Category Archives: Part 1

P29: Ex 1.3: a short narrative series.

Use readily available images to make a short narrative series of 4 – 6 collages based on a recent or contemporary news event.


The following collages reflect my take on recent news items which cover the recent Syrian refugee crisis.  There is no intention to belittle the plight of the refugees.   My intention is to highlight what I have learned from my recent reading which is the following:

  • The aim of my work is, through illusion, to reflect political disillusionment.
  • In forming interpretations of certain images, we use the context of the whole to suggest possible interpretations of the parts.
  • The fragmented picture makes clear that the picture is an aesthetic artefact: it is subjective, partial & heterogeneous (Burger)
  • Disempowerment  of individuals through government policies.
  • I see this as my visual form of protest.
  • These are images I have made & not taken.
  • The images are inescapable from the cultural context I have chosen to give them.
  • My images represent conflated events which have, by virtue of their new combined placements, created a subsequent imagined event.
  •   The meaning it produces is derived from the context within which it is presented and received.
  • There can never be one final definitive interpretation of these images because their meaning is altered with each new audience and from the network of relations around it.
  • I endorsee Brigit Doherty’s view that ‘montage is a violent vivisection’. (Link 6)
  • The images represent an interplay between truth and hallucination, human nature and history, while they remain simultaneously in political consciousness.



Try the British Virgin Islands 2
Try the British Virgin Islands – go West!


This references the political game-playing of established, recent and aspiring members of the EU.
Can I play too?
The Balmoral cruise liner was recently in the news for having had an outbreak of Norovirus on board.
Can you take on another 226?
B52 bomber dropping refugees.
B52 bomber dropping refugees.B52 bomber dropping refugees.



I have written the following poem on the refugee crisis:


Oblivion calls.

Oblivion calls the smart, bright orange death jackets

crammed in their thousands in RIBs fit for few.

From the seas, their serial numbers morph

into disembodied numbers

pushing swirls of colourful arrows

up and up and round and round

over maps

of rich, utopian Europe,

illustrating their flight and opening

barren debate after barren debate

by the Group of 8, G10, G12, G18, G22, G24 ….


In their race they smash and crash into

quickly-found, seven-million-pound,

quickly-raised fences

real enough to cling to,

ambiguous enough to bring sharp focus to

their dystopian oblivion.




Mitchell,W.J.: The Reconfigured Eye : Visual Truth in the Post Photographic Era. MIT.Press


P 25 Ex 1.2.2:re-make of an existing work of art using photography.

This can be a simple re-staging – using photography – of an existing painting, drawing or print, or a more elaborate figurative tableau.

My photograph is based on a sculpture by Futurist Umberto Boccioni called “Unique forms of continuity in space” (1913) In true Futurist manner, I have ignored the traditional view of art reflected in the requirements of this exercise asking me to re-make a drawing or painting and have gone for a sculpture.Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 16.01.41.png

The ideology behind Futurism is to represent movement, speed, the experience of flux, the interpenetration of objects and a synthetic continuity of motion.  Boccioni was against formal sculpture and monuments which revered traditional human forms and materials, and maintained that everything surrounding our body intersects it and divides it into sections by forming arabesques of curves and straight lines.   In his Futurist sculpture manifesto, Boccioni maintained that “The aim of sculpture is the abstract reconstruction of the planes and volumes which determine form, and not their figurative value.” (From the manifesto)  This is what I have tried to achieve in my work.  I have also followed the principle that “The straight line is the only means that can lead us to the primitive virginity of a new architectonic construction of sculptural masses.”  Again, true to Futurist spirit, I have deliberately based my work on a wheel – the true mechanical device which can facilitate speed.  Equally, Boccioni maintained that “One must destroy the systematic use of the nude and the traditional concept of the statue and the monument.”  The straight line, in arabesque, in my composition is formed by lining up the eyes present from top right to bottom left.  There are plenty of curves with the wheels arranged so that they emphasise the circular composition of the piece.  The black spaces between the items stress that this is a photograph of a sculpture and not of a 2D object.

