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.
Despite the various ups and downs of the intersect project, we now seem to be back on track. With my sections of the book typed and sent to T – using recorded delivery (to ensure against further losses!); I have been able to move on to the covers, whilst T begins the typing of her sections, whenever she gets some spare time… thanks to the portable typewriter!
We are using the covers from my book but the (new) title has been taken from the title page of T’s book. The initial idea for the front cover was to translate the title using code, however the symbols +*=:/ are not all available as wood type, therefore it was decided to overprint the full title using black ink to reflect the typed code of the inner pages. The inscription from T’s original book was also letterpress printed, this time using red to reflect the second colour of the typing, it was placed in the same position as the original book – the inside front cover; these processes continue the concept of intersect.
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.
After 8 days of waiting for the parcel from T to arrive, it became apparent that part of the original book pages were lost somewhere in the postal system. My initial thoughts were that this would put an end to the project, however a Facetime discussion enabled us to establish that T had made some copies and only 6 pages in total had been lost, this meant that we could still proceed. We decided that rather than reduce the number of pages, the book would remain at 20pp with the lost text pages remaining either blank – or with something to identify or even celebrate the loss. Although the delay had an impact on the original planned production schedule – once typing commenced on the newly adjusted pages, it was an incredibly quick process, and as time went by it became easy to translate each sentence quite naturally into the code – almost becoming fluent in a new hieroglyphic language!
Having finalized all the details for Intersect, as we began to start work, it became apparent that whilst we had divided and swapped sections of the two original books, further work was needed to resolve the imposition and order of the new book before work could begin.
Talking face to face, we quickly identified that we didn’t have enough text pages for Revised Edition to be more than 20pp, and we would need to re-distribute the pages that had already been divided. We made the decision to type the book (using the code), in the same order as the original edition. Through discussion some former decisions were also adjusted – namely the covers and end papers.
At the end of the discussion we agreed tasks – I offered to work out the imposition and make a dummy, whilst T would re-divide the text pages and post the necessary extra pages to me.
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.
The opportunity to share first sample pages face to face enabled scrutiny of the given theme, analysis of our decision making process to date, and the format of the book to be finally confirmed. Ideas were exchanged and initial concerns around the scale of the typewritten key in contrast to the cross stitch transfer page alphabets were talked through and solutions were found collaboratively.
We have decided to revise both independently found cross-stitch books by transcribing the text from one book onto the pattern transfers from the second book using a typewritten key-based system. The key will be printed onto both sides of the transfer paper utilising the grid format in the original book which will result in off set printing when the pages are viewed together. The scale of the transfer pages will enable us to construct two new double page spreads from each sheet which we plan to insert into the first book. In this way imagery and text, original substrates and outer book covers will all intersect.
Sections of first sample pages provided further ideas about other outcomes which may possibly enlarge sections of given and intersected pattern.
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.