Category Archives: ARTISTS

Performance Assistant: Jem Williams, Vibrate, 2014

Jem Williams is a fellow peer on the BA (Hon) Fine Art, Critical & Curatorial Practices course at Plymouth College of Art.  In her artist statement she explains her practice as follows:

I’m a conceptual artist based in the South West. I work with appropriation, post-production, photography, collage sound and video. Through my practice I explore ideas of sex, relationships and how we engage and respond to this. I utilise my own experiences and those of others to at first glance present half-truths, presenting the audience with a warped perception of who I am as a person. Often my work has humorous overtones, to enable the audience to connect with my work and release the often-overlooked melancholy elements of human nature and how we relate to one another (Williams, 2013).

For her CURA300 studio practice she decided to create a film/sound piece which would “question the development of sexual apparatus within contemporary society” (Williams, 2014).   This piece had been inspired by conversations around the production of discreet sex toys which resembled beauty cosmetics.  The reasoning behind producing these disguised adult toys is thought to be as a way of hiding the usage of such appliances from one’s partner.   In Jem’s piece she had chosen to film a female performer undertaking the ritual of applying make-up, but replaced the mascara and lipstick for vibrators of a similar aesthetic to the cosmetics.

This concept particularly interested me as I had researched ritual and the pressures on women to remain beautiful with the use of cosmetics during my CURA301 project:

Furthermore, with regard to the sense of voyeurism within Jem’s concept, I had also looked at John Berger’s Ways of Seeing during my CURA302 project:

On reading Ways of Seeing, one can see through Berger’s commentary on art, how women have been portrayed throughout history – being objects of pleasure to the spectator, being perceived as inferior to men, taking the blame for being spectated i.e. acknowledging one’s own beauty – ideas of vanity – leaving the spectator blameless and the idea of women surveying themselves and judging themselves by surveying others (Moore, 2013)

Myself and Jem had taken part in a performance workshop under the guidance of artist duo VestandPage in January 2014.  Several months later Jem had asked whether I would be interested in being the performer in this particularly project as she understood I had an interest in performance art.  Although I felt quite self-conscious during my own performance work in CURA301 (and during January’s workshop) I felt happy to assist Jem.  I did not feel as much anxiety about undertaking another artist’s vision – whereas during my own performance pieces in CURA301, I had felt quite insecure about my own ideas and concepts.

On the day of filming, Jem with the assistance of Reiss Portman had set of the spare-room of their shared house with lighting equipment, camera, tripod, chair, table and mirror.  Jem had asked me to bring my make-up, hair products and to wear black clothing.  up to be something that looked very natural as opposed to orchestrated and not true to life i.e. waking up in the morning and throwing on a dressing gown as such.  I arrived wearing a black, patterned long kimono, black vest and black jeans.    Jem was happy with the kimono I was wearing and I advised her that I was happy to wear a vest, bra or neither.  She wanted me to be as comfortable as possible and so we agreed with bra and kimono which seemed to give the most realistic and natural effect.  I sat in front of the mirror with the camera facing me – slightly to my left.

On the first take, I was slightly shakey and had to stop, however Jem was not happy with how the camera had been set-up and repositioned it so it was more central and from a higher angle – looking down.  During the second take there was a problem with sound coming from outside the house which distracted from the sound of the vibrations but I continued nonetheless and she managed to film the entire ‘ritual’ lasting approximately 12minutes.  I tried to remain as natural as possible while substituting the lipstick and mascara for the vibrators and I think Jem was happy with the result.

From what I understand, Jem had to remove all of the sound from the film because the external sound was too distracting and stifled the sound of the vibrations.  She decided to remove all of the audio, re-record the vibrations and overlay this new audio recording over the film.  She also desaturated the film to greyscale.

I enjoyed assisting Jem Williams with her piece and look forward to viewing the finished result during PCA’s Summer Show from Wednesday 11 – 18 June 2014.


Berger, J. (1972) Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin.

Moore, H. (2013) Eye of Providence – All Seeing Eye. [online] WordPress. Available at: (accessed 02/06/2014)

Williams, J. (2013) About Me. [online]. WordPress. Available at: (accessed 02/06/2014)

Williams, J. (2014) Ideas & Development. [online]. WordPress. Available at: (accessed 02/06/2014)


Steven Paige, Moral Development, 2013

During our student visit to Bristol in  October 2013 we had visited Motorcade Flash Parade, BV Studios and saw the resulting exhibition of our tutor Steven Paige’s 8 week residency there.

