Lockdown week 24

Its Been Six months

Now its going to be Another Six Months

I need a ‘slump of deflation’ emoji


The culmination of the Magistrate’s 100 Years of Justice anniversary exhibition took place with the launch of the online exhibition on September 8th. A physical exhibition will be mounted in 2021. to the celebrate the opening of the exhibition the exhibitors met with curators . We met online and shared our experiences and ambitions for our participation. For more detail and the art by 20 contributing artists go to website: www.ma100yearsofjustice.com and follow on instagram: # ma100years

My contribution is two portraits on the theme of Race and future criminal justice. Two sitting Magistrates agreed to sit for a portrait just days before UK Lockdown. Both adopted a pose looking directly out with their hands before them, which I reflected in the drawings and subsequent prints.

Magistrates Portraits

Sue Marwa JP. “I joined the Bench in 1984, and was one of the first ‘ethnic faces’ at that time.” A2 Silk Screen.
Carlton Williams. JP. “At 26 I’m the youngest magistrate on the Family Panel.” A2 Silk Screen.


NHS Covid app

I have downloaded the NHS Covid App. It works. It tells me that I am in a ‘High Risk’ Area and that it is active and scanning. I’ll let you know when I use it to enter venue and it tells me anything of import.

Thats it

Lockdown week 23

Shocking Times

Lockdown Reading and drawing

I am writing this post as we enter week 24. Last week seemed difficult to concentrate in a focussed way.  Lots of issues to be addressed/resolved/put aside. I had thought last night might have been an opportunity to write but living in Birmingham we were informed that all households were not to meet with others inside houses or private gardens from today. 

Friends from another house were invited over for a socially distanced meet before the clamp down and before one of them flew out to their home country Spain. We talked and ate the night away as the Autumn sunshine dropped away and the night drew in. An urban fox appeared from the bushes and the birds in the cedar trees talked to each other.

The new term of research study is about to begin. Planning a term while in lockdown is my next task.  Focus! It’s not as bad as it is for many Arts and cultural workers who are facing the end of the government’s furlough programme and in many cases unemployment as their places of work cannot sustain wage bills.  Lockdown makes it impossible for arts venues that rely on audiences standing or, God forbid, sitting next to each other to operate their programmes of dance, drama, cinema, music, arts, learning and enjoying creative environments. It’s tough for arts and artists in Covid restricted times.

‘Furlough’ is word I had not come across before covid. Suddenly with the Chancellor of the Exchequer announcing sweeping support for workers prevented from working by social distancing impositions ‘Furlough’ was on the tip of everyone’s tongue and at the top of news agendas. I came across it again while reading the biography of Walker Evans. There is a chapter on his work for the Resettlement Administration, which was part of FD Roosevelt’s New Deal to address the ravages of the US Depression. I always understood Evans, and Dorothea Lange’s photography to be for the Farm Security Administration, but the FSA was preceded by the RA. Furlough was the term used then to describe the Government’s actions to apply leave of absence for civil servants or the military, but in the depression it was applied to many more employees. It seems Chancellor Sunak adopted the word and added to the action by paying 9 million UK workers direct from HMRC. An unprecedented programme for a conservative government. Some might say Britain became a socialist state overnight.

For arts organisations he issued in a cultural support and recovery scheme that offered work for arts organisations, venues and workers, but not so much for artists. In contrast Eleanor Roosevelt ensured artists were paid to produce art through the depression. One of those was Walker Evans who was hired to document the effects of the Depression on workers:

“People wanted to witness the real lives of their fellow Americans, to know better the common ground not only of their crisis but of their culture. Photography seemed the most natural medium for communicating this message, but it was not at all obvious how to use it, for a while the effects of the crisis were felt across the country, they were not easily seen. The Depression was, in the words of one historian, “an oddly invisible phenomenon.” It consisted of things not happening, of a subtle slowing of the pace on the street that was more easily described in words and statistics than in pictures. P89 

Evans wanted not only to capture and visualize the poverty wreaking havoc to Americans, but the developing ‘Poverty of Spirit’. The description of the perception of the Depression chimes with our Covid Crisis: invisible, things not happening, subtle slowing of the pace on the street.

DO NOT MIX WITH OTHER HOUSEHOLDS. Moseley High Street Birmingham UK 2020

But Then BANG. As I write, where I live is told in no uncertain terms NOT TO MIX WITH OTHER HOUSEHOLDS. I am all in favour of #Keepbrumsafe, but this street messaging is Shocking. This is not slow and subtle, but in your face directives by the authorities to the citizens of a major city.

When we could meet, share and dance together

mostly_jazz 2019. When we could meet, share and dance. Cancelled 2020. Hopefully back 2021. #BLM

Thats it

Lockdown week 22

Autumn has begun

Lockdown Reading and drawing

Walker Evans Biography by Belinda Rathbone is a wonderful in depth and detailed piece of writing about the American photographer that established his working process during the 1930’s depression. Alongwith a number of artists and writers he participated and benefited from the Roosevelt New Deal plan to get the economy growing. Roosevelt’s wife Eleanor particularly promoted the involvement of artists in the new deal. Evans was hired on the Resetlement Administration programme, later renamed the Farm Security Administration. The description of the needs of the 30’s that established the FDR programmes has echoes of what we are enduring in the 2020’s. However they were envisaged to be in place for the duration of the financial depression.

Waker Evans Biography Book cover. Left Back, and right front portraits.

In the UK the Covid government has invested in keeping arts organisations, businesses and individuals going through to 2021.  Unlike Roosevelt’s programmes there is not a mainstream UK programme to encourage the making of art during the pandemic. Artistic interpretation and documentation of the experience of Covid could be a valuable focus to bring some light to the darkness experienced by so many. It may also establish a legacy of Covid experiences as undergone by so many.

The Evans biography captures many detailed insights into Evan’s motivation to achieve unposed photographs of Americans. He had a number of collaborative relationships with writers.  In particular with his foil James Agee resulted in ‘In praise of famous Men’ that described and visualised three sharecropper families in the depression Southern American States. The photographs were ground breaking and effective in creating documentary human evidence of the effects of deprivation to working families during the depression. They have created a legacy. Following the FSA work he went on to use 90 degree cameras and hidden cameras to surreptitiously photograph unposed revolutionary portraits. He made many of these portraits in the NYC subway trains where he travelled with his companion photographer Helen Levitt.

As his character is revealed throughout the biography it becomes clear he was self-centred/motivated/driven to the detriment of long term relationships with women.  This is perceived through the eyes of the 21st Century where feminism has to some degree liberated women and men to escape misogynistic attitudes of past generations. We are not at total gender equality by any means. I will now read the biography of Dorothea Lange who was engaged on the FSA programme making many of the iconic images of the time.

As I am reading off site as it were, I have reverted to pencil underlining, which I do not approve of, but needs must. I will go through and transfer important references to ipad and cloud research folder, an erase the pencil marks. 

When we could meet, share and que together

Lemn Sissay instagramming. digital drawing. #BLM

Len Sissay making an instagram image at his book signing following his sold out reading from his memoir, My Name Is Why. The audience in 2019 sat next to each other in the MAC Theatre, Birmingham to be moved by his stories of adoption and being a young black kid. Following a Q&A it was announced that a book signing session would take place in the foyer. The queue was round the block! No restrictive social distancing back then. People held their books close and chatted while waiting their turn to have a few words with the man and thank him personally for sharing his experiences and signing their book.

Michael Donkor review: ‘The great triumph of this work comes from its author’s determination to rail against what he rightly diagnoses as this institutionally endorsed disremembering of black and marginalised experience. It is a searing and unforgettable re-creation of the most brutal of beginnings’.

For more about Sissay’s books, plays and poetry visit his website.

