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Its late April, the winter storms are over the birds are singing and my latest assignment marks are in.

Re reading my first reflective blog created way back in November has made me realise just how far I’ve come. I now blog on a regular basis, I’ve become an expert on the local bus timetable, I know the best days to eat in the ground floor canteen at the Uni, and several places to get a decent cup of tea around campus.

I’ve made many new friends and contacts and cut my teeth on several challenging assignments. My brain feels like its being re wired with artists and art works making tenuous links in my synapses. When studying an artists work a thousand questions now cascade like the winter floods, out of control and spilling in all directions. Gone are the old days of those deep and insightful comments such as ‘That’s a nice picture’, replaced with ‘Is this Modernist?’, What is the artist trying to say?, ‘What artists influenced them to create this piece’ and so on.

I found myself having a deep discussion on Modern art with my mother the other day and was amazed at how much I’d actually taken in from the lectures and seminars, (the Uni’s not my mothers lessons on life). My mother loves traditional art, oil paintings of pretty landscapes and dismisses modern art as rubbish. It was with a smug smile I pointed out five modern art pieces proudly being displayed in her front room. I didn’t win the discussion that followed after all who wins an argument with their mother…but the fact that although these pieces were mass made and either blended nature and manufacture or were in the case of a triangular clock possibly cubist in influence, the fact that I recognised them as such was the source of the smile.

I can proudly confirm to all who are reading this that ‘learning has definitely taken place’.

The assignments definitely have helped. My ‘time’ video forced me to think outside the box, to read and re read the parameters and to look at how others have interpreted a similar theme. Picking the bits I liked from this research and mixing them together like a new recipe was guaranteed to produce a Marmite response, you’d either love it or hate it. Re checking it was still within the brief I went for ambitious. My A- mark and my tutors comments told me that the recipe worked. In retrospect I perhaps would have tried a different approach, one more art based but a lack of knowledge of the art world at the time dictated my approach.

Without knowing the result from the video assignment we were launched into the world of montage with the work of Peter Kennard. The pure genius of Peters montages inspired me in ways I’m still discovering. The key thing I took from Peters talk was how he got his inspiration. “I pick something I’m passionate about and research constantly to find suitable images”. The key word there for me was ‘passionate’. With passion comes a strong desire to ‘get it right’.

We could chose to make a video or a book in this assignment. I chose to make a book simply because I had never made one and therefore the task would test me. The theme of the assignment threw me though. Reinvention.

There were so many examples shown to us that I began to struggle to find something new. My solution was an almost literal interpretation of the brief. I decided to re invent the landscape from a derelict ugly scene to a natural one, something I am passionate about. The world is a beautiful place and we forget sometimes that we share this world with the entire animal kingdom. We are so busy making room for man we forget the needs of the plants and animals. Abandoned factories particularly irritate me as they normally cover vast areas and are full of dangers to us and animals. All this passion I wanted to build into my book.

My ‘A’ mark for the result told me I can definitely add montages to my skill list. Thank you Peter Kennard.

Our latest assignment Lonely Landscapes could almost have been inspired by my book, but the main difference was we had to work in a team. The creative part of constructing a back story for the model landscape was fun, and our character was bland enough to let our imaginations wander. The design we came up with was a derelict loft and once a montage mock up had been done the fun of building this model started.

Using balsa wood for beams and foam board for floor boards and cardboard for just about everything else our loft lonely landscape took shape.  As we built it I drew inspiration from our historical sessions and in particular a film called Grey gardens which shows an animal infested derelict loft.

Designing how we were going to light the scene and creating a miniature table and chair that our imaginary rag doll would use was also challenging. The latter were created using the 3D printer, a totally new experience and one that has inspired me to make more….

Using the studio lighting for our model was also a great experience, although we were disappointed with the results so we shot our model again under torch lights and desk lamps. The final image was exactly what I had envisaged and I await the mark with anticipation.

The toughest task of all though was the essay. You need a map to cross a wilderness and the essay has given me exactly that. I now have a broad understanding of many of the art movements and how they fit together even though at this stage the detail is still lacking. I’ve developed an interest in fauvism and surrealism and I’m looking forward to incorporating this into my practice.

To conclude, the last few months have seen me move artistically in a brand new direction, one I’m still coming to terms with, and the enormity of what’s ahead still feels daunting but exciting. My confidence is growing, my skills are being expanded although who or what I’m transforming into I still have no idea! I have began to see connections between different artists and the bigger picture of the art world. Their work continues to inspire me and help me make sense of what of I am seeing. Without doubt I look at art differently now to how I did 6 months ago, perhaps even with fresh eyes.

The hardest part for me undoubtedly has been breaking old photography habits formed over decades and challenging myself to learn again as a novice. The task has been made easier as much of the art side of the course is relatively new to me so doesn’t conflict but learning how to keep a journal of my progress and trying to expand my photography to incorporate this new knowledge has not been easy.

I need time to absorb this and see where its taking me, should be fun!

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View of Haystacks by Lake Buttermere – March 2014

(c) Graham Matthews

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