My composition is entitled “Love stories on a rocky road at speed.” Although Futurist artistic expressions were not known for their humour, there is no reason why it should not be part of it in this re-working of it.  The inclusion of a transvestite in the machine world also makes the piece more topical.  I have used my photographs of motorbikes  and of two chairs by Ron Arad which I saw in an exhibition in 2010, plus a photo taken by my friend & artist, Alan McGrath.  At this point I must add that Boccioni was also anti-women but for warfare and violence.  The viewer can decide if these are intrinsic to my composition.

In 1912, Marcel Duchamp created his cubist painting entitled “Nude descending a staircase 2” and one can see the cubist influence on Boccioni’s ideas for his manifesto and his sculpture.

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 16.32.12.png

Boccioni was a painter, poet and sculptor and also wrote a Futurist manifesto of poetry. His poetry arises from the notion that sculptures must have a lyrical power and claimed that “Futurist poetry is a spontaneous, uninterrupted flow of analogies, each of which is intuitively summed up in its essential substantive.  From this come untrammelled imagination and words in freedom.”(idem)  My image has extracts from the Futurist manifesto in the style of Marinetti, another Futurist poet, who used to write around his drawings.

This is a photograph of a photographic sculpture depicting never ending love stories on a rocky road taken at speed.
My re-take on U.Boccioni’s Unique forms of continuity in space.

I greatly enjoyed the film of how Daniel Gordon puts his work together and would like to emulate his layering one day.

My re-worked image looks nothing like the original but has all the elements and concepts of the rationale of creating the Futurist sculpture, just as  Wendy McMurdo’s images bear no resemblance to the original art which inspired them (See my previous post).








P. 25: Ex 1.2: Wendy McMurdo’s doubles.

Discuss a photograph that takes an existing work of art as its starting point.  Write a 500-word reflection on your chosen piece in your learning log.

Although in her interview with Sheila Lawson McMurdo references several works of art which have influenced her series, I have chosen Eli Lotar’s “L’Abattoir ” from the series “Aux abattoirs de la Villette” (1929).   I see the photograph as a work of art because that is how, through its construction and use of light,  it was seen at the time it was first exhibited.

The work by McMurdo which I am analysing is  Helen, Backstage, Merlin Theatre (The Glance) 1996.


Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 14.13.21


It seems a little incongruous to compare a manipulated digital image of a young girl backstage in a theatre in 1996 , with an analogue image of hooves of slaughtered cows leaning against a wall in La Villette, Paris in 1929.  Yet, there are more fundamental similarities than I had imagined possible.  Wendy McMurdo herself states “Like traditional portraiture the work includes a figure, but it is most definitely not about the figure.  That is, the work concerns itself above all with the space which surrounds its supposed subject.”  (Interview cited below) .  The exploration below will show how Lotar’s work is not about the butchery, it is about ‘le terrain vague’ in which it is situated.

“L’Abattoir” was seen as part of a series of images which marked, in inter-war France, the moving away from  single image documentary practice, to displaying projects in series in which the creative process was important.  Combined with this, the emergence of the matter-of-factness / the new objectivity / the Neue Sachlichkeit movement, encouraged viewers to turn towards a practical engagement with the world rejecting the romantic idealism of the art nouveau movement, for example.  McMurdo also works in series and, not only is her work  designed to reference the elaborate composition production of photographs of the 1850s, but it also investigates the impact of digital culture on identity formation. The author is interrogating a new medium and how people interact with it to project themselves in their environment. This is supported by Emilie Lesage in her MA thesis (2009) on Lotar’s L’Abattoir.  Lesage maintains that photography as art is seen less as a take on reality and more as a construction, worked over various stages.  It was interesting that at the same time as Lotar and his ‘teacher’ Germaine Krull were working on their respective projects, Lazlo Maholy-Magy was experimenting with light in his photography practice at the Bauhaus: his interest was more with the techniques than with the art and came to be known as ‘la nouvelle vision’ – much as digital imaging is being experimented with today & exemplified by McMurdo.