The piece on display was called Moral Development, 2013 and included videos, projections, televisions, furniture and publications. The title and influence of this exhibition was taken from from “a re-enactment [1971] of the infamous Stanley Milgrim experiment [1961] on ‘obedience to authority figures’” (Outcasting, 2013).  The projected film in Paige’s work is a further re-enactment using the script of the experiment with an actor answering the questions and “the authoritative ‘voice’” is substituted by subtitles (Ibid).

I was particularly interested in this work in connection to my current CURA300 project.  In Paige’s exhibition he has used an educational film as his inspiration and further highlighted the educational properties in his use of objects.  By doing so, Paige has created an environment which may evoke feelings of familiarity within the audience.  There were several recognizable classroom style pieces within the exhibition – including the plywood tables, projector stand, desk, factual publications and desk lamp. In terms of phenomenology and perception – one could make connections to ideas of learning and knowledge by simply looking at the furniture – without first witnessing the projection.

Steven Paige, Moral Development, 2013. Photograph by Helanie Moore
Steven Paige, Moral Development, 2013. Photograph by Helanie Moore
photo 2 (1)
Desk, lamp and publications in Steven Paige, Moral Development, 2013. Photograph by Helanie Moore
Plywood projection stand in Steven Paige, Moral Development, 2013. Photograph by Helanie Moore
Plywood projection stand in Steven Paige, Moral Development, 2013. Photograph by Helanie Moore


In a similar vein to Paige’s exhibition, I also wanted to create a classroom environment or feeling by using recognizable furniture.  By doing so, I hoped the school desk and chair would create a sense of nostalgia and memory as well as complimenting the film I had produced and give the overall installation more context.


Outcasting, (2013). Screening / Totally Devoted. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 Jun. 2014].


Alan Smith – Visiting Lecturer 24/10/13

Alan Smith is the Creative Director of ACA (Allenheads Contemporary Arts) an old school hall in the Northeast of England.  The organisation is an epicenter of arts and cultural activities and exhibitions in the village and surrounding area and welcomes creatives practicing in all medias to become involved in the project including students, writers, established artists and musicians (ACA, 2013).  Smith believes it is crucial to have other artists and people around to “feed” (Smith, 2013)  into their work to produce an all-inclusive, innovative environment.

Allenhead with a population of approximately 200 residents is quite a different and difficult place to work compared to New York where Smith was based for several years.  When Smith arrived in Allenheads approximately twenty years ago, he felt that there was nothing happening there initially.  He started to paint landscapes without reason but felt like he had to do something and thought that’s what he should be doing.  However, he disliked the paintings and in frustration threw them outside.  Over a period of time the paintings started to deteriorate – breaking down and covered inn mould and dirt.  This process seemed to be an epiphany to Smith as to demonstrated that there were things going on around him and it opened his eyes.  He started to consider the landscape of Allenhead with a new outlook – exploring and considering the environment around him.  In comparison to New York City the landscape was quite empty and open – almost “frightening” to a point (Smith, 2013).  This and changeable weather – particularly the extreme winters changed Smith’s perspective.

Allenhead, Image taken from:
Allenhead, Image taken from:

With this in mind, through ACA (developed 18yrs ago) Smith uses Allenhead’s environment as a source of education.  He organises “silent trips” for students whereby he asks them to leave behind any recording devices such as notepads, mobile phones and cameras and use only themselves as the “recording system” while walking around Allenhead’s countryside (Smith, 2013).  Following these trips, the group discusses what each of them has taken from it and an open and varied discussion takes place.

Another opportunity ACA gives to students is the possibility of gaining a placement at the ACAshop.  The site used to be the village shop and post office 5yrs previously.  As a well-established building that was already a central hub for the community, it created a new arts environment which encouraged residents to get involved with projects, attend exhibitions/workshops and join in creative discussions.

To further involve the community with ACA, artist Andrew Wilson asked residents to bring an item of importance to them to be displayed in the ACAshop as a way of making the community feel a sense of ownership in the project.  He also asked everyone for their top 10 songs which was also played during the exhibition.

Although ACA didn’t initially have a sufficient catchment for Arts Council funding, Smith and his peers grew the organisation by firstly inviting people they knew to exhibit.  Through word of mouth, more people got involved, audience numbers grew and people began to “sit up and notice” (Smith, 2013).