100 Years of Justice

100 years. of Justice is an collection of 20 artist’s work reflecting on 100 years of justice delivered by the UK magistrates system. Many themes have been responded to from the past present and future. I contributed two portraits of Magistrates from diverse backgrounds to the Future: Race and Criminal Justice theme.

Due to Covid the exhibition of work is online at the moment but with plans to go live in the coming months.https://www.ma100yearsofjustice.com More next time.

Thats it




Lockdown week 21

summer is coming to an end

Lockdown Reflections

Tech and touch

Last week I reflected on the thoughts of a health anthropologist and this week Dr donald.macaskill from Scottish Care drew attention to the potential and limitations of technology in covid times and in particular Care Homes: The Technology of Trust. He says: “For me technology at its best is explicitly an art or a craft (indeed that’s what the word tekne means in its Greek root). Its potential is immense in that it can deepen and enrich human encounter and experience, can foster connection and enhance relationships. However, too often, I feel, we get so caught up in the mechanics and the technicalities of new technology, that we lose sight of the art, the creativity and the humanity.” Such important insights into the gains and losses tech can bring are made by Dr Macaskill. He elaborates on the rapid application and implementation of tech solutions in the covid times. Zoom and video conferencing is but the popular tip of the iceberg with many other data driven apps to country wide track and trace systems being introduced and accepted by consumers, at unusually fast speed. All of which may bring untold benefits in the gathering of data and information in the long term subjugation of viruses. However what is missing from these processes is the replacement of human contact. Looking through perspex shields and over face masks at each other while adhering to the keep your distance messages doesn’t quite cut the human contact mustard, we need as we develop future tech and seek to find each other again.

Tech and Touchhttps://scottishcare.org/the-technology-of-touch-potential-and-limitation-in-the-digital-care-age/

Lookout Lockdown

Lockdown in west Wales.

Blue figs
Textured figs
Wooded figs

Seeing and comparing these three drawings of the same subject delivers not only a colour differentiation, but a spacial perception of the elements. Colour and texture or lack of both was expected to be the issue to be assessed, but the spacial difference was surprising. The spacial difference between the empty background and the two with colour is perhaps expected but there is also difference between the colour backgrounds with the full background bringing the framed fig drawing right to the fore, whereas the textured graduated background locates the fig drawing in a literal mid distance space. I am due to revisit West Wales and the Lockdown Fig window and will consider how to progress.


I went to a pub! Not intentionally, but the cafe was being refurbed, it was raining and there was a pub across the road. We were welcomed by a masked waitress and ushered to a table for two with good distance from any other customers encouraged to order via the pub app. After a while we became relaxed along with the full social distanced house.

I also went to the city centre! A performance by a troupe of dramatists lead by Talking Birds Theatre were to engage with people in the Bullring Shopping Centre. It was pretty busy. Not the usual full on Thursday evening hustle and bustle, but multi diverse Birmingham was in evidence and the troupe in orange with 2 meter hula hoops got a lot of attention. It was good to witness street art after many months of lockdown and very little cultural engagement.

More pictures: https://jonnieturpie.com/Picturesfrom2020/orange-birds.html

Thats it

Lockdown week 20


After Masks last week, its Messages this.

indie street instruction

Online Art

Thanks to Josie and the Ort Gallery team for taking the initiative and creating an online outing for the Gallery Members. It was a opportunity to exhibit 3 works that have been made over the last 12 months including M-Migration, Ian Sergeant Passion portrait and the second portrait of Yuchen Yang seen below.

