Intervention: Post Top Portraits – Change Over Time

The sets of posts and planking running down the beach to the sea are an intervention in a dynamic system. They stand in the flow of sea and shingle and change the way it moves. Eddies of shingle build against them, flow over them and are battered against them by the sea.

This collection brings together images of a single post top, photographed over a number of years.
The title of each piece identifies the groyne number, and the years in which the post top was photographed.

There is often a tendency to hold on to the idea of permanence and not recognise change that happens gradually over an extended period of time. Gradual change, often unobserved is a core element of this work and acknowledges how the `natural’ world is changed in a managed environment and provides a perspective of change and the requirement to maintain an intervention in a dynamic system.

This work records the necessary tenacity of life and any structure on the beach in the intertidal zone, the dynamics of changing systems and the impact of coastal management.

Faceless Portrait: The Very Centre

Faceless Portrait: The Very Centre, is my submission for the Sussex Open 2017.

Using digital space and objects, in a digital 3D environment, I am exploring its potential to weave a narrative to examine the sense of self in a portrait. The images enclosing the bust present aspects of personality, while camouflaging and then influencing our perception of the image. The face is disrupted, but not excluded – it is a faceless portrait.

Inside looking out.
I collect, make, and see.
My face is not me.

The very centre.
Dad is everything I am.
Nothing left unused.

 

Faceless Portraits: Seeming Restriction and Random Compromise

Faceless Portraits now looks at another role – another narrative that is an integrated part of my life. The digital head remains the same but a different camouflage image is imposed. This is Seeming Restriction (FP02)

Each Faceless Portrait is a separate book in a series – a new narrative as I examine this individual’s life and my sense of self. 

In Random Compromise (FP06), I enclosed the head in a virtual `glass case’. To encase something in a glass is to present the contained object as precious and so requiring protection. It presents a physical barrier to full access at the cost of a visual one. It suggests a perceived value but this is redundant in a digital environment where there is no physical access. In the digital world, this encasement is purely a narrative device.

Interestingly, as I am the subject of this representation, placing the head in a glass box induced an unexpected sense of claustrophobia.

Faceless Portraits: Father-Son Bonding

The initial head I created in Blender, was a generic head – little more than a balloon shape. So I made a representation of a specific individual: however the self-portrait was all about the objects placed on the “head”. With this head, I wanted a classic 3D bust as the starting point.

Having made a digital, yet traditional, representation of a head I looked to camouflage it with a set of photographic images from `Faceless Portraits’ a series of photographs I produced in November last year and shared on Twitter.

Inside looking out
I collect, make, do and see.
My face is not me.

The images wrapped around the face present aspects of personality that are missing from a traditional portrait, but they also camouflage and influence perception. This process of influence based around the most easily perceived aspect is usually with the face as the principal influence.

The wrapped image reveals something of the person without the traditional access of a sculpted head. The resulting image disrupts rather than excludes the face.

 

In following the traditional form of display, the head is placed upon a pedestal. It becomes a gallery item but it has no physical reality. The 3D pedestal becomes an object on which to place the head and also a surface on which to place text; just as would be seen in a traditional gallery.

 

I am playing with the metaphor of the form of gallery display. I am questioning issues to do with reality and its representational narrative. What is the nature of narrative in the digital world?

Faceless Portraits: 3D Modelling and Animation using Blender

Moving from and between physical and digital media led me to spend January, and February, looking at the ability technology provides to use a digital space to manipulate an object. In this space objects can be created, manipulated, rotated, lit, animated and `photographed’. The application’s tool set in many cases mimic (use as metaphors) parallel processes to the physical world. Sculpture tools which add, remove, pinch or smooth an object.

Wire-frame which although it has become the archetypal image of computer graphics has its origins in the armatures and wire work used in clay sculpture. Placing metaphorical cameras, choosing camera angles, lens size, and camera tracking.

