Lockdown week 45

Another 4 months

The UK roadmap out of Lockdown, at least in England, was announced on Monday 22nd February: June 21 st: all restrictions lifted … if the data supports it.

Each announcement brings some solace, as do the hints of Spring, but the thoughts of another four restricted months brings anxieties.  While there will be things to attend to get us through, the abiding feeling is one of unfulfillment. 


I mentioned artist printmaker Jim Dine’s etchings of hand tools last week which have inspired thinking through what the equivalent images of 21st century tools might be. There are tools required to keep today’s computers, that are as commonplace as the hand tools of the US 1950’s, up and running with access to the mountains of data that we generate every day and require storing for tomorrow’s use. While considering this Walker Evans Anthology of photography threw up more tools. These were from the 1930’s America and published in Fortune Magazine with the title ‘The Beauties of the Common Tool’. Starkly photographed on white backgrounds there are no diversions from the metal pressed materiality of the tools, resplendent in their invitation to be picked up and applied to the mechanical job at hand.

Walker Evans. Fortune 52 (July 1955) pp103-107
Ten winter tools. hand coloured lithograph. 1973. Presented by the artist to the Tate in 1980

Dine’s tools are similar, but different. They are represented with the same admiration as Evans, but are set against hand-made marks of ink impressed from metal printing plates. This visual approach gives an impression of artistic interpretation and respect, rather than the documentary reality of Evans photographs. Dine’s tools themselves are drawn on the lithographic plate and so are not 100% accurate, but their imprint captures the tool’s core essences. Both are different to the images of tools for sale in the printed catalogues of each period. Tools are displayed in the online catalogues of the 21st Century similarly with single images, choice of views, hover over magnification and price tag. 

The tools and storage required for contemporary activities are virtual. Even the metal small boxes of hard removable disk that were necessary only a decade ago, are nearing extinction as they are phased out to be replaced by giga or tera bytes of ‘hidden form sight or touch’ data stores. Drawings or photographs of invisible data will not reveal any more than the online catalogue description. Interpretative drawings of the removable disks and their cable connections may be worthy of embodying in ink or charcoal.


Charcoal is the medium of Genevieve Robertson current work being exhibited in the wide expanse of Grand Forks, British Colombia. On Instagram she announced that ‘Walking in the Dark’, a physical book from the show was available at a small cost and would be mailed to buyers. I ordered and a brown paper envelope with expressive hand-written address arrived today, in Birmingham UK from Canada.

Although expected, it came as a surprise and gave a positive tactile experience of physically opening both envelope and book to see, for the first time a mix of charcoal abstract and literal images, including the moths from the exhibition: ‘And even dust Can Burst into Flames’. The triumvirate of Drawing, Instagram and snail mail brings welcome connectivity in the pandemic.

‘All drawings featured in this book were produced with carbon, in the form of charcoal, coal, graphite and ink. The limited-edition book contains contributions from artist Jim Holyoak and artist/geologist Carol Wallace and is available for purchase by contacting the artist, or available as a PDF here.’


Lest we forget

September 17th. Digbeth, Birmingham UK

covid update

Even though the hospital cases are slowing and the vaccinations are being given in increasing numbers, the death-toll continues rise. Per Head of population the UK death rate is one of the highest in the world.

BBC News

Thats it

Lockdown week 44

Valentine’s Day is Vaccination Day

I have been looking into social media take up. The numbers of images uploaded to internet platforms, daily is enormous: in the billions.  Dustin Stout is a social media entrepreneur and collates the most popular social media networks and apps in 2021 all in one place. Check out his report https://dustinstout.com/social-media-statistics/

The main platform stats:

Facebook statistics YouTube statistics WhatsApp statistics Instagram statistics Reddit statistics Twitter statistics Snapchat statistics LinkedIn statistics Pinterest statistics Tumblr statistics Google+ statistics Periscope statistics

February 14th 2021

The UK Covid figures are more directly concerning and are only ameliorated to some degree, by the high vaccination figures and the slow reduction in the other indicators we are so used to.  There is a consideration by some that the vaccination is not safe, has constituent elements that are dangerous or go against some well held faith beliefs. I am not in any of those camps as I have been raised in a time period when scientific health advances have been accepted and promoted to avoid potential health problems. I have also benefited from physical surgery to allay a variety of health issues my ailing body throws at me. Many such ‘procedures’ are carried out under anaesthetic, administered by injection or inhalation of tested and approved potions. After periods of recovery I have survived these experiences having put my life in the hands of medical and scientific professionals. I am reminded of my secondary school science teacher who opened our studies with: “We do not claim science is the truth, but that it is the best understanding we have.”

Vacs notification

In this light my partner and I received a text notification that we were eligible to receive the covid vaccination. Surprisingly this is probably the most dramatic personal moment in our lives since lockdown began. A sense of light at the end of the tunnel overtook us. Fingers crossed.

We joined the ques at the region’s central ‘vaccination centre’ having followed the signposts directing us and the many thousands of our fellow residents to Millennium Point. A building that received the second highest National Lottery grant to London’s O2 centre, at the turn of the century and which I attended the opening launch. It is home of the Science Museum. Who would have imagined that it would be necessary to commission it for a military level service, delivered by volunteers and health staff in a national effort to protect everyone from a global pandemic.  

Millennium Point Vaccination Centre. Birmingham February 14. 2021

Note taking

I am reading, writing and taking notes as I build a structure to the Phd research and discovered a wonderful article based on an interview with artist printmaker Jim Dine (b1935).  Like much of the writing I read, I take notes, add page references in order I can locate for future reference. Articles like Paul Coldwell’s on Dine give me a problem!  They are so research informative that I end up taking so many notes I might as well just have copied the whole article for future reference. Perhaps highlighting within the article might be better. Or noting on each quote where I think the reference will be most useful in my written research, to ease the memory process. 

The early work of Jim Dine where he made intaglio prints of hand tools giving them a status reserved for religious scenes in the past by such artists as Rembrandt Van Rijn, who Dine refers to as ‘the greatest’. ‘Five Paintbrushes is a print that hovers between tragedy and comedy, the brushes themselves suggesting disparate characters lined up for inspection. It is perhaps not too far to suggest that Dine’s brushes evoke the character of the Texans led by John Wayne in the 1960s film The Alamo. A fierce independence coupled with a romantic moral integrity, plus a sense of being of the earth, is instilled in the band of brushes.’ This parallels a description that Dine once gave of himself: ‘On the outside I was kind of like James Dean, with the heart of Christopher Robin’.[1]  Five Paintbrushes goes through  six ‘states’ of prints beginning with 5 paintbrushes in a line in the first state and increasing to ten brushes before returning to five in the final state.

The prints were made in 1970’s America and are more than realistic representations of hand tools bought from the local hardware store. They resonate with his experience of growing up and celebrations of the materiality of tools to be used by the hand. Seeing and thinking about ‘Tools’ led to considering recent lockdown experience of ‘backing up’ years of photographic images on virtual servers. Nothing could be so far from the materiality of Dine’s metal hand tools. I realised that, pre virtual back up I had a collection of physical external ‘back up’ hard drives. They could be lined up like the ‘70’s’ Paintbrushes as necessary tools of the early 21st Century. How far science and technology has developed in 50 years.

Paul Coldwell. 2016.  Jim Dine – Printmaking and the Tools of his Trade

[1] D. Shapiro and J. Dine, Jim Dine, New York, 1981, p. 205.

Lest we forget

September 17th. Digbeth, Birmingham UK

covid update

Even though the hospital cases are slowing and the vaccinations are being given in increasing numbers the death-toll continues rise. Per Head of population the UK death rate is one of the highest in the world.

BBC News

Thats it

Lockdown week 43

More and more, closer and closer.

An increasingly sombre atmosphere is beginning to pervade our lives. The coming together of winter, snow, extended isolation and the virus figures are leading to depression and desperation. The vaccinations are increasing, but so it seems are the variants. 

We are subjected to virus and variant statistics as we try to make sense, come to terms with or ratioanalise what we are experiencing on a daily basis, as more and more people are affected by the virus. John Hopkins university has been updating the medical health statistics since the pandemic began, which has been important to maintain benchmarks for now, and when we look back and analyse what happened when.

I have been reading and writing this week as I try to avoid the statistics, the fears and depressions that are in the air. My friend and fellow studio artist lost his mother to the disease last week.  I feel comfortable in eluding to his loss as he has made a digital toolkit to support those suffering loss. 

It is so valuable and useful for those trying to get through the pain and grief of loss. 

‘After the loss of our Mother to Covid, I’ve put this video toolkit together to help those who can learn from mine and my families experience, how we used digital tools for healing and grieving in this unprecedented time.’

Thank you, Mohammed Ali

Have a reasonable week.

Lockdown week 42

The Snow has gone, the temperature has risen and the birds are out.

The annual RSPB Garden Bird Watch was this weekend and for an hour the quiet focus was only interrupted by the birds calling or singing to each other as they found food in the feeders or the buds and berries that are beginning to show themselves. Two distinctive blue and orange Nuthachs appeared to display their clever food collection techniques using their long precise beaks. They run up and down the trees tap, tap tapping as they go.

Nuthatch, Ingoldsby 2021.

Below the less colourful and more camouflaged pair of Dunnocks pick up the seeds as they forage amongst the undergrowth before lifting off to sing their loud song. Seasonal activity is on the increase as the seasons change and perhaps we are more aware of them in these times


Literature and written research is taking precedent over drawing and printmaking in current times. However I have drawn two portraits for the series: WHEN WE COULD MEET AND SHARE #BLM. The first is from a photograph made before Lockdown in the Birmingham School of Art Print room when MA student @ray_workz dropped by with her statement hat. The orange flat colour is reminiscent of that which she chose in her CMYK large scale self portraits. The second was while visiting the British Museum for The American Dream, Pop to the Present in April 2017 drawn from the museum’s collection of prints. Art Desk review by Mariana Vaizey. That was sometime ago when many peoples attended the Museum and shared cultural experiences.

Rachelle 2019. Digital drawing January 2021.
British Museum 2017. Digital Drawing January 2021.

Lest we forget

September 17th. Digbeth, Birmingham UK

covid update

There are no words to describe the level that the death rate has risen to this week.

BBC News

Cathedral Vaccination Centre to Music.

Impromtu music makes such a difference.

Follow the Salisbury Cathedral Organist who provides a soundtrack to vaccinations in unlikely surroundings and a commentary on the introduction of a vaccine service on his twitter feed. Look out for the surprise appearance of Bernie Sanders who has been turning up in his mittens across the globe. Made possible by NYU masters student Nick Sawhney.

Thats it

Lockdown week 41


Mesmerising. Illuminated Triangle Rises


Last week’s webinar flurry was followed by an animated and erudite presentation by Professor Erin Manning from Canada. Her paper Art as a Practice of research seminar is available on the Material encounters website.

Q&A at the conclusion of the fully engaging webinar.

Erin Manning is a professor in the Faculty of Fine Arts at Concordia University (Montreal, Canada). She is also the founder of SenseLab (www.senselab.ca), a laboratory that explores the intersections between art practice and philosophy through the matrix of the sensing body in movement. Her current projects are focused around the concept of minor gestures in relation to colour and movement. She talked about the concepts of “research-creation” and on issues around whiteness, black life and neurodiversity.

Impact 11 the international print conference has announced it will be fully online in 2021 as the 2020 had to be cancelled owing to the pandemic. There’s not much time for final preparation and for recalibration for a virtual environment. 


Mark Holden of Invigour published the 2nd of his architectural reviews. Chamberlain moved to Birmingham in 1853 and was known for his Victorian Gothic style and was one of the earliest practical exponents of the ideas of architectural theorist, John Ruskin. He was increasingly influenced by the early Arts and Crafts movement in his later works. 

He served from 1865 until his death as Honorary Secretary and on the Council of the Birmingham and Midland Institute. Among his notable and surviving creations are Highbury Hall and the Chamberlain Memorial fountain.  Shortly before his death he completed the designs for the Birmingham School of Art and it is widely considered to be his masterpiece. 

Lest we forget

September 17th. Digbeth, Birmingham UK

covid update

Even though the hospital cases are slowing and the vaccinations are being given in increasing numbers the death-toll continues rise. Per Head of population the UK death rate is one of the highest in the world.

BBC News


Listening to the morning after melting.

Thats it

Lockdown week 40

Web/seminars. Murals, Whooping Cranes, Buoys, Lighthouses and Lightships.

Online web/seminars are getting underway after the not-so-festive break. Although not the real experience online video events are becoming more efficient with less tech teething issues allowing access with ease to content and interaction. The global internet allows participants and presenters to contribute from their base, no matter where they may be. The old democratising dictum of digital to be accessible to anyone “anytime anywhere” is coming to pass.  The first alert to pop up was from the Yale Alumni Non profit Alliance : “Public Art: Supporting Art as a Way to Build Up & Bind Local Communities” 

The session’s first speaker was my newly appointed second Phd supervisior Dr Jonathan Harris, Emeritus Professor in Global Art & Design Studies. He talked about the value of the Roosevelt New Deal art and cultural programmes to help counter the affects of the great depression in 1930’s USA. He drew parallels with the current pandemic and how there might be similar effective measures taken by global government’s. The panel provided a diverse range of responses to the public art question. The role of major mural projects were highlighted including the Philadelphia Mural arts Programme : ‘Personal Renaissance.’ The programme was extensive and drew upon mutual health and cultural needs and benefits, which was evaluated over time and in detail.


Next up: The Tamarind Institute: Independent curator Candice Hopkins talks to American born, Columbian Mexican artist Harold Mendez about his artistic motivations. The conversation was wide ranging as is his work, however, he did talk about his motivations to make prints at the institute.  The two lithographs created at Tamarind incorporate a screen as the final printed layer of each image, which visually changes the viewer’s engagement with the work either up close or at a distance. There is a veil to peer through to the image, but it is not separate, but a part of the image. He had travelled to Havana, to find traces of the life and memory of Cuban artist Belkis Ayón, who tragically took her own life at the age of 32. He set out to find her grave and encountered sites of commemoration, offering, and sacrifice. He made a litho print from a metal plate titled Counterweight which depicts industrial steel weights and pays homage to the lost burial site of Ayón.

The Institute was founded in 1960 on Tamarind Avenue (hence the name). Tamarind’s founder, the artist June Wayne, with whom I worked closely, later likened lithography’s plight to that of the whooping crane: “In all the world there were only thirty-six cranes left, and in the United States there were no master printers able to work with the creative spectrum of our artists. Tamarind’s challenge, as she saw it, was no less than to create a new ecological system, in the absence of which “this remarkable medium of expression [might] die in its youth without having been asked to reveal its untapped powers for new aesthetic expression.” An informed energy: lithography and Tamarind by Clinton Adams.

More about the dedicated Lithography workshop, press and gallery that was launched in Los Angeles: https://tamarind.unm.edu/about/history/

Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize

The annual TBW drawing exhibition was unable to be held this year. The photograph advertising past events was a reminder of what we are not experiencing as the gallery was rammed with enthusiastic participants enjoying meeting and sharing the event. Much effort had clearly been made to make the 2020 winning announcement one to remember. The exhibition includes 71 drawings by 56 practitioners selected from 4,274 submissions received from across the UK and internationally.  Founder artist Anita Taylor introduced the event from the Cooper Gallery in Dundee with a series of short films and a tour of the exhibition of the 2020 drawings. The event culminated with the commended and winning artist’s drawings.

As well as the winning drawings there is an interactive virtual gallery on the  site. Each drawing can be zoomed into and has an information label. Online gallery produced by V21 Artspace  

The TBW Trust has a long and intriguing history: 

The Corporation of Trinity House was originally a voluntary association of shipmen and mariners and was granted a charter by Henry VIII in 1514 as “The Guild or Fraternity of the most glorious and undividable Trinity of St Clement”. It received its coat of arms in 1573 and with it the authority to erect and maintain beacons, marks and signs of the sea, “for the better navigation of the coasts of England”. Since then, it has been the famous company responsible for buoys, lighthouses and lightships and pioneering the techniques involved. 

This history was not particularly alluded to by the TWB representative in his introduction to the ‘Hugely expansive exhibition’, but the value of drawing as ‘the basis of everything’ was. The drawings are rewarding of a visit if not by peering through the windows of the TBW gallery on the River Thames, through the online portral.

Material Encounters and printgang

Photo: Boyana Aleksova.

Coming up next is Material Encounters Research Cluster with Erin Manning from Sense Lab in Montreal for which preparatory reading has been undertaken. Tuesday 19th.

Printgang took to the internet again with an all-round catch up. On of our number had experienced covid isolation and talked of a soundtrack of omni present ticking clocks and door knockings. Good to report the virus has been banished from the household.

Lest we forget

September 17th. Digbeth, Birmingham UK

covid update

The death-toll continues rise even though the hospital cases are slowing and the vaccinations are being given in increasing numbers.

UK Government

Thats it

Lockdown week 39

Weak two of 2021.

For 24 hours I have been phone less. In isolation this provides challenges. No camera, whatsapp, instagram, twitter.  At least I made the decision to be off grid, unlike the soon not to be President of the United States.

The phone has expired, defunct, “is no more”, “has ceased to be”, “bereft of life, it rests in peace”.  (Monty Python: Dead Parrot Sketch). This is an ex-phone. It no longer springs to life at the tap of a finger. The screen now displays a laptop and usb cable icon. For 24 hours it has not woken. For eight hours it has also displayed the apple support url while I discuss with helpful support agents in many locations, how to bring the phone back to life. Agents begin with confident directions to get it back into operation as I provide the error notification numbers. As the day goes by, they become increasingly frustrated leading to escalations up the support chain.  Finally, the landline phone I hold in hope goes dead. The time has come to accept that the 18 month-old, iphone xmax “is no more.” A first world problem I know. In discussion with my savvy son an order is made for an android device.  The first time in my mobile owing life that my phone will not be an apple. How will I fair? 

Positively, reading has been uninterrupted by the call of the phone. The day has been relaxed. Perhaps the next phone should be turned on and off to a schedule to reduce unnecessary anxiety and enhance focus.

36 hours on and it has arrived. This is the reality of Lockdown ‘accelerated order to door consumerism’. Should it be opened? It sits in its oversize polythene package enticing opening. I will finish reading first. Joanna Love. ‘Drawing Dust.’ from Drawing and Science a recent journal from Intellect Publications: Drawing: Research, Theory, Practice. Vol 5 Number 2.  Edited by Catherine Baker featuring a series of position pieces and project reports Including from Garry Barker,  Harriet Carter and ‘Drawing Ed Ruscha’ by one Edward Turpie.

1950-17 US Photography influences

I will continue to read ‘LEAVE ANY INFORMATION AT THE SIGNAL’, a collection of writings and interviews with Ed Ruscha that illuminate the artist’s artistic thought processes and add to my understanding of the 1950 – 70 period of American visual arts. There are regular references to Rew–shay’s adoption of photography for various purposes from his early seminal books of sunset strip and gasoline stations that are bereft of cluttering human presences. He makes a telling reference to his rethinking of the value of photography on seeing Robert Frank’s Americans and cite’s his admiration of Walker Evan’s documentary photography. One can imagine Rewshay seeing Evan’s photographs from Farm Security Administration projects of store fronts and being affected by them aesthetically with their ‘straight on’ representation of location and prominent typographic signage. He might have seen Evan’s series of photographs of a roadside stand near Birmingham Alabama: F.M.POINTER’s ‘The Old Reliable’, ‘HOUSE REMOVER’ with its ‘FISH, LAKE FISH’ and ‘SPECIALS’ large and regular size  painted/printed signs all in one storefront. Or the Filling station 1929, with massive lettering: CARS GREASED – MOTOR SPRINGS OILED – AUTO BODY SQUEAKS RE[PAIRED].  And the 1930 Truck and Sign photograph of the Globe Electric Sign truck picking up the massive typographical sign : “DAMAGED”.  Walker Evans Anthology. 

Evans was a champion of Frank’s work as he was of Lee Friedlander and Diane Arbus.

Photographs at midday Brum@12

Lockdown Lookout. Computational photograph. January 2021.

There is a fisheye mode on the Pixel phone. It require 36 shots to create 360 sphere.

Lest we forget

September 17th. Digbeth, Birmingham UK
Good Funding news.

covid update

It is tough to be back in Lockdown. Acting collectively as a society might stop the spread. The vaccine(s) may generate a degree of protection, but if we all did not mix we might stop it sooner. Looking at the countries that adopted strict all holds barred lockdown it is clear from the data, that this is the way forward even if it is anathema to libertarian values. There is a downside to to the libertarian argument: there were no masks in the storming of Capitol Hill. And there were few national guardsmen stopping the far-right rioting, unlike last summer when BLM protesters peacefully made their views known.

The ‘Numbers’ unfortunately speak for themselves.

John Hopkins University Global Covid tracking.

Thats it