Category Archives: OCA related

OCA Thames Valley Group meeting: 15th February 2020

This was an informal group session with eight of us present. We began with Jonathan bringing us up-to-date on place for the rest of this Academic Year’s sessions; had some discussion about latest notifications from OCA re tracking of students’ active learning and then moved onto discussion of works in progress.


Has been preparing a PechaKucha Presentation on her MA Body of Work ‘Digital Afterlife’. I was amazed how much information she was able to provide with such a short time slot available. (I found a good resource here  for further general information).  Dawn also had an image in a recent book, Women – Inspiring Quotes and artistic Responses Vol. 2.  Dawn had responded to an open call she had seen on CuratorSpace asking for women artists to provide a quote from an artist or writer who inspires them, together with an artistic response to this. CuratorSpace looks very useful; it’s a project management toolkit for curators, organisers, galleries, and artists, which is designed to simplify managing exhibitions, competitions etc, by allowing organisations to create open calls inviting people to submit ideas, projects, and art work quickly and easily. I’ve now subscribed to their newsletter and they are also on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.


I had taken along 7×5” prints of my current choices for Assignment 5 which has H.G. Wells’s ‘War of the Worlds’ as inspiration and Horsell Common as a subject. I asked for feedback on the sequence and suggestions about suitable texts (as there is no text at the moment)also showed the postcards I had selected.  I also showed the vintage postcards I had bought from eBay as I was thinking about ways in which I might be able to incorporate them, and explained I would like to create a handmade book and have also thought of an ‘altered’ book as I have several copies of ‘War of the Worlds’.


Everyone was very interested in and positive about the sequence and the concept – one comment being “There’s plenty of meat in this”.  However questions were asked which indicated to me that I needed to be clearer about my choices/sequence and what I was portraying. Was I looking at Horsell Common from a Martian’s point of view, is it about  the Martian War itself, before it happens or when it’s ended?  Suggestions were made that I could follow the sequence of the story/part of the story which covers Horsell Common; or insert a link to a Martian tripod by photographing trees from underneath. Another suggestion was that, if it’s connected with the Martian having landed then it would be appropriate to end the sequence with the creeping tree roots.

So far as adding text is concerned there was a consensus that I should include quotations from the book.  Regarding the ‘altered’ book, one idea I’d had was to paint a watercolour overlay over my images (cf. the work of Aletheia Casey ) or even parts of the book.  Another suggestion was to convert my photographs to black and white and then paint over them which is something Gerry has done in the past using acrylic ink rather than watercolour because it’s brighter and easier to use.  Gerry also referred to a book he had seen where the pages got gradually redder.  So far as the postcards are concerned, I could perhaps paint over copies of the postcard and then insert them in the book.


He is continuing to enjoy the book design course and showed us a zine he created for Assignment 1. ‘My Life in Books’. It looked very professional and he is also planning to create a photo-zine.


Used his iPad to show us some of his work for Assignment 3 ‘A Journey’. This is on his website and he has created a map of the journey a with accompanying slideshow. It’s a very effective and creative way of presenting a walk .  We discussed whether ambient sound relative to the place would support  the concept of change over time e.g. even the sound of breathing, also a suggestion that instead of right to left perhaps  it would better show the direction of the journey relative to the map if left to right. Jonathan is also planning to create a giant cyanotype of the stones he collected on his walk. His Assignment 5 will be a project on land art, including a clever, and artistic, possible way of influencing walkers on a public right of way to stay on that as they walk through a private field.


Work for Identity & Place. A series which utilises a processing technique he developed before studying with OCA and incorporates landscape scenes with objects which are important to him. Very distinctive prints with a slight HDR effect and printed on Permajet Pearl paper.


Talked us through the process and shared work produced in collaboration with an artist – part of a collaborative group submitting work for the forthcoming Edgezine online magazine.  Each responded to work created by the other, from which new work was created.



Shared work he had done for an Assignment for the Illustration Module.  He experimented with using the cheapest possible ink and a foam brush. Really effective and a pleasure to look at.

During our lunch break Jonathan told us about a YouTube film which shows a 3D printer in the desert using solar energy and making glass Dawn showed us some work by Songwen Chung who has created a robot that will draw with her ,and also some wonderful work by Helen Douglas on Weproductions . There’s some ‘Poempondscroll’ (2010) a 5.7 metre x 21 cm scroll, printed on Chinese paper with ultra chrome inks. (out of print unfortunately)

The reflective expanse and circle of the pond at Deuchar Mill inspired Douglas to explore the scroll format, and gave Valerie Gillies the idea of writing a poem in Chinese form using couplets to encircle the creatures which live in the pond. The result, poempondscroll, is a horizontal hand scroll over 5 metres long, which visually evokes light and reflections on water, with an integrated text that merges and disappears within the rendered details of water insects, rushes and the pond itself.

