Objects and artefacts

I am conscious, having reviewed this blog, I have not paid proper attention to the range of artefacts and objects I have recovered and photographed as a result of my wandering on these sites…so to rectify that I include a number here:


These are – as far as I can tell – frozen splashes of iron or, more probably steel. that have been gathered up as waste and disposed of with the slag, and are now washing from the cliffs. Call me a hopeless romantic, but I am captivated by the colours and the fact that so many are effectively heart shaped. 🙂

The following, on the other hand, speak of a direct link back to the people that used them. I can’t help the feeling that if these were Roman or Tudor we’d be clamouring to preserve them, but as they aren’t we’re happy to see these things simply wash into the sea.



Mark Dion – Cabinets of Curiosity

An artist i realise I haven’t written up, who provided me with lots o food for thought is Mark Dion. His blend of archaeology and art chimes with my interests and perhaps questions some of the assumptions we all make about the objectivity of science in general and archaeology in particular.

Some of his works make use of Cabinets of Curosity – a venerable tradition from antiquarian collections of old, where objects are collected together in an almost random manner, leaving the viewer to make the associations for themselves.

One of the challenges I faced in pulling together my final submissions was how to address this idea visually in an image.


Three prints with the concept of layering in mind. I’ve gone for digital layering, with a drop shadow to emphasise the layer effect, because the cut and stick version was frankly a bit too amateur feeling. In an ideal world i’d like these hung as a triptych – but I doubt that’s feasible at assessment so I need to find some appropriate weights and suggest they be laid flat side by side. They are printed at a meter tall.








For the record the middle version differs slightly from the version submitted for my final assignment in which the B&Q logo was rather to evident in the top right.

More about accidents

A previous post on this blog addressed the idea of accidents in art, and their contribution to artwork. In the light of the experience of this course I thought it worth some further reflection, not least because my initial response to the question in the course notes concentrated almost exclusively on the visual artwork itself. Experience suggests that accidents can be influential in many ways.

First up – the impact of the quilt artist Ester Bornemisza…there are precious few opportunities to see international quality artists in Cumbria, and it is a matter of luck that my interest in fabric artists coincided with a quilting exhibition nearby. Her work has played a significant part in working out how to display/manage my response to the industrial sites I’ve been investigating.

Second…an assessor on one of my early courses noted something to the effect that my work was strongest when I focused on my research strengths. Precisely what persuaded them to make this comment I cannot say, but as a consequence I have always read and researched widely – not just photography but also the subjects that interest me. Without those comments, and without the ensuing research I would have missed artists like Conrad Atkinson, and his use of words in images associated with his native west Cumbria, and Mark Dion’s Archaeology, with its art/science cross-over and use of cabinets of curiosity.

i would also have missed a fascinating essay by John Ruskin on the noble nature of rust, and work by Henry Bessemer on his process for making steel, text from which I have been able to use in my final book.

Thirdly, you should always remain open to the random chances that turn up. I’m interested in the natural world and on a trip to Yellowstone in 2015 I bought a book about wolves which contains the following passage:

What have we seen here? Tracks in the snow. Hieroglyphs of struggle. Tufts of hair. Crystals of blood. What is the nature of the beast that left them? What is the nature of the world inhabited by such a beast? What’s going on here?

This is such an obvious metaphor for the feelings I get on old industrial sites that it was inevitable I should incorporate it in my finished work.

An even more extreme example is this picture by Finnish artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela which  I saw by chance in the Ateneum in Helsinki.

it portrays the death of a young girl, Aino, in a scene taken from the Finnish epic poem the Kalevala. It has absolutely nothing to do with iron manufacture, or photography….except that it persuaded me to download the poem on my Kindle…and the 9th chapter covers the genesis of iron and steel…in this case as a result of the weeping breasts of three godesses!

i didn’t discover it until after I had submitted my 5th assignment, but the passages from the poem are sufficiently relevant that i have slightly re-jigged my planned book to incorporate some excerpts.

I guess the lesson from all this is that lucky accidents are, by their very nature, unpredictable, but that if you put in the effort you can increase the chances of the accident.


Mendeley – a word of warning

One tool I have found especially useful for maintaining and organising references during Contextual Studies is Mendeley.

As well as letting you manually enter and organise references it has a handy browser plug-in that lets you automatically generate references from web pages, facilities for storing pdfs and a plug in for Word which allows you to insert formatted citations directly from the app.

BUT – and it’s a very big but _ I have found to my cost that there appears no easy way to export a selection of references to either a pdf or a Word -type document. i’d be delighted if someone one proves me wrong on this, but for the moment it appears my only option for exporting a full list of every document I read/used is to manually create a bibliography in Word.

Not amused

Alternative book layout

After much discussion with my tutor and a couple of improving, but ultimately false starts I have settled on a book layout based on a Dorling-Kindersley type mix of text and words.

This approach has the advantage of a non-linear style of presentation that allows the reader to pick and mix between landscapes, artefacts and text and so develop associations of their own.

Trial Layout