I am exploring and extending ideas from Faceless Portraits where an impression of a person is created without including a head or face. Now, using Blender, I create a simple head with minimal facial details. I negotiate a balance between the digital 3D form and the 2D `faceless portraits` wrapping the portraits around the form. The 3D form distorts the 2D image and the 2D images camouflage the form.

The next stage is to create a more detailed 3D form. Using Blender I created a sculpted digital head with more detail but which, for technical reasons, was more difficult to skin. This was abandoned and remained a `rough’.

I am currently creating a detailed model of my own head. It is representational, with a reasonable degree of accuracy, and uses a mesh topology which should allow it to be photographically skinned so camouflaging the facial features. The mesh topology used not only allows for ready skinning of the form but also presents extension possibilities allowing ready animation: opening and closing the mouth, moving the eyes.

As I worked with Blender, I made a series of short, animated rotations, presenting it as a fully formed digital 3D object.

3

 

 

Responsive Line: #portraitNovember

#portraitNovember on Twitter, and I share a series of faceless portraits and ask what is a portrait? Does the face have to be included to produce a portrait of a person? Or can collections of objects present an aspect of likeness? 

The objective was to achieve the likeness of a person, a sense not of what a person looks like but a sense of who the person is, using objects that form part of their everyday lives. As such it is also an exploration of metaphor as each object is a descriptive metaphor for an aspect of the individual’s life.

It is useful to consider four categories of metaphor:
Universal
Cultural
Sub-cultural
Personal

Universal metaphor is in principle understandable by any other person, regardless of culture. These tend to be things that have clear, body related, functions.

Cultural metaphors make up the majority but require the audience is of the same culture, or has understanding of that culture, to communicate.

Sub-cultural often relates to specific skills related groups and interestingly can sometimes cross cultural boundaries.

Personal metaphors are those meanings we attach to objects on the basis of personal experience.

A true sense of a person, an informative likeness, is created by the selection of appropriate objects as metaphors. The effectiveness of the metaphor depends upon which category they are in, and the degree to which the audience are part of that category.

My personal view is that the face is like a product brand and only represents us in as much as it allows others to associate particular skills, qualities and attributes with that particular brand (face).

Inside looking out
I collect, make, do and see.
My face is not me.

 

My faceless portraits form part of:

Alternative Viewpoints, Towner Gallery, Eastbourne
Saturday 3 December at 4.00pm. Free.

Blue Monkey Network artists Cliff Crawford and Jan Turner respond to the `One Day Something Happens’ exhibition at the Towner Gallery, Eastbourne. The session will take place in the gallery space and offers a participatory experience in a fast-paced workshop exploring ideas and thoughts relating to the exhibition. What creates the likeness of a person in a portrait? Consider the objects that dress the image: faceless portraits.

 

Intervention: Seeds and Plant Debris

Shingle is constantly moving. On the eastern Channel coasts, this movement – called longshore drift – is generally eastwards. However, some parts of the shingle beach beyond the inter-tidal zone can become fairly stable, and areas may develop where plants grow. These shingle plants have adapted to cope with little fresh water and few nutrients, fierce winds and the salt spray of the wind and waves.

These pioneer communities consist of individual plants, widely spaced. They typically consist of sea kale, yellow horned poppy and sea pea. By autumn the remaining vegetation is very sparse and are patches of plant debris.

As part of my long-term interest in the groyne fields of Bexhill beach, I recently spent the day with an Art and Environment Study Group on a roaming workshop, led by artist Sean Roy Parker. We cycled and stopped to sketch the vegetation that grows above the high water mark on the coastline between Bexhill and Bulverhythe Fishing Yard.

I collected samples of seeds and brown, desiccated plant stems that I photographed and sketched. When I returned to the studio I photographed them again and then digitally draughted the resulting images combining my sketches with the digital photographs.

I shared my illustration of the shingle vegetation on Twitter using #intervention. However, the identification of what I collected proved more difficult. I may need to do some research…

Intervention: Notes from a discussion about the groyne post project

Initial inspirations for the work:

Intervention. When and why did this begin? My personal ease of access to the beach meant that I built an intimate relationship with this particular section of seashore over an extended period of time. At the time I was seeking a connection with the physical world to balance the academic needs of the teaching profession. I feel an enormous sense of purpose and well-being when I spend time on the beach observing and recording the condition of the post-tops.

Ideas explored in Intervention:

  • Environmental impact. Changes in our climate are discussed and predicted but are we ignoring the everyday impact of the weather systems upon the landscape around us? What is man-made is often perceived as a natural landscape. The seashore I see at Bexhill is a man-managed environment disrupted by the forces of the sea.
  • Who started this intervention? Historic intervention has defined the coastal environment we experience. We are now taking responsibility for the complexity of the outcomes of past decisions.
  • Concept of relative time spans. Time spans hint at empirical reasoning – maths and science – measurement. We often have an internal story of a place that is essentially static; a single snapshot which we edit to maintain its credibility. Yet places are systems with multiple and distinct functions providing protection and adaptation of the environment to more closely match our perceived needs. To develop a more appropriate awareness of a system requires multiple, timed, documented, snapshots of the system. Systems are not static, they flow; they are in a process of constant and often complex change.

  • Living on the boundary of the land and sea you can see clearly that our attempts to control the beach are only partially and temporarily successful. The interval between the end of the late winter storms and the mechanical intervention to regrade the beach demonstrates how much the shingle moves. It is a constant challenge to our belief that we have control.

Intervention is a long-term project which began in 2002…

Intervention

The sets of posts and planking running down the beach to the sea are an intervention in a dynamic system. They stand in the flow of sea and shingle and change the way it moves. Eddies of shingle build against them, flow over them and are battered against them by the sea.

Each post top is a uniquely identifiable element in this system which I have observed, recorded and compared over a number of years. The post tops, like portraits of a person repeated throughout their life, are not only beautiful but provide clues as to the condition of the system.

There is often a tendency to hold on to the idea of permanence and not recognise change that happens gradually over an extended period of time. Gradual change, often unobserved is a core element of this work and acknowledges how the `natural’ world is changed in a managed environment and provides a perspective of change and the requirement to maintain an intervention in a dynamic system.

This work records the necessary tenacity of life and any structure on the beach in the intertidal zone, the dynamics of changing systems and the impact of coastal management.

The reference number on each image designates the Groyne number and the year the picture was taken.

The Obliterated Crow

The Obliterated Crow is my first solo exhibition at Murmurations Gallery, Bexhill,  from Tuesday 17th May until Sunday 29th May 2016.  The gallery is open from 10.30am to 4.30 pm (closed Mondays). Further details below…

Gallery View of Exhibition

Having both a degree in Fine Art and a Masters in IT, I experience the tension and synchronicity of these divergent disciplines. Using physical and digital media in isolation, in combination and iteratively, I produce sets and series of images to explore real and perceptual change.

We are physically and conceptually defined by the tools we use and understand. We anchor ourselves to the spotlights of our competencies, nodes in networks of change surrounded by shadow. I represent perceptual change by exploiting different tools; applying physical and digital media creates many perspectives but simultaneously hints at a singularity.

A piece of work hides as much as it reveals. Obliteration is inherent to the act of recording; this is true of both art and IT. Obliterated Crow presents a series of visual conversations between a crow, the air and the media used. My conversation began with the crow on Galley Hill. She tilted her head and made eye contact; I drew her. “Think that’s interesting?” she asked, as she skipped into the air and played with the wind.

On Saturday 21st May and Saturday 28th May there is a `Technical Walk Through‘ where I will discuss the processes used to combine the physical and digital media to produce the Obliterated Crow series.

On Sunday 22nd May and Sunday 29th May there is a `Concept Walk Through‘ where I discuss the ideas that drive my practice and those specifically related to the Obliterated Crow series.

Poster