 Evolving out of the first scroll was ‘The Pond at Deuchar’ 14 metres x 27cm, continuing Douglas’s exploration of Deuchar Pond in deeper and richer colour and at greater length. This is also out of print but there was also a digital version of this and, if you have an iPad it can be accessed from here  .

It got me thinking that perhaps I could create a scroll book for Assignment 3 ‘Silent Pool’ must discuss with my tutor.


A very useful and supportive meeting demonstrating, once again, the value of sharing work with fellow students and asking for feedback.  For me it’s actually more useful than online sessions because I can see the physical prints and books etc.

Actions for me are:-

  • Reflect on my overall concept for Assignment 5 to make sure is it links coherently with the images
  • Find suitable text from the book “War of the Worlds” to add to the book
  • Do some experiments with watercolour paint or acrylic ink as a layer over some of my Assignment 5 images
  • Discuss the idea of a scroll book for Assignment 3 with my tutor
  • Richard created some beautiful handmade books when he studied Landscape so I will get in touch to ask for more details on his process.




Thames Valley Group Meeting: 18th January 2020

Print Workshop with John Umney – “Having a relationship with your printer”


John is an OCA Photography Graduate, currently studying for an MA with Oxford Brooks University.  He has many years of experience with printing his own work for Exhibitions and also ran a Print group which met monthly for a decade. Notes below on learning – all of which was achieved through discussion of prints we’d taken along with us – ones we were happy with or ones which didn’t turn out as we expected:-

  • Having a relationship with your printer includes a human printer as well and it’s important to get to know them; see how they work; explain the outcome you’d like to get and, if possible, show a test print to them.
  • Calibrate your monitor screen
  • Always clean the ink nozzles before you print
  • If you achieve a print you like you also need to know how you got there and how to reproduce it
  • The context for a print is important. How will it fit in a series; where will it be seen – book, gallery wall etc. Think about the distance from the viewer and also how it will be affected by lighting types
  • Re b+w – if the image has warm tones then it will show better on a more ivory coloured photo paper
  • If you have to have a margin on a print (e.g. for OCA assessment) bear in mind that the margin becomes a part of the print. I hadn’t thought of that before.
  • Use test prints which needn’t be on the exact same photopaper so long as you know they provide a good approximation of the final result.

Technical  aspects and practicalities


  • Use genuine inks rather than compatible.
  • Always use the same paper for prints and the same paper for test prints. John uses Canson Infinity Baryta Photographique 310 gsm – Satin for prints and the HP Everyday photo paper 200 gsm gloss for test prints
  • Use ICC profiles for the paper you use
  • If you use a laptop have a separate screen for it so that calibration will be more constant

Effect on the viewer:

  • A high contrast print can be ‘didactic’ – is that because the brain links with the notion of either/or I’m wondering.
  • A low contrast print adds ‘ambiguity’ – illustrated very much by one of John’s prints from his BoW where the low contrast (which John prefers in his work) has a slightly ‘otherworld” sense to it. What always surprises me is that low contrast work appeals to me yet my eyes always seek clarity.
  • John showed us a large number of his prints before his Degree, which he regards as craft rather than ‘art’, and we discussed this distinction which is something I often tussle with. I decided to do a web search and the first  statements that came up were, “Art is for aesthetics. Craft is for function and they often criss-cross venues. So the answer can be quite subjective”. and, “Craft is about producing a product. Art is concerned with the process of making something and not the end product”. Looking at it another way it’s Art when someone says it is perhaps.

This was a really useful session for me good to meet up with everyone in the group again after the Christmas break and see how they were progressing.  It was also particularly good to see John as he was one of TVG’s founder members and attended from the start until he graduated.


Meetings of Thames Valley Group in September and October 2019

Thames Valley Group Meeting 21st September 2019

A few thoughts:-

Documenting someone’s life – person and place – how much the photographer’s choice of view, composition, and resulting images affects the viewer’s perception of the subject. How does that compare with the subject’s perception of their life.  What happens when the subject is allowed to choose. (Barry)

A more unusual use of the word ‘insinuation’ (in Jonathan’s blog  ) – how the path insinuates its way into the brain.

(NB Robert Macfarlane, author of “The Lost Words” has a regular ‘word of the day’ on his Twitter feed . )

(Cecelia) Ways of integrating landscape images with portraits (e.g. Helen Sear) ()

Overlaying symbols of a country over photographs of it (Kevin)

Re family albums – we’re co-creating identity with the dead (Dawn).  My other thought on this is that we’re still ‘alive’ in some way until the last person who can remember us dies.

One image from the day – An example of the imaginative ways in which Dawn create a ‘family album’.


NB – an ethnographic approach to the family album. This book is very useful . Have it on my bookshelf.

Thames Valley Group Meeting 19th October 2019

Richard and Pauline talked about the freedom of not doing a degree because you can go in a direction that interests you.  Richard has started on the book-making Course.

Pauline studying Visual Culture but still taking photographs. She has become interested in words in the landscape with that underlying question of how words can strike at a glimpse. We discussed some recent examples – agreeing that these are more in the street photography genre. We moved the prints around, discussing which worked well together.

Really interesting to hear how Dawn is finding the MFA at Farnham. They’ve gone straight into creating collaborative work in large/small groups.  Dawn had created a tissue dress from an old pattern – linking with part of the theme of ‘generation’ . How they curated an ‘exhibition’ and then re-curated.  How crits work and the kind of questions asked – e.g. “What would you take away; what would you add?”. Dawn is also doing an online Art course. Showed us a way of ‘letting go” – masking-off four rectangles on paper and painting over the tape (see below)

Sue showed us her work on Creech Wood and how she’s experimenting with slideshows with and without audio. Discussed use of ambient recordings and difficulties of obtaining ones free from wind noise.

I didn’t have any coursework to show but talked about my ideas for Assignments 4 and 5 on landscape.  For Assignment 4 Critical Review I’m thinking of writing on the notion of “Home”.  I explained how I got to thinking about this as a result of the continuing Brexit debate and comments about nationalism and patriotism. What is it that makes people feel patriotic towards their country; what underlies this feeling – something about attachment to home which, of course, links with feeling homesick and nostalgic.  Is it possible to evoke such feelings through a landscape image – conceptual or traditional as opposed to a pure social/documentary approach?  I’ve done a fair amount of reading and note-taking and also collected together some examples including work I saw last year at the Brighton Biennial weekend. With 2000 words I need to keep my essay quite focussed whilst acknowledging links with culture and identity.  Two suggestions were to have a look at the Museum of Migration, London    and also to research District 6 Museum in Cape Town, South Africa . I was also reminded about my project on my dad’s letters, sent to me when he was in the Army in Egypt. I hadn’t thought of them in this contex so was very pleased to be reminded and talking about this also reminded me of my dreams of Sheffield in the past and how these ended once I had been back in more recent years and seen how the estate has deteriorated.

My current idea for Assignment 5 is a project based around “War of the Worlds” written by H.G. Wells when he lived briefly in Woking. Wells refers to many local places and nearby towns and I could re-trace these in the present.

I went away feeling very supported and with much more enthusiasm for coursework than I had when I arrived at the meeting. I also decided to try out Dawn’s experiment with painting.




4. Mini-experiment at Thames Valley Group Meeting – Process


Reviewing Progress so far: A few thoughts/Ideas

I’ve written before about my efforts to find the right photographic approach to Silent Pool. I’d also been jotting down ideas for presentation, including the use of text – something I’ve written about previously, here  and here . Joel Colberg wrote an interesting piece about the role of text alongside photography in January 2018. His view was that one has to look at what the two do together, but this approach didn’t seem to him to be very common in photography. “Here, photographs are almost always taken as being in the driver’s seat, with text riding shotgun (at best).” He also refers to captions in photojournalism and documentary photography incorporating, “[… ] often very elaborate pieces of text that, however, often are produced by a different author and that usually almost lead a life of their own.” This contrasts with fine-art photography where images might not even have titles. Colberg queries this, wondering why omit text when it could elevate the work beyond what the pictures are able to do. To me that’s a very interesting question because I sometimes think along the reverse – at what point do the photographs become mere illustrations to a narrative?  For me, this is compounded by the fact that, in this student world, we’re expected to write a fair amount ‘about’ our photography plus we have a lot of discussion about captions and placement of text. Having looked at different ways in which some photographers use text Colberg recognises that there isn’t a single model of how pictures and text work together so this has to be figured out in each particular case – how will one inform the other?

This came home to me at a recent visit to Moving The Image,  an Exhibition at Camberwell Space, London.  When we walked into the Exhibition space it struck me as light and spacious but sparse – really minimal.  I then realised that there were no captions or titles, no pieces of information informing me about the photographer or the work.  This meant I had to spend quite some time looking at the work and trying to comprehend what it was all about in some cases; which was a good thing.  It turned out there was actually a list of works handout , with a diagram as to where they were – numbered in such a way that you didn’t follow an organic flow with it. There was also a printed pamphlet containing a quite lengthy essay by the curator, Duncan Wooldridge, with references to the pieces of work and photographs of some of them. I felt pleased I hadn’t known about them to begin with because the lack provided some additional learning and realisation.

