of art to develop imaginative and poetic meanings.  The US based Poetry Foundation’s website definition of ekphrasis uses Keat’s Ode to a Grecian Urn as an example of a poet expanding poetic meanings from the figures carved into the ancient ceramic.


What are the examples of this from a more visual starting point?  When artist’s collaborate with poets, or respond to existing poetic texts, then the result can sometimes be defined as illustration. The objectification of the text used in Concrete Poetry gets closer to a fuller hybrid form, balancing the visual and the poetic.  But visual poetry based on pattern or form only,  tends to have a necessary over-simplification that leads, at its most basic, to child like words jammed into the shapes of leaves to celebrate the coming of autumn. The Brazilian artists and brothers de Campos and more recently Ian Hamilton Finlay are familiar examples where work involving text and form harmonise and are more clearly as one.  The former create works that would be recognised by my graphic students who would spot the links to designers like Paula Sher.

Recent work in this area either prioritise the academic such as the research website Poetry beyond text or the collaboration of distinct poets and artists responding to each others very distinct works in different mediums, such as the photographic based practice featured in the light ekphrastic web based journal. Visual artists have tended towards the concrete poetry, where the heavy handed fact of the physical letters and words created often very large in white gallery spaces makes only creative signage, Laurence Weiner, Tracey Emin, Martin Creed are perhaps examples. Mark Titchener’s work is the apotheosis of this tendency where words lose meaning in the demandingly emphatic pattern making.

John Kippin’s work that uses a single text line or word to engage a poetic response to his photographic work, particularly works like hidden and nostalgia for the futureare particularly successful in terms of a ‘visual ekphrasis’, if that term can be used.

I think that this is what I would like to aim for in the next group of works – a blend of text and image that is neither: ‘Graphics’ nor ‘illustration’ nor ‘poetry’ (concrete or visual) but instead a self defined ‘visual ekphrasis’.




36 image poems


today the white palm -
waving to a sycamore
all veins and fingers


a wayward flag snaps - 
clinging toggle taut to pole
halyard hung high


reaching blindly a 
whorled whitened fingertip -
pricked on a black stick


stillness sitting on

an empty fortress flue -

swifts flit freely.


gaps appearing-1-2

tall as Lot's pillar

gently fluted - dying weight 

folds the salty roof.


horizontal wind

chimney pinned the seaweed trails -

slapped horizon.



,       like jumps or scratches
ruptures in gauze,

are crevices, mouths

they swallow, rending

at fabric rolls

faded hues of surface pattern,

erasing the mark, the line.



,         might be cracking glass

or nicked corners of perspex

twisted cassette tape

scrolling screensaver

on corrupted disc,

distressed vinyl’s stained sleeve

the file save errors of lost locations.

gaps appearing1stedit

And Rauschenberg

Rauschenberg made Cyanotypes


And they looked like this:


and this


And he made works  in series over time


And he used photos sampled or taken from his own collection


And he collaborated with dancers and dance companies – for example Merce Cunningham – view from 6 minutes into this film of night wandering


And he was inspired by text as poetry – Dante’s inferno


And in Frank O’Hara memory of my feelings – poem “a step away from them’


And this is Rauschenberg’s illustration/response.


And he used screen print onto plexiglass


And then using screenprinted plexiglass to view things through eg: space shuttle Cape Canavarel 1984


And his work can be seen as short stories (2000-2002)


And he used an encaustic wax to lock images onto new substrates – shales series 1994-5


And he loved grey and whited out images using them in the phantom and nightshade works of the early 1990’s


And he combined images of classic art with modern illustrations in the Bellini series 1986


And everywhere was photography, photography as art. Constructed images in the photem series –  and particularly after the 1980’s using more of his own photography


And solvent transfer – infact all methods of image transfer.


And he championed environmentalism


Double Take: Drawing and Photography

Exhibition at the photographer’s gallery and drawing room http://thephotographersgalleryblog.org.uk/2016/04/17/double-take-drawing-and-photography/

Jolanda Havelkova First Time Skating, 2008-2009 © The Artist

The half of the exhibition shown at the photographer’s gallery used a wide definition of drawing to connect photographic process with drawing process.  Richard Forster’s Three Verticals, is an extraordinary work of drawing reproducing his own photographs of the seashore and tideline at Saltburn beach.  The vertical presentation changes this commonplace view, flattening it onto the picture plane and emphasising the image as being both constructed and as a photographic capture.


Havelkova’s first time skating, is a series of photos that are almost entirely flat, reducing the depiction to the flat paper plane, to record the elliptical scratches of skates in ice, the frozen grains ice become like the grains of photographic salt.  All the works seem to link to origins of photography – the intentions of its pioneers like Henry Fox Talbot to devise an essentially romantic process to capture images that was a rival to drawing. Processes like the photograms of Maholy Nagy and Curtis Moffat, recording directly on paper using chemicals were mirrored in the work of Anna Barribal where graphite forced into the fibres of paper records the textures and three dimensional qualities possible from manipulated paper.

Marcel Broodthaers’ and Nancy Heelbrand’s interest in writing and calligraphy recorded in photography, presented changed texts that invited translation or interpretation, like Fox Talbot’s photographs on ancientgreek and assyrian texts.