Krull & Lotar looked closely at social developments and, in particular at ‘le terrain vague’ that marginalised, indeterminate space like that inhabited by  L’abattoir .  It is situated in La Villette which, in the 1920s, was at the point where the urban met the suburban.  Following Haussmann’s social/urban cleansing programme of the 19th Century, the suburbanisation represented a hybrid between nature and culture, and this is captured in Lotar’s work: a vague geographic and social context.  McMurdo’s people too are placed in an indeterminate space and relative time to one another which create anxieties in the viewer who does not know how to interpret the knitted dimensions.  We are not anxious about the unknown but about the indeterminate area which is the product of melding the known and the new.  McMurdo emphasises that the work is not about the figure/portrait but it concerns that space which surrounds its supposed subject.

Spotlighting is vital in the creation of McMurdo’s work.  In Lotar’s , the art is created by the use of atmospheric natural light.  From 1924, Lotar used an Ermanox camera which was small format, light & easily manoeuvred, but most importantly, it could take very fast photographs in natural light.

Both photographers refer to their work as ‘uncanny’  Lotar’s photos convey an uncanny lineal place of slaughter seen from the outside; McMurdo claims that her work has an uncanny sense of animation – one deals with death & the other with contrived life.

The Double is arguably the most interesting aspect in this comparison of the two works of art.  In Lotar’s work, there are two parallel rows of severed limbs, although only one is immediately perceived.  The butcher has his name twice on the wall – once in formal typology, another time scratched on the spotted wall, almost invisible.  The uncanny animal remains, at the entrance to a street,  do not mirror the relationship between the once animate and inanimate  – the interest is in the historical developments and disruptions.  The placement of the remains and the name of the butcher on the same wall is disturbing & the natural light plays its part in conveying that unease.

McMurdo uses the same subject twice in her contrived images, her sleight of hand appears invisible, its effect  is disturbing & the spotlighting enhances that unease.  What is uncanny in both is the viewer’s awareness of the contrived times and spaces.

Both works are created in an ambiance in which film and paintings are indexed:  for Lotar, working with film maker Joris Ivens and painter Andre Masson, both of whom referenced the abattoirs, must have influenced his work.  The dynamic composition, the angles of the streets and the direction of the light invite the viewer to imagine a scene evolving in the space.  McMurdo’s “Doppelgangers”, set in theatrical surroundings, has very strong filmic qualities  – the viewer senses a dynamic interaction between the subject and its doubtle in the scene.

Both works examine that ambiguous place held by man as an individual.  The idea of ‘the double’, present in both works, creates an unease sustained by an indeterminate sense of time and place in both works.  That ‘terrain vague’ creates a sustained apprehension in the viewer of both works, whether expressed in digital or analogue forms. Both have strong connections with film making and painting.  In both images the viewer is anxiously standing on shifting sands of knowing what is going on.

(915 words)



Britain,D.(ed.) (2000) Creative Camera:Thirty years of writing (The Critical Image), Manchester:MUP Ch 41, pp251 – 56)

D I & C: P.21 Exercise 1.1

Using a list of artists as inspiration, create a series of 6 – 8 images using layering techniques.

I have chosen Helen Sear as my inspiration & have created my own series: “Nature under threat”. What I found interesting about Helen Sear’s work & what I have tried to achieve also, is the magic created by her layers and  which makes you believe that the work is in 3D.  What I have aimed to do in my work is to give the photographs a quasi-tangible surface which is often lacking in straight photographs except, perhaps, the original prints of Ansel Adams which, in  my opinion, challenge you to see them as 3D objects.  Sear’s work inevitably has a portrait over which is layered an image of a textured object which together create what David Company has called ” magic and realism .. never pure, fixed or entirely knowable.”(  Combining portrait and landscape make you inevitably create a narrative, thus a third image, of that faceless person in an often unidentifiable landscape.  I have used the same principle and have chosen portraits of flowers, with one exception, on conventional landscapes, with one exception.

