A study workshop at The Tabernacle in London on September 8 2018.
The study day was organised by OCA students Arlene Sharpe and Michael Whyte who invited me as an OCA tutor and artist to lead a workshop in London. I thought this would be a good opportunity to explore ideas about landscape.
For the workshop we will be focusing on ways of Interpreting place. How the experience of making relates to the place itself and to memories of that place. And how, as artists we can offer abstractions of the experience and the shifts in time and space – making work that suggests a place visited, experienced or imagined.
A brief introduction allowed each of the students to share what stage they are at with their OCA studies and the courses they are currently on – this included drawing and painting at different levels. I then gave a short presentation about my practice, focusing on my own approach to interpreting landscape and how this relates to the painting process itself. I also discussed the impact and benefits of artists in residence opportunities and how this has influenced my work in recent years. This led to an informal discussion about our relationship with landscape.
The students were asked to bring in two images – one of a memorable, important place that is familiar and another of a place that they hadn’t visited but that resonated in some way. They were also asked to bring an object that held memories connected to place.
As a warm up exercise and to begin working with the images brought in, students made a few sketchbook studies. I encouraged a non-descriptive approach and to begin thinking about the placing of the image/object and how this might effect the reading of the work.
Quick studies by Michael Whyte (top) and Catherine Levey (bottom)
After a short break we began a session working with collage as a means of arriving at a composition. Plain and printed papers were used to suggest sections of the image that was being to referred to. Students then made marks and lines in a variety of media to work into some areas with more detail. Again, a non-linear approach was encouraged. We were not working with picturesque scenes but in perhaps more overlooked aspects of place, emphasising some sections, while leaving others less clearly defined.
Collage pieces by Sarah Davis (top) and Alison Dollery (bottom)
In her blog, Alison Dollery highlights some of the insights from the day –
This study day has helped me to forge a different relationship with the landscape viewing it as place enables me to discuss or form my own relationship with that place rather than an exact physical depiction. I enjoyed using my own memories (nightclubs, brightness, misty dark mountains, land,) to form the composition of Bangkok collage
Collage piece by Alison Lessen
Before lunch I demonstrated the photo transfer method of using Plextol Acrylic medium. This needs an hour to dry so we all placed our printed images on to canvas board before meeting in the relaxed cafe in the Tabernacle.
Returning to the work room, the transfer process was competed by rubbing away the paper with a damp sponge to reveal the image on the board. Students were then encouraged to respond to the image, which in many cases was slightly fragmented – a typical aspect of this particular transfer technique. Referring to the photographs and objects brought in, ideas about place continued to inform the work. Layering, revealing and concealing were part of the process, and a disrupted narrative.
Arlene Sharpe’s object and found image of the moon that she used in the photo transfer process.
Referring to the shape of the object, she used collage and drawing media to add shapes on top of the transferred image.
In her blog, Arlene discusses ways in which the workshop gave her things to think about, in particular – introducing elements from another object (related or not) into the composition – this breaks up / disturbs the surface.
Dhama Thanigasapapathy revealed very little of the transferred image in the final result but it did inform the subsequent arrangement of forms.
The day ended with a short discussion about the work produced and the difference between working with a known place that holds memories and an unfamiliar place. Some students seemed to agree that the latter was more challenging while others found the lack of attachment to place quite liberating. It was interesting to hear the different responses and to consider the many ways we all experience place.
Just some of the work produced during the workshop – the students worked extremely hard!
Following the workshop, Sarah Davis made these reflections as a result of rethinking landscape and what it means –
Landscape is endless and is vast so for me it’s about capturing an essence of a moment as it is essentially a footprint of a moment – a tiny moment in the history of a place.
It can be filled with narrative – with the viewer being an unreliable narrator as we all see something different.
Landscape is essentially a relationship between what I am seeing and the marks I use to record it.
Thank you to all the students for your enthusiasm and commitment. It was a pleasure to work with you.
And thank you Arlene and Michael for your help in organising the event.
Listen to this Article