Ort Gallery Recent Work
MSA Yuchen Yang, Gifu Print 2019

Follow the link to the show:


Lockdown Reflections

Its instructive to seek impressions from other disciplines and experienced and knowledgeable specialists from those fields. In Lockdown I read posts from Somatosphere a website ‘covering the intersections of medical anthropology, science and technology studies, cultural psychiatry, psychology and bioethics’. An article titled Room with a View, by the anthropologist and health expert Linda M. Whiteford drew me in. Her description of the ‘Leitmotif’ and ‘novel’ nature of the virus caught my interest.  ‘Leitmotif’ describes a recurring experience in musical compositions and although there is nothing musical in the virus’ steady advance across the globe there are depressingly recurring themes. Novel is a description for a new or original contribution. Usually to knowledge. The virus is a new strain, but it does not feel at all positive. Linda Whiteford qualifies: ‘this COVID-19 is the ‘novel corona virus’ because understandings of its properties and behaviours are still unfolding. What is shared between my disease experience and this ‘novel’ current one is that their control hinges on a most difficult, intractable and recalcitrant variable, human behaviour’.

Human behaviour is very difficult to change. As we come to terms with self isolation behaviours are changing and becoming normalised. We understand why we have to act differently, but it is not easy and its is potentially beginning to have long term effects. Are we going to live in semi isolation for years to come? Masks are making us wary of each other and are we no longer, spontaneously, going to hug our friends, or even caringly pat them on the back as we realise we might be catching or passing on the virus and pull back. It used to be natural to smile and engage at each other as we shared experiences from shopping to eating, movie going or can you imagine . . . dancing.

The longer we adjust our behaviour to address human distancing by acting unnaturally, the greater our loss of regular sharing behaviours and ‘natural’ exchanges. While the scientists, health professionals, politicians and ourselves, encourage us to Keep Apart to protect society from the spread of the novel virus, we are learning to accept and live in atomised and isolationist manners.

Lookout Lockdown

lockdown blowing

Looking and listening as the August winds with rain blow outside.


An elderly, but spritely gentleman I met this week expressed his concern, that although he ‘has had a good innings, the virus is cheating him by taking away the final denouement’.

Lockdown week 19

Masks are in force


I have traveled to Scotland. Perhaps thats why I have not written a post in this Lockdown Week 19. Before I left a photographer making a series on people’s experience of Lockdown was pointed to me by a mutual friend. Jaskirt visited and made some portraits. We talked about my experience and how drawing people/portraits and writing a weekly post had helped me keep sane. I’ve been thinking about that a lot since we met, and how I am a social being missing face to face contact with friends, family and people I don’t know, but might just meet by chance as we go about daily living. Masks have made that less possible.

In Scotland I met a neighbour on Thursday morning who told us he had been awake all night as his 77 year old partner was taken by ambulance to hospital at 1am, suffering from angina and in need of an emergency cardiac operation. He could not go with her because of covid restrictions. Thankfully we were not masked during the conversation and shared the pain and anxiety face to face.

A hug was required, but not achieved. Even in this situation we could not bring ourselves to forget the virus.

Thats it.

Lockdown week 18

What is really happening?

I’m unclear, but struggle on to make sense of the pandemic and its affects.


I returned to the City of Birmingham City from West Wales where the Irish sea rolls into the dark jagged cliffs and long quiet beaches. I have not planned to visit London, but the Barbican’s Curve space has a show of drawings by Toyin Ojih Odutola which is a must see. The drawings are described as narrative portraiture, although she says it is ‘misleading when people call me a portraitist. I work from photography and often it’s a composite of multiple people. But I’m very fortunate to have really badasss beautiful people around me that compel me to draw them.’ Kilian Fox. Observer, Aug 2 2020.


Mark Rothko

Last week I promised more when I read The Rothko Book by Bonnie Clearwater. I have now read it and understand more of how he transitioned from figurative to abstract art, while as a ‘philosophical romanticist’, retaining his belief in art as an agent of meaning. Rather than writing my interpretation of the author, below are a selection of quotes that point to his thinking on his transitioning works.

He began his final transition to pure abstraction when he wrote the introduction to (Clifford) Still’s catalogue. In his statement ‘The Romantics were Prompted’ published in Possibilities (1947-8), he used similar terminology to describe his own transitional abstract paintings. He stated that he thought of his pictures ‘as dramas’, while’ the shapes in the pictures are performers’ and ‘organisms with volition and a passion for self-assertion.’