My anxiety about my Silent Pool photographs and thoughts on text and image came to a head when I was in bed, unable to sleep, the night before the OCA Thames Valley Group meeting. What if I could do a mini experiment to test out my work; how would I go about it? Eventually I worked out a possible process in my head.  I could present some of the photographs without any explanation other than they were part of the Assignment, give group members a card each and ask them to write words or a brief sentence on anything that came to mind when looking. It would be the images themselves that spoke rather than explanatory text. Next I would tell them about Silent Pool, its history, the story by Martin Tupper and the Distillery and ask  if there was any point at which each of them became more interested in the photographs.  I did manage to get some sleep after that but got up early and printed off some of the photographs at A4 size. I used  Permajet Titanium Lustre paper for most of them as I thought this would be appropriate for photographs of water as it has a slight texture and metallic sheen. Otherwise I used Epson traditional photo-paper which is quite a heavy paper and with a slight satin sheen. I included a photograph of tree roots – kind of like a wild card but it reminded me of hanging on, clinging to the roots of something, existing over time – and also a composite image of the pool and a girl leaning over it.  The girl was from a copyright- free Victorian painting but I had distorted her figure slightly so that she leaned over further and also added a reflection.

Thames Valley Group Meeting – 18th May 2019

There were seven of us, slightly less than usual but good too as it meant we each had more time for presentation.  I presented the Silent Pool images and went through the process of my mini experiment as planned. These are the images I chose:-


After cards were written, I narrated all the events and story of the Pool then, during the following discussion, I also showed some small fabric prints.  I had been thinking about the work of Noemie Goudal, and her installation of a fabric waterfall and played with the idea of something similar as a small installation. I used Contrado for the printing as I had used them previously for the mini-project I collaborated on with Dawn.  I chose satin for one and crushed velvet for the other:


Dawn kindly made notes for me on points that arose during the discussion, which was so helpful because it enabled me to listen and concentrate on what people were saying.

Peer Feedback:



Discussion Notes

  • Looked at images individually and then interested when they were all together – before the Pool (history etc?)
  • Thought of word ‘silent’ then it looks like Silent Pool
  • Myth – a story of warning people
  • Reminds me of another story where a girl goes in a pool, goes round and round and drowns – Mill on the Floss?
  • Looks like a peaceful and romantic place. Interesting how all the layers of story-telling have built on top.
  • Permanence and fluidity. When told story I felt it was not true. I’m just too cynical. Like the monasteries who invented relics to get people to visit.
  • Like King Arthur – nobody know who or where he was.
  • From romantic landscape to commercial merchandise
  • You could take the water into your own bottles and photograph them. Produce your own
  • To me it’s wondrous; the pure pool
  • Had different histories. I thought of above and below.
  • There’s something about woodland pools that are very attractive; innately attractive.
  • These images could have been evidence from a court case; they could be forensic evidence.
  • All these elements building around the same place
  • Addition of the figure (manipulated composite image) turns it into a Victorian landscape. Conceptually I’d like to see the outline of the painting to highlight the concept.

This was all such helpful feedback for me.  I was pleased that the images did mainly seem to evoke the sense of place I’d been trying to achieve. Interesting as well about the comments regarding from romantic landscape to commercial merchandise which is very much about how we harness, own and make money from them. This led to comments re the fabric prints, including that I could make tea towels as well as bottling some of the water in a bottle I designed.  Those are also useful in thinking about eventual presentation.

Many thanks to Dawn, Miriam, Richard, Kevin, Gerry and Michael for their feedback.





Interpreting Landscape: OCA Workshop 14th April 2019

Interpreting Landscape : 14thApril 2019
OCA Workshop with Clare Wilson, OCA Tutor 

The aim of the workshop was to focus 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 imagine.

Seven of us met with Clare in the Tabernacle,  which began life as a tin evangelist church in 1869 before being transformed into the Romanesque red brick and terracotta building it is today. It was closed as a church in 1975 and there’s an interesting timeline here  describing all it went through before becoming the thriving place it is today.

After brief introductions Clare talked about her own working practice, where her paintings evolve slowly, allowing space to settle,  through a process of layering, erasing and re-working the paint; leaving traces on the surface which provide evidence of the evolution. She was only able to show us some of her paintings on her laptop due to a problem with connection to the wall monitor but I looked at her website afterwards (see below).

We then moved on to a discussion of landscape and what it means to each of us. For some it was to do with form and shape; how humans use/abuse the land and how they inhabit and shape it.  For me, at that moment, it was about being in a space, absorbing the atmosphere/environment and how the landscape carries layers of time, history, and the stories we carry and pass on about those spaces. I also mentioned my idea for my next Assignment, about space to place and how a story made a place of a pool.

We then went straight into experiential mode. Each of us had been asked to bring along two photographs – a place we felt connected to in some way and a place not visited but that we felt intrigued by, having seen an image of it.  The latter needed to be non-precious as it would be lost in the photo transfer process and a photocopy would be fine.  We were also asked to bring a small object that relates to a place that holds memories.

I had brought a photograph of our garden, an image of a Japanese garden and a small soapstone statuette of mother and baby. They all had special meaning for me – the apple still lingers in my mind as a potential photography project one day whilst reminding me of a Bonsai tree with its stunted miniature growth. I have always wanted to visit Japan, and a friend gave me the African soapstone statuette many years ago as a gift, something that has travelled with me through the years and several house-moves. It’s a tactile object, pleasant to hold and soothing to look at. Interestingly it also reminds me of some of the small Japanese objects I have, with its impassive gaze into an unknown place.

After each of us had talked about the meanings of the pieces Clare then asked us to spend some time drawing the object. I enjoyed attempting to capture the curves of the statuette in this warm-up exercise.

Time then to choose from some images provided by Clare and cut and collage a picture

This was where I went into self-critical mode. My sense was that there’s something about me that doesn’t incline towards collage as I didn’t want to stick one piece over another  – something was stopping me.  It isn’t that I don’t appreciate those created by other people because I do, and I could see some wonderful ones being created before my eyes around the table.  There is something in my psychology that doesn’t want to pile on layer after layer, scraping through and creating something different in that way.  I always seem to be seeking clarity. Having thought more, I can see how this followed on from the photograph of the apple tree and also the statuette. I had cut out a face that appeared to have two different sides (like Janus) and it was important that I added tears. The arms are encircling yet I placed an eye in one of them.  The chair is a place to sit whilst having stories read to me, the truck is a boy’s ‘toy.’ I realised that, for me, it’s more about separating out the complexities that are already there so I can see the differences and similarities – separating figures from ground.  I always seem to be seeking clarity on something half-known to me.

Clare encouraged us to do more as we had some time left and, as I didn’t want to add to what I already had, I traced the tree lightly and coloured it in my own way – adding the two faces.  This was something as a follow-on really – what gets passed down the generations, things girls can and cannot do, well, were not supposed not to do!

Before lunch Clare quickly showed us how to apply medium to the frame canvas base ready for image transfer so we could start on this as soon as we came back. For this she used Kremer 76000 (prev. Plextol D 498). A thin glaze of medium was applied, then image placed thereon face-down and smoothed out;  a wait to set then we removed the top (back of print) with a rough sponge.

This took quite a while and lots of wet balls of paper residue to deal with. I had already acquired some Amsterdam medium a while ago to experiment with , although, based on my results with the Japanese garden, I’m now not so sure whether photo transfer might be a good method for me to use! It was like a faint facsimile of the image and looking at it I felt at a bit of a loss as to how/what to work with it. In the event, I added more watercolour to some of the green and blues and then added words around each side although the painted words bled on the still damp surface.  Clare then suggested I experiment further by extending branches beyond the frame of the image, which I did.


Now, I’m not going to beat myself up about it because this was my very first attempt and you have to start somewhere but it looked vague and messy to me.  Thinking more on this now, I could instead print on watercolour at 50% opacity, say, and use that as a medium for paint, drawing, collage etc. I think that’s it, the transferred image – a paler version of itself – is the first layer and other are then added as with layers of pencil, paint etc and also the layers in Photoshop and composites etc. Probably, some images are more conducive to this kind of process.

In our final session we laid out and walked around all the work achieved which was so interesting and varied.

This was followed by a discussion on the day itself plus any OCA related queries.  Research was a topic that came up and I felt reassured that I’m not the only one to find it tedious at times – not the research itself but the amount of writing-up. Clare acknowledged this whilst strongly putting the case for research and how it can inform one’s practice –  which is what  assessors want to know about.

Overall this was what I gained from quite a full day:-

  • Clare Wilson was wonderful to work with, conveying personal interest, enthusiasm and a non-judgmental eye.
  • The whole day felt very immersive and, as ever, it was good to be sharing the workshop with artists from other disciplines and to realise that, although our artistic processes might differ, we experienced similar feelings towards our environment and continually attempted to portray the way we are affected by it.
  • Everyone was interested in the work produced by others.
  • I now know how to undertake a photo transfer
  • I gained more understanding of the process of allowing space for an idea to develop by using this method.
  • It reinforced my continuing desire and efforts to try out multi-media methods, to avoid self-criticism whenever possible and allow myself time keep on practising. Alongside coursework.

I had another look at Clare’s work on her website too.  The blue shades of her recent paintings reminding me of the sky and water and leading me to wonder in what ways I can present/process my photographs of the pool.  There’s an essay   on Clare’s website (by Cherry Smith )– referring to the sense of misty luminescence and the light in her paintings often being veiled. Very interesting reading for me as well in relation to writing about art – a personal response in terms of what’s evoked; exploring how the paint is worked upon the canvas; shifts between lightness and darkness; recurrent motifs (such as horizon, the investigation of border) and how the surface of the painting is layers, thinned and built upon.

I also looked at the work of Prunella Clough (1919-1999), mentioned by Clare as a reference point, and there’s an interesting article on WeAreOCA written in July 2012, on a book “Regions Unmapped” written about her by Frances Spalding. Clough has been described as a prominent British artist known mostly for her paintings of the urban landscape although she also made assemblages of collected objects.  Her work became larger scale and more abstract in her later career and, again, her images were combined and filtered through memory, evolving through a slow process of layering and re-working. I noted that Clough used more earthy tones which fits with something she said in an interview with Bryan Robson in 1982

I think that having a tonal basis for the work is as much to do with the English wind and weather as anything else. In other words, geography and climate. I work from the subject matter, things perceived, and things that I see tend to be somewhat murky.

I am currently slowly working through another book, Textile Landscape: Painting with cloth in mixed media (2018) written by Cas Holmes  who is interested in the liminal ‘in between’ spaces connecting land, place and environment.  There are several reasons I bought the book; I’ve been searching for more tactile creative methods recently – alternative photography methods, attending an introductory hand-weaving day and even started knitting again.  I have also been learning to draw through books and videos.  This is not necessarily to say that I will use such methods as part of my ongoing photography work but that they involve different thought processes and approaches which I think will encourage me towards more lateral thinking. Cas Holmes’s book is a wonderful find for me, particularly because through a collaborative mini-project with Dawn, a student colleague (more writing on that will follow), I decided as part of this to experiment with having a photograph printed on silk. – just think about a river or pool of silk.  It was a small sample piece but the satisfaction I gained from that was what led me to find the book.


Homes, C. (2018) Textile Landscape: Painting with cloth in mixed media. London, Batsford

“Bridge” Group

“Bridge” Group

The idea of this informal group was suggested by fellow student Anna Goodchild who is near to completion of Level 3. Its aim is to maintain a supportive network for those students who are nearing the end of their studies which will continue after they graduate.  Most members are also members of OCA South-West group which I ‘follow’ from a distance. I will use this page as an ongoing commentary on learning I gained from discussion and presentation of work.

16thFebruary 2019

First meeting of ‘Bridge’ and good to put some faces to names. OCA SW has been very much a multi-disciplinary group from its start. There were six of us. We discussed structure/aims first, concluding that the purpose would be encouragement, support and discussion of ideas not necessarily connected with OCA. We would offer gentle critique, as opposed to severe critique so would be acting as ‘critical friends’.

Krystina’s showed us her paintings – working with a lady suffering terminal illness; how ‘old’ women are treated, the nude older woman and her intention to create a ‘coat of many colours’ with some pieces of fabric she had had printed – silk and velvet. The Company Contrado was mentioned.

I had asked for comments on the idea of using cyanotypes in Landscape, sending a link to a recent blog post  the answer from everyone was ‘Yes”.

One member, Sue, wasn’t able to attend but emailed some comments; querying whether I’d thought of using found material from the site. Had I seen the work of Christian Marclay; the way he connects with old defunct technology (cyanotypes of cassette tapes )and she wondered whether examples of objects – detritus from urban decay could conceptually fit my own subject matter with that technique or with cyanotypes. Article on the Tate Gallery website here .  Marclay also created  “The Clock”  the looped 24 hour video that features clocks or timepieces. Exhibited at Tate Gallery earlier this year.

8thMarch – “Bridge”/OCA SW Hangout

5 of us. I hadn’t any work to show. However, Jane showed us photographs of parts of a very large painting she is working on. Working with the river.  She has painted on photographic diffuser material to capture the meaning of water. Wonderful work capturing the fluidity of paint and water. Comparisons made with the work of Meghann Riepenhoff  and her work with water. Also the fashion designer Carole Waller and her painting on fabrics  . We got on to fabric printing again, and Contrado. I’m thinking of trying them for the collaborative mini-project I’m sharing with Dawn Langley and her work.

1stJune 2019

4 of us. We discussed Anne’s feedback from her tutor and comments regarding re-photography – clarified that this is going back to exactly the same place and taking a photograph. One of the references for this is Rephotographic Powers: Revisiting Rephotography at Photomedia 2014  by Gary McLeod, which I’ve added to my library.  “ …. the projects discussed here will situate contemporary approaches towards re-photography as a process- oriented mode of enquiry and collectively support the notion that re-photography has the potential to contribute to knowledge beyond an illustrative comparison of the past and present.”  I keep forgetting to check what’s in that library, so must remember to do so before I go searching for references which I might already have.

During our discussion Anna also mentioned a photo-book on China and how it’s becoming a country ‘without memories’ because so many historical photographs have been bought by Americans whilst the ‘old’ parts of Chinese urban spaces are rapidly being built over.  An Era Without Memories (2015) by Jiang Jiehong. I now have the book.

I had uploaded my Assignment 3 selection with link to my blog.Anne suggested the iamge looking through the reeds could be a good starting point. I explained how I had structured the sequence.  Anna was interested in the reflections – you might expect clarity from these but mine are obfuscated by slime and debris – like memory obscured. Re Liz Wells and how our view of nature is mediated by the culture we live in – how do you define your culture? Anna queried my statement regarding naming a space making it a place. My response was the effect that had been achieved by Martin Tupper’s naming of the pool as “Silent Pool” – that’s what it became known as. People visited it.  Anna commented that calling ‘Silent’ gives it a voice, also to photograph ‘silence’ is a challenge”.

3rd November 2019

There were four of us present at the Zoom meeting this time.  I had put my Horsell Common test images for Assignment 5 on the Google Drive and got very encouraging feedback. Anna G said she liked the sense of absence they evoked, the arid landscape of the Sandpit with the scuffed intersections of tracks on the sand and the trees in the pool which looked as if they were drowning.  Another Anna, a new member, thought they showed quite contrasting moods.  She described the tree roots as being gnarled, balletic with the ‘drowning’ trees in the pool having a morbid aspect. They all thought that just photographs of the Common would be sufficient.  I mentioned my idea of an altered book and was reminded by Anne of Lewis Bush and his new work with John Berger’s book, “Ways of Seeing”, also Derek Trillo, OCA tutor creates handmade books.

Other discussions were concerned with feelings about being in a void after a degree has completed – that in between space; the purpose of an artist’s statement, and using a series of Canal images where ‘numbers’ is the theme – on the boats, paths and signposts.

The next meeting will be at the beginning of February 2020 – which will be time to start a new page for Bridge.

A Study Visit to Phytology and Bethnal Green Nature Reserve

A Visit to Phytology and Bethnal Green Nature Reserve – 28thJuly 2018

This was the first of the multi-disciplinary “Art and Environment Study Days: Ideas from the Soil “offered by OCA tutors Melissa Thompson and Dan Robinson.

The objective was to:-

  • Meet other creative people and share ideas
  • Think about nature’s influence on art and design whilst recording the experiences
  • Improve and experiment with drawing/photography
  • Have fun with tools and materials, try alternative ways of using a tool
  • Challenge creative thinking; generate ideas and new ways of working

What interested me was that the project is a collaboration between a group of artists and Teesdale & Hollybush Tenants and Residents Association which had been taking care of the land since the late 1990s. the aim being to protect the space, educate the public about home grown food and medicine  and so use these programmes and artistic projects to demonstrate the ecological value of retaining the land rather than using it for building at the time of a housing crisis.  Phytology itself is part of Nomad Projects, “an independent commissioning foundation that provides support for contemporary artists to develop socially relevant work within the public realm”. There is more about their projects here

Information about Bethnal Green Nature Reserve,  its history and its trees and shrubs can be found here  and the Phytology medicinal garden can be found here

The Day

The small nature reserve is hidden away in Bethnal Green and protected by railings around the perimeter which are slowly being entwined by green growth.  The gate is open and I step inside to a wonderful smell of loamy soil as the leaves dance on the trees to sing a welcome.   My overwhelming impression was of light, airy greenness with its delicate overarching canopy.

There were eight of us in the group to be welcomed by Melissa and Dan.

During introductions and initial discussions, I was aware of not only a shared interest in the environment and landscape but also a desire by everyone to collaborate at a multi-disciplinary level and learn from other artists which is so reassuring. Following this Michael Smythe, who established Nomad Projects in 2009, came to say hello and, after we’d been reminded that some liquid refreshment had been brought for us – some soft, smooth Mallow tea (we’d been so busy talking to each other that we hadn’t noticed!), Michael  gave us a brief talk about this particular project and then gave us a tour –  bypassing a group in another small clearing who were learning about the use of medicinal plants – ending up at the garden. It’s quite small actually but, again, with that sense of slight wildness, with plants not quite contained as they butted up against each other. The Phytology site informs that there are twenty-three different medicinal plants.  I knew about dandelion and burdock, remembered eating ‘bread and cheese’ hawthorn leaves; am quite often stung by common nettles (thank goodness I know about the value of dock leaves), but hadn’t heard about most of the others.  I still can’t quite work out how the marsh mallow root was formally used to create marshmallows – those soft, fluffy confections which are often covered in chocolate.

We then returned to our own space to begin the first set of exercises – five of us chose a slip which gave instructions to follow, all of which encouraged us to observe our environment in different ways.  The first set of exercises was about observing growth noticing, documenting and finding relationships with non-human beings in the garden – intervening and interacting. My major realisation was that although I enjoy being in green spaces I’m not good at learning or remembering the names of plants and I discussed with another member of the group how different this is when meeting people – we want to know all about them and knowing their name is important. This made me think about the naming of things, and I mused how much knowing the names of plants might make we humans feel more connected with them as an essential part of our environment.

Actually, this Nature Reserve is one of those places like Dr Who’s telephone box – it takes up a relatively small area yet somehow expands when you’re inside it due to the clever way in which the paths have been created to encourage wandering, explore, discover small artist installations scattered around, bird boxes, small pools. Occasionally I could see fleeting figures flitting behind whispering, leafy screens. Feeling out of time somehow, almost like I’d wandered into a fairy glade – a Midsummer’s Day dream offering some natural healing.

Then it was time for lunch and we joined in with a wonderful shared lunch (held every Saturday from 26thMay to 1stSeptember) cooked and prepared by local residents, using fresh ingredients from the medicine garden.  We were joined by Nick Bridge, Writer in Residence who visits weekly  Secluding oneself away for spiritual refreshment has been known for centuries and what an opportunity to do this by spending some time as a writer in residence within the nature reserve.   A small space which is the writer’s hut offers Nick a time for reflection and writing and his thoughts and exchange of letters with like-minded contemporaries will hopefully appear in book form at some time in the future.  Nick talked about the way he is using his time away from his everyday high-powered job to reflect upon the meaning and value of Phytology at a time when climate change and environmental issues occupy his thoughts.

After lunch Nick joined us in the second set of exercises – again focussing us on interacting  with the trees and plants. I carried on observing quietly, sometimes taking photographs or creating short videos; noticing more of the smaller installations, almost hidden away, some nestling by the small ponds installed to support the newt, toad, frog, insect and bat population. I went to the plant garden again and stroked the soft leaves of the marsh mallow plant.  On the way back for the group de-briefing I visited the writers hut and had a look at a collection of some of the ‘found’ objects discovered in the nature reserve by the artist Ellie Doney when she spent the summer of 2017 as an artist in residence there  .



In many respects it’s difficult to summarise the experience itself because I felt so immersed in the environment.  It’s the kind of green space I would love to be able to visit every day.  In fact the nature reserve isn’t opened to visitors every day because, being a relatively small space the garden needs time to recover and it closes completely to visitors for some months.  I certainly wondered about the smallness of the medicinal plant area. Local residents can go and collect leaves etc for their own use and I couldn’t imagine the plants could cope with being picked too often. I also keep reminding myself that, although the nature reserve itself has been there for several years it is now a partnership with an education and artists project.  It really is an on-going creation, almost like an out-of-time capsule with its own staff and utilising the talents of artists writers and geographers who intern there or spend time ‘in-residence’.  I think it must be this sense of movement, flow and newness that helps to keep it fresh, green and refreshing.

After hearing Nick Bridge talk I’ve also pondered again on the dissonance in the daily lives of many of us – that living in boxes, working in environments that stress and exhaust us and then escaping to nature or other pursuits that we need to keep us in tune with other aspects of ourselves. How wonderful to think of being one of the staff at the Nature Reserve and Phytology or to build a more holistic lifestyle for ourselves. Normally when I go up to London for Exhibition visits and such I come back feeling very tired, weary of the hard pavements, noise and thick air of the underground.  This time, though, I came home feeling relaxed, revived, refreshed and invigorated.

Here’s a video I put together from the short ones I created during the day.  I hope it gives an impression of what it’s like there.


I’m so pleased as well to have been able to participate in one of these Art & Environment Study Days, to be reminded that there are other students within OCA from other disciplines who want to collaborate and exchange ideas and to know that Melissa and Dan want to keep the momentum going and have already set up a Google Drive folder on the OCA student website for us to share work and thoughts.