Category Archives: Coursework

Exercise 5.7 – Project: Artist’s Statement

Project: Artist’s statement


  1. Statement of intent – what you hope to achieve with the work
  2. Marketing device or describing practitioners’ interests
  3. Specific body of work or may talk about practice more generally
  4. Will probably contain information about any training relevant to their practice, prizes, grants, awards won etc.
  5. An Artist’s statement not the same as an artist’s CV – NB yet CV also contains information on training etc, so pretty much a repetition seems to me.
  6. Huge variety in styles and formats
  7. Often written by another person (or designed to sound as if it is by being written in the third person – definitely not my style).

Exercise 5.7: Prepare your artist’s statement

A link is provided to a statement on the Purdy Hicks website re the work of Ola Kolehmainen, but this comes up as ‘navigation error’.  Instead I looked again at a statement on the same site about the work of Jorma Purenen whose work ‘Imaginary Homecoming’ I have written about here.


Jorma Puranen

Jorma Puranen (born 1951, Helsinki) has become known for his conceptual images of northern landscapes and readdressing historical portraits. In his work he explores the themes of history, culture, identity and memory, creating a dialogue between the past and the present. Puranen often uses archive material as his point of departure, but instead of concentrating on the objects themselves, he studies the reflections, shadows, brushstrokes and cracks on their surfaces; the layers of uncertainty in between the object and the viewer. As he writes, ‘Photography’s capacity to register reflections is actually its singular gift. What other medium deals so expressively with the play of light and shadow?’

Jorma Puranen is one of Finland’s best known photographers, with his work held in many major international photographic collections. His distinguished career has included a long tenure as Professor of Photography at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki.

Written by another person, succinct yet certainly describes his work as I’ve viewed it.  It also includes a short quote from him,  ‘Photography’s capacity to register reflections is actually its singular gift.  What other medium deals so expressively with the play of light and shadow?’  I thought that was an interesting quote to use as it turns what is so often a problem into a positive aspect and, indeed, one of his series Shadows and Reflections (2015),  photographs of painted portraits , includes ones showing lighting glare on the surface of the painting. Page is here 

Hrair Sarkissian

I then had a look at the website of Hrair Sarkissian   – whose work I have referenced in my Assignment 4 Critical Review.  His biography is divided into three sections – Selected Solo Exhibitions since 1998, Selected Group Exhibitions  since 2014 and then a very brief biography which has an added statement from him about the way he uses photography – the how, why, the process of the work and the effect he wishes his work to have on the viewer.   I then looked at one of his specific artist statement – for his project Last Scene (2016) 

Last Scene’ (2016) is a series of 47 photographs of places in The Netherlands that were chosen by terminally ill patients to go and see as their last wish.

The project centres on the power of a well-loved place to compress an outlook on life into a telling scene that is at once melancholic and joyful. The simplicity of each landscape or scene heightens attention to an inner journey of remembering the past and envisioning a future that no longer includes you.

In contemporary culture the notion of death and dying is often consciously ignored. This project gives the viewer a way in to grapple with the question of where we come from, and where we are going. The images turn into mirrors: on the one hand you try imagine the person who looked at the scene for the last time, while at the same time it encourages introspection: what would my wish be?

These scenes were photographed at the date and time of the actual last visit.

Archival inkjet prints, 42 x 50 cm

Every photograph is different, of course, but the images are held together by the title of the series.  I felt somewhat lead by the sentence ‘The images turn into mirrors: on the one hand you try imagine the person who looked at the scene for the last time, while at the same time it encourages introspection: what would my wish be?’, I didn’t so much try to imagine the person actually but wondered what it was about that particular scene that drew them.

Lewis Bush

His biography has a short and a long version, with a short, written description of his projects since 2012.  He provides a separate list of his Awards and Commendations.

I looked at his statement for the project The Memory of History (2012) 

Three paragraph – a) Clarifying what is for him in this project, the meaning of  ‘nation’ and that of ‘European Union’. b) Process of project and what it does and c) What the project comprises. Links to relevant reviews, to look at the Memory of History box and to order books and prints.


Possible Statement for Assignment 5

Short Version

In H.G. Wells’s book The War of the Worlds (1898) the Martians land on the sandpit on Horsell Common in Woking.  I lived near to the Common for several years, walking there often, and so I decided to re-visit it, taking photographs of anything that caught my attention, to see if I could enter into the mindset of H.G. Wells and gain some understanding of what inspired him there to make it one of the subjects for his book.