‘But I miss that’

Writing as image capture –  This is a record of a response to a task suggested by Vicky Sturrs (inspired by Guy Debord’s ‘Derive’ or ‘drift’ implied by understandings of Debord’s definition of psychogeography).

The below was composed during a 30 minute walk along a small sector of a circumference line centred around Baltic. To be read by two voices:

Second version as an audio clip


The gaps between


like missing teeth, obviously

This site is managed by UKCPS ltd

are real lost places

Waterfronts With Stunning Views

forgotten presences waiting

(Conditions apply – see main site for details)

unreclaimed, part re-landscaped, blighted

WARNING! Wheel clamping removal zone

Still used for the wrong things

Permit Holder Only




Please dispose of cigarette ends in the bins provide anyone caught throwing ends on the floor will be reported to company management who will be charged for additional cleaning costs incurred.


Dryriser inlet – Fire Exit – KEEP CLEAR

maybe thinking, escaping, living

Use Handrail   –   Use Handrail

Landscaped steps to wire barriers, glass reflections of absent things


‘But I miss that’

The response was read immediately with little rehearsal  and this can be listened too here.

immediate audience of fellow workshop participants invited me to comment on it – I described it as an intent to capture a kind of dystopian landscape, part redeveloped, but not resolved, creating a muddled public space dominated by botched planning, corporate landscaping and oppressive signage that was more about ownership and behaviour than about the spaces created or the people who might inhabit them.

April Crit.

I set up groups of new work to show recent developments for my recent crit:

I rigged an ‘exhibition style’ presentation in a small white room in Baltic 39, making a snap decision that this would probably be the best way of showing it and then deciding to put everything I had brought with me up onto the walls and therefore seeking comment on all recent developments.

I have had a few changes of view as to the conclusions to this crit.  In many ways it was highly useful for appreciating that much of what I thought I was achieving was not getting across with the work displayed, in that way, in that space, to that audience.  I need to look much more clearly at my intentions and motivations and primarily to edit.  The title of this post is a reminder to prepare more carefully……

General Views

36 Views: Cyanotypes – developments from cyanotype experiments

36 views – chipboard collages – developments from collage experiments

Cultural Distance: Digital prints from film captures, using London shoot

Cultural Distance – Cyanotypes from negative contact prints in 3d boxes, using London negatives

Linking current work to recent previous developments to Just Under The Surface – a mood board of photos from exhibition in the Isle of Man.

Aprilcrit (20 of 26)

Cultural Distance (London)

5 new prints for the Cultural Distance project, taken in London at the end of March.

Cultural Distance is a series of images captured on 120 film by a manual Yashica 635 – a Rolleiflex ‘style’ Twin lens analogue camera.  It produces square negatives.  The prints are printed digitally about 28cm square.  The work is presented as a series  which i think will be in different combinations.  The images are taken from within galleries, museums or visual institutions looking out through their doors and windows, speculating on the distance between those inside and outside, the richness of the world, and the whiteness of the gallery.

The first set of image captures taken in Barcelona were exhibited in the Isle of Man.

The Ghosts of clouds

workinprogressapril (2 of 11)

The Ghosts of Clouds


In the whole 15 minutes of unmediated time

The vast continent of clouds approaches,

Never arriving, giving out its tentacles

Threatening to twist thoughts into shadows,

Instead little corals and doughnuts part company,

Scud and turn porous filigrees in their wake

Once shells, now carousels

And finally ghosts, the ghosts of clouds.


If my heartbeat slowed, it was reluctant,

If my mind cleared, it was under protest,

If the wet patch on the trampoline seam

Reminded me that time for me was time

Only for Art, only for Holiday,

Only for me, only me.


The last seconds of recorded time,

Mind long gone, set off like the clouds

To turn base desires into golden webs of crafted ideas

And action, always action.

The ghosts of clouds.


Sunday 10th March 11.40 am.

workinprogressapril (11 of 11)


A month of collages

During March I made a ‘collage’ a day.  This was partly a set task but it became an opportunity to look at a number of possibilities, these developed over time as the project continued:

  1. The collages would continue the themes already explored. A collage would be started each day but not completed.  They would be a book with the thought that they could be torn out if they became of interest.
  2. The collages would be quickly made and would not be too precious.
  3. Cyanotype would continue to be the theme – could it be combined with mixed media?
  4. Materials would be varied but  basic everyday papers would predominate – also plastics and transparencies.
  5. Glue would be PVA – it wrinkles and distorts paper – this would be part of it.  It is also a glue with minimal or next to minimal impacts in terms of fumes or unfortunates side effects.  Glue would be a material added as a collage element, possibly drawn with or layered.  PVA is water soluble and therefore interacts with other water soluble  materials – attacking the colours in inkjet prints.
  6. Text and diagrams could be experimented with
  7. There would be references to the photographic process – each collage would have some part that was made by photographic process
  8. There could be references to the science of pollution and its dispersal.
  9. The idea of chemical and colour staining would be part of some collages.

31 images plus 3 extras – a selection of the work in progress below, I will scan some on completion, which must happen by this weekend.

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