The organisation has become part of the community by building mutual respect and assisting wherever possible (i.e. the school hall was used for the village show when the village hall was unsuitable due to damaged flooring).

During Smith’s lecture it is clear he is interested in the future and the idea of not fully knowing or understanding everything he sees.  However, he is also interested in the past and notes that “things may change but we’re still doing the same thing…it’s just evolved technology” (Smith, 2013).  With this in mind one of ACA’s projects This is the Future focuses on these ideas.  During this project artists including David Lisser were invited to produce work that demonstrated their ideas about what the future held.  Lisser considered whether the village of Allenhead would be seen as the “remote” village it once was, cut off from technology and self-reliant (ACA, 2013).  In terms of being self-reliant, Lisser produced a food-type with what some may think of as an unusual ingredient – namely midges.  Midges are quite prevalent in the wild open environment of Allenhead and by using them as an ingredient to produce burgers, Lisser was utilizing them as a food-group – even developing a “Midgecatcher’s House” which was also on display.

David Lisser, Midge Burger, image available from:
David Lisser, Midge Burger, image available from:
David Lisser, Midgecatcher's House. Image available from:
David Lisser, Midgecatcher’s House. Image available from:

Another artist involved with ACA was Arturas Raila in 2007.  The work which included inviting Lithuanian pagans to Allenhead to carry out a pagan ritual of mapping out “geo-energy flows” (Hodnett, 2007) caused some controversy with the residents.  However, Smith was interested in the spirituality and positive and negative energies the pagans believed in.

With regard to spirituality, Smith is also interested in the beliefs of the Zen Buddhist monks.  Whereas scientists continually look to the future, the monks consider everything around them and believe that “it is equally important to look both ways” (Smith, 2013).

Smith also took part in the Migrating Arts Academy where he and artist Rosalind McLachlan explored the theme “5% as far as the eye can see” in 2013 (, 2013). This is based on the theory that the human is only capable of seeing 5%, whereas 27% is dark matter and 68% is dark energy (Smith, 2013).  Smith notes that he “enjoys” not understanding everything that he is seeing, however just because he can’t see something, does not mean it does not exist.

On this note Smith ended with the question:

Can creativity and imagination help us make sense of the inexplicable?


References:, (2014). Lisser. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Apr. 2014]

Hodnett, M. (2007). News & Star | Pagan ceremony launches art show. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Apr. 2014]., (2013). Migrating Art Academies » Blog Archive » Review: 5% as far as the eye can see. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Apr. 2014].

31/01/2014 – Lee McDonald discussion

On Friday 31st January, I attended the exhibition opening of Peter Randall Page’s work at Peninsula Arts and Plymouth Museum & Art Gallery.

During my visit a bumped into artist Lee McDonald and had a brief conversation regarding the Council House project and discussed the following:

  • I asked about the possibility of using one of his existing sculptures – such as Sonic Reverber, 2012, because of our limited funding. However, he said that it would be possible to create something new by using the materials already in his studio.  As mentioned in an earlier post, Lee has “breathed life” into defunct mechanical objects so to speak, by recycling objects to create new kinetic pieces.
  • He was concerned about timescale, but when I advised that the exhibition was due to open on the 24th April, he felt this was certainly enough time;
  • I mentioned that we as a student group were keen to make some pieces to compliment his work and he also mentioned that we could perhaps collaborate on a new sculpture.

I advised my fellow students the next day and we decided that once we knew the date of our visit to the Council House, we would arrange to meet Lee in his studio to get a further idea of the materials we could use and what we actually would like to see in the exhibition.

Lee McDonald, Kinetic Artist

Following the student group meeting on the 16th January, I thought about the prospect of working with a kinetic artist for the Council House project.  Although I have used kinetic mechanisms in some of my own artwork in the past, I do not feel confident and fully equipped or knowledgeable in producing a working, professional piece which would last the duration of the exhibition (which I expect to be for several months).

Thus, later that evening, I recalled earlier conversations I have had with Southwest artist Lee McDonald during Plymouth College of Art’s Ephemeron, “Artist as Curator”, Critique Event at Karst in April 2013 regarding his sound pieces – particularly his Sonic Reverber pieces.  (Lee also has a studio at Karst, Plymouth.)

Lee McDonald, Sonic Reverber, 2012.  Image available at:
Lee McDonald, Sonic Reverber, 2012. Image available at:

After visiting his website again to refresh my memory, I could see that Lee is predominantly interested in the mechanisms of objects and explores the reactional processes and properties of such objects i.e. pushing their capabilities and possibilities in terms of physics and sound (McDonald, 2014, online).  