On his conception of the Progression of his work from figuration to abstraction: ‘It was not that the figure had been removed, not that the figures had been swept away, but the symbols for the figures, and in turn the shapes in the later canvases were new substitutes for the figures.’ He considered his abstract forms objects or things, with a perceptible density just like figures and symbols, that could trigger an emotional response and stimulate thought, but could do more precisely than his earlier figurative works.’

‘… Line would have detracted from clarity of what I had to say. Death and mortality, he added, were always present in his mind when he painted. This, after all, was the human condition, and it was his hope that it would be present in his work without his having to illustrate it with skulls and bones.’

On edge and border

The indeterminate space surrounding Rothko’s areas of colour became an essential element of his paintings. He aimed to prevent the border of a painting from acting as a final enclosure. Instead, one may glimpse a scene of illimitable dimensions. The edge, in effect, acts like a freeze frame of a film, which captures just one episode of dramatic transformation.

On size

‘The reason he painted large canvases ‘is precisely because I want to be very intimate and human.  To paint small is to place yourself outside your experience, to look upon an experience….you paint the larger picture, you are in it.’ 

Finally: The Portrait.  

‘He could refer to his paintings as ‘portraits’ because, like all great portraiture, they were about the artist’s eternal interest in the human figure, character and emotions – in short the human drama.’ The repetition of (his) classic image was in itself irrelevant, because the great portraits throughout time are the painting of ‘one character’.  He added, ‘What is indicated here is the artist’s real model is an ideal, which embraces all of human drama rather than the appearance of a particular individual.’

digital drawing

Pogus Explains, while we met and shared Handsworth Self Portraits @Pogusceasar @MacBirmingham @BLMUK.


I’ve been silkscreen printing! After 5 months away from printmaking facilities I was given special dispensation to spend two days in the BCU Parkside Printroom to complete two prints for an outstanding commission. Two Prints to be made in two days, as my supervisor said” “you will have to get your skates on.”

It was wonderful to see the drawings, transferred to the screen, the inks mixed, the screen locked in the bed, the 300gsm Brockford Smooth paper positioned, pull the ink through with the squeegee and see the appearance of the image that has been waiting in Covid abeyance for months to be revealed.

It was not without its challenges that had to be resolved, but the prints are valuable and for the first time in my research the subjects are photographed, drawn and printed to look directly out. This approach had been adopted as the portraits are commissioned to celebrate the role of Magistrates in the history of their Association and plans for the future. 2020 Vision: 100 Years of Justice exhibition.

I proposed to make two portraits on the theme of “Future: Race and Criminal Justice” and made an offer to magistrates that sit on the West Midlands benches to have their portrait drawn and printed to positively reflect the theme. There was a lot of interest and I selected the youngest Mixed-race magistrate and the first Asian person to sit on the region’s benchs.

Below are photographs from the printmaking experience. The final portraits will be revealed next month when they go public.

The visit to the print room was safe and successful. I had received a Campus Visit Form to present at the Arts Design and Media building in Birmingham’s Eastside. Justin, the print technician met me as planned and showed me the routes to follow. We both wore our masks. He familiarised me with the routines to be adhered to in the workshop to ensure social distancing.  It was eerily empty, quiet and strange to be in a building usually teeming with creative young people. However, once I began printing, I resumed with internalised techniques and behaviours of the medium. It was such gift to work with Justin after so many weeks in isolation. Being in a workshop with someone else was an experience in itself. Being in a creative productive situation with a colleague was even more rewarding.

Following using the facilities I cleaned all items I had used and after I left for the day Justin cleaned any surfaces I might have touched to make sure there was little chance of any virus transmission between us or others that will enter the workshop. I am extremely grateful to Justin and all of those behind the scenes at the University who that made it possible.


Cultural Recovery

The Culture Recovery Fund that the UK government announced is now being ruled out with criteria for artists and arts organisations under threat from the virus can apply for grants of loans. ‘ACE is running the Grants Programme which offers financial support for cultural organisations that were financially stable before Covid-19, but are now at imminent risk of failure.’


The overall support plan is captured in the Charity Tax site: https://www.charitytaxgroup.org.uk/news-post/2020/culture-recovery-fund-grants/

While the recovery plan is underway the Creative Industries Federation has made a valuable proposal to rethink how culture and creative industries come out of lockdown better prepared:

“We don’t need a reset, we need a re-think” – CEO, Caroline Norbury on the launch of our Creative Coalition’s Plan to Reimagine


Thats it.

Lockdown week 17

Lockdown is being relaxed, but nothing is normal


‘No deaths reported in our region for third day in succession’: the welcome words of the Wales Today newreader. Yes, I have travelled in a car from Lockdown Birmingham City to a Lockdown Pembrokeshire sea village in West Wales where the Irish sea rolls into the dark jagged cliffs and long quiet beaches.

The isolated walks are welcome reminders of the pleasures of big skies and landscapes that in pre covid times we enjoyed as holidays from city life. At the end of normal walks, the village café or pub would invite ramblers to enjoy warm hospitality and home cooked seasonal produce of fish from the sea and meat and vegetables from the fields. Today masked young people in front of makeshift serving tables run in and out to fulfil orders for sustenance, cooked in hidden backroom kitchens and served outside, come rain or shine. Pre covid, quiet and slow holiday isolation in contrast to city life was something to escape to. Now the city is quiet and slow, West Wales with vast expanses of land and sea seems an oddly similar experience. A neighbour tells me that a company in the capital city has told its 300 employees that they need never come into the office again: ‘work from home, wherever that may be.’ On the journey up an old Indian colleague from Birmingham reported he had sadly lost two relatives.  Even through current deaths are at zero the mourning of loss continues to be felt, now and for many years to come.

Museums under pressure

A tsunami of sad and angry tweets have followed announcements that the city museum has begun a period of staff consultation brought on by the lack of revenue from social distance preventing public attendance, public funds and zero commercial activity. The recent announcement by the UK government of an Arts support fund of £1.57 billion was a welcome a sign of recognition that cultural industries are core to a functioning society. Practically however, there are few methods in place to get the monies in place quickly enough, to prevent threats of redundancy to those that have kept our culture(s) alive. This situation is mirrored across the country.


Before travel much writing has been done: submission to the annual Ort gallery Schwarmerei (excessive sentiment) members show; applications for campus access to complete a print commission; revisions of an academic paper due for completion, annual 12 month research review and forward plan. They are demanding in their individual ways, but the forward plan is particularly challenging while looking out from lockdown. The ambition to make and create prevails, but a return to a pre covid creativity norm is unlikely, if not impossible.  ‘Lockdown has created an uncertain psychological mindset, ‘slowed’ research and led to questions of validity’.

My son and Mark Rothko

My son messaged me with a photo of a Mark Rothko framed print that he was considering buying. Son: ‘Aware of him?’ Father: ‘Yep! Amazing US abstract Expressionist. Massive dark colour canvases.  Some in Tate Britain next time we get to go.” Son: “Yeah recognised the name instantly, but couldn’t place it.  Feel like you’ve mentioned it before.” A few days later in in West Wales I came across the ‘The Rothko Book’ on the shelf in a bedroom the son had slept in many times. 

I txt’d the photo to him and leafed through the pages to be surprised by the amount of figurative works before the big colour canvases appeared.  I should not have been too surprised as many biographies of twentieth century painters including the super famous Picasso’s, Dali’s and Duchamp’s open with figurative drawings and paintings of family and local landscapes that were their early years subjects. I was reminded of this at the recent Bridget Riley exhibition in the National Gallery of Scotland where the last room was brilliantly dedicated to her teenage years painting in Cheltenham culminating in her copied painting of the classical red Italian renaissance portrait she submitted as part of her application to Goldsmith’s School of Art.   