Macro Hawthorne flower on confluence 1 1400px DSCF6070.jpg
May flower at the confluence of East and West.
Fishing nets and plane trails DSCF8204.jpg
Work and leisure.


Wild flowers on rextiles IMG_1674.jpg
Wild no more.


Wild flower network 2 IMG_0288.jpg
Forsythia and destruction IMG_1819 1.jpg
Make way for progress.
Industrial lace IMG_2851-1.jpg
Industrial lace
Magnolia sunsetIMG_2851-1.jpg
Magnolia sunset.

Produce a 500 word blog post on the work of one contemporary artist-photographer who uses layering techniques. (This can be any of the artists cited in any section of D I & C)

Peter Kennard


Paradoxically this exhibition was set in the Imperial War Museum which, through its war memorabilia exhibited, glorifies war.  It was set in four spaces each dealing with different aspects of Kennard’s take on wars in general & the Iraq war in particular.  The spaces were relatively small so you were very close to the items on display which enhanced the oppression.

What I found exceptional was:

•The immense talent of the author in his ability to make us react to his work through the vast range of his expression.

•The relentless commitment of the author.

•How words are of secondary importance (but the concept of numbers is essential) in understanding his ideas.

•How superb his art work is & I had not realised that his Decoration series was a series of paintings.

•The collages & photomontages were exceptional for their time & are still relevant & valid today.  Unlike Helen Sear’s work, there is no magic here but the directness in the realism punches unambiguously the author’s message.

•His blunt use of numbers everywhere echoes the apocryphal statement:” A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic” attributed to Josef Stalin in 1943.  The magnitude of the statistics made me feel incapable of comprehending the scale of human suffering – I felt number numb after having seen the exhibition.

•His small oil paintings of faces emerging from the black background without a context, titled Face (2003), are starkly different from the rest of the work.  It still talks of globalisation – where does the face come from – Kurdistan or London?  The mouth is absent : referencing the lack of communication or learning from one atrocity to another – and still trying to tell a story.  We are implicated in their story – are the powerless trying to emerge or are they going back into obscurity?  They are, nonetheless,  voiceless – Kennard has not given them mouths or allowed them to speak – can we empathise? Is the author the only communicator?  This is the question the author forces us to ask ourselves throughout the exhibition.

Kennard’s anti-war posters are striking and unambiguous: there is nothing glorious in war: not in the medals, not the missiles, not the money made from munition sales.  His collages are stark, brazen and are designed to offend.  Their very nature makes you examine every component both separately and as an assemblage and it is the process brings home the product’s message.


In his last space, there is a spatial layering of free-standing images, business cards and statistics; the material is made of perspex, paper, transparencies and collages: the arrangement resembles a collage about to be put together: images, text and numbers waiting to be glued together to form one composition except that the composition varies depending on where the viewer is standing in the room which gives the composition of the complex space a myriad combinations making it a thoroughly unique application of the layering concept.  Whichever way you look at it, the profound subject knowledge of the author and his mastery of collage are beyond question.




Kennard,P.: 2015. Unofficial war artist.IWM.


Pre-unit exercise

“Regarding the ‘flood’ or constant ‘bombardment ‘ of images permeating ever deeper into our lives, rephotograph every photographic image that you encounter on a single day.  The quality of the image does not matter – use a camera phone or a compact camera.  You should include videos as well as still photographs; just shoot one frame to document a sequence.

  •  Construct a grid or compile a contact sheet of all your images.


  • ContactSheet-002.jpg



  • Write a short reflective piece in your learning log about this exercise.

What have I learned?

  1.  How to create a contact sheet in PS CS6.  I had used it in CS4 but had forgotten.
  2. That even in my home I have photos around me all the time.
  3. That I did not have the patience to photograph every photograph I saw because some publications, like publicity brochures and the OCA Student booklet & its ‘Live Learn Create’ publications have multiple images on their covers and then at least 3 images per page inside.
  4. That I spend a lot of time , perhaps too much time, on Facebook which exists for image circulation.
  5. That by the end of the day, when I was looking through the images I had taken, I did not remember having seen and photographed some of the images.
  6. That I did not consider the images I had taken and then viewed on my screen as part of the day’s collection of images.  For example, I am recording the building work on the house opposite ours:
  7. IMG_1881.jpg
    The facade of a Victorian house now a pile.
  1. IMG_1883.jpg
    Site labourers playing cricket on a lovely sunny day.