Lee is also interested in audience participation and although there may be a restriction on sound pieces, there is still the opportunity for movement.

He also uses many recyclable materials or “dead” mechanical objects i.e. objects which have had a live use but are now defunct.

I personally feel that his pieces would work particularly well in the Council House building because it would be completely unexpected.

Lee has showcased his work in gallery spaces, as well as festivals and it seemed that he has a positive attitude  in bringing his art to new audiences.  Much of the art on display at present in the Council House is fairly traditional and Lee’s kinetic work could  literally “liven up” the somewhat serious nature and atmosphere of the space.  I also feel this would be an excellent opportunity to promote discussions regarding art and its environment – especially as the student group are looking at the role of the artist as curator.

I mentioned asking Lee if he would be interested in the project to my fellow student group members and received a positive response from them.  On this basis I emailed Lee a week later and received a reply back, advising that he would be interested and suggesting the group meet up to discuss.

Contents of email sent to Lee McDonald artist



McDonald, L. (2014) About [online] Plymouth: 2014 Lee McDonald.  Available at:

Simon Bayliss, Artist & Curator Lecture, 17/10/13

Simon Bayliss is an artist and curator based in the South West of England.  He is primarily a painter but also writes for art journals including Nom de Strip and works as an assistant at artist-led studio and gallery space Karst in Plymouth.

Bayliss’ will debut his first exhibition as curator at Karst on 31 October 2013, along with his friend and fellow artist Lucy Stein.

The idea for the exhibition called SS Blue Jacket, came about through personal discussions between the pair about what they felt the South West meant to them and was synonymous with – namely the sea.  They were also interested in the idea of mimesis – the representation of the real world in art and literature.

With this in mind, Bayliss came across the story of SS Blue Jacket in the book Shipwreck, John Fowles, 1974 – a ship which crashed into Longships Lighthouse in 1898.  Bayliss and Stein decided to use the story as a sexual metaphor i.e. the helmsman being overcome with sexual lust, steered her (the ship) toward the phallus (the lighthouse).

Image of SS Blue Jacket Shipwreck. Available from:
Image of SS Blue Jacket Shipwreck. Available from:

Bayliss and Stein decided that painting would be the main part of the show and wanted to use work which alluded to this animistic quality.  As well as using some of their own pieces, Bayliss and Stein also wanted to exhibit work by Beryl Cook, Peter Lanyon and Robert Lenkiewicz, as well as Shana Moulton, Edward Stein, Merlin James and Simon Fujiwara.

SS Blue Jacket, Karst, 2013 Promotional Image.  Available from:
SS Blue Jacket, Karst, 2013 Promotional Image. Available from:

Bayliss explained that these artists are all related to the South West and particularly with Cook, Lanyon and Lenkiewicz were/are considered rebellious outsiders who pushed traditional artistic boundaries in their work.  All the pieces included in the exhibition have or could be interpreted as having sexual overtones, suggest ideas about self-identity and pertain to the South West.

Although, Bayliss and Stein had some reservations about curating an exhibition which would also include their work, they decided to break with traditions.  This raised some questions during the lecture with regard to self-promotion and publicity – particularly as artists such as Cook, Lanyon and Lenkiewicz are all well-known, ‘big-names’ in the South West and exhibiting with these artists could potentially raise the profile of Bayliss and Stein.  Furthermore, are Bayliss and Stein presenting themselves in the same league (so to speak) as these artists?  Is this kind of self-promotion a negative thing or could it be considered a little narcissistic?  And why not use other local emerging artists, much like themselves?

Simon Bayliss, Wreck, 2012, oil and acrylic on canvas. Available from:
Simon Bayliss, Wreck, 2012, oil and acrylic on canvas. Available from:

These questions were not clearly answered, but perhaps there was some truth in the accusations thrown toward Bayliss, who at times seemed a little uncomfortable.

During the lecture Bayliss also described the curating process and highlighted the positives and negatives which came out of curating and project-managing the show.

The problems Bayliss encountered included:

  • not being able to exhibit certain pieces because of security, insurance, environmental conditions, refusal, not being able to locate the work and artists dropping out.
  • no funding received from the Arts Council – after applying twice.

However, there were many positives, including :

  • the catalogue was designed by Bayliss’ friend and renowned graphic artist Rupert Gower-Cliff who did not charge a fee;
  • Nom de Strip advertised the exhibition for free;
  • Plymouth University is advertising the exhibition for free during the International Book Festival;
  • the Lenkiewicz Foundation agreed to lend another piece of work because the initial requested piece could not be found by the lender;
  • Lucy Stein’s gallery Gimpel Fil, London agreed to lend a Lanyon painting;
  • The Elephant Trust gave funding for Stein’s film piece;
  • Karst and the Museum (who have lent Cook painting) have been very helpful and supportive during the whole process.

Bayliss also discussed how he wanted the exhibition to be accessible to a wider audience and not just persons who are already involved in the arts.  As well as advertising in Nom de Strip, Bayliss has also placed an advert in the Western Morning News under the Arts and Antiques section – hoping to reach a larger audience.

However,  I personally feel that placing the advert in a specific arts section in the paper, is still limiting your audience.

Having said this, I think that using artists such as Cook and Lenkiewicz is a clever way of generating publicity within the South West community because these artists are already well-known – regardless of whether you are interested in the arts or not. I feel that by presenting Cook and Lenkiewicz’s work with lesser known artists, an audience who may have been initially attracted to seeing Cook or Lenkiewicz’s work only, would then be introduced to the work of other artists – possibly of whom they would not have considered or heard of previously – and this can only be a good thing.

Overall, Bayliss’ lecture was an excellent, educational and honest lecture about how he found the curating process, which left the audience with much to consider in terms of the artist as curator.

Christopher Green, Artist Lecture 10/10/2013

Christopher Green is an young contemporary artist from the Peckham area of London, who originally studied Graphic Design.

During his lecture, Green explained that he was always interested in “making” during his studies, but did not start exhibiting as such, until 2006/2007 when he moved into a run down house at 78 Lyndhurst Way, Peckham.  He shared the house with graduate friends – including fine artists and film-makers and together, they decided to make use of the dilapidated house (previously occupied by squatters) and transform it into a gallery space.

Image of interior of 78 Lyndhurst Way, Peckham: Available from:

Over the course of 11 months, Green and his friends held 9 exhibitions in the Peckham house – open to friends, colleagues and anyone who was inquisitive about the space (the front garden area also displayed work and was therefore visible from the roadside).

Image of exterior of 78 Lyndhurst Way, Peckham. Available from:

During these exhibitions, Green came into contact with curator and gallerist Hannah Barry and was asked to be represented at her gallery in 2010 for his first solo exhibition Together Afar, 2010.

Image of Christopher Green’s solo exhibition Together Afar, 2010. Available at:

Green has also exhibited at Project Space 11 in Plymouth, Brussels Art Fair and Shoot the Lobster, New York, as well as having an artist residency in Tuscany.

During his lecture, it was difficult to pinpoint Green’s reason for making artwork – stating that he had “no specific intent when making paintings”.  It became apparent that he was extremely interested in the formal elements and process of colour development, layering and texture – experimenting with materials including gesso, acrylic, oil, charcoal and even beer.  Therefore, are his works purely expressive as opposed to having a researched concept?

Green mentioned that John Armleder was an inspiration to him and after basic, superficial research the influence is fairly obvious.  Green explained that he didn’t like artist statements and it was clear from his answers, that he had no “specific intent” or agenda.  Similarly “Armleder’s work  has always resisted the manifesto, any form of theoretical attitudes or indeed, a social or political agenda” (Simon Lee Gallery, 2003).

Furthermore, Green briefly mentioned that he designed some of the furniture placed in his exhibitions (including the bench in the Together Afar, 2003 image).  Again Armledder is also known for juxtaposing his paintings “with furniture or design objects” (Simon Lee Gallery, 2003).

Another inspiration for Green is Blinky Palermo an artist who insisted “on the expressive possibilities of painting” and known for “his reliance on poetic titles” (Tate, 2013).  Similarly, although Green has no specific logic when first starting a painting, his titles are often based on subjective stories i.e. reasons for acquiring the paint used in a specific painting and/or dedicating it to the paint’s contributor.  These titles could be described as poetic gestures and although the audience may not be able to understand the connection between the painting and the title, Green admits that the title acts more like “mystery, to draw the viewer in”.


Simon Lee Gallery (2003) John M Armledder [online] Simon Lee Gallery: London. Available from:

Tate (2013) Blinky Palermo. Tate: London. Available from: