1.TMS from the start of the MA
My practice prior to joining the Margate School was largely concentrated around watercolours and as I had spent some time teaching still life painting, I found myself with a lot of flowers every week or two. Even as they were fading away, I felt that these botanicals were still so beautiful that I couldn't dispose of them. So I dried them and, over a period of time, almost without knowing how, I had grown a forest of preserved plants. It occurred to me to look at how to capture them in paint, so I began. Initially, I was concerned with capturing the colours and textures only, but as time went on I realised that they had a much larger story to tell. In fact, they had created a visual diary of my year in teaching, covering all the seasons. I had the idea to get them all to a florist to see if she could make a swag out of them to hang. The painting top left was the result. In searching for a title, I hit upon 'The Remains of the Days', as this was literally what the flowers represented. They started me wondering in what other ways dried flowers could be used and so I looked at the work of Rebecca Loiuse Law (oval detail) and Makoto Azuma. Law's flowers are dried in an especially designed, industrial process which preserves the vibrant colours. For me, the colours were too vibrant. Part of the attraction was the change, signalling a transition from living to dead. Azuma looks at the 'afterlife' or legacy of flowers. He has a Buddhist approach to life and expresses this in his treatment of them. In 2009 he said " I am honoured to be given that precious moment from the start of the deterioration of the plant, to give it's life a final expression", which I found resonated with what I wanted to investigate next.
2. MAKER AND OBJECT (MARGATE AND TRAJAN)
We were asked to look at imagining a 3D structure 'in the context of social, political and economic conditions of the contemporary world'.
The research elements should include historical, political, social, cultural or technical references which influenced our work. This module of the course was focused on materiality and development of projects, based on gathering sufficient, relevant research.
I began by collecting words and phrases from local publications and signage. In keeping with my current thoughts on memorialisation and tribute, I was looking at the new, upbeat language being used to describe Margate recently. It stuck me that I had been witnessing a genuine attempt to raise a more positive profile of my hometown, that there seemed to be a constant search for Margate's new 'brand'.
Next I set about forming an idea for a 3D monument to this new Margate, rising from the decades of poverty to becoming one of the trendiest, shabby chic locations in the country.
I looked at the possibility of constructing a column of sorts. I had in mind Trajan's Column, a cast of which has been at the V and A since 1873, so I concentrated my research in this area.
In 2015, the artist/architect Jorge OteroPailos, created an installation at the museum, in response to the column.
'The Ethics of Dust' looked at the construction methods of the Victorians in displaying it and he referenced the Industrial revolution..
"I was really gripped by the internal brick chimney that supports the plaster cast..it made me think of the thousands of chimneys built in Victorian Britain" Otero also referenced the pollution caused by these chimneys. Although there's much to be said about the idea of cultural advancement borne of destruction and pollution, I thought this line of enquiry unhelpful to my research and so looked for other ways to transcribe this monument.
Further research led me to discover that the column has a continual narrative wrapped around it in a long spiral, alongside over 2,500 animals and figures.
It was intended to glorify the achievements of the Emperor Trajan and his many victories during the Dacian wars, however, it is more than this. It's a social documentary, containing representations of every nationality that Trajan had influence over, making it ethnically surprisingly diverse. It is also an expression of control and power yet is a celebration of global influence and modernity.
This resonates with contemporary Margate, in that it has suddenly become a magnet for people from all across the UK, drawn to it's reputation for being a cultural beacon with the opening of the new Turner Contemporary Gallery. Comparisons can be drawn to Trajan's search for how to celebrate this glorious new identity.
A monumental column for the new Empire that is Margate, emerging full of newcomers, surrounded by proclamations of it's own greatness, in overblown phrases running the length of it, would seem to be entirely appropriate for this project and that was my proposal.
In order to build a structure for a 'Margate Column', I looked at the use of various materials with a view to not only their structural integrity but also the practicality of meeting construction deadlines.
I embarked on a new method of building a stable structure utilising strips of wood and plaster in multiple cube formations.
This technique produces a very strong and tall tower however, it didn't easily translate into my design for a tubular helix. So I decided to abandon such a methodology for this project.
In it's place, I began looking at utilising some glass tubing to which I had access, feeling it might lend itself to a more interesting, clear column.
4. Colouring Margate Column
Once decided on a structure, I began to look for other methdologies to employ in celebrating Margate, using colourful imagery to portray the 'feel' of the place. I examined stained glass windows, traditionally employed for telling stories without words. In trying to find a new material for introducing colour to glass, I explored whether it was a viable option to use those flower petals gathered whilst making 'Remains of the Days', thus extending their usefulness even further.
Some of these were more translucent than others, allowing for the flow of light through them. Many were opaque against the light, so forming silhouettes. In the end, using my own sketchbook images of beach users locally, I created several samples of both colours and styles for the column, here are a few of them and their inspirational sources too.