First showings – group crit.


This group crit allowed the first showing of various ideas – the first was the digital collages combining landscape photos with the Carmichael etchings.

The idea of formal framing excited a lot of interest and intital focus was on this piece because it shouted ‘look at me’ in a golden dustry distressed way.  Viewers then speculated about technique – how was it done – what was the provenance or reliability of the image?  People were genuinely intrigued.


The second piece was a large 1.2m flat photo composition with a central mirror and a central projection onto the white area.  The  video projected showed 4 sections of video of moving water mimicing the still photograph. This still shows the projector in the central mirror, but film not running.



The second projection showed a video of running water with excerpts of text taken from William Gilpin.

watch the film:

I speculated about the problems of creating work where so much equipment gets in the way of viewing the work.


Projection experiments

In a white room with a projector and some video and then later still photography.  Firstly working out how to centre, square and position a video projector and then remembering that if re-photographing with a digital camera – how the photograph records a colour distortion effect.

The purpose was also to look at projection onto different surfaces.  Firstly a board – commercial manufactured wood paneling effect, bought for the previous project and not used.  The video of moving water changed tone, mildly seeming to be part of the board – but not remotely compelling


Then an interruption with a bathroom mirror – partly in reference to Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt’s interruptions in the landscape with mirrors and with light.

The circle of moving light from the reflecting mirror made a gentle moving texture of the water – faint, but with a kind of beauty.


and through and on a plastic bottle…..


projections of composite images onto the Carmichael book

shots from the woods edited into black and white.


and onto dirty stained cotton bag, this time the image was edited to a circle of light and then to black, so that the image appeared to glow within the linen.projections-5

digitally edited into black and white.

Images from the woods, seen through trees, again the black surround in the image isolating the distant view.  This time the projection was on torn paper


The forgotten picturesque……

Motivation – finding a way through the woods

Motivating secondary school students is now,  in my recent experience,  a main part of the job of teaching Art at A-level.  I want my students to be independent learners to develop their own projects, plan a bit within the time available, explore and develop and then synthesise the thinking and research and experimentation into coherent art works that show fantastic technical ability and reflect themselves and their burgeoning world view so that what they have made can speak to a wider audience.

I want this for them, because it makes them artists.

Speaking yesterday to two A-level students who are far behind in their units, I realise that I have used threats and fear rather then positivity.  I can justify this in a shallow way, because with both of them I have tried passion, excitement, co-working and the provision of lots of my time and some spoon fed solutions, and I know co-teaching colleagues have done this with them to.  However, is the problem with these students at least partly to do with their setting and their response to the curriculum structure that is put around them:

‘In fact the idea of conveying passion and enthusiasm misunderstands the nature of the relevant kind of motivation.  Motivation is not an emotional cream dolloped on top of a dry cognitive cake. On the contrary, the motivation and the cognition are all mixed up. It is rather a way of connecting directly to the subject matter…….motivation involves an evaluative perception of the subject matter.’

Gill, S and Thomson, G (2012) Rethinking Secondary Education, A Human Centred Approach, Harlow: Pearson. [Available online at:] (p188)

Gill and Thomson are comparing a traditional model of an ideal teacher in a system of ‘learning as acquisition’ with ‘teaching mainly as an issue of transmission or delivery of predefined knowledge’ (Ibid p186)  with a more progressive ‘humanist’ or alternative education setting stressing teacher as facilitator or mentor. They find the second wanting as well,  because ‘mere facilitation is not sufficient to challenge the student’ (p197).  Their proposal is that the role of teacher be split into mentor, counsellor, specialist tutor and academic tutor with specific detail applied to all of these roles, but crucially, these roles should be performed by different individuals.  The motivation aspect appears, in this model, to sit within the role of the Mentor.

Gill and Thomson propose:

‘…a step further: a kind of deep listening that allows the innermost voice of the young person to be heard, that which guides a young person’s fundamental choices regarding his/her direction in life, potential and human becoming. For a young person to own his or her learning requires a rejection of passivity. It needs a non-coercive environment but it also depends on the capacity of teaching professionals to provide empowering guidance to the students.  With support of their mentors, young people can sit firmly in the driving seat of their learning.’ (ibid p 268)

I hope that I have provided some empowering guidance this week.  The self reflective point is to ensure that I do not echo the coercive environment that I am located in.  Is it possible to provide some high standards within the 4 separate roles identified by Gill and Thomson, within the perilously short time available with each student.

Motivation is going to be a key part of my research project – identifying what it is, how to encourage it and measure its presence is still a work in progress. Gill and Thomson’s central idea is that ‘cognition motivates’ (p63)  and ‘it matters dramatically how students contextualise their activities’ (p64).  They  need to know why they are doing things, and how that understanding can power motivation.

‘Usually… (motivation)…is conceived as an inner force pushing us outwards.  Here we stress the opposite; motivation is often like drawing in the valuable aspects of what is around one. It can be a pulling in rather than a pushing out.’

The authors then go on to compare this to love of another person, whereby the love becomes ‘perception with feeling’.  Thus students ‘falling in love’ with the subjects or topics that they discover becomes a metaphor for the motivation they can experience. (P67)

Can all students fall ‘in love’ with art, with photography A-level, and all the other things they have to do, or is that state only for a select few, and most of all can that ‘love’ be made explicit……



Peter, the ‘Picturesque’ and Google Earth

Peter came round and reintroduced me to Google Earth.  A popular favourite of artists examining the landscape and the contemporary disconnect between the experience on the ground and the experience  displayed on the screen – using the now ubiquitous topography of the plane, drone, satellite, exploiting the gaps and discontinuities revealed.screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-17-47-45

As we sailed down the Tyne Valley on the lap top screen, Peter steered the magic carpet viewer, finding the spots that Carmichael drew.  Peter then flipped the settings to plus 3, on ‘exaggerated elevation’, suddenly the landscape took on a rugged drama, the Tyne valley became a gorge.  There was a sense that this was a kind of ‘picturesque’ button, transforming landscape to a highland ideal?


We focussed on St Antony’s – a part of the Walker Riverside park and I mapped Carmichael’s etching onto the saved image – not exact, quite a bit of pulling and stretching required on Photoshop, but an interesting fit and a sense that Google earth has a ‘Picturesque’ aesthetic within its algorythms.


I like the way, the girl in the bonnet points to a post industrial future, in the apparently collapsed factory roofs of the South bank of the Tyne, distorted by the joint efforts of the Google earth ‘exaggeration’ and the transform tool of Photoshop. Ghostly barges ply the Tyne and the spires of the city are seen in the distance.

St Anthony’s deserves a site visit I think.


Robert Smithson’s mirrored landscapes

Robert Smithson’s Chalk Mirror Displacement constructed at the Oxted chalkpit quarry, Surrey, and photographed by the artist 1969 (From Tate website).  This was a piece made by Smithson on a brief but highly influential visit to the UK .  Smiths travelled with Nancy Holt and they looked to stop at very significant places, including Stonehenge and the extraordinary Wistman’s wood on Dartmoor. To Smithson, mirrors were time machines that allowed the scene or image to be ‘displaced’ in time and space.

Robert Smithson CHALK AND MIRROR DISPLACEMENT 1969 Six mirrors, chalk from Oxted Quarry, England

The oxted quarry pieces

Yucatan Mirror displacements:

Robert Smithson yucatan displacement

‘ The mirror itself is not subject to duration, because it is an ongoing abstraction that is always available and timeless. The reflections, on the other hand, are fleeting instances that evade measure.’

Bargellesi – Severi, G (1997) Robert Smithson Slide Works . Italy and Los Angeles: Distributed Art Publishers.