Marcus Rothkowitz, b 1903 into a Jewish family in Dvinsk Russia. He followed his Father to the US in 1913, with his Mother and Sister. They embarked in Brooklyn, travelled to relatives in New Haven, Conneticut before joining his family in Portland Oregon.

He was influenced by his engagement with a number of US artistic movements over 40 years as he saught to give meaning to his paintings. Illustration, mythology, surrealism, symbolism. He took all in earnest and engaged closely with many peers and partner artists including Clifford Still and Barnet Newman until he began to investigate and experiment with colour and shape without figurative references. More of which when I have read The Rothko Book by Bonnie Clearwater.

digital drawing

To See it all. Reading Kate Bush’s words on photography looking in Tim Walker’s Wonderful Things show at Va&A. ‘When we could meet and share’.

Looking Ahead Link

The first announcement of Arts Council and DCMS support



Thats it.

Lockdown week 16

Restricted Realities

In previous weeks I have applied a format beginning with Covid virus updates. This week covid will be relegated to last on the list and a reflection on artistic responses to isolation will lead the way. Take Care.

Lookout Lockdown – Restricted Realities

Lockdown has encouraged many weeks of reflection, on amongst many considerations, the local environment. If one is lucky enough to have a garden then the natural world of animals, birds and foliage has become more apparent, or we have become more aware, than before covid. However the darkness and quietness of early mornings without the demands of a structured day ahead has led to slower rising. Hopes of getting up and out to work in the fine art silkscreen print room are overtaken with the restricted reality of lockdown and to ideas of digital drawing conceived as an amalgam of photography and digital printmaking that can be approached in isolation.

The self isolating bedroom has thick wall to ceiling curtains, pulled tight in the evening that create a disorientating waking into darkness. When the curtains are pulled open light enters the room and reveal looming trees of green, wafting in the breeze that become mesmeric. Confirmation that they and the outside world is still there is welcome. Seclusion is the nature of lockdown isolation. Outside is seen from inside. A quickly taken smart phone photograph of the view looking out though the window does not capture the ambience of a room that is usually left, once awake. The world is still there and the air moves, with or without the virus.

Restricted lockdown reality makes one even more inquisitive of unaccustomed views seen by peering out of the prison window with its horizontal and vertical muntins. Looking out inspires the making of images to express the physical and emotive experience of isolation. Responses to the outside world over lockdown weeks has led to drawing out from photographs of the environment with increasingly non figurative window frames. Naturalistic drawings remain centre stage as the frames around them change, but retain their containing structures. The first drawing of the weeping tree in a trapezoid frame took many weeks to complete. The act of drawing became a meditation on the nature of the weeping foliage. It was contained by a stepped back simplified image of the window frames. In contrast to the detailed literal drawing thick dark ‘bamboo’ lines were over drawn creating a new dramatic frame to the forefront and on top of the greyed background. The addition of colour, in similar technique to under printed silkscreen layers, defined the contained drawing to the exclusion of the all other window framed images, leaving the focus on the one frame.

Lookout Lockdown #1 Wilting. 2020. A3 digital colour print. Hahnemühle German Etching 320 gsm.

The tree is: Cupressus nootkatensis. More in Lock Down 4: http://printsanew.jonnieturpie.com/2020/04

