Our venue this month was the lovely new library and information centre in the centre of Paignton with plenty of parking nearby, although some of us cheated and took advantage of free parking a couple of streets away at Anna’s house.
Seven students from various disciplines, met with OCA tutor Steven Monger, a man with many titles as became apparent in his introduction when he talked about his different labels and titles and the shifting boundaries of practice. ‘Was it graphic design, photography or illustration?’ he asked. The similarities and blurring of boundaries became apparent when he showed us some of the work of his MA students; a set of balancing blocks which looked for all the world like peeled potatoes ready for the pot, printmaking tests made with conductive ink, or perhaps most intriguing of all, Merging Cups – Working Together, which can be seen at https://vimeo.com/259609267 and is described on the Vimeo site as ‘Metaphorical ways on showing the process of working together. The challenge is to finish the drink, drinking alone is not allowed’.
© Steven Monger from Box Scans
Steven went on to share some of his own work which emphasised his point about shifting boundaries. His 1995 degree show work, ‘Box Scans’ shows images made by constructing boxes that are then attached to desk top scanners and filled with various items found in his garden, plant material, a snail shell, a ring-pull from a can. His obvious interest in architecture, apparent in the next project he showed, entitled ‘Urban Documents’, evidently stemmed from this project.
Urban Documents is a fascinating project and consists of photographs of actual buildings as well as cardboard models that have been adapted and added to over time.
Stephen Monger Urban Landscape Project
The only way I could tell that the photographs shown to us were of models rather than the actual building was the absence of the normal grime and litter you might expect to see around such old buildings. Steve’s meticulous attention to detail as well as creative use of material is evident, till receipts were rolled to construct down pipes and the glass in the windows fashioned from the plastic film from take away sandwich wrappers.
After coffee Steve put us to work developing a manifesto for our group. We started by responding to 5 questions:
- Describe what you do in one sentence
- Describe creative thinking in one sentence
- Where are your boundaries of practice?
- What is risk taking?
- What are your outliers? (described in Steve’s overhead as a source of intrigue, possibility or challenge)
Anna then donned the mantel of ‘teacher’ and collated the responses from which, after much discussion about wording, our manifesto was developed:
We challenge, we PLAY, we provoke
Creative thinking blasts protocols and asks What if….?
Our boundaries transcend driverless cars
Risk taking acknowledges the benefits of failure and the rewards of chance
After lunch, I kicked off the ‘stuckness’ session sharing my initial thoughts for Landscape assignment 1, the theme of which is ‘Beauty and the Sublime’. I had taken photographs taken at Gloucester prison which closed in 2013 and asked, do these photographs portray a sense of being trapped, does this constitute landscape and does the mesh work?
Steven’s view was that I needed to experiment further and decide on my voice; either closer or further away. For some the mesh worked, others were not so sure but yes, it constituted landscape.
Sue came next and started with an amazing drawing of a hand, holding the top of a biro (which I failed to photograph!) She explained that she had also produced an electronic book of her work which she called ‘3 acts in a biro’s life’. Sue showed experiments using ink and cyanotypes photographed over a period of time and explained that her ideas were about interactivity – celebrating the things we take for granted such as printers, scanner, copier etc. Really creative work that we were all envious of.
Anna’s Rocks Rock
Anna is extending her level 3 body of work by focusing on the therapeutic effect of prison gardens and is interested in the work being done at LandWorks where prisoners are trained and rehabilitated through land-based projects. Anna likened rocks to people because of the clashes and crashes they, like us, go though. We tend to cover over our fault lines whilst in rocks, they remain exposed. She has abandoned the pixel stretching, shown at previous meetings because this results in imposed lines and her current experiment involves tracing the natural lines of the fault. Steve was particularly interesting in some of the small marks and felt there was scope for further development. The general consensus was that the work needed to be much larger as A4 did not do it justice.
Derek has revisited his ‘Decisive Moment’ assignment and brought his tablet along to show some new images he had taken for this project. He explained that he has been experimenting with street photography, which is outside his comfort zone and all agreed this had resulted in some really interesting photographs with lots of potential. For me, some of Derek’s images portray the surreal rather than the decisive moment but this is such as subjective area and Derek is keen to keep some of himself in his work, as indeed we all should.
Diane, who had recently been brave enough to take part in a local exhibition and sold one of her pieces, shared her first portrait with us. Sadly, I did not take a photograph of Diane’s painting either, however looking at the photograph she had worked from, her painting of Bob (the biker) it is a very good likeness. Sue, also a fine artist, asked her about her process and recommended that if using a photograph, zooming in to the image on a tablet allows you to see more texture, lines etc. Sue also suggested that Diane go larger and ‘grid’ and that would enable her to get more character in her painting.
Paddy continues to work on her ‘ecopsychology’ project, looking at the disconnect between people and nature. Steve was interested in her use of black and white and suggested she might try flesh colours and tones. He also suggested there was more of a power of suggestion in the closer more abstract images
Karen is working on her final assignment for Identity and Place which is focused on homesickness and loss. She has photographed benches with plaques remembering loved ones who had died and where flowers are laid to remember them. She has then constructed new photographs using the plaques, flowers and her own old family photographs all bound together with thread. This is quite a moving and personal project for Karen who lost her mother not long ago and we particularly liked the photograph, above, that included Karen’s father. Anna recommended a book called ‘Life of Lines’ by Tim Ingold and Steve suggested there may be further research Karen could undertake looking how other people leave memorials like this.
We were reminded that anyone wishing to exhibit in the November exhibition, provisionally called ‘Moving Forward’, send Sue a piece of work so that she can start preparing the publicity material. November seems a long way away but will be here before we know it!
Many thanks to Steve Monger for his time, wisdom, patience and gentle challenge and questioning and as always to Anna for organising the event. There is no meeting in August, for which I am relieved as much as I’d have hated to miss it, I could not have faced the M5 on a Saturday in August! It will be interesting to see how everyone has progressed and in some cases, finished their projects when we meet again in September, this time under the guiding hand of Jesse Alexander. For me this will be very relevant as Jesse is the former photography course leader and author of much of the Landscape course.
http://www.stephenmonger.com/ [Accessed 15 July 2018]
https://www.landworks.org.uk/ [Accessed 15 June 2018]