    IMG_1884.jpg7.  That I no longer ‘see’ the photographs displayed on buildings because they never change.

    8.  I have also learned that when I go for a walk, I go to reach a destination rather than be aware of the journey: I took photos of photos at my destination: the supermarket / the beach rather than taking photos of posters on the walls / on sandwich boards / on awnings.

I recorded videos but this website does not support them – unless I upgrade.

Has it alarmed me?

  1.  Yes – I am alarmed at the number of images which are crammed on publicity leaflets – I could not possibly rephotograph each one them because I would be doing nothing else all day.
  2. Yes – I am alarmed at the number of images I consume on Facebook.
  3. Yes – I am alarmed at how insignificant the process is if, by the end of the day, I cannot remember some of the images – even after I have rephotographed them.

Has it confirmed any preconceptions?

  1. That so much of my time is taken up consuming images.
  2. That many of the images I consume are forgettable / forgotten.
  3. That I am confronted by hundreds of images most of which I choose to look at.
  4. That I no longer see the images that have been on the walls of buildings, both inside and out.

What do most of the images encountered show?

  1.  That images are such an ingrained part of my life that I am not aware of them as photos.
  2. That  what I see is a skewed version of what is going on in the world through images of people and animals on FB – there would be very little to challenge my view of the world if I did not follow artists, bodies ( like the Centre for Contemporary Art & the Natural World)  and writers who see the world differently = relationships & relative values rather than individual images.
  3. That there is a limited variety of the type of image: invariably, animals faces are presented in favour of the whole animal;  news are transmitted via images of the faces of people; social media too focus on facial expressions. Even the supermarket images use people to promote their produce.

Does it tell you anything of the environment you live in?

  1. My physical environment is a safe one – there are no arresting / offensive public images of violence.
  2. I spend most of my time at home on my computer because the space is comfortable, warm and I can explore the world from a place of safety. Here I can see what different artists & photographers are doing / thinking / exposing.
  3. That my world is mostly fed by artistic expressions.
  4. When I go for a walk, I don’t see the photographs of ice creams / cafes / clothes on sale possibly because they are banal / part of the scenery.  Instead, I make my own photos because I invariably go to the beach which is never the same two days running.


An incredibly low rainbow over the sea today.


5.  That nature coupled with human nature can create an unexpected, humorous image:

A park bench today.


All the photos were taken with my phone camera except , of course, for the screen shots.


Welcome to the your OCA Learning Log!

The OCA logo image

This blog is now structured with the essential categories required for you to post Assignments and Projects in for your learning log entries. It is intended to just help you get started with your OCA Learning log, and you may wish to customise it to suit your particular course.

Although we have provided the essential categories needed for your learning log, you will still need to set up your ‘Main’ menu through the Appearance section of the Dashboard, under the Menus section. Just select the menu you want to edit (Main) and then under the Categories ‘All’ menu, tick each category that you would like to be viewable through your blog’s menus and click the ‘Add to menu’ button. You can then drag and drop each item into hierarchies of menus and sub menus, as below in the ‘Menu Structure’ pane:



When making new posts, you just need to add a tick next to each category that the post relates to. The categories options can be found in the right-hand column whenever you create or edit a post.


You can select more than one category if appropriate; for example,  your first Assignment can be categorised under Assignments, Assignment 1, and Part 1.  Make sure you tag a post with at least one category, or it may not be visible through your blog’s navigation.

To learn how to keep a blog, the WordPress help pages are invaluable as a learning resource:


We would like to thank OCA Photography tutor Robert Enoch for providing this template for OCA students to use to get started with their Learning (b)logs.