With LL#1 complete additional images appeared in waking mornings. By shifting viewpoint to the right the highlighted leaves on the maple and plane trees next to the weeping tree became the focus for LL#2. A similar process of drawing and composition was adopted. However the literal image of the window frame was rejected and replaced with a simple structure to hold the trapezoid drawing. This became a much more abstract framework in the style of a silkscreen print with the application of flat colour in contrast to the drawn and coloured central naturalistic image and Bamboo black border. In following weeks a single growing creeper appeared on a lower window frame and was drawn with a simplified frame structure and the black bamboo over drawn frame. Latterly the weather changed and the rains came which inspired LL#3. The window glass no longer transparent, but holding the raindrops as patterns of light against the dark trees in the background. The cell coming closer and curtailing looking out. #LL4 took the same format of central drawing with bamboo black frame, however this is imposed upon an abridged framing structure. The central drawing is rectangular which emphasises the skewed angle of the framework. The drawing has white surrounds between it and the frames rather than being butted up against them, and hangs like a mirror rather than integrated into the frames. The framework edges are straightened off in the photoshop programme used to compose the multilayered image. Straightening is made with lines of white which have fine dark outlines. The effect is that each edge is ‘taped’ which is a very different approach to previous images that float unsecured on a plane . On the computer screen the taping is an abstract contribution to the image, but when printed it pins the frame and drawing to the paper, in contrast to the prominence of the drawing of the patterned rained upon glass.

14 weeks into lockdown the first four prints are completed and must be finally titled. ‘Lockdown Lookout’ was the original choice implying intentions to make images that inspire positive images made from the negative restricted experience of Lockdown. On review of the images, ‘Lookout Lockdown’ seems more appropriate as the intention is to put lockdown in its place and not be restrained by it.

Considering these titles raises questions on the imposition of Lockdown. Are we imprisoned? Are we being punished? Are we prisoners in caves gazing at framed exterior environments, unsure of what we are seeing? Unlike Plato’s cave we are not looking at illusory shadows, but although what we see is approaching a reality we are familiar with, the context in which we are looking is unfamiliar. Not free to see, but restricted by an agreed communal response to a threat. We do not converse with others. We receive worldly knowledge through media channels, television, radio, social media. Is our incarceration going to arm us with new knowledge to re-enter the worlds we knew, empowered to contribute to enhanced social understanding of a new world? These are contemplative questions considered as the drawings are made to reflect the visual realities presented in locked down waking moments. Having voluntary agreed to participate in imprisonment, to protect wider society we yearn to escape to return to a freedom of our western normality, where the air between the wafting tree and waking cell is not unknown and threatening.

digital drawing #BLM

Lenny Henry celebrates his Mother’s Jamaican laugh when we could meet and share his autobiography.

Looking Ahead Link

Follow the link for All the Detail. Thanks to ** https://boxofamazing.com/

Lockdown week 15

15 weeks in and its beginning to really, really drag

Cases are down, GOOD. Deaths are down, GOOD. Optimism is down, BAD.

digital drawing

Digital Drawing continues to be daily a staple and making drawings with the hashtag #BLM is central to this structure. The drawing below is from the Grand Opening of the Fierce Festival last November in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery when we could meet, (hug!) and share the best arts in performance, politics and Pop.

Frieze Launch, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery 2019. iPad Drawing.

Surface Tensions

I received an invitation to exhibit prints made during lockdown from the Printmakers Council to which I shared the analogue, digital, analogue print: Surface Tensions, with this description:

Prior to Lockdown, the abstract image began during testing of water and powdered lamp black ink on the gleaming glass printroom mixing surface. Its opacity was tested by fingerprinting on a scrap of cartridge paper which I photographed as it was so expressive. The image remained as a record in my digital photographic archives waiting to be revisited at this unexpected lockdown moment. I imported the image into photoshop and played with it until it ‘stood on its own’. As I do not have access to analogue print room facilities right now, I have had to conceive, trial and test new print techniques. The A3 inkjet printer I normally use for outputting photographic images for print planning was in need of a cartridge top up, and I began to experiment with digital printing techniques to preserve tactile marks. The finger ink image had a breadth of tonal and material marked qualities that offered an opportunity to test this digital to analogue print system. The image was proofed on a number of papers and once the image tone, colour and detailed marks were in balance, it was printed on coated textured Hahnemühle Digital German Etching paper.  

Made by hand, kept as photograph, printed with inkjet.  

Surface Tensions.E J Turpie, 2020. Inkjet print on Hahnemühle
German Etching paper 310gsm, 28 x 38cms


The Printmakers Council UK
Fierce Film: