windham papers

Instruction 4: Similarities & Differences

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

Instruction 4: Correlation and Hierarchy

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 WindhamI 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.

Instruction 3: Decorative Ingredients

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.

Instruction 3: testing testing

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.

wp3 sketch
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.

Instruction 2: Extraction, Re-Assemblage and Inductive Coding Analysis

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.

Instruction 2: red blue orange green yellow white purple…

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.

344_karel01

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’
to us
.

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.

Windham Papers Rule No.1.

WWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW

In response to the first instruction I began by exploring the meaning of each given word and became drawn to the word deleted. Synonyms listed included: obliterate, erase, cross out and drawing a line through it. Further synonyms listed for cross out included: squash, stifle, suppress, rub out and shade. I began to consider the idea of erasing text perhaps through the use of an ink rubber or sandpaper to remove the printed text from the surface of the paper. I also became interested in the notion of crossing through text with a line and considered possible options open to Windham if he made a mistake in his original letter writing. This in turn led to some research around Windham himself and his family home.

I read about the gothic library of his family home, Felbrigg Hall, filled with books he had brought back from his Grand Tour and further claims that books were both his lifetime passion and the cause of his untimely death! Alongside stories of his fluency in French, Italian, Greek and Latin were stories of his sporting achievements, political inconsistency and his ghost! Allegedly his ghost has been seen seated in a chair by a roaring fire reading a favourite book! I began to think it would be interesting to make use of letter forms in some way and looked at the work of artists who use text in their work in particular the multiple letters, scribbles and scratched lines used within the arts practice of Mira Schendel and Cy Twombly. Schendel speaks of blurring the processes of drawing and writing and exploring the visual qualities of words so that sometimes only a single letter is used repeatedly within a piece of work. One article talked of multiple letter L’s repeatedly formed to look like legs marching across a page.

Gradually I began to think about how I could use multiple letter W’s to obliterate and shade the letters he had received. I considered using black ink but felt this may create surfaces which couldn’t be worked into at a later date and so returned to the idea of erasing. I have now begun the process of responding to the first given instruction by using lines drawn in Tippex to represent the angular lines found in a letter W together with white printed letter stamps to delete sections of text.

Windham Papers Rule No.1.

Text message from PW to TM 12.40pm, 21 April 2017.
Only letters sent from William Windham to be treated, therefore received letters to be ignored/hidden/deleted.  Deadline 4 May.

Having made the decision to develop the Windham Papers through a series of rules that are open to interpretation, we have agreed to write about our individual responses, but we will not share the work with each other until the end of the project, instead just hints or glimpses of our progress will be uploaded to the blog. We are trying to examine whether the rules will hinder our creativity, and if by working independently without influencing each other, this will affect the overall outcome.

wp 1c
In response to Rule 1, I made the decision to fold the unwanted letter pages in half, although this decision immediately highlighted various issues; firstly I did not take into account the fact that there could be a letter from Windham (which had to be kept) sharing a page with a
‘received letter’– this meant having to adapt my system – so cutting the page horizontally enabled just a portion of the page to be folded. Secondly was the problem of multiple short letters – there could sometimes be 3 unwanted letters sharing a double page spread with 2 wanted letters, therefore folding was not an option and an additional system had to accompany the folding. Blocking out using xxx was applied to anything not able to be folded – but as result another system had to be put in place for the way in which the xxx was positioned… having two separate systems was not ideal, but having committed to the folded pages there was no going back. I took the decision to work directly onto the book without testing out ideas first… perhaps a misjudgment(?), however I wanted to make an immediate response to the ‘rule’ and not over-think the process; as a consequence I made several mistakes that will have to remain, or perhaps these could be embraced or highlighted in some way?

The folded pages have forced the book to start to fan out, which may or may not cause problems when working on the pages in the future, and although the book no longer closes properly the overall look is not displeasing!

Idea Exchange

A pre-arranged FaceTime conversation enabled the exchange of first ideas gathered independently in response to our new projects.  We are keen to continue with the methods of making established in our last project which are rooted in Serial Art and talked around a range of possible starting points.

Inspired by the purchase of 2 cross stitch books, first research into this craft has revealed rules and conventions around restrictions with image placement which could be interesting to make use.  A potential colour palette is listed within one of the books with particular symbols linking to specific colours.  The symbols have some reference to the patterns we created using the typewriter in our previous project and the making of these links with the theme of Intersect.  The process of making a cross stitch also links Intersect and also offers further potential to divide pages into two parts,  cut across, overlap and criss cross.  Whilst these are interesting ideas, first examination of the two books presented challenges in how to connect them.  Eventually we have decided upon sending half of each book to each other for further examination.  This will involve taking the books apart and some independent decision making which may provide new ideas

We considered the idea of using text messages to instruct each other in the production of art work and both liked this idea initially although were unsure of how this would lead to an outcome.   P shared ideas making use of found books and experiences from the recent Artist Book Fair in Bristol (BABE) around working on editions and one-off books from the same starting point.  We discussed first ideas for the Windham papers and P will initiate this process by texting the first rule that we will undertake on our individual volumes of the book.

With many potential ideas to consider we have fixed a second Facetime conversation and a meeting within the next 3 weeks in order to move both projects forward.  Prior to these we have agreed to send each other half of our cross stitch books and share links to first reading.

Removing the papers from my cross stitch book to send to P has revealed 9 sections with each section having 3 double pages.  The remaining pages are glued onto the binding – perhaps these remaining pages can be the starting point for the the new book?

References:

https://www.thecrossstitchguild.com/cross-stitch-basics/cross-stitch-basics.aspx

https://broadmuseum.msu.edu/exhibitions/pattern-follow-rules

Moving on

So it’s time to start thinking about our next projects. The altered book exhibition that relates to the Windham Papers is currently on hold, so there has been no sense of urgency to start this project; with that said, there has been a brief email exchange with a proposal to get the ball rolling. Following on from thoughts blogged several months ago, and an awareness that neither T or I particularly like the altered book genre, we recognise that to make the project worthwhile, we need to find a suitable approach that both challenges our current working practice but enables us to enjoy the process and play to our strengths.

In review of the working methods adopted throughout our last project we note that working to rules and given conventions provides a further focus to our making.  Previous blog posts acknowledge that given restrictions within scales of working, image placement and colour choice provokes discussion, stimulates ideas and extends our practice.  A systematic approach to making artwork is developing which we are interested in continuing.  Recent research into the concept of Serial Art, artwork produced by Sol LeWitt and Tam Van Tran has further consolidated these ideas.  With this in mind, the current proposition is to collaboratively devise a set number of rules that will then be applied to our individual books using whatever method we decide – this part of the project will be undertaken independently.

Alongside this we will develop another project on the theme of intersect – a call for entries from we love your books – this project is likely to be based on two chance purchases that we made independently, but on the same day.  Both books contain guidelines and patterns to produce cross stitch and one is inscribed:

Antonia, Hours of Happy Needlework           Caroline        22.06.76
It is hoped that both these projects will offer different challenges in terms of our collaborative practice and enable us to develop new working methodologies.

References:

https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/themes/conceptual-art/sol-lewitt-and-instruction-based-art

http://www.theartstory.org/artist-lewitt-sol.htm

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/s/serial-art

https://broadmuseum.msu.edu/exhibitions/pattern-follow-rules

https://www.artsy.net/artist/tam-van-tran