Whilst at my Grandma’s over the weekend I took photographs of the figurines in the previous blog post but we also dug out some old photographs together of her childhood in Glasgow. In an earlier blog post: https://rachelfenwick.co.uk/2014/02/24/grandma-kathleen/ I talk about grandma growing up there as she explained it to me over the phone; retelling interesting tales of harsh conditions but happy times spent in Glasgow. Having never seen most of these photographs before I felt happy that my grandma could share them with me. The sulky little girl featured, is grandma herself maybe looking not so happy about her surroundings! The coloured images also show the many many ornaments grandma’s had in her previous homes!
World Wide Web was a piece I showed for the show and listens last Thursday. The group interrogating the piece gave some good feedback. They questioned the vintage album style, they attempted to follow the narrative forming from the photos. I liked how the piece became interactive with the viewer, something I want my work to carry on doing, getting the audience involved in my work, making them explore. They questioned the relationship, me as the artist, had with person in the images. In fact I had no relationship, this woman is a complete stranger to me. (note to you all- but your images on private!) It was suggested I make a multitude of these albums or a multitude of images in one album bursting with images. This will reinforce the ideas forming about the amount of images we all put online. They suggested, which I had been considering beforehand, using text in the album to give even more details about the life of these people. This is something I need to experiment with. What was interesting that someone thought perhaps I had Googled my name, and this was another Rachel Fenwick, I hadn’t thought about this at all! This could be something I further in my practice. An artist suggested was Jenifer Mills, her piece What’s in a Name? could be very interesting!
There was a lot of negative feedback about the choice of plinth which in all honesty I agreed with. It was suggested perhaps a shelf or a more homely setting like a sofa could be used more effectively. The plinth made it too formal, almost like a sculptural object. In the future the staging needs to be considered a lot more.
Whilst in Amsterdam I did many things and saw many things that my grandma didn’t approve of when I told her, but surprisingly amongst all that, I saw an exhibition there that I think is going to greatly influence 2nd year. I visited the FOAM gallery, where the Dutch artist Erik Kessels, had an exhibition on called Album Beauty. I had already researched the show and thought it could greatly influence the ideas I’d been having regarding the photos which I picked up in Lisbon, and I wasn’t wrong! Kessels exhibition made me think so much about the near extinction of the family photo album and made me think about the direction I want to take my practice in as I move into 2nd year.
As I walked into the space I was greeted with top to bottom wall space of enlarged pages from a number of photo albums. I was invited to flick through a stack of miscellaneous photos of all different sizes. Kessels used both original and larger than life reproductions to give the viewer the sense that they were walking through the numerous personal stories. It certainly had that effect on me; when I walked into that first room I felt as though I had stepped into a giant photo album.
As Kessels explains the photo album has the ability to provide a condensed yet meaningful record of a life from birth to death. The photo album used to be something that was always there to look at in a family home, but as we are now a digital age we no longer feel the need to carefully create a loving album to share with generations to come. Facebook and other such sites have taken over. With features like timeline they try to re create the sense of the family album but with little success in my opinion. We edit our online photo albums to create the album we want people to see. We no longer leave in the mistakes the film camera made. I thought out this concept and wondered what it would be like if I created a piece whereby I only used the images that I didn’t put on facebook and mounted all those into an exhibition space. Or if I included all the photos I took, leaving none out, not even ones that are black or blurred. What if I had the two albums side by side in a grid format, like spot the difference?
A flood of ideas came to me in the exhibition space. I had already been considering incorporating photos into my paintings, inputting my Lisbon images into paintings of Lisbon city. I could further this though, use photos of my own and create paintings including them; I could use houses; my favourite topic? I want to create my own photo album, my own frame montages. I want to experiment with photographs that have become ruined; the ruined images Kessels had used reminded me of Gerhard Richter someone who has always inspired my work. I could cut out images and create collages. It’s rare for someone to physically cut out from a photo anymore, maybe we would crop and image but not just the person to create a photo collage. The cutting out process reminded me of a photo collage my grandma made of my christening and she included everyone who went in the collage. I need to find this! I really enjoyed the timings that were included at the bottom of some photos and the writing that explained certain images.
This exhibition really enlightened me. It wasn’t your typical white cube space, it felt homely, personal, yet all the people on the walls were strangers to me. I loved that the albums used where placed in the centre of the floor for all to see. I felt the exhibition brought together all of the ideas I’ve been having over the years. It brought me back to the photo dolls house I made at foundation. Could it be something I re visit? It also reminded me of the privacy notion I began to consider at the start of 1st year, there is no privacy with our photos anymore, there is no hiding in a family album for the select few to see.
I wish I had written about Lisbon earlier! I visited the beautiful city of Lisbon, Portugal way back on the 15th June for 5 days with my amazing friends. I want to share some of the photographs I took there and note down the ideas I got from both the Gulbenkian art gallery I visited and also the old family photographs I bartered for on the flea market. The photos albums were amazing. I knew I wanted to use them in some form of art work when I saw them. They had an eerie feel to them, they told a story of a family or families which I never knew and never will know. Their life stories for €5. They are a mixture of colour and black and white photographs, some even with writing on the back. Some of my friends commented on them saying they felt cursed. I particularly like the different sizes, the joy, one where the people in the photo are not looking at us but something in the crowd. Passport photos with stamps on the back, children with the recognisable Lisbon city in the background. Identity cards, the use of pattern edges, a house with people popping out each window. I want to do so much with these photographs. I have a feeling I will make them feel too precious though and not want to experiment with them I need to break through that. In a small gallery just outside the castle I saw some paintings which I really liked and wanted to re create them using my photographs of the city and possibly incorporate the photographs from the albums, incorporating them within the painting like a collage. The paintings used thick acrylic paint, I loved the style and I really want to experiment with this using my images.
At the Gulbenkian I really enjoyed the paintings on wood, they were something I related to. I also really liked, looking back at the photographs and reflecting on my current living situation in a caravan, I think the caravan with the suitcases really reflects my life right now, the travelling and my life in a suitcase. This has reminded me of some of the ideas I discussed in my tutorial at the end of the year. I need to take photographs of the caravans on site here; their “mini homes/holiday homes” Iceland homes. (everything in mini.)