When looking through my photographs I re-envisaged the Common as a liminal space, redolent with the history of all those people who passed through it and where the remnants of its ancient landscape constitute a meeting place for memories, sensory experiences  and future imaginings

Longer Version

Books and reading have always been a very large point of my life since I was small and I’m very interested in the way we use the landscape as the subject or background for the stories we tell.  I live very near to Horsell Common which is in a town called Woking in Surrey.  The Common has a large sandpit – the remnants of an ancient river – and this is the place where the author H.G. Wells had his Martians land in the book The War of the Worlds (1898) before they went on to destroy the people and places of many areas of Surrey.

My first idea was to visit all the locations in and near Woking which are mentioned in the book, but I quickly realised that I was being too ambitious in scope and it was better to concentrate first on Horsell Common as this was where the Martians chose to land. I wondered what was about it that lead it to become one of the inspirations for Wells’s book, particularly the sandpit. I hoped that reading up on the history of Woking, particularly what was happening there in the late 1890s, combined with several visits to the Common, could open the door of an H.G. Wells Imaginarium for me to enter.

I’ve walked on the Common many times in past years, but not for a while, so I decided to walk around the Common with an open mind, taking photographs of anything which caught my attention.  When looking at the photographs afterwards I realised anew what an unusual environment this is.  I was looking at the remnants of an ancient landscape; sand the colour of the desert; pale silver birches in the sparse soil, thin trunks like fingers reaching to the sky and skewed branches clinging together on entwining roots as if hanging on to life in a changing world. It seemed to me that this place provides a liminal space; a threshold between past, present and future imagining where I was able to stand alongside H.G. Wells looking together at our surroundings as if through a stereoscope.




Project and Exercise 5.6: Context and Meaning

Project – Beyond the gallery: site as context

There is a YouTube video –  ‘Artist’s insight: Jorma Puranen|Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present |National Gallery ‘ (3 Dec 2012). where Puranen gives his perspective on Franciso de Goy’s portrait, ‘The Duke of Wellington’. He says his work is based on thinking of past and present and somehow the juxtaposition of past and present concerns. He has photographed paintings in Museums for many years. He tries to create some kind of living context to reconsider the lives of the people in the portraits. And also considers the biography of the painting (like the cracks in the paint).  In effect he approaches the painted portrait as if the living person was in front of him. You have to remember what the lighting would have been like in their day , e.g. no electricity in the living room so you have to learn to look at the paintings when it’s dim, and when there is almost no light – they speak to you in a different way in the darkness and that’s the way the people come alive to you. He hopes that in his photographs of the paintings the people ‘somehow hover between beyond and behind the material layers of the very painting itself.

In his work Imaginary Homecoming (1999), Puranen takes this approach steps further with Lapp portraits photographed on glass negatives by G. Roche when he was employed as photographer on an expedition to Lapland in 1884. Puranen came across these photographs in the archives of the Musee de l”homme in Paris.  Puranen found that he new people whose ancestors appeared in those photographs and he decided to create an imaginary homecoming of the portraits and return them to their original landscape.  He re-photographed the portraits, printed them on film; attached these transparencies to acrylic sheets and transformed them into a fell landscape photographic installation.

I think this work is wonderful and a perfect way to exhibit such portraits.

Exercise 5.6 Context and meaning

 In the past I have ‘installed’ photographs for a day in the place where I took them –  see here  .  So far as my current Assignment 5 is concerned, though I’m not entirely sure that the Sandpit would be good place to exhibit them.  Depending on the weather conditions they could be strung between the trees that border the Sandpit or maybe somewhere in the car park.  The Wetlands area of Horsell Common now has a café with outdoor seating if the weather was good there could possibly be room for a display stand.  I’m trying to think now of the wall space inside the café.  To complete this exercise properly I’ll have to go back and look at the spaces again before I draw a diagram.

John Walker (2009) Context as a Determinant of Photographic Meaning

Notes (my reflections in blue)

Reading the first paragraph reminded me of the discussion we had at the January OCA Thames Valley Group meeting see here  where we did discuss how the context of a print – whether framed or not – will also be changed by where and how it’s placed and this also links with the previous exercises looking at differences between exhibiting in a gallery and in an online Exhibition.  Jorma Puranen’s siting of the Lapp photographs in their original landscape also changed their meaning from that of interesting photographs in an archive to ‘these are the people who used to live here; think about them and their lives”.  (A montage relationship)

‘No figure can be perceived except in relation to a ground’ (Gestalt)

The actual context needs to be made clear – a different gestalt is created according to this and relative aspects of the photograph. I like the example of commuters crowding and sheep crowding.  Also reminded me of Mark Tansey’s ‘The Innocent Eye Test” (1981).

Movement of paintings and sculptures from original location lost their connection with it.  Effect of mechanical reproducibility of photographs appearing all over the place. Does this lessen the importance of architectural or physical display context?  Walker thinks it does but I’m not so sure. Changing the meaning is different from changing the importance of something. It depends on the context.

There is a need to examine the life of an image as well as its birth; consideration too of circulation and currency (term borrowed from John Tagg). Example of Jo Spence and series of photographs depicting her from age of eight-and-a-half months to her forties exhibited at the Hayward Gallery. Already seen by Walker previously in two different contexts – public library and femininist magazine. Shock value for different reasons in both contexts. Spence also talked of the effect on her family. By including conventionally unflattering photographs of herself in the family album, Spence undermined the norms of perception induced by such albums. Also enabled her to make visible the stereotyping of women within various photography genres, particularly in representations of women according to a work/leisure division and also the use of private images used by advertisers. (see here)

Different aspects highlighted according to the context – public library private/public; Hayward Gallery critical work upon photography.  NB display context only one amongst many, plus Spence’s work was self-reflexive and had a didactic aim. To judge how this worked we need to know more about motivations of visitors to art galleries and a survey of visitors would hep to establish a typology of responses. NB two-way influence though between meaning of a photograph and meaning of context  (I’m thinking here of Anna Goodchild’s Exhibition last year in Plymouth – her work was about redemption whereas the Exhibition space was in what used to be the cells in Devonport Guildhall, which were about punishment and containment, see here 

Mental context or set:-  the ‘beholder’s share’ (Ernst Gombrich).  A viewer is not a blank slate. Examples given. (very interesting point in terms of documentary and how the photographer can stress different aspects of people – touch/weak,pathetic.)  Stress how?  Posture, clothes, stance. However, a lot of experience is shared within social groupings, ‘pictorial stereotypes do not merely exist externally in the world of the mass media, they inhabit us.’

One image amongst many – how to judge its effect? Can affirm/reinforce existing dominant conceptions until social context changes dramatically as in a revolution, e.g. smashing of icons and power in Paris during 1871 Commune and, more recently, guerrilla campaign of the women’s movement against sexist advertising – ‘this example reminds us that although our freedom to decode or read images is highly restricted – the structure of the ‘text’ structures the way we experience it – we can still make an oppositional response. Example from 1933 statue in Poland. Context so often lies outside control of artists, e.g. re mental context, work is usually produced with specific audiences in mind or adapted to suit local circumstances.

NB original article 1980? Reprinted in The Camerawork Essays: Context and Meaning in Photography, ed Jessica Evans (London:Rivers Oram Press, 1997) pp. 52-63. Prefaced by an introduction: notes as follows.

Re argument that because an image can have so many meanings it must be meaningless – denies the fact that consensuses are reached regarding the denotation and implied/intended meanings of images; also undermines the educational process by making the lecturer’s efforts to discuss photography and meaning vacuous. (reminded me here of ‘the man in the street’).

Re ‘mental effect’ (taking into account variability of viewers) expanding branch of criticism and history-writing ‘reception aesthetics/history/theory’. – emphasis from cultural production to cultural consumption, from ‘authors’ to ‘readers’ (Roland Barthes and 1968 ‘the Death of the author’ had been translated to English in 1977). Reception theory   – ideal reader implied by a text or work of art, while reception history tends to be concerned with actual readers and readings that have taken place over time.







Project: Time-based Presentations with Exercises 5.4 and 5.5.

Handbook Reading notes.

The only link that worked was Duckrabbit – a site I know well.  I use both YouTube and Vimeo for short videos. During my initial planning for Assignment 2 I experimented with a ‘road’ video, including ambient sound.  It can be viewed here  . The iPhone is very useful for short videos and I mainly use Filmora Wondershare  to edit them because it’s user-friendly and has a good variety of effects available for use.

Exercise 5.4: Online exhibitions

 In her blog post Sharon Boothroyd looks at the difference between virtual Exhibitions and ‘real’ ones. Her points are very interesting comparing the felt experience of walking around an exhibition, including the experience of the surroundings and the way a show is curated.  We talked about this at a recent Thames Valley OCA meeting and this is something very important to take into account when preparing for an exhibition in a physical space because it’s not just about the images but the gestalt of the whole Exhibition, including the influence of the curator who may or may not be known to the exhibiting artist.

Boothroyd then wonders about the influence of the online curator – how much input does the online curator have to the viewer’s response; how do they pull the viewer through the collection and what are they intending to convey;  what kind of experience do they hope the viewer will have? The link to the online exhibition doesn’t work but I did find an online article in what I think is an old website of his (2005-207) . It’s in the form of a Q+A and was originally published in Flash Magazine.  Adams describes how his site had developed over four years with expansion from a photo a day to a monthly Weekend series and photography book section.  He refers to a wide cross-section of people in the photo industry who are his audience.

One question was,  Does the internet function well as an exhibition space for photomedia work? Yes – selection process the same, work reviewed on a laptop; nearly every photographer has a website “so an online exhibition, if properly executed, can provide unique opportunities for a spectator to discover more of an artist’s work”. Adams doesn’t argue that the experience is the same as experiencing physical prints in a traditional exhibition and he doesn’t talk about anything that really fits with Boothroyd’s questions.  For him it’s all about “presenting experiences for a global, online audience while providing a platform for them to interact with and learn from each other”, at least in that particular interview. His Flakphoto site is no longer in existence but a found a video of the online Exhibition Looking at the Land – 21st Century American Views.

I can see how he’s linking shapes but there doesn’t seem to be any other reason – they’re in different places in different time periods  I think it’s too long for a slidsehow and maybe would be better with commentary.  The pacing was fine on one hand but, on the other, there were some images I would have wanted to flip over in a book or walk past quickly in a physical exhibition and others I would have wanted to linger over so I’m at the mercy of the online curator here except, of course, that I can pause the slideshow but that’s only just occurred to me and I’m half-way through which shows how I’ve fallen under the spell of the slideshow.

Another internet search under “curating an online exhibition” brought up quite a few entries.  This one by Daniel Temkin (2016) seemed useful advice looking at five challenges.

  • Develop the concept and content
  • Build/find the platform – with a warning that its more likely for an online gallery to be taken down
  • Curate the work – being very clear about deadlines and expectations and two months is a good amount of time to get ready.
  • Get the word out
  • Document and archive

This site listed Exhibitions up to November last year . The November one looked like an Exhibition on Second Life to me (I did visit a couple whilst being a resident there) but the one before it had a video introduction with explanation and statement  .  It was interesting because pressing enter took me into a road where I could click into various sites.  I think that’s a very good way and a very different kind of Exhibition. A technique to bear in mind.

Analog Forever Magazine  has a monthly online Exhibition.  The January 2020 one “The Future’s So Bright… “ was curated  by Bree Lamb who also chose a winner. Her introduction demonstrates how she responded to the theme as a curator and her method. The Exhibition is a gallery style slideshow where one image clicks to another so the viewer can spend as long or as little as they wish on each photograph. It’s also possible to click on further information on each photographer. I couldn’t see any particular logic in the sequencing.

Photograd also have an online gallery supporting photography graduates, with Instagram takeovers I’ve certainly found this site and others on Instagram to be very useful in introducing me to new photographers.

Finally, I looked at Shirley Read Exhibiting Photography which has a useful Case Study by Katrina Sluis on exhibiting online. (S. Read. 2014:284-296)


Read, S. (2014) Exhibiting Photography: a practical guide to displaying your work. Abingdon. Focal Press




Exercise 5.4

I’ve made notes in the previous exercise on some audio-visual slideshows and what I’ve learned which will be very useful.

I have previously merged still photographs into a video and here is one where I merged several photographs together to show myself ‘emerging’ from a tree. I had used some free music for the earlier experiments but, on the advice of my then tutor, I included ambient sound.

I haven’t yet thought about whether I would use a slideshow for any of the Assignment work for this Landscape Module but will add a relevant link if I do so.

Exercise 5.3: Print-on-demand mock-up

Exercise 5.3: Print-on-demand mock-up

I’m on the editorial team of the student Edge-zine and one of my tasks last year was to put forward a finance application for consideration by the Student Association. A potential print run was part of the application and I obtained costings from two different companies – ExWhyZed, Colchester   and Northend, Sheffield who do printing for OCA . My Edge-zine colleague Amy gained a costing from Mixam, Watford The costings were for a printed 77 page ‘art’ magazine  on 130 gsm silk paper, perfect bind and laminated cover in various quantities. All these companies provided paper samples, in fact Ex Why Zed got full marks from me for providing several different printed magazines as samples too. What was surprising was how the costs varied between the three. The cheapest overall was Mixam who would also print one copy for £27, whilst the other two (ExWhyZed being the most expensive) would provide hard copy proofs.

Mixam have an instant quote facility but, unfortunately, will only print a minimum 50 copies for books. Northend’s website isn’t very informative and I had to first phone and then email them regarding the magazines.  ExWhyZed seem very user-friendly with lots of information on their site and they do print photobooks, also offering a hard proof copy on the same paper as the final publication.  You have to fill in their quote form though so I didn’t contact them on this occasion.

I do have an account with Blurb and have created several books with the software whilst studying with OCA.  I looked at Milk books first as a different option.  It would cost £70, plus shipping for a large landscape photo book (13” x 11”) of 24 pages.

Blurb offer photo Books from £9.99 for 20 pages, plus postage and they offer a variety of free downloadable layout tools – see here Booksmart doesn’t feature there, although I know its still available.  For a start I tried BookWright to customize a large landscape book (33x28cm/13×11”) because I wanted to see large images.  The layouts allow for jpegs up to 75 mg for MacOSX; maximum size 3059 x 2555 pixel. See here   To be honest I have found Bookwright to be quite fiddly in the past, especially in terms of playing around with the layouts, and did so again this time. I therefore turned to Booksmart which will take images up to 4000×4000 pixels. Colour space RGB and, preferably sRGB. I attempted to download a proof PDF but it arrived in docx, form and my Mac told me it couldn’t read it (I do have Microsoft Office).  I gritted my teeth and decided to upload an buy a book because I did want to see how it turned out.  However, by the time I’d costed for the paper and cover the cost was coming out at around £70 which I decided was too expensive for an ‘experiment’.  Back I went to Booksmart ,and re-formatted and adjusted everything into the standard landscape size (25×20 cm/9.84” x 7.87”). The cost including postage of £8.99 and a downloadable PDF was £30.07.

It does seem quite a fiddly process to me especially if, like me, you want to alter the image containers.  One of my initial thoughts had been to buy a Blurb book which I could then take to pieces and re-constitute with a hand-made cover.  On reflection I’ve decided that I will definitely learn how to use InDesign and create my own book.  Overall it was a useful process.



Exercise 5.2: Print Quotes

Project – Digital Printing Choices

This was an interesting exercise to do, especially after recently attending the recent Thames Valley Group Meeting where we looked at “Having a Relationship with your Printer”

I’ve used professional printing companies twice before when preparing for an Exhibition.  The first time was in 2017 when I used a local printer Surrounds who also do printing for students at UCA Farnham  I had two composite images framed and, as I’d been having problems with my new printer (an A3+ printer but I was repeatedly having black ink splashes on the edges when using A3+ photopaper) I had the two images printed by them. The quote includes the Giclee printing.

I had three of my own photographs professionally printed  for the Open Art Collective Exhibition. This time I used The Printspace. . To begin with I ordered a test print of one of them to make sure the colours were correct and there are full instructions on their website for this, including a really helpful video explaining how to go about this .  See here  . The video is very helpful and having the test strip helped alleviate my anxiety about the whole operation. The test prints cost me a total of £13 – well worth the money .  I was also asked to upload the photographs using their own ICC profile for the paper I chose.

Each of the Giclee Epson Semi-Gloss A3+ size prints cost me £18.25 plus £3.65 VAT and delivery of all three cost me £14.39, including VAT for delivery by Overnight Courier.   When my printer works it does produce high quality prints, but it was worth paying for professional printing to get excellent quality at a larger size.  I’d certainly do this again.  All this was achieved online and one thing I would do differently would be to actually visit Printspace to get to know the staff there. I had the framing done by Surrounds though.

The video below explains the range of papers they use

I have obtained three up-to-date online quotes from The Printspace, London; Peak-Imaging, Sheffield (who offer a discount for OCA students) and The Artist’s Print Room, Bridgnorth, who also offer a discount to students.

Peak-Imaging, Sheffield :

Prices include VAT.

C-Type Prints. These can be Satin Matt; Gloss; Fujiflex or Metallic. Satin Matt A3 costs £7.25 for one which then reduces according to multiples. You can select for the prints to be Lab Optimised so that the image can be assessed and corrected if necessary by their technicians. JPEG, PNG and TIFF files can be uploaded although uploading Tiffs is not recommended due to the large size.

Giclee Prints. “Photo” or “Fine Art” papers are used (Hannemuhle) and printed using Ultrachrome HDR aqueous pigment inks. An A3 Print would cost £11.16 on Photo Paper or £13.14 on Fine Art Paper.

Custom sizes can be printed but you need to speak to them on the phone about these.

Their information on Monitor Calibration can be found here    Their information states that calibrating your computer display to their calibration print (which is delivered free within the UK) is an effective way of ensuring that your digital images are printed the way you see them but this is not necessary if you’re happy for them to optimise the image before printing.  You order the calibration print online and also download the image filed used to create the calibration print.  Once you have both you open the image file in Photoshop, using working colour space of“sRGB” and Adobe Gamma preferably to match your on-screen calibration image with the print. The black (and white) areas on the monitor should match the black (and white) areas on the print, while the greys should be neutral with no discernible colour cast.  You can also gain a far more accurate match by using Advanced calibration, i.e. using their Output profiles with their “Guide to Soft Proofing in Photoshop”.

The Printspace, London:

Any size can be printed and the price charged will be for the smallest print size that your print fits into.  Sample packs are available. Prices given include VAT.

Giclee Prints. A3 costs £12.96.

C type. FujiCrystal Archive Matte or Gloss costs £9.85; Kodak Metallic £11.86 and Fuji Flex £12.83.

The Artist’s Print Room

I hadn’t heard of this company before which is based in Bridgnorth, Shropshire.   They offer a !5% discount for students including printing, retouching and editing also a Free one-hour introductory meeting aimed directly at students including an introduction to Photoshop, colour management, calibration and portfolio printing. They describe themselves as the only professional bespoke giclee printing service in the UK to be accredited by Epson Digigraphie, Hannemuhle, Canson Infinity and Ilford. All prints produced on heavy-weight archival papers or canvas with the use of Epson HDX Ultrachrome archival pigment inks. See the information here.

They don’t have an actual price-list online but state that pricing is from just £7 per print. I filled in a form for an A3 print with an internal border, Matte Finish (Canson Infinity Rag Photographique 310 gsm, with print quality 2880 dpi . The price quoted is £26.82. If any reader has tried them I would love to hear a review. I’ve also put a query out on the OCA Photography FB page.


Can an inkjet be treated as a photograph?  Given that home printers can now use archival inks and high quality papers that last for years  I agree with the final sentence on page 154 of the Module Handbook –  If a photographer has painstakingly produced an inkjet print themselves, using their own printer and creating their own colour profiles, then this should be judged as part of their artistic process.






Exercise 5.1: Origins of the White Cube

 General points to remember before reading the Thomas McEvilley writing.

  • The peculiarities of an art presentation space influence how we perceive/read images and also ‘demand’ a certain decorum from their visitors.
  • Contemporary galleries attempt to be’‘neutral’ spaces that can be manipulated with accommodate artworks.
  • Their requisite shade is white – hence the term ‘white cube’.
  • Two types of galleries. Commercial, selling and promoting artists’ work, and Public who support by exhibiting work, distributing funding for new commissions and sometimes publishing accompanying monographs/catalogues.
  • Aesthetic appeal crucial for Commercial galleries, less so for Public galleries, but the latter need to justify choices in terms of visitor attraction , show work with relevance to their wider community, plus sustain their reputation for both exhibiting works and reaching out to those who don’t normally visit
  • Group exhibitions can be important, influential and survey contemporary practice which acts as a barometer to gauge the contemporary climate
  • Remember that exhibition curators are subjective in their approach and some are authors in their own right e.g. David Campanay, Gerry Badger and Liz Wells

Key points on Thomas McEvilley’s introduction to Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space by Brian O’Doherty (1999). A collection of the essays which originally appeared in Artforum Magazine in 1976 and 1986.  Accessed at on 14 January 2020.

I’m mainly quoting throughout but words in bold italics are ones particularly interesting for me.

(p.7) O’Doherty investigates what the context of the modernist gallery does to the art object and the viewing subject and how the context devours the object, becoming it.

I have written earlier regarding the view of Rosalind Krauss (1982) regarding the gallery wall as “the signifier of inclusion” and the way in which painting began to internalise and represent the exhibition wall (see here)

(p8) Comparison by providing examples of the roots of other classes of chambers constructed on similar principles all designed to eliminate awareness of the outside world and difficult to access.

This was an interesting connection for me as I hadn’t previously thought of Egyptian pyramids and surface paintings in paelothic caves in quite that way.

(p9) A kind of sympathetic magic in an attempt to obtain something by ritually presenting something else that is, in some way like the thing that is desired – to promote unchangingness in the real or non-ritual world; cast an appearance of eternality over the status quo in terms of social values, and also  in our modern instance, artistic values – artistic posterity, undying beauty, of the masterpiece. In this way, the white cube suggests the eternal ratification of the claims of the caste or group sharing that sensibility, a certain power structure.

Re the institutionalization of the white cube – we absent ourselves in favour of the Eye and the Spectator ……all that is left of someone who has “died” by entering into the white cube. We give up our humanness and become the cardboard Spectator with the disembodied Eye.  Examples given of things we do not do in classical modernist galleries, as in churches/religious sanctuaries.

Tracing the development of the white cube from the tradition of Western easel painting then redirecting attention to the anti-formalist tradition such as Duchamp’s installations which made the gallery space itself the primary material to be altered by art.

(p.11) The white cube was a transitional device that attempted to bleach out the past and at the same time control the future by appealing to supposedly transcendental modes of presence and power. O’Doherty links this with Plato’s vision of a higher metaphysical realm, utterly disconnected from the life of human experience; which he views as a hidden controlling structure behind modernist aesthetics. His essays are defences of the real life of the world against the sterilized operating room of the white cube – defences of time and change against the myth of the eternality and transcendence of pure form, and his essays both embody and express this defence, whilst illustrating how quickly the newest realizations of today become the classical insights of yesterday.

McEvilley ends by commenting that the rate of change or development continues and is increasing and that articles written today (i.e. 1986) will by 1990, either have been forgotten or have become classic.


I can understand the comparisons with the reverent atmosphere that can prevail, particularly in older Art Galleries with their porticoed entrances, marble columns, lofty ceilings and wood panelling.  The Royal Academy particularly always strikes me in this way with its hushed atmosphere. I’m also thinking of Tate Modern Gallery the size of it and the immensity of Turbine Hall. On the other hand, the Tate does encourage viewer participation in whatever is going on in the latter.

Re the cardboard spectator – Thomas Struth’s Museum Photographs  both illustrate this in their subject and size – dwarfing the human spectators who are viewing works of art, often of a religious nature. Another example is that of Andreas Gursky who exhibited his mammoth works in the Hayward Gallery in 2018 (I wrote about this Exhibition here ) .  The observe of this would be utilising a space so that miniatures works would challenge the space and invite viewers into a more intimate, individual viewing.

I was involved in the organisation and setting up of the Open Art Collective Exhibition in February 2019 .  Afterwards I reflected on the way in which the walls of the gallery could swallow up what I had originally thought of as quite large framed photographs.  The white walls and more formal aspect also seemed a constraint in terms of how the work could be presented.  Conversely, In my imagination there were installations on the floor space as well as artwork on the walls but, in fact, the space wasn’t large enough.

Thomas McEvilley also makes a very valid point in terms of rate of change and development of gallery spaces.  The anti-formalist tradition of artists still made use of the white cube by altering it but there are now many alternative, physical, methods of utilising spaces such as pop-up Exhibitions in various localities such as shops or using converted buildings such as defunct courthouses.  For example my colleague OCA graduate Anna Goodchild  exhibited her work in the redundant cells of Devonport Guildhall which was such an appropriate space for her Project One Year which offers a different perspective on life in a UK prison. The small, separate spaces allowed her to present her work in a variety of ways.


Postscript 20th January 2020

I’ve had further thoughts upon reflection and responding to comments.

  • Re when we enter the White Cube, “We give up our humanness and become the cardboard Spectator with the disembodied Eye” – when I first read this I immediately thought of the photographer and their camera.  We look at the world through a camera lens and, therefore, distance ourselves from reality.
  • Although I think the metaphor of White Cub linked with ritual and the sanctity of the religion might be over-exaggerated here it did remind me of Mercae Eliade’s writings, e.g. “The man of the archaic society tends to live as much as possible in the sacred or in close proximity to consecrated objects. The sacred is equivalent to a power …..” (Eliade, M. (1957:05) (see here)

Exercise 4.6: Proposal for the self-directed project

The War of the Worlds: Projections from the past to the future


The author H. G. Wells moved to Woking, Surrey in May 1895, accompanied by his future wife, Amy Catherine Robins. They rented a house (still there and with a blue plaque) in the Maybury area of Woking – opposite the railway line – living there for almost eighteen months.  It has been suggested that the time spent in Woking was the most productive and creative of Well’s writing career and one of the books written there is the topic of this Project.

The War of the Worlds was first published during 1897, in serial form in Pearsons Magazine, then appearing in volume form in 1898.  It is narrated in the first-person by an unnamed man and also his younger brother, at a future time when the South of England is invaded by Martians. Various interpretations of the book have been as a commentary on evolutionary theory, British imperialism and Victorian superstitions, fears and prejudices in general. Wells himself said that the plot resulted from a discussion he had had with his younger brother about the catastrophic impact of the British on the indigenous Tasmanians.  Wells had wondered what would happen if Martians invaded Britain and treated the British in the same way that they themselves had treated the Tasmanians.

The Project Brief

The Martians invade Earth due to their own dwindling resources and the book is amazingly prescient given our own Space explorations nowadays plus the growing fear that Climate change will lead to the end of life on our planet Earth.

Where and Why: I have lived near to, and within, the area of Woking since 1986 and what is particularly interesting to me is that Wells used actual locations in the book that I know well, particularly Horsell Common, where the Martians landed. Near the beginning of the book Wells writes about his friends observatory in Ottershaw.  I know there is no such place but am intrigued as to where he might have imagined its location. Ottershaw Church was founded in 1863 and was built upon the rise of a hill and has a bell tower – perhaps Wells noticed this on one of his trips  when he was cycling down to Chertsey and Shepperton.

How: I will be using Canon 6D camera plus, potentially iPhone camera and, perhaps, a holga pinhole lens on the 6D.  I also have an idea in my head around polaroid photography/emulsion lifts to convey a transient element

This is potentially a lengthy project, but I am treating this Assignment as an exploratory one in which I will confine myself to the area to from Wells’s house on Maybury Road  to/around Horsell Common (taking in a small part of Basingstoke Canal) and thence to walk from Horsell Common to Fairoaks Airport. This is potentially two sessions and a third will be Christ Church, Ottershaw.

Influences and Research


List of artists already looked at below. Research will be ongoing.

Artist Research suggestions for Assignment 5

Literary and Historical:-

To begin with the book itself, including copies with illustrations and also a comic book; Auto-biography and biography of H. G. Wells; old postcards of the area; Information from Woking Anniversary celebration (already obtained). Listen to an available copyright-free recording of the radio play by Orson Welles.

Visit to Surrey History Centre, Woking to access vintage maps of the area/s covered by the book and any available material on Wells’s stay in Woking. (To be arranged)


There are several possibilities. Alternative Realities – mirrors between worlds – past, imagined future and present. Use of a mirror or some form of illumination (cf Keith Arnatt’s work).  I could treat the project as a ‘Search for Ottershaw Observatory’ or compare the Woking Wells would have known with the Woking today. I intend to keep an open mind so will do an initial shoot and see what comes to mind as I photograph.

I would like to create an altered book as I have several copies of the book that I can disassemble, re-combine and add to.  Just a thought at the moment.

Estimated schedule to be discussed with my tutor.


This Project fits in with my previous work in terms of explorations in Ottershaw (Assignment 1 and Assignment 6) and the Basingstoke Canal in Woking (Assignment 2). aIt also fits with my continuing interest in stories in and about the landscape.  I have already visited Horsell Common and taken some test shots with my iPhone which I have shared and discussed with some photographer/artist colleagues.