Category Archives: Biography

Self Portrait of the Artist

A self portrait is a representation of an artist, drawn, painted, photographed, or sculpted by the artist.

The photograph above was taken with a 35mm Pentax SLR in 1974 and manipulated in the darkroom in Stourbridge College of Art and Design. This reminds me of the simple pleasures I had messing about with making images – it is a shame I have become cynical.

Although self-portraits have been made by artists since the earliest times, it is not until the Early Renaissance in the mid 15th century that artists can be frequently identified depicting themselves as either the main subject, or as important characters in their work.

In many respects the image below follows in the tradition of those early painters – I am seen as a reflection, just visible and confined within the architectural composition, a modern conceit of self importance.

In the famous Arnolfini Portrait (1434) Jan van Eyck is probably one of two figures glimpsed in a mirror. This painting may have inspired Diego Velázquez to depict himself in full view as the painter creating Las Meninas (1656). The placing of a self depiction within a larger composition of the rich, the famous and the kingly is a way of elevating your role from craftsman to celebrity – nothing changes really.

Reflection
This image was taken in Lanzarote in August 2012 using a Pentax P30, 35mm film camera, which uses manual focus lenses with the K-mount bayonet fitting. The lens used to take this photograph was a Rikenon 1:2 50mm, which was originally off a Richo KR-10 (super). At about 510 grams, the camera is easy to carry and handle and has shutter speeds from 1/1000 of a second to 1 second. The automatic mode on this film camera chooses the best shutter speed and aperture setting, giving the novice photographer a better chance of taking a good photograph. It also has a semi-automatic mode as well, which chooses most of the settings but allows for more creativity. There is also a totally manual setting for the brave.

The film used was Fujicolor C200, a budget-priced film (expire date April 2014) processed by Jessops in Barnstaple. The negatives were scanned using an Ion Pics 2 SD.

Using old film stock in a Pentax P30

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Portland Bill

I love the photograph above of my Grandma and Grandad, it was taken at Portland Bill by my dad in the late 1960s or early 70s.

Portland Bill is a narrow promontory of Portland stone and has three lighthouses which were built to warn shipping about the surrounding strong tidal race and shallow reef.

The most recent lighthouse is the distinctive red and white striped Portland Bill Lighthouse, which was built in 1906 and is 35 metres (115 ft) high. The photograph is taken in front of this beacon.

The Battle of the Somme

During the First World War my grandfather found himself as a cook, responsible for the well being of his comrades. The meager rations that the army supplied needed supplementing by scavenging. Often he went on ‘raiding parties’, sneaking into French farms, pilfering this and that. He once found himself in a Frenchman’s dovecote. This was nearly his final mission. The farmer gave chase and then leveled his loaded rifle at him. He wasn’t really proud of his thieving but as he explained, it was war and his mates were hungry. One of his most poignant tales was about a march to the ‘front’. In the hedgerow Sam spotted a ham bone which had a bit of meat left on it. They got to the frontline and as the history books tell us conditions were appalling and the rations were low. Sam remembered the ham bone, and on the march back retrieved it from the hedge to use in the next stew.

The Battle of the Somme between 1 July and 18 November 1916 took place on either side of the river Somme in France – this was where Sam was wounded and lost an eye. He spotted a German sniper who unfortunately spotted him first. He was wounded and his commanding officer suggested that he remained at his post to give his comrades a better chance to fallback, promising his family a medal for his sacrifice. I’m not sure what he said but he was invalided out of service and was treated at Guys Hospital in London, where they patched him up and cosmetically made a fine job. Apparently this damaged eye was assisted by a rabbit’s nerve.(?)

The Battle of the Somme was one of the largest battles of the war; by the time fighting paused in late autumn 1916, the forces involved had suffered more than 1 million casualties, making it one of the bloodiest military operations ever recorded. Read more

In Memory Of – is it a network art piece?

InMemoryOf – possibly one of the bigest (art?) projects I have ever been involved in…

29THMarch 2000, InMemoryOf sign a strategic alliance deal with the National Association of Funeral Directors (UK). This alliance allows the members of the NAFD easy access to the services of InMemoryOf, allowing their clients to place on-line obituaries and memorials as a part of their funeral packages.Alan Slater, NAFD’s chief executive, said “We are all aware of the tremendous Internet explosion, and the NAFD has been approached by numerous companies offering on-line services relevant to our industry. We were particularly impressed by what Peter and Mark had to offer, because of their empathetic approach to the needs of our members and their clients. We believe they will uphold the high professional standards that the NAFD requires, as well as offering a discreet service that will be beneficial to the bereaved.”

Mary Jane Bright 1902 – 1980

When Mary was in her teens she was aprenticed to a chemist in Sheffield, travelling by train every day from her home.

She was the woman behind the scenes in their grocer’s shop, where they were famous for their home made ‘ice lollies’. People still remember them for their delicious treats, which they made from ‘Tizer’ and other bottles of ‘pop’.

She was a ‘Spiritulist’ by conviction, with local business men and tradesmen alike knocking on her door for advice and guidance, and her ‘messages’ influenced deals and life changes all around her. The respect she had was far larger than her diminutive size. Read more

My old lecture theatre and painting studio – Exeter Art College

The derelict painting studios in Exeter College of Art looked smaller than I remember – these were the spaces where I learnt my painting skills and the place where I was told to forget my painting skills. Those were the days when art was promoted as an intuitive process and not a prescriptive target driven qualification.

On the floor below the studio, directly underneath was the library, now devoid of shelves and books. All that information, inspiration and knowledge gone.

The lecture theatre still had its seating but its projection screen was missing. This was the place where I booed lecturers who spewed bullshit and I think I met Sir Terry Frost (?) – the place where I rediscovered Pollock and was seduced by Rothko, learned about Fox Talbot and watched some ridiculous interview reenactments based on articles published in magazines…

Sarah Bennett used this empty vessel to install ‘Institutional Traits (Series 2)’ which comprised of two large printed photographs of the empty lecture theatre. The lighting in the space was (and always was) simple – controlled by two light switches, one that puts the lights on at the back and one that put them on in the front. The two images mounted on the sides of the theatre reflected the lighting options, one was of the lights on in the front and one  was with the lights on at the back.

‘abandoned along with the art education system that it served’

…to be redeveloped as executive housing (maybe).

Images of Exeter College of Art – March 31st 2012

These are photos of the deserted building in Earl Richards Road North in Exeter the site of the former Exeter College of Art and Design.

The building belongs to The University of Plymouth (which was originally a Polytechnic) with its constituent bodies being Plymouth Polytechnic, Rolle College, the Exeter College of Art and Design (which were, before April 1989, run by Devon County Council) and Seale-Hayne College (which before April 1989 was an independent charity). It was renamed Polytechnic South West in 1989 and remained as this until gaining university status in 1992 along with the other polytechnics. The new university absorbed the Plymouth School of Maritime Studies and Tavistock College.