Progress on this instruction has been relatively slow considering it was first set in July. I have now got to the stage of using cellulose thinners and cutting rubber stamps for block colours. The texture of the laid paper has had an effect on the success of the images, similarly working on bound pages within such a large volume sometimes makes it difficult to get a flat surface. However I like the immediacy of the process and having only one chance to get it right, this means having to accept imperfections and mistakes!
Text from TM to PW 07.24 – 30 July 2017
With reference to the contents of the Introduction or Epitaph construct decorative end papers to embellish and inform.
I find working on the instructions from T far more challenging and interesting than my own, this is because we don’t tend to question or discuss the meaning of the task so there is naturally a certain amount of ambiguity involved. Our responses are a personal interpretation – and I enjoy the fact that I may not interpret the instruction as it was intended. This is the case with instruction 6. At the back of my book, beyond the index is a blank page, which would be classed as the endpaper – I am assuming that this is where T intended the response to be placed – and do I use the same blank page at the beginning of the book, even though I have no introduction to interpret? Whatever the case, there is no right or wrong and it will be interesting to compare the books when we eventually see them side by side.
My starting point to interpret the Epitaph was to research into Georgian death notices; whilst I was familiar with Victorian mourning cards that were sent in envelopes edged with black borders, it was difficult to establish if this was a custom during the early 19th century, however I did find some interesting imagery that had similar qualities to a rubber stamp or lino-print and this was perceived as a potential visual style. Similarly decorative borders in various styles were also a familiar feature.
Naturally the epitaph itself offered lots of plaudits and a list of adjectives to describe Windham’s character – ‘pious’ was one visual starting point; as well as the epitaph within the diary I found testimonies from friends and colleagues of Windham – one from the writer Samuel Johnson used the latin phrase ‘inter stellas Luna minores’ – the moon among the lesser fires – this also resonated as a possible visual starting point. I looked at the repetitive nature of decorative endpapers and developed ideas for a step and repeat pattern based on visual connections with Windham.
Completion of Instruction 2 enabled first investigation of the locations from which Windham wrote his letters within Volume 1. Of the 49 letters he wrote, 25 included listed addresses from 10 different locations, 4 of which were from his home of Felbrigg Hall in Norwich. Taking the idea that Windham would have departed and returned from his home at Felbrigg Hall, I used this as the starting point, and began by listing the distance of each town recorded from the Hall. When only streets were listed, I used known information about the life of Windham to determine which town the street may be from the list of options provided on Google Maps! This resulted in addresses in Glasgow, where Windham was a student, the Netherlands, and a further 2 in London, including one of the oldest Gentleman clubs in London!
Utalising this system of distance, I constructed a network of lines radiating from and back to the library windows at Felbrigg Hall to catalogue additional places of writing. The original library stamp from Christ Church, Oxford provided an opportunity to present a key to each location and record the number of times that a letter was written from each address.
Written note from PW to TM posted 10.15am – 12 July 2017
Develop a system to catalogue the known addresses from where Windham wrote his letters.
Having identified each page where an address was in evidence – 89 in total with 14 different locations, my first task was to work out the percentage of letters sent from each particular place. I researched into each location and in many instances was able to pinpoint the actual number of the street where Windham lived, however this information was incomplete as sometimes he listed just a place name not a full address, so this was sadly not a route I could develop further. Instead I considered how each place could be categorized; whilst colour-coding seemed an obvious starting point, I quickly realized that this may be confused with the system adopted in instruction 2. Next I started to explore the potential of using actual maps, and by reflecting on the methodology adopted in instruction 4 – which had been relatively successful – began to examine how I could use a similar system to depict the hierarchical nature of the addresses.
Using a modern road atlas I highlighted each place name within approximately a 2.5cm square section; the number of times that the location appeared within the book determined the percentage by which the square section was then enlarged. The colour copies of the map were then wrapped around the edge of each relevant page using a system of alignment. What is perhaps less successful than the way this process worked in the previous instruction, is the fact that incrementally the difference between each place name is at times limited, therefore it doesn’t allow a real sense of scale to be established.
Having used the covers of the book for a previous instruction, I wanted to use the spine as a vehicle for cataloguing each place, the numeric value of each location is represented by a small roundel punched from the same map section used within the book pages.
Taking an idea from the given word connection, I began by exploring potential links with previous responses and reflected upon the similarities and differences within this instruction and the last. I considered how I might draw upon making practices employed within my response to instruction 3 to undertake instruction 4. The similarity of scale and placement of the portraits enabled a returning to the idea of the Oxford frame. Within this response I chose to remove the shape of the frame to amplify a lack of connection to Windham. I also returned to the idea of printing multiple initials to decorate the back of the portrait pages embellishing these with gold leaf to further illuminate the gaps in between the individual letters which I had previously filled with the initials of William Windham in instruction 3. With a further reference to the notion of illuminating, and historical illuminated letters, I made use of the paper removed from the book in cutting out the Oxford frame and embellished these with emerging connections with Windham’s life, loves and letters. These are placed decoratively within the original portrait and will be made use of again to embellish the list of illustrations at the front of Vol.1
Text message from TM to PW 15.24 – 19 June 2017
Using the portraits of non-recipients, illuminate/amplify their connection to the life, loves and letters of William Windham.
I viewed this instruction as an opportunity to develop a set of more unified illustrations than those produced for instruction 3 which lacked cohesion and identity; this was a chance to
revert to previous (more successful) practice by putting in place a series of systems to develop a visual style.
The first action was to identify the non-recipient portraits and how many letters each person had sent to Windham – surprisingly three people had sent no correspondence to WW at all, therefore it was decided to deal with these portraits in a separate manner. This left 4 portraits to work with. To get an understanding of their relationship with Windham, I read each letter several times to determine its tone of voice – one major problem with this was that some of the letters had been heavily obliterated in response to instruction 1, so working with what was still readable I identified those correspondents who I considered friends and those who were considered foes. Having ascertained how many letters each correspondent had sent, I was able to work with this information to develop a system. The portraits were photocopied onto either blue (friend) or pink (foe) paper, at the same time each image was enlarged by a percentage that correlated with the number of sent correspondence; for example Canning sent 8 letters to Windham, so his portrait was enlarged to 180%, whilst the Duke of Gloucester only sent 1 letter so was enlarged to 110%, and so forth.
This system helps to communicate the direct relationship each person had with Windham. I also wanted to portray the relationship each person had with others within the book by
using the hierarchy of the British peerage system in some way. By identifying all the names (that again were readable) within each letter, I typed each one onto a colour-coded piece of paper to represent their rank/title. Using a system of placement, each name was sewn onto the illustration in a position that represented its place on the book page; the thread colour was defined by the same hierarchical system of rank. Working on copies then attaching them into the book enabled me to avoid some of the problems encountered with the previous illustrations and opened up opportunities to work with machine stitching. A key to identify the
system hierarchy was placed on the page opposite the first non-correspondent portrait.
In response to the third instruction, I once again began by gathering a list of connected synonyms. Alongside this, I observed that each portrait is contained within a single page with blank paper surrounding it and considered constructing a frame around each recipient to decorate this empty space. Drawing upon the idea of decorating, adorning and adding ornament, taken from the given word illustrate, I explored the idea of what a frame could be and came upon a historical style called an Oxford frame in which the sides cross each other and project out at the corners. I noted that this was considered a popular style for framing prints and that it is similar to the Oxford corners used by printers in which a corner is formed by a ruled border which cross and extend slightly beyond each other. I had never heard of either term before this research and was drawn to the connection with Oxford, historical eras and printers!
Having already altered the book in response to instruction one and two, I have decided to employ techniques used within this earlier work to form the frames that I construct. This will enable relevant individual ingredients to be mixed together around each portrait. Colour will be taken from the inventory constructed in response to instruction two and I also plan to make use of paper cutting, letter stamps and repetitive mark making found within the work of Mira Schendel and Cy Twombly.
Text message from PW to TM 11.52, 22 May
Using the portraits of recipients, depict/illustrate/communicate some aspect of
Windham’s correspondence with the individual. Deadline 12 June.
Highlighting a particular aspect of Windham’s correspondence was reasonably straightforward as in the majority of cases the illustrations within volume 2 depict recipients who
received limited letters from Windham – the exception being Lord Grenville who received 23! However finding a common theme in each of his 23 letters was not as difficult as anticipated.
Working on illustrations that are bound within such a large volume was challenging, and as suspected the folded pages from instruction no.1 also impeded some production methods.
Rubber-stamping, letterpress (albeit hand printing) and collage techniques were adopted to develop a range of individual solutions rather than a thematic approach. The final illustrations are not wholly successful due the restrictive nature of the bound pages. With hindsight more effective pre-planning would have helped improve both composition and technique – photocopying each illustration to practice upon prior to beginning would have been advantageous, however as with the first instruction, I worked directly onto the pages after only limited testing of media and techniques.
Unlike instructions 1 and 2, this was the first time that a system was not put in place
in response to the instruction, instead each of the 8 illustration pages is an individual reaction to the topic of correspondence.
In response to the second instruction my first line of enquiry was once again to investigate the potential of each given word to inform visual arts practice. I became interested in using the actual text within the book to construct the inventory by physically ‘extracting’ the name of each recipient and re-assembling these within one alphabetical list. I explored the notion of inventories and considered how I could present Windham’s recipients by viewing a range of historical and contemporary inventories. I observed order, logic, detailed referencing, names and dates. I decided to locate the inventory within the empty first pages, as a further introduction to Volume 1., and directly underneath the following quote: Why may not the life of Windham be written by his letters?
I began cutting and ideas evolved in this making process including an observation around frequency of correspondence and choice of subject matter located within William Windham’s personal and professional life. I noted that Windham expresses times of confidence, achievement, anxiety and self-doubt and began to apply a system of inductive analysis selecting one individual word to most effectively represent each letter. In order to visually code emerging themes shared with the 24 recipients within this book, I have used four individual colours to evidence positive and negative adjectives in response to shared information about his evolving professional and personal life.
Text message from TM to PW 21.18, 8 May 2017
Catalogue William Windham’s correspondence by constructing/extracting an inventory of recipients. Deadline 22 May
When I first read the second instruction set by T, I wanted to gain a clear understanding of the meaning of inventory, rather than making assumptions, therefore I chose to work with the
interpretation of an inventory as a tally.
Colour coding the individual recipients seemed an obvious way forward, but I wanted the colours to have a resonance with each person; taking inspiration from T’s previous working methodology I started to research all 36 recipients. Whilst Wikipedia was a quick, invaluable resource – many of the recipients were impossible to find, so it became clear that finding a colour that was relevant was going to be a challenge. After studying the work of both Karel Martens and Irma Boom, I started to consider how it maybe possible to combine graphic shapes or pattern with colour; to develop this idea further I turned to the letters themselves for visual clues.
Reading the paper by Kathy Corcoran (subject cataloging workshop, ARLIS/NA, L.A., 31 March 2001) entitled: ‘Many intricate and difficult problems that torture the mind – words of wisdom for art cataloguers in the real world’ – I was mindful of her statement:
Besides knowledge and skill at interpreting and applying rules, we need to call on our judgement,
experience, and intuition, and even occasionally our sense of aesthetics and of what ‘looks right’
Although written in relation to library cataloguing I chose to adapt the same approach – this gave me the necessary freedom and flexibility I needed to develop a colour coding system that was more abstract but still had some form of significance (however tenuous).
Whilst part of our research is to determine whether or not working independently will affect the outcome, by the second instruction I am conscious that because we know each so well, and talk regularly, it is difficult not to be aware of T’s various approaches and be influenced by her methods.