Wednesday, 30 March 2011

"Computers are a great way of making shit faster"

Brian Cannon, of Microdot, came to talk to us the other week. I was already aware of Microdot's work, so was quite excited to discover more about what they do. Working predominantly in record label / sleeve design, Microdot was set up in 1990 by Brian. He explained how, from an early age, he knew that he wanted to enter the creative industry, and this was encouraged by his father - a coal miner with a taste for art. As Brian grew up, he found himself becoming more and more influenced by music such as The Sex Pistols and their iconic artwork produced by Jamie Reid.

Brian is an advocate of non-computer-based design work. Brian favours working with hand-made collages and photoshoots, which he prepares for weeks in advance, believing the image is king. With this in mind, Brian prefers to use small and simple type when producing his artwork, for he feels too much can interfere with the narrative of the imagery. He was also influenced by the symbolic paintings of Jan van Eyk, which further encouraged him to incorporate more of a narrative in his work. A good example of this is the artwork he produced for Oasis'  Definitely Maybe album. Each of the elements featured in the image were strategically positioned and planned in advance in order to form meaning. Brian also showed us a practice image that was taken weeks prior to the actual photo shoot, featuring himself laid on the floor in the position that Liam was later to take for the official shot.

Brian was a really enthusiastic speaker, and had a clear passion for the work that he does. It was really inspiring to see how far he had come in his career. He admitted to his "big-break" involving himself and Liam Gallagher (from Oasis) in a lift, during which Liam complimented him on his shoe-choice. Soon a relationship with the band had been formed and Brian was to create the majority of their albums' artwork. I questioned Brian on whether he felt he would be doing the same job if he hadn't had that break. "Most definitely," he replied "this is what I always wanted to do, I'd have got there somehow or another but I was just very lucky that day". This determination and pride was really refreshing to hear, as so often we have lectures from people who seem to have become a little too complacent about the work and status that they have achieved. Brian works to the best of his ability even if he isn't keen on the actual project - which is a valuable behaviour to pick up, as I find myself becoming very unmotivated if I don't enjoy the brief I've been set. I guess you have to make it your own though, and it is clear to see this is exactly what he has done. Brilliant.

osa/ MERZEN/

Recently around Manchester, there has been a festival showcasing exhibitions and happenings the have been inspired by Kurt Schwitters. Titled MERZMAN, the festival explores the artist's legacy in modern architecture and contemporary art practice. A month or so ago, I went to view Ingo Gerken's exhibition at Castlefield Gallery as part of the festival, which if I am honest I was completely disappointed by. With this in mind I really wasn't sure what to expect but wanted to experience Cube's event with an open mind.

It was an odd set up - at first I wasn't sure whether I had entered the correct room, as it was filled with planks of wood, old doors, scraps of building materials - and even a broken litter bin - which was curious to see in a gallery space to say the least. It looked like a junk site, however we were soon given a run-down of what the show was about, and there was a lot more material to read which helped explain the idea behind the show. This was already an improvement on the previous Castlefield exhibition, as previously we hadn't been given any explanation of what we were supposed to be viewing. 

osa's installation was a representation of Schwitters' well-known collage technique, which he called Merz. The artist invited the public of Manchester to bring along any found or unwanted items that could be contributed to the installation (hence the "junk" we discovered on entering the building). The idea was to transform the gallery in order to blur the border between existing space and installation, or frame and content. This is exactly what Schwitters' was exploring in his collages - one of which was featured as part of the exhibition. His work has been really highly regarded by me for a very long time and it was amazing to see it on display as I have yet been able to do so. His collages are so intricate and visually stimulating. I loved the fragments of old type and stamps the most.

The exhibition set up, allowed me to view these random fragments of Manchester in a different light; plastic construction fencing cast vivid shadows on the wall and the orange colour contrasted beautifully to some planks of wood that had been hung next to it. Roadwork barriers held from the ceiling formed layers against the gallery's fan. I began taking photographs of what I saw, which themselves became installation collages. Here are some of my favourite snapshots:

I thought this was a much better representation of the Schwitters legacy. It was interactive, dynamic and really made you view the somewhat mundane elements in a different way; a sort of beautiful context displacement.

Flashback: Anish Kapoor

Once again I have slipped behind on writing my blog up, so not only does Flashback signify the name of this exhibition, but it also refers to the fact that I visited it nearly 3 weeks ago now, oops.

I've been aware of Anish Kapoor for a long time now, in fact I'm pretty certain I first discovered what he was about back during my AS Level Art studies, but this was the first time I was to witness his work in person. If I am completely honest, I wasn't sure what to expect. This was probably due to my rather limited knowledge of what he does, but on entering the exhibition I was very pleasantly surprised.

Kapoor's 'Flashback' exhibition is currently being held at Manchester Art Gallery by the Arts Council Collection, and comprised of sculptures from different stages of his career. The pieces ranged from early sculptures made using pigment, to later works employing stone and mirrored surfaces, to works that engage directly with the surrounding architecture. It was this last element that I think impressed me most, particularly his piece "When I am Pregnant" (1992). From afar, it seemed as though the wall at the far end of the gallery space had some sort of eerie shadowy shape projected onto it, but as you came closer you realised that it in fact formed a rather large and protrusive bump extending from the wall's surface. It was very surreal but fascinating, and really played tricks on your perceptions of the room and its dimensions.

The whole space had a strange sense of calm, I found myself staring into the works and becoming almost lost in what I was viewing. I was also really taken in by another of his works, titled "Her Blood" (1998). These 3 curved mirrored plates distorted the reflected images that varied depending on how close you stood to them, rather like a more beautiful and dynamic hall of mirrors. I spent a lot of time trying to discover the surface of the plates; one of them was stained red, but it was really difficult to see how they had been created. I liked this fact though, it all added to the mystery of the experience.

I left the gallery feeling quite overwhelmed - in a good way. It was a really beautiful collection of work, and a very relaxing experience.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

ready to bind

So the book, or "visual journal", I have been slaving over for the past week is finally ready to be completed. It will be perfect bound with a hardback cover, fingers crossed all goes well once I'm in the book-binding studio.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Visual Journal

Diving against vivid woodlands looks static. Time is the image of unchanged motion. 

Marina sat in the library then discovered the future message: approach changes confidently and create desire. Rigid graphic images took over and vanity was there. Reflections across chaos built revolution and hand-written rebellion was ablaze. 

Nature celebrated a hidden underground environment. The end is nothing was whispered The final plan was once credible but can it be trusted? 

Personal texts and numbers are metaphors and ahead of the times. Ghost towns, troubles and the sound of the rejected were being discovered.

Focus was on reason but stayed lack-luster. Fear captured imagination as dystopia took control. Sounds, texture and information is all based on assumptions from a select audience.

April beauty holds eye and the direction. Moving can change communication but optophobia will influence.

Mutant propaganda orders a clear structured movement to promote change.

The boundaries of seeing bleed with the spirit of perspective. Poetic translation touches the subverted and creates pixies that enjoy the horror.

Maps do not exist above the water but directions are clear.

*NB: This is a visual journal of my time during my third year at MMU. Not all of the imagery used in the collages is from my own work. Some are representations/small sections of other work that I have viewed/been influenced by while on my Design and Art Direction course. I will gladly remove them if this causes issues. Each piece used will be referenced in my final outcome (these are just developments). 

Friday, 4 March 2011

Bradford Beer Festival

The same weekend I went to the Henry Moore exhibition, I also attended the annual Bradford Beer Festival, held at Saltaire's Victoria Hall. It's a pretty impressive venue, and even though I am not the biggest ale fan (I was coerced into going by my boyfriend) I was excited to get there. The set up was huge - 2 large rooms with 3 long bars, each containing probably 30 different ales each. I soon got into the spirit of things, and certainly had a knack of choosing some good beers (I have clearly learnt more from my Dad than I thought I had). There was a live band, and it was a lovely, friendly evening.

The highlight for me however, was not the beer (strangely) but a little stall I discovered upstairs, which was selling a vast array of beer-related ephemera. There were posters, postcards and wall mountings displaying some really beautiful designs, I was exceptionally happy to discover one by A. M. Cassandre too, who is one of my favourite designers. I ended up spending more money here than I actually did on the beer, but I love the designs from this era (early - mid 20th century). Here is a selection of what I saw:

Thursday, 3 March 2011


Two ex-design and art direction students, Ryan Doyle (DR) & Mark Edwards (ME), came to talk to us about their work and the journey they have taken since leaving university. They have since collaborated to form a design team called "DR ME" who work broadly with many disciplines of design such as layout, illustration, animation and typography.

They presented their work with the use of an automated voice-over, which was a little odd and at times difficult to understand, but a much more dynamic method - their intention was to keep us interested (rather than rambling to us in person) and it seemed to work. During their time at university, they took part in an oversees placement with Mike Perry in Brooklyn, NY. They had some really positive advice about placements, and gained some great experience and more opportunities from it. Mike taught them lots, including the following points: get a website (a blog won't do), work hard, but have time off too, be patient - you won't always succeed, and if you persist, one project can change your life forever. They made a point about advising us to put ourselves out there and to take risks. This is something that I really struggle with as I lack a lot of confidence and fear rejection. After seeing what they had achieved from taking chances and contacting people for work, it made me realise that I won't probably get very far unless I do similar. I need to push myself harder and gain some more design experience in order to do well once I leave.

Prints and Portfolios

I visited the Henry Moore: Prints and Portfolios exhibition at the Henry Moore Institution in Leeds this month. I've long appreciated the work of Henry Moore; however I have to admit I was unaware of the extent of his portfolio. Moore is most acclaimed for his sculptures and his paintings of the London Underground during the blitz, which are recognisable from their fluid and undulating forms. I was really surprised on entering the exhibition, as I did not know that he had also created numerous print and graphic works.

Reclining Figure, 1967

Moore worked mainly with etchings and lithograph printing, which he developed an interest in after the First World War and continued until the end of his life in 1986. What I really enjoyed viewing was the publications that he and various writers, artists and poets - including W H Auden, Hans Arp, Picasso, Max Ernst, Joan MirĂ³ and Mark Rothko - had collaborated on.  These are all people that I have been inspired by in the past, so it was really interesting to know that Moore was influenced by them also. In some cases, the books were dedicated to exploring subjects that had preoccupied the artist as a special interest, such as Elephant Skull, Stonehenge, The Artist's Hand, Mother and Child, and Trees.

Red and Blue Standing Figures, 1951

I was really taken back by Moore's choice of colours in his prints. From a graphic design perspective, the colour palettes complimented each other brilliantly and really added personality and depth to his work. The range of pieces and methods of mark-marking was also really impressive. Moore used lots of different techniques on top of his sketches to add texture and detail, as well as layering different sections on top of each other on translucent paper to form images. I liked this approach, it seemed to add another dimension to his work and created a soft aesthetic.

White Forms, 1966 

After the exhibition, I also visited Leeds art gallery, which is connected to the Henry Moore Institute. It was a really good experience, there were a lot of pieces that I recognised, for example the work of Francis Bacon. I find galleries a really relaxing place to be, and I love just taking in all of the sights so it